Series: Stand alone
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Age category: Adult Fiction
Release Date: January 2017
Descriptive Blurb: Year 2047, City of Samarra, capital of the Republic of Islamic Provinces & Territories
Fifteen American travelers have vanished. Surrendering to Mayor Aamir’s demands, Captain Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, Eliza MacKay. The devout Muslim is horrified to discover that if he exposes the cover-up, his family will suffer dire consequences.
The CIA has the lying Sharif in their cross hairs. Sharif’s only hope is to prove his country’s government is free of guilt. Secretly, he hunts forensic evidence. Cryptic messages, backstabbing informants, and corruption threaten Sharif’s resolve to see justice served. When he discovers the shocking truth, he and MacKay become the targets of a ruthless killer.
Sharif is tortured by his attraction to the impetuous Eliza MacKay. In spite of her struggle with PTSD, he’s drawn to her vivacious personality. Islam forbids the intimacy he craves. In desperation to save Eliza, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.
“A Forbidden treasure…”
My Impressions: Major cool points for originality. A very unique premise…with some truly quirky characters. I’m not a big fan of romantic suspense (too many serial killers), but this book has renewed my interest in the genre.
One-State Under Allah: The story takes place in the Republic of Islamic Provinces & Territories (RIPT), a fictitious…country? kingdom? I’m not sure which. I mean, while Sharif refers to RIPT as a democracy, it certainly doesn’t operate like one. It bares a closer resemblance to a monarchy in my view. I only have a rudimentary understanding of the social and political history of the middle eastern countries, but I assume that RIPT is an imaginative glimpse at what the Islamic “One State” solution might look like. The set-up and world-building is engrossing. The massacre and the political fallout that follows…the cover-up and the conspiracies…it all kept me wondering who to trust, and what everyone’s ultimate motivations were. The religious overtones added a sometimes perverse bend to every action taken by the characters. I mean, you have all this corruption going on and many of the perpetrators are devout Muslims praying 5 times a day. In many instances, some crimes were staged at or even inside a mosque. It was quite fascinating to me that their society was so very centered around its religion…in good ways and bad. The mosque, prayer, Allah, and religious obedience were a constant concern, an everyday part of their lives. Another thing, it was a bit difficult to keep all the rankings, titles, and names straight. It’s not so much that I couldn’t remember them exactly. It’s just that they have different meanings than what I know them to mean. Minister Rasheed…is not actually a preacher. President Najeeb seemed more like a “dictator” or “emperor” since he’s commanding a group of nations that have merged into one state…and Mayor Aamir was more of a Mob Boss than an elected official. Practically everything he did was corrupt and off-the-record. Poor Sharif…he actually had to sneak around to collect and preserve evidence…almost like he’s a criminal instead of a cop. A unique irony.
When Duty Met Beauty: Theirs is a slow-brewing romance that works well. Sharif is a duty-bound prig with no compassion. He initially comes off more as the lesser of several evils whom the reader is forced to accept as the hero because everyone else is either a male chauvinist pig or a corrupt conspirator. It wasn’t until later that I realized the immense pressure he was under…duty to Allah to remain pure, duty to his job to conduct a proper investigation, duty to his country to keep its secrets and not betray its leaders, duty to his family to love and honor them…so when “Beauty” enters his life, he is resistant. He sees her as a threat to his carefully controlled desires and the execution of his many duties. The ultimate WTF moment comes when he denies her a comforting hug, all in the name of modesty. I mean, seriously? If he’s so “religious” that he can’t show compassion, then I think he’s missing the point. And this is what Eliza teaches him…that it does no good to feel compassion but never show it…no good to love someone and never tell them. And while I do sympathize with Eliza, my feelings start off more akin to pity than likeability. I don’t dislike her, but it’s a little difficult to align with her character because she seems more interested in “appearing” like a strong, independent woman than actually “being” a strong independent woman. She has a reckless sort of pride which dictates that she prove she is fine and can handle herself, when really she is dangling by a thread. She’s got PTSD which is not in-check, and she’s working as a translator & medic relief staff in a politically unstable foreign country. This seems like a bad idea. If she really were a strong and intelligent woman, then she would be in some long-term therapy in a controlled environment so that her instability wouldn’t put others at risk. And she would restrict her aid work to countries with stable social situations at least until she could train herself not to slide into a PTSD flashback. Her attraction to Sharif seems weird to me at first. Why does she like him? I could see her playing nice and accepting his protection because she knows she needs it, but I don’t see why she would warm up to him as suddenly as she does. He’s shown her no real kindness or even the slightest deference. Even when he rescues her, the post-conversation where he explains almost sounds like he’s making excuses for her attackers…as if the whole thing was not their fault, but due to a mere ‘misunderstanding’ and not because of their own personal moral decay (which is the real impetus for the incident). All that being said, I do grow to like them as the story unfolds and each of them is fleshed out a bit more. Sharif thaws. He starts showing her some kindness, accepting (or at least not rejecting) some casual contact between them, he even helps her with some of her PTSD issues…and thus he gradually develops into the hero that Eliza deserves after all she has been through. In turn, Eliza softens some of Sharif’s hard edges.
