Review: Chasing Secrets

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Several years ago, author and library hero Nancy Pearl came to the yearly staff training that I was required to attend. She spoke of “doorways” through which every reader seeks to enter the world of books. Some read for plot, others for character. Some read for the beauty of the language, some for setting. Thus there is a reader for every book, a book for every reader.

Immediately I knew that I read for character. I can handle books with slower-paced plot lines because I want to dive into the richness of the human psyche, whether in fictional or real-life form. I want to know and understand people’s thoughts, what they believe, what makes them tick. This is why history is endlessly fascinating to me; far more than a list of dry dates, those thick books record the real (and often surreal) experiences of flesh-and-blood people.

Thus, Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason was not a book for me.

To be fair, this is the fourth book in a series, so I am lacking some context. Also in fairness, Eason’s books have all received predominately positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so there is definitely an audience for her work. In no way do I believe her to be a bad author and I don’t think that those who enjoy her books are stupid. Keep all of this mind as you read the rest of this review.

Chasing Secrets falls into the “Christian romantic suspense” category, one that I have rarely ventured into. It’s just not my jam. Honestly, I don’t like much Christian fiction in general. All too often the characters lack depth and the plots are both implausible and formulaic, which is sad. Art is a form of worship and we must learn to do better. When I do find authors I like – Francine Rivers, Mesu Andrews, Neta Jackson – I devour everything they write, because they manage to be at least a little different in a sea of so-far-from-Amish-as-to-be-laughable stories and, let’s face it, bodice rippers without the ripping. (Romance novels without the sex, for the uninitiated).

Skepticism meter already on “high,” I began to read the story of Haley Callaghan – a professional bodyguard practically Terminator-like in her ability to take a licking and keep on ticking. When I figured out two of the major twists within the first couple of chapters, I sighed. And sighed some more when one of those twists was straight-up revealed in the third chapter. In my mind’s eye I could see one of the filler episodes of the late-somewhat-great television show Castle, the ones that you just sort of skipped over in anticipation of another 3XK feature or a development in one of the better “will they, won’t they” relationships of entertainment history.

And now we’re completely sidetracked.

Haley is, of course, beautiful, intelligent and successful, yet wounded. She hides her inner softie under a tough outer shell. Of course the only one who can truly break through her defenses is Steven Rothwell, a handsome, intelligent, successful yet wounded detective. Of course they fall in love in like 5.537 seconds. Of course Steven hasn’t been interested in romance until Haley. Of course Haley has sworn off men until Steven.

Then some assassins and gangbangers and explosions. An Irish castle. Mafia stuff. Old family feuds.

All connected, of course.

This much I sort of glazed over. It’s all part of the usual outline of these kinds of books. One element of the story truly did bother me, however: “white saviorism.” I can’t explain this in-depth without giving away major plot elements, but suffice it to say that the beautiful-yet-damaged white woman is the only one who can fix things for two young black men. Of course their mother made “bad decisions” that left them vulnerable. This left a bad taste in my mouth.

I’m not accusing Eason of being a racist. I’ve never met the woman. I do think she followed a formula that would sell well. That is frustrating to me, because she isn’t a bad writer. This book (and, I’m guessing, the series) had potential to be something more. She writes about women you wouldn’t want to meet in dark alleys. They are supposed to be fierce and capable of fighting alongside men…not conventional damsels-in-distress who need men to save them, which is sadly where this book went.

If you like books that are on the fluffier and fast-paced side, then this one is for you. It is, as they say, probably a good beach read. Nothing difficult within the pages. I won’t smack it out of your hands or judge you for reading it. I would recommend beginning with the first book in the series, Always Watching, because maybe there’s more to this particular story than I am able to appreciate at the moment. A word to the wise, however: Be sure that you start from a place of suspended disbelief, otherwise you will find yourself incredibly frustrated.

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.