Guest Reviews

With the holiday season here, readers can find novels that blend a good mystery within the Christmas atmosphere. A word of warning, these are not “sugar and spice and everything nice” holiday books.  Yet, they are very realistic, believable, and leave readers with a good feeling at the end, a feeling of faith and redemption. 

 

The Christmas Room by Catherine Anderson is one of these special stories.  Two holiday generational romances touch on grief, healing and redemption. Readers will go through a range of emotions with the characters from joy, to laughter, and sadness. Anderson leaves the reader wishing the story would never end, hoping she will consider making a series involving these great characters. 

 

She believes that one of the overwhelming aspects of the holidays is hope. “We should not forget about those people who came to the holidays with strife, stress, or financial troubles.  Many people have lost loved ones and on Christmas there are empty places. They do feel sad.  Because I did experience grief firsthand I wanted to write about it.  I wanted to show how the death of the featured character’s husband impacted not only her but also her son and grandson.  The message I really wanted to send is that if you put one foot in front of the other there is light on the other side of the darkness, and there can be a happy ending.”   

 

The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen has a sinister atmosphere of sorrow that is also a part of this story. With Christmas approaching the characters must overcome their own set of heartaches that revolve around losing a child. The main character, Molly, feels the despair of having recently miscarried because of her physical hardships. Deciding to spend the holiday with her mother-in-law and a family living in the countryside, she discovers that the hostess Winnie’s moodiness is based on the disappearance of her daughter ten years ago on Christmas Eve.  Molly decides to investigate and find answers to this Cold Case. The spirit of Christmas will ring through. 

 

Bowen experienced first hand losing a loved one during the holidays. “I flew over to Australia to be with my mother who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I    actually missed Christmas Day because of the date line. A part of me will always associate Christmas with that call that says you need to come right now. Yet, I do love the celebration of Christmas. Just think, during the time period of the plot, there were no TVs, no videogames, and no cell phones.  I was able to create an ideal Christmas that we all long for.  We all have this idea of the snow, a sleigh ride, the big roaring fire, playing games, and singing Carols around the tree. We do not have the simplicity of Christmas anymore.  I fantasized and wrote the Christmas I would really like with all the warmth.”

 

Last Christmas In Parisby Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb is a reminder that not everyone has complete joy during the Christmas holiday and that some families have chairs left empty. It is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of victory and loss during World War I. The love and romantic scenes are a great balance against the horrors of the Great War. What makes this book stand out is that the story of World War I is told predominantly in letters and telegrams. In the beginning the letters are full of excitement, a sense of adventure, pride and thoughts that the war won't last long, yet, as it becomes evident that it will not be over by Christmas, the correspondence becomes more serious and speaks of the atrocities and hardships.

 

The authors told of the springboard for the story, wanting it to be a shout out to military families, “These friends who lead a comfortable life planned to meet up in Paris during the holiday.  There was the continued sense of believing that it will be over by the next Christmas.  But we wanted readers to understand that it was disrupted by this horrific war. Today there is a disconnect between those fighting and the civilian population.  We wanted to contrast those on the home front versus those actually fighting, and how the Christmas holiday affected them.”

 

Pride And Prejudice And Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz modernizes Jane Austen’s classic Pride And Prejudice.  She turns the characters on their heads, switching the roles of the male and female leads. The heroine, Darcy, flies back to Pemberley, Ohio to see to her mother and spend the holiday season with her family. She might remind readers of Scrooge from A Christmas Carol because she is rich and self absorbed, disdainful of others not like her.  But it is Luke who covertly shows her how to be humble, and that there is more to life than her profession, leaving her to wonder if she could have a chance at love. This is definitely a modern day fairy tale.

 

Melissa believes that part of the joy during Christmas is spending time with family and close friends. “Darcy gives everything up for her career and has an empty life. It is necessary to find a balance between career and those in your family.  I wanted to show that during Christmas most everyone takes a little time off to spend time with friends and family.”

 

These books are a reminder that during the holidays there are some who suffer, some who celebrate, and some who can reflect on their loss but joyously participate in the holiday cheer.  The novels will evoke old-fashioned Christmas traditions with plots that will warm the heart, and allow readers a smile at the story ends.