Minor Beef: The weakest point in the story (which could have been cut out if you ask me) was the whole “seer” angle. First off, the book’s already got a killer plot: thick, complicated and multi-layered. There’s the political stuff, the RIPT world-building, a brewing romance, a mass-murder mystery, the religious overtones, even a little family drama…so why do we need some clichéd fortune-teller angle? Really? And it didn’t even make sense. Her seeing ability came as a blunt announcement tossed in out of nowhere in the middle of chapter 7. And with it came the rush of sudden [and inexplicable] attraction to her captor…that’s weird. Both of these out of nowhere revelations go over like a lead balloon. And if Eliza is a seer, or whatever, it begs the question… why didn’t she see the massacre and her subsequent predicament coming beforehand??? I mean this is the second disaster that has victimized her…with no forewarning. What good is it being a seer if she never sees the important things? *Eyeroll* and why does she need some weird supernatural reason to be attracted to Sharif?? They are around the same age…she’s a pretty female and he’s a handsome male…they’re thrown together in a situation of heightened emotions. Seems to me that just normal human biology could do the rest. But whatever.
Touch of Charm: Love that driving lesson! Its quite clever of Sharif to use her own personality against her to force her to face her fears and ultimately overcome them. Also, its heartwarming that he knows her well enough to do so effectively without damaging their budding romance. Niiiice.
Cliff-Notes: No, no cliffhanger…at least I don’t think so. I mean there was a bit of a hint right at the end that there may be another story to tell with this one. But, the central conflict of this book was resolved pretty succinctly.
The Verdict: A very interesting read. Written well, with engrossing twists and turns in the plot.
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About the Author:
In essence, I’m a farm girl with passions that led me to a career as a paramedic and a variety of other hobbies. Mostly, I love my husband and our four critters: two shelties and two cats. My husband and I have traveled extensively around the world. My most exciting trip was to Egypt. Oh, New Zealand was a lot of fun, too. In Israel I thought the bus at Masada left me behind – I was terrified until the rest of my bus mates miraculously appeared. I’ve learned a few things over the past sixty-something years. Thoughts are powerful. Intentions are everything. And lastly, passion is the key to success.
During my career as a paramedic I came face to face with scenes most people would rather not think about. Having experienced life in the most deadly and gut wrenching events, and work alongside the police service, I have the fodder for creating intense novels. My creative DNA ran amok within two months after my first novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild, was published. I couldn’t believe there was this kind of story within me and desperate to be told. I resisted. It was futile.
When I gave in to the visions and inspirations, I knew that the first year would be taken up with studying Islam and the Muslim culture. After finding a most wonder imam and a Muslim physician, it was time to begin the research and write. After completing the first draft of Forbidden, I searched for police personnel who would be willing to guide me in ensuring all the police procedures were legit and believable. The final draft of Forbidden was completed after four years of editing, rewriting, and editing again. My goal has been to write an exciting story, one that is both plot and character driven. Also, I was most careful in presenting the Islam faith in a moderate and unbiased tone.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Guardian’s Wildchild