Thursday, February 25, 2021

Karen Rose - Say No More

Mercy Callahan thought she'd escaped the cult decades ago, but its long fingers are reaching out for
her again in this electrifying novel in the Sacramento series by New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose.
Seventeen years ago. That was the last time Mercy Callahan saw Ephraim Burton, the leader of the twisted Eden cult where she was raised. But even though she escaped the abuse and terror, they continue to haunt her.
When her brother Gideon discovers new evidence of the cult's--and their victims'--whereabouts, Mercy goes to Sacramento to reconnect with him. There, she meets Gideon's closest friend--homicide detective Rafe Sokolov. From Rafe, she receives an offer she never knew she needed: to track down Ephraim and make him pay for everything.
But Ephraim, who had thought Mercy long dead, discovers she is in fact alive and that she is digging around for the cult's secrets. And now he'll do anything to take her back to Eden--dead or alive.

Comment: This is the 24th book in the romantic suspense series by author Karen Rose. I have been reading the books since the first one, published back in 2003, so it has been quite a commitment. I don't regret it and I should say that this does read as a standalone. Or, for better context, readers can read only the previous, which is set in Sacramento like this one. Although, the fun here is to see the expansion of the family connections and the giddy feel of recognizing a name from previous books too..

In this book, following the events of the previous installment where hero Gideon started to bring to life the end of the cult Eden, which is no more than a fake excuse for criminal acts, it's his sister Mercy, also a survivor of the cult like her brother, who takes the lead. She is still dealing with the effects of what happened to her while she lived with the cult but after seeing how devastated her brother was when she refused to continue their newfound relationship, she changed her mind and is now eager to help the police and the FBI to end the cult once and for all... The problem is that someone from the cult wants her back, to e used as a power move within the cult and he won't avoid killing innocents to grab Mercy. However, she is discovering her inner strength and with the help of her brother, his best friend who makes her think of things and many friends and family, she will try her best to see the nightmare end...

As it usually happens with this author's books, this one was a winner for me too. Perhaps not as amazing as some have been, but thankfully for me, the villain/negative scenes weren't as shocking or hard to go through as in other stories and the family cocoon presented here more than made up for the lack of a passionate and stronger romantic element.

Mercy is the heroine and she has suffered a lot. Many of this author's heroines or heroes have survived or mostly coped with traumas, bad things, attacks, etc., so Mercy's behavior was not a big surprise within this world. However, that means the relationship she develops with Rafe, her brother's friend with whom she seemed to connect in the previous book, was quite mild. I should say it's rather a trend with the author to include romance in her suspense books but that not being the focus, it can feel a little under developed. For instance, Rafe isn't as emotionally developed besides a sad situation with someone he loved and the natural empathy he shows.

I can see why this feels like being so, their connection is more on the emotional level and the physical scenes are always surrounded by consent rules and consideration, which is a wonderful message to convey, don't get me wrong, and this happens with practically all the main couples in all the books, but sometimes I wish that or the characters weren't going though so much trauma or that it would have affected them differently, so that the forever romance the main characters have with the heroes/heroines of their respective books would have a slightly stronger level of passion, of inevitability! I do like how things happen, how sweet and rational and respectful the feelings of everyone are addressed but... a little more steam/chemistry would be welcome too.

As for the plot, as always is quite detailed, we have almost hour by hour of things happening and although this might allow for a too specific sequence of events, looking carefully, everything happens in just 4 or 5 days of the timeline, so the action actually happens quickly and the wrapping up of the action is very quick too. I can assume this might sound unlikely, some procedures and conclusions regarding the case do seem to be solved rather easily but I think the need to know what happens and how the characters deduct certain information is addictive, so the pages fly by us.

Since this is a sequel to what was put into action in the previous book, it's safe to say the overall arc isn't finished here and the next book will likely be the one where the whole cult situation is fully explained and finished. Still, we do have some closure for Mercy in this book because most of the trauma she suffered at the hands of the villain will reach an end to her, emotionally speaking. Although I do imagine that the next book will be the one where the big stuff is explained and where we can infer the characters will finally find peace with what happened to them.

Like I said, the romance between Mercy and Rafe could have been sexier, if not hotter (that might not have been suitable for the type of story) but the big cast of "good" characters makes up for a sweet read where people act like they care about one another. If only big and loving families were always that generous! Still, I like the author's style and after 24 books, I don't feel like letting these characters go.

Grade: 8/10

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