Every Waking Moment
Vanessa Beacon has lived with Manuel Rodriguez for five years, ever since the birth of their son Dominick, but they have never married. Manuel has grown increasingly controlling and abusive, and Vanessa wants out. She knows he will never let her go – he has made that quite clear – so she makes plans to escape.
With five-year-old Dominick in tow and now using the names Emma and Max Wright, she succeeds in fleeing the luxurious mansion in San Diego that has become a virtual prison for her. However, too many contingencies that she didn’t anticipate completely destroy her carefully laid plans, and Emma and Max are forced to accept the assistance of a stranger they meet on the road, Preston Holman.
Preston lost his own six-year-old son two years ago, and he has dedicated what’s left of his tortured existence to bringing the man he believes responsible to justice, even if it means using the loaded gun Preston carries with him. The last thing he wants complicating his mission is a beautiful woman and her adorable son. Since Dallas’ death, Preston believes his own heart is dead and incapable of feeling anything, and that suits him just fine at this point. Predictably, however, Emma and Max grow on him and he agrees to help them escape Manuel’s violent domination and relentless pursuit.
Every Waking Moment was a page-turner and long enough to have sufficient development of plot complications so the reader doesn’t sit back and say, “Huh? How the heck did THAT happen?” – especially when the relationship between Emma and Preston begins to sizzle. Novak provides logical and plausible sequences of events rather than relying on contrived coincidences or far-fetched “luck.”
Despite the predictability of the romantic relationship – under the circumstances, it happens way too fast and way too easily, but after all, this is a romance novel – the separate suspense plots are cohesively tied together, and I give author Novak a round of applause for that accomplishment. I also applaud her for not letting Emma wimp out in every crisis and wait helplessly for Preston to rescue her. Some readers might find the ultimate resolution of Emma’s relationship with Manuel a bit hard to take, but I found it spot on. Preston’s quest also has a surprise ending, one of those “I should have seen that coming” finales that makes perfect sense.
Some nagging details, though small, jumped out of this otherwise very well-written story. One example, from the very first page, concerns Emma’s plan for surviving after her escape. She has acquired prepaid credit cards and other identification documents, including a teaching certificate in her “new” name so she can find employment when she reaches the Midwest. Obtaining a phony teaching certificate isn’t like going to a street corner in the barrio and buying a fake driver’s license or social security card for $250, and in many states, the certificate alone wouldn’t be sufficient to get a teaching job. That kind of red flag on the first page left me a bit wary. I could have dismissed one such “hmmmm,” but there were others.
Max is diabetic, and Emma’s need to carefully monitor his blood sugar and control his diet and exercise is a major part of the story. Novak includes a great deal of information on the care of a young person with Type I diabetes, and while it is known online that her son suffers from this illness, readers who aren’t in the know might wonder about Emma’s ability to walk into a Nevada pharamacy and buy $300 worth of supplies without a prescription.
Another weak point was the nature of Emma’s relationship with Manuel. They’re not married, though they live together in a quasi-marital style, and I knew as soon as I read this that it was a device to avoid the charge of her commiting adultery when she meets Preston. Adultery is taboo in romance novels, far more so than in other genres, and almost as taboo as unhappy endings. Novak gives what appear to be logical reasons why they never married legally – Manuel’s domineering mother never thought Emma was good enough for her son – but that detail would only matter in a romance novel, not a suspense thriller or mystery.
The devil, as they say, being in the details, Every Waking Moment was still a darn good read. It’s a tightly plotted chase yarn with a couple nifty twists. Emma’s naivete, though sometimes frustrating, wasn’t of the TSTL variety, and when the chips are down and her life and her son’s life are on the line, Emma doesn’t hesitate to do whatever has to be done.