Vince Flynn’s Enemy Of The State

Mitch Rapp book # 16

Kyle Mills

Atria/ Emily Bestler Books Pub.

Sept 5th, 2017

 

With Enemy Of The State Kyle Mills has found his groove as he nailed down the characters created by Vince Flynn.  As other thriller authors pivoted away from terrorism, Mitch Rapp, Dr. Irene Kennedy, and company continue to keep America safe by thwarting Islamic jihadists.  

 

As in The Third Option, this plot has Mitch Rapp going somewhat rogue after being asked by the President to perform a mission that is completely off the books. He must track down, interrogate, and kill members of the Saudi royal family who appear to be working with ISIS.  Although Irene knows about it she and Mitch realize this must be a completely black ops mission; thus, his resignation from the CIA.  The investigation discovered Aali Nassar, Irene’s Saudi counterpart, promising to support America, while secretly in charge of the ISIS financing and eyeing the chance to overtake the country’s government once King Faisal dies. Nassar frames Mitch giving him an excuse to hunt down the one man who might foil his plan to fund ISIS and bring about a Middle East superpower to threaten the US. He gets the US President to agree to have FBI Agent Joel Wilson work with him to find Mitch. 

 

The action never stops as Mitch tries to keep one step ahead of his pursuers and to expose Nassar for what he truly is, a covert terrorist.  To help Mitch, Mills has brought back some old familiar faces, while giving others a backseat. The character Dr. Irene Kennedy is central to any book. Mills realizes no Mitch Rapp book can succeed without her dominant presence. The scenes with her are a pivotal piece of the plot. Even a few pages speak of Irene’s son Tommy.  

 

Mills describes her as “a realist, a philosopher of sorts, someone clear eyed and a student of human nature.  She is always in the book, just off the pages. I always think of her as the puppet master. By her own admission she is not involved but watches and waits until it becomes necessary for her to be involved. She is seen as an intellectual who makes decisions based not on her gut, but her head.”

Readers might remember Joel Wilson from The Last Man where he became Mitch’s nemesis.  As the deputy director of counterintelligence he accused Mitch of stealing. After being proved wrong Wilson lost that position, and he is now all too happy to work with Nassar while seeking revenge. Because Mitch needs a team to work with and help him confront the bad guys, he enlists the help of Donatella Rahn, his onetime lover, Grisha Azarov, his adversary now a peer, and Kent Black, a former Ranger sniper.  

 

The logistics leader of the team is Claudia Gould who has both a professional and intimate relationship with Mitch.  Because she has a six-year-old child, Anna, when at home Mitch gets to play dad.  These scenes are a welcome relief and venture back to the first books when Vince Flynn would include some of the character’s personal life.  What Mills has brilliantly accomplished is the humanizing of Mitch.  It is interesting to see the two sides of Rapp, a take charge, non-nonsense patriot, a take no prisoners guy, while acquiescing to Claudia at home. 

 

Mills hopes to continue to have Claudia as a major character. “She is not the goody character like Anna. Plus she could be a part of some operations because of her experience. Mitch needs a companion.  She can be involved in both his professional and personal life.  Since Mitch is consumed with his work life anybody he becomes involved with must be a part of it. She is brilliant, beautiful, mysterious, pragmatic, adaptable, and not naïve. I want to humanize Mitch.  I think he is fighting for normalcy, peace, and security so while at home he does not want to argue or fight.  I do think she takes the initiative at home.  When they work together he is in charge, but at home she is in charge.”  

This novel perfectly combines geo-politics, covert operations, and the backstory of the characters.  Readers can close their eyes and remember past books written by Vince Flynn and will not skip a beat with Kyle Mills at the helm.

Latest comments

31.08 | 07:03

I enjoyed this! Thank you

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29.07 | 21:13

Great interview and the story sounds great

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27.05 | 23:23

Outraged, too! It is just getting coverage. This government is shameful under this leadership.

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26.03 | 16:01

At first I thought it said spa season. Either way it is a sign of rejuvenation! On a Kristin Hannah kick, loved Winter Garden. Happy reading!

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