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Monday, July 13, 2009

Facing It by Linda Winfree

Facing It: A Hearts of the South Story by Linda Winfree
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Length: Full (203 pages)
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Holly

There are worse things than facing your greatest fear.

A Hearts of the South story.

Mired in a brutal marriage for far too long, Ruthie Chason takes her courage and her children in hand to flee the trap that has become her life. Yet she’s no fool. She knows he’ll come after her once he discovers she possesses criminal evidence that will put him away for good—and seal her deadly fate if he ever catches up with her.

Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Parker offers emotional refuge, a safe place to begin to reclaim her life…if she can let herself trust the strong, quiet cop that far.

Chris surprises himself when he agrees to act as guardian for Ruthie and her children. He does it as a favor, then finds something about her calm strength soothes his battered soul. Now if only he can silence the demons from his past that make him cautious of falling too fast for any woman.

Their need explodes into a heart-stopping night of passion that exposes their deepest vulnerabilities. But just as they begin to explore how healing love can be, violence tracks them down. And backs them into a desperate corner…

Facing It is the latest book in Linda Winfree’s Hearts of the South series. I always enjoy a good romantic suspense story, and nobody combines romance, suspense and down home southern charm quite like Ms. Winfree does. Facing It deals with an all too real situation in society today, domestic abuse. Not physical abuse, but much more subtle in that the victim has no outward signs to show for her pain and suffering.

You may think that emotional abuse would not make an engrossing story, but in the hands of a master crafts woman like Ms