Desert Isle Keeper
Dare to Lie
Jen McLaughlin returns to the corrupt, gritty streets of south Boston with Dare to Lie, the enthralling third installment in her The Sons of Steel Row series. Sleep will feel frivolous and take a back seat to this riveting and suspenseful book that somehow weaves together an idealistic love story and an unsettling tale based on the very real and very violent life of organized gangs. If you have not read the previous two books in the series, you’ll still be captivated by Dare to Lie, but the additional background gained in Dare to Run and Dare to Stay increases the investment in this story’s outcome and guarantees the reader will not be able to put this book down. Ms. McLaughlin does not sugarcoat the realities of gang violence; therefore readers should be aware that this is a vivid presentation of life on the gun-loaded streets of America.
Scott Donahue grew up in the impoverished neighborhood of Steel Row in south Boston where gang membership is often the only way for young men to survive. He was practically raised by the Sons of Steel Row after his older brother joined them in order to provide for Scotty and their mother. After witnessing his brother and others forfeit their dreams and give their lives to the streets, Scott wants to help give the next generation of Steel Row kids choices besides gang life. While his intentions are noble, his reality is not simple, because the Sons – for all the damage they cause – still feel like his family and he feels loyalty to them.
Five years earlier, he sought to straddle this divide and joined the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as an undercover agent. He believed he’d be able to do good while not truly betraying the Sons, because the Sons deal in guns – not drugs – and the DEA isn’t interested in gun dealers, except for the information they can provide on the drug dealing gangs they sell guns to. He hopes he can use his position to bring down these other gangs while also mitigating some of the Sons’ destruction; but there is no question that they would feel betrayed and not hesitate to kill him if they uncover his deception. So for the past five years, he has juggled two dangerous lives that continually test his loyalty and his resolve.
As a gang war erupts between the Sons of Steel Row and their rivals, Bitter Hill, Scott is forced to adopt yet another identity. The Sons’ powerful and ruthless leader, Tate Daniels, forces him to attend a bachelor charity auction hosted by his little sister, Skylar, and pretend to be a graduate student interning at one of Tate’s legal businesses. Neither Scott nor the DEA previously knew of Skylar’s existence, because she was hidden and protected from Tate’s criminal life. She’s a medical student who wants to use her degree and resources to help people, and she’s lived her life on the straight and narrow, far away from the Sons.
Scotty arrives at the auction and is immediately bowled over by Sky and very attracted to her, but he also knows that she is the last person he should ever get involved with. She feels the same instant connection, and when Scotty detects her mutual interest, he immediately attempts to shut it down by acting like a jerk. She’s not deterred by his behavior, because she trusts her instincts and believes Scotty is much more than he claims to be and that it will be worth getting past his boorish attitude.
Sky ends up purchasing Scotty at the auction, and he tries to make their date miserable, but he cannot resist her and soon finds himself having a great time. He swears things will end tomorrow and vows to never see her again, but his resolutions fly out the window when both of his bosses give him orders to stick close to her. Tate wants him to watch over her to keep her safe from Bitter Hill, and the DEA wants him to stay close in case she can somehow prove useful to their work. Scott finds himself living next door to her and fighting his growing feelings while his other life grows increasingly complicated and violent.
Scotty and Sky’s feelings grow quickly, and his sanity and allegiance to both the Sons and the DEA hit breaking point. The feud between the Sons and Bitter Hill escalates and pushes his five years of undercover work to the brink. He may be forced to destroy the Sons of Steel, thus betraying the brother of the woman he loves – and which will undoubtedly lead to his death once his role with the DEA is discovered. Scotty’s situation doesn’t seem solvable, and the anticipation to discover how his story will play out is intense.
The violence throughout Dare to Lie is viciously brought to life though Ms. McLaughlin’s vivid writing, and it is especially difficult when young men are lost to the gang war. The juxtaposition of Skylar’s and Scotty’s innocent and almost pure romance feels at times jarring and surreal against the stark contrast of the brutality of the streets, but this duality illustrates why Scotty risks everything and ultimately gives this story a depth and complexity that pushes Dare to Lie from a great book to an outstanding one.
Every year I experience a wave of sadness when I realize I am too old to attend summer camp. I used to be a CFO, but I can never escape accounting because someone always needs a number cruncher. I am a Texan happily living in California.