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Saturday, July 6, 2013

ARC Review: Secrets & Sins: Gabriel by Naima Simone

With GABRIEL, the first book in the Secrets and Sins romantic suspense series, Naima Simone delivers a well-crafted, deeply emotional story with the perfect balance of suspense, romance, and depravity that is the hallmark of top-notch dark romantic suspense. The hero’s deep emotional wounds, the heroine’s lifelong unrequited love, and a gripping, tautly-paced plot seamlessly combine into a page-turner that will keep you guessing until the end and unable to put it down until you discover the full truth.

I must confess that I’m not always the biggest fan of the tortured, wounded hero. In less capable hands, the emotional wounds and reticence to open up again can easily slip into an overblown melodrama that has me wanting to strangle the hero so he’ll get over himself. Not so with Ms. Simone’s Gabriel Devlin. Gabriel suffered a terrible personal loss two years ago and still carries the guilt and heartbreak like an albatross around his neck, compounded by the newfound desire he feels for his lifelong friend Leah Bannon. He spends most of the novel fighting with himself and trying to keep her at arm’s length because he doesn’t believe he has it in him to love and lose again and survive. But Ms. Simone writes him so skillfully and realistically that instead of wanting to strangle him for blowing hot and cold, I felt every devastating emotion and wanted to give him a really big hug instead. That scene where he’s at his absolute lowest is heartbreaking—in a good way!—and it makes watching him overcome his struggles and achieve his HEA that much more satisfying.

Leah is an equally complex character: a kickass former cop turned private investigator whose lifelong dream was shattered by a career-ending injury in the line of duty who’s been in love with—and willing to do anything for—Gabriel since she was a teenager. Unrequited love is tough: she’s watched the man she’s loved forever marry another woman, start a family, and nearly perish from grief and has put her own life on hold to stand by him and see him through to the other side without burdening him with her feelings. It’s that combination of toughness and vulnerability that makes her so compelling and relatable as a character. With all the anguish and indecision on both sides, the relationship between Gabriel and Leah develops slowly: they don’t come together until fairly late in the novel, but when they do it’s both desperately passionate and lovingly sweet—and we get to experience each emotion with surprising intensity.

Leah’s investigation into the disappearance of her beloved surrogate father twenty years ago provides a taut suspense plot with twists you won’t see coming. [I did guess the villain before the big reveal… but I read a LOT of suspense!]. As is typical in dark romantic suspense, the novel delves into the depths of human depravity so, whilst not overly violent or heavy on the murders, it’s not for the squeamish. The writing is superb, and the cast of secondary characters—especially Gabriel’s and Leah’s three lifelong friends and blood brothers—is incredibly well developed. And having spent considerable time in Boston, I loved being able to visualize the setting!

Overall, GABRIEL is a fantastic start to a promising new romantic suspense series from a new-to-me author. Highly recommended if you like your romantic suspense heavy on the emotion and a bit on the dark side (think Christy Reece’s phenomenal Last Chance Rescue series). I can’t wait for the stories of Gabriel’s three friends. And let’s hope their covers are equally hot :-).

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |


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