Title: Secrets and Sins: Gabriel
Author: Naima Simone
May Contain Spoilers
Funny story about this book. I don’t usually read romantic suspense, and in fact would probably consider the genre one of my least favorites. They can get so intense, as the heroine is making her best effort to solve whatever mystery she’s found herself a part of, and people usually die. Not on the scale of, say, a zombie apocalypse or other worldwide disaster novels, but let’s face it. Unless you believe in conspiracy theories or have an overly vivid imagination, odds are the dead aren’t going to rise from their graves any time soon. Now, emotionally, mentally deranged killers? They are everywhere! Or so the news sites would have us believe, so I, for one, find suspense novels more frightening than zombie books. There may very well be a murderer living next door! Right? So I go into these novels with a different mindset, and I find them scary, because, well, unhinged people are SCARY!
Leah thinks she’s got her life back on track after being shot in the line of duty and being forced to resign due to her injuries. She’s now a PI, and while she doesn’t have a sense that she’s helping the community, or serving and protecting the public like she always dreamed she would, at least her job equals a steady paycheck. When she receives a mysterious letter, she starts to suspect that her uncle Richard, who has been missing for 20 years, was murdered. Determined to discover the truth, she begins investigating his disappearance, unaware that she will put the lives of everyone she loves in danger.
While that sounds pretty intense, a murder investigation is nothing next to her complicated relationship with Gabriel. She’s known him since she was a young girl, has been hopelessly in love with him since she was sixteen, and has watched, helplessly, as he spiraled into depression after the tragic deaths of his wife and son. Attempting to help him pick up the scattered pieces of his life is a thankless task. Gabriel suffers from an understandable and suffocating case of survivor’s guilt. A witness to the accident that killed his family, he was forced to watch as every devastating detail played out in front of him. He can’t allow himself to love again, because then he will lose the last piece of his family that he’s clung to for the past two years. He’s afraid of forgetting them, and he’s afraid of betraying them.
While Leah’s investigation into the cold case kept me engaged in the story, what I really enjoyed about Secrets and Sins: Gabriel was the interaction between the protagonists. They are both wounded, Leah because she’s lost the career she loved and Gabriel because he lost his family. His reluctance to start a relationship with Leah was heartbreakingly convincing; he’s already lost one family and it nearly destroyed him. What would happen if he lost Leah, a woman who isn’t content to sit on the sidelines and watch life pass her by. She needs to be in the thick of the action, protecting not only her family and friends, but also her clients. If she sees an injustice, she is driven to right it. I loved that about her; I believed beyond a doubt that she would have given her life to serve the greater good when she was on the force. That need and desire to help people is what gave her a sense of fulfillment. After she had to retire, she felt, like Gabriel, as though she had nothing to live for. This pair needed to get together in order to heal their broken hearts.
I don’t want to spoil the mystery behind Richard’s disappearance, other than to say that maybe Leah would have been off to have let this sleeping dog lie. The man she loved and admired so much revealed a dark and shocking personality, one that robbed every last bit of innocence from her. Not only was Richard hiding terrible secrets, but so were her four best friends. These are horrid, soul-leaching secrets that changed all of them irrevocably.
After reading this book, I have to re-evaluate my perception of romantic suspense. Yes, there were a couple of scary moments when the deranged killer almost got the better of Leah, but the pacing, characters, and romance more than made up for them. And I’m pretty sure most of my neighbors aren’t really insane murderers.
Grade: B, leaning to B+
Review copy purchased from Amazon