Judith's review of His Secret Past by Katie Reus.
Six years ago, Alexis Baptiste’s world was turned upside down when Hunter Cassidy disappeared without a trace, leaving her alone and pregnant. She’s finally moving on with her life when he resurfaces, just in time to rescue her from a would-be assassin. Forced to join him on the run to protect herself and her young son, Alexis is now in even more danger: danger of falling for Hunter all over again.
Betrayed by rogue CIA agents after infiltrating an infamous drug cartel, former DEA agent Hunter Cassidy has spent years trying to clear his name. He’s not proud of the things he’s done, and knows he doesn’t deserve a future with Alexis, or the son he never knew he had, but he’s determined to protect them from the men who ruined his life. Convincing Alexis to trust him—and denying his feelings for her—is going to be the hardest mission he’s ever faced.
Katie Reus seems to be one of those authors who has found a way to craft a story that maintains the delicate balance between a serious and involved romantic snarl with the demands of a suspense story of the kind that could be a stand alone novel on its own merits. You have a hero who has been almost literally buried as an undercover DEA agent in South America in an effort to unravel the hold of a major drug cartel on the drug trade. You also have a strong heroine who has been left behind by the love of her life to put her emotions back together after her lover's abandonment, a single mother of a son her lover has fathered and whose existence is unknown to him, and a woman whose life is about to be upended by threat to herself and her son by the very men who have sought to end the life of the man she still loves. Add in rogue intelligence agents who appear to be in the inner circle who should have been totally trust-worthy, and you have tension on several levels and all of which enrich the novel and engage the brain in a satisfying way.
In some ways I was a bit upset over a hero who seemed to be mired in his own pain until I realized that his six years undercover had violated him morally and emotionally in such a way that he wonders if he can ever be the man he once was. His feelings of being undeserving of the love of a good woman--his woman--and the respect of his son are, in my opinion, directly connected to the inner violation of who he was as a person of conscience and as a person who was committed to do the right thing. On the flip side, there's lots to like about Hunter, his love for Alexis, his careful handling of a touchy situation when meeting his son for the first time, and his determination to keep them safe even if it's at the cost of his own life.
Alexis is a woman who has sustained one of the worst wounds humanly possible in losing her love and the father of her child. Not knowing where he was, not knowing why he literally vanished from her life, not knowing how to reconcile his absence with his declarations of "forever" love, Alexis has to find a way to put herself and a life for her son back together and move on with her life even though a significant piece of herself is still with Hunter. I think sometimes we, as a society, become so used to the presence of single parenting that we forget how difficult it is to insure the well-being of oneself and a child or children. It is a lonely and difficult life, and in Alexis' case, it is also complicated by the slow drain on her emotional well-being because she still doesn't know why Hunter left.
This is a novel that will grab the interest of suspense romance fans right from the start. It will keep the reader on the edge of the chair. It was a book I found impossible to put down. The book is beautifully written and edited and as such is a treat for serious readers. It is a fine demonstration of this author's grasp of the writing task so that the plot and story are well-thought-out and the characters are crafted in such a way that they are defined and clear to the reader. Put all together, this novel is a credit to the writer's art. I enjoyed it very much and will probably be re-reading it in the near future. There's so much here that I don't think it is possible to get a handle on everything after just one reading.
I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J's Book Place.
This book is available from Carina Press. You can buy it here or here in e-format.
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