Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Deception Lake - Paula Graves (HI #1553 - Mar 2015)

Series: The Gates (Book 4)

"I'm not who you think I am."

While his rodeo days have come and gone, cowboy Jack Drummond is in for the ride of a lifetime…with life itself hanging in the balance. An unexpected encounter with his old flame, Mara Jennings, triggers a series of events that Jack never could have predicted. There's just one problem: Mara isn't the same woman Jack remembers. She looks like Mara. And sounds like Mara. But reignited passions aren't enough to hide the fact that she's harboring a big secret -- and hiding out from an even bigger enemy. Now, learning the truth might be the only way to stay alive. Or it could tear them apart -- permanently.

Excellent suspense and enough romance to keep it interesting. Jack is in Tennessee on vacation with his family when he runs into an old flame, Mara. He feels that he has some amends to make with her, but she just keeps pushing him away. When he saves her from danger twice, he realizes there's something bad going on, and he refuses to let her face it alone. But there's something different about her, too, and he won't give up until he finds out what it is.

I really liked Jack a lot. He's a retired bull rider, who quit after he was badly injured. He hasn't quite made up his mind what he's going to do next, so he's thinking about it while he's on vacation with his family. He doesn't expect to run into an old flame, especially one that he feels he owes a huge apology to. The last time he had seen Mara, he was a huge jerk to her. At the time he was deep into alcoholism and had also scammed some money from her. Shortly after that he cleaned up his act and is living a better life. He wants to apologize to her and return her money, but she's acting like she doesn't remember it. As he arrives at her house to try again, he interrupts someone who is trying to kidnap her. When he rescues her again later from someone who is shooting at her, he's determined to stick with her and protect her, even if she doesn't want him to. But it doesn't take long for him to realize that there have been a lot of changes in her during the last four years - or have there? I really liked seeing the way that he stuck with her, even when she kept trying to push him away. The more he learned about what was going on, the more he understood her lack of trust, but it only made his need to help her that much stronger. 

MJ has been working for The Gates and Alexander Quinn, trying to track down a hacker who may know something about plans for a cyberterror attack. She also has some trouble in her past that may have some relation to the attacks on her. A couple years earlier her twin sister was killed in an attack that was meant for her and she has been on the run ever since, trying to stay below the radar. Working for Quinn has kept her in one place a lot longer that usual, and made her vulnerable to discovery. MJ has decided over the years that she can't trust anyone, and that includes the cowboy that just won't go away. But his persistence is wearing her down, and she starts to think that maybe she can trust him, at least a little bit. I have to admit that her paranoia irritated me at times, but she really did have reason to be.

There is a definite and intense attraction between Jack and MJ. However, it takes a bit of a backseat to the rest of the story as they are generally too busy or too exhausted to take advantage of it. There are a couple times when MJ seems to be using the attraction to distract Jack from pursuing a certain line of questioning, and it's pretty fun to see her confusion when it doesn't work. It isn't until they start to develop some trust between them that the attraction can start to grow into something more. I really liked the conversations that they had and how they added to the heat that was building between them. I liked seeing Jack step in at the end to give MJ a place that is safe for both body and heart.

The suspense of the story was really good. Quinn and company are still working to unravel the issues that began in previous books in the series. In this case, Quinn has MJ using her computer skills in secret because of the suspicion that he has a mole in his agency, but danger has come to her anyway. It was also fun to see Quinn with Riley and Hannah, who he knows outside of their relationship to Jack. They also know him well and the way that they thwart his plans a couple times were really funny. The final showdown on the mountain was pretty intense and I really liked how the trust that had grown between Jack and MJ made it all work. 

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