Sworn to Protect
Taking on the guardianship of a child is a very difficult thing. There are so many transitions and adjustments on all sides, and a lot of awkwardness. When the hero of Sworn to Protect becomes the guardian of a teenager, there are, of course, a lot of changes to be made. However, the emotional adjustments felt rushed.
Detective Shane Ford has been best friends with Brad Cooper, an NFL star, since they were children. When Brad unexpectedly overdoses on a very new steroid-like drug, Shane is blindsided. No one knew he was using drugs – except, maybe, Brad’s sixteen-year-old son, Dylan. Shane is Dylan’s godfather and guardian, so in addition to the shock of his friend and mentor’s death, now he’s also in charge of raising a moody teenager mourning his father. Further complicating things is Daisy Callahan, a juvenile police officer, with whom he had a brief relationship before he got freaked out by his intense feelings, and also afraid of the professional ramifications of dating and working with a fellow officer.
Daisy fell for Shane very quickly, and is still hurt by his rejection. But when he’s in need and struggling, she steps up, using her experience with troubled teens to help Shane adjust from being Dylan’s friend to parent. Dylan has secrets, and when he becomes friends with another troubled teen, those secrets lead to something much bigger.
While this is the first book in a new series, it’s also closely related to another series, also set in the small Tennessee town of Sugarland. The first series focused on the town’s fire department; now it’s the police department’s turn, but there is some overlap. I’m not sure if the first stage of Shane and Daisy’s relationship started in the Station Five series, but I felt a bit disoriented. The book starts, and they already have baggage and she’s already in love with him. It felt like I had picked up the book halfway into the story. Their chemistry also fizzled sometimes, with the love scenes feeling forced and awkward rather than hot.
I also had some issues with how quickly Daisy and Shane stepped into the role of parents. Suddenly acquiring a teenager is a huge adjustment. Early in the novel, this is portrayed well, as Shane and Dylan have fights over Shane not being “cool” anymore, as he suddenly has to set an example and discipline the teenager. They do have a history, and Dylan grew up with Shane in his life. But even as Dylan’s godfather, it felt weird and rushed for Shane to start calling him “son” and referring to himself as his father. It felt even more awkward for Daisy to start calling him her own. All of this within, oh, a month of Dylan’s father dying suddenly? It was too fast, and insensitive to Dylan’s mourning. Feeling like a parent and accepting Dylan as a child is one thing; talking about it – especially for the new guardian’s new girlfriend to start counting herself as a parent – is another.
The suspense part of the story is fairly well done, though there are some conveniently accurate leaps of logic at the end. Brad’s untimely death, though self-inflicted, is a piece in a puzzle regarding drug manufacturing and murder. The ends all tie together neatly, though, and I thought Dylan was believable in his vulnerability, prickliness, and uncertainties, and how those all contributed to the larger suspense plot.
All in all, this is a mediocre book. It’s far from dreadful, and does have some exciting parts. But the less-than-stellar aspects of the novel make it a thoroughly average book.