Sunday, January 11, 2015

Gut Instinct - Barb Han (HI #1542 - Jan 2015)

Series: Campbells of Creek Bend (Book 2)

Reunited…by a murderer

FBI agent Luke Campbell has never been more determined to catch the serial killer who's eluded him for two years. Because this time the monster is after Julie, the ex he walked out on when he returned from Iraq, emotionally scarred and burdened by a secret. Now Luke will do anything -- even risk his life -- to protect Julie and regain her trust.

But it's a tense race against time. Defying FBI rules, Luke keeps Julie by his side throughout a harrowing chase. Once they're finally at a safe house, it's clear to him that the passion they once shared hasn't cooled. Can Luke redeem himself and keep evil away from the woman he refuses to let go of again?

Very good book. There was excellent action and suspense along with emotions and memories that had to be dealt with before Luke and Julie could hope for a new future together. Luke and Julie had been divorced for three years. When he returned from the war he was an emotional mess and pushed her away until there was no hope for their marriage. Now she's being threatened by the serial killer he's been chasing for two years. Keeping her safe is his priority, and if he can earn her trust and love again he'll count that as a win.

Julie was stunned to find Luke is the agent in charge of her case. She hasn't seen him since he walked away from their marriage, leaving her heartbroken. Though she's tried to move on, seeing him again makes her realize that her love for him had never died. What she  remembers is her failure to help him, as he kept all his pain inside and refused to share his burdens. Now, forced together by circumstances, does she want to risk her heart again? Luke seems to have undergone some crucial changes, but will he push her away again?

When Luke returned from the war he was suffering from PTSD and survivor's guilt. He couldn't and wouldn't talk about what had happened with her or anyone else. He felt he was too broken to inflict himself on Julie and walked away from his marriage. He's never forgotten what he gave up, and when she ends up as the target of the killer he's been chasing he is determined to keep her safe. 

It's obvious from the beginning that the feelings Luke and Julie had for each other are still there. They even admit it to themselves, but both are wary of getting involved again. Julie still feels the pain of the way that Luke withdrew and is reluctant to believe that he won't do it again. For Luke, when he walked away from Julie he realized that he had lost everything important to him. It finally drove him to get the help he needed, and he is doing better. Though hard for him at first, he starts to tell Julie what had been going on with him, and discovers that he actually feels better after doing so. Both agree that they've changed too much to go back to the way they were, but they are interested in seeing if they can move forward together. I really loved seeing them together. Julie still sees through to Luke's inner turmoil, but now has the courage and confidence to push him to share. Luke has finally accepted that sharing his fears doesn't make him weak, but can actually make him stronger. He sees that his past actions hurt her badly and that he has to earn her trust. I liked the realism of his suffering, and that it doesn't miraculously go away as soon as he's back with Julie. The descriptions of his continued issues as he deals with the killer made it clear it would be an ongoing issue.

The action and suspense of the story were page turners from the beginning. Luke has been working on the case for two years and has been frustrated by the lack of progress. The killer is scary smart and has been meticulous in not leaving anything behind that might lead back to him. That all ends when Julie happens on the scene of his latest murder before he is finished. He knows he has to eliminate her, and makes sure she knows that he's after her. Once Luke is on the scene, it's one thing after another as the killer seems to know what they're going to do before they do. I loved seeing each step as they began the journey to identifying him. Things got really intense as things escalated and the killer got more desperate to take out Julie and Luke. The final confrontation with him was terrifying as Luke threw himself into making sure Julie was safe. The epilogue was a pretty sweet wrap up to the book.

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