Blind Trust, book six in the Men of Steele series of romantic suspense novels, is another fast-paced, well-plotted and steamy tale from author Gwen Hernandez. I’ve consistently enjoyed the books of hers I’ve read so far, although I have to say that the romantic conflict in this one was a bit drawn out and the plot seemed a little thin by comparison. I’ve dipped in and out of the series easily; characters from previous books do cross over, but there are no overarching plotlines, so each one can be read as a standalone.
The story opens in media res, just after Lindsey Garcia has escaped the men who kidnapped her and her best friend in the wilds of Montana. She and Megan had been looking forward to a quiet few days at a remote cabin, but when hiking, stumbled onto some private land where they were found by a couple of armed guards who offered to take them to someone who could help them find their way. But then the two women were locked up in separate cabins on the compound – with no idea why. Shortly after, Lindsey managed to get away by squeezing out of the bathroom window, and is running for her life when she slips; she’s seconds away from falling to her death when she’s grabbed by the wrist and hauled up by a man who is, thankfully not one of her captors.
Current Steele Security operative and former Pararescueman Todd Brennan has tracked his cousin’s murderer to Montana, and is making his way to the remote compound where he’s supposed to be – when he sees Lindsey fall. After pulling her to safety, they’re confronted by the two kidnappers, and not wanting to endanger the man who saved her life, Lindsey agrees to go with them – but Todd isn’t about to let that happen. Acting swiftly to overpower the goons and leaving them alive but incapacitated (courtesy of a handy roll of duct tape!), Todd realises that he’s going to have to temporarily abandon his search for Pete – his cousin’s husband and killer – so he can make sure Lindsay gets safely to the next town where she can report what happened and the authorities can make plans to rescue Megan. When they make it to town the next day, they’re about to enter the sheriff’s office when a notice on the door stops them dead in their tracks. It’s a ‘Wanted’ poster showing a sketch of Todd and a photo of Lindsey saying they’re responsible for an attack on the sheriff and his deputy, who died from his injuries. Worse, it seems that the sheriff and deputy were the kidnappers – but they were both very much alive when Todd and Lindsey left them.
They’re being framed. But why? And by whom?
Whatever is going on, it puts a spanner in the works as far as Todd’s plans to take Lindsey to the police and get back on his way. He can’t take her with him on his quest to track down Pete, he but can’t afford too long a delay in case the man disappears again, plus Lindsey is anxious about her friend. With very limited options, Todd decides they need to make their way back to the compound and get Megan out; she can vouch for their story and identify her kidnappers – and then maybe he and Lindsey can avoid a murder rap.
As Todd and Lindsey make their way back along the trail, battling the elements and always aware of just how much is at stake, they get to know each other and have a chance to explore the attraction that’s been sparking between them since, well not quite the moment they met, but soon after. The theme of trust runs through the story and is explored from different angles; can Lindsey trust Todd, a man she’s just met? His actions in saving her and wanting to help and protect her would suggest that yes, she can. And Todd must learn to trust his instincts in some ways, too – to believe that he and Lindsey have something worth hanging on to and working for. He makes a big misstep on that front, and while I was pleased that Lindsey makes him work to earn her trust again, Todd’s reasons for insisting there was no long-term potential for them and his refusal to consider options even once it was clear that they were both falling hard for each other seemed somewhat contrived.
I did like Todd, though – he’s a great guy and a nice change from the hyper-macho, suffocatingly protective alpha types who are so often the heroes of romantic suspense novels. He can be badass when called for, and he definitely wants to protect Lindsey and keep her safe, but he also listens to her and takes her opinions on board, and when it comes to the sexytimes, he’s all about respecting her boundaries and making sure she’s comfortable. Lindsey hasn’t had great luck with men – her last boyfriend undermined her confidence really badly – so it takes her a while to realise that Todd is telling the truth when he compliments her, that he genuinely likes her and finds her attractive. She’s intelligent and forthright and, when thrust into a situation unlike to anything she’s ever experienced, doesn’t fall to pieces and faces it head on. They work really well as a team – again with the trust – relying on each other and making decisions together.
The suspense plot is intriguing and generally well-executed, although the last section seemed to drag on a bit before moving up several gears in the last couple of chapters and barrelling on into a high-stakes finale. Blind Trust is an entertaining read that kept me eagerly turning the pages despite the reservations I’ve expressed – and most importantly, the author strikes a good balance between the suspense plot and the romance, which isn’t something I’m finding in a lot of m/f RS right now. If that’s your jam, too, I’d suggest you might like to give this book – and series – a try.