Caught in the Act
It’s a rare feat when a romantic suspense story strikes the perfect balance between a believable suspense plot and a satisfying romance. I’m pleased to say that this is one of them.
Weekly trips into Tijuana, Mexico are a necessity for Karina Strauss as owner of an upscale store in San Diego selling authentic Mexican-crafted goods. Kari has never been tempted to break the law by smuggling illegal cargo into the United States until she is approached by a desperate young woman named Maria who needs to make it across the border. When border patrol agent Adam Cortez pulls her van for inspection at the checkpoint, Kari realizes she could be in very deep trouble. Flirting with the sexy Officer Cortez is no great difficulty and he is equally attracted to Kari even as he knows that she is hiding something.
Kari’s sister Sasha is involved with a Mexican drug lord and is hooked on heroin. Due to her addiction, Sasha owes Carolos Moreno a lot of money. Kari just wants to get her sister away from a man who is destroying her day by day. But Sasha is not particularly interested in breaking free and getting clean, knowing Carlos will never let her leave while she owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars. The only viable option is for Kari to work off the money owed by running drugs for Carlos across the border. Kari has a difficult choice to make: Use her newfound attraction to Adam to her advantage and run the drugs across the border or allow her sister to perish at Carlos’ hands.
I felt deeply for Kari. She is caught in an impossible situation, facing a horrible choice. The author conveys the difficulty of watching a loved one struggle with addiction well. It’s obvious that Kari loves Sasha and it breaks her heart that she can only do so much to protect her. As one who has watched her own loved ones struggle with addiction, I could identify with Kari and easily understand her agonizing emotional and ethical dilemma.
Kari and Adam’s relationship is complex. He knows she is keeping secrets and yet cannot bring himself to break ties with her. She realizes that using her relationship with Adam to her advantage is wrong, while not helping her sister feels equally wrong. They are able to disagree on the politically- and emotionally-charged issue of immigration while respecting one another’s opinions. And while I wished that Kari would have trusted Adam with the truth a bit sooner, the delay ratcheted up the tension in the relationship and the suspense in the story.
While the book is a standalone, there is a lovely secondary romance between Adam’s friend and federal DEA agent Ian and Maria, the young lady from Mexico whom Kari befriends and smuggles across the border. Their storyline ends in a bit of a cliffhanger, though, so I have high hopes that the author’s next book will focus on their relationship. (Pretty please, Ms. Sorenson?)
Is this a warm-fuzzy read with rainbows and kittens? In a word, no. It’s dark and difficult. The bad guys are truly scary. It’s painful and emotional and pushed me out of my comfort zone. And in my opinion that is what some of the best fiction does. I will be happily looking forward to the author’s future releases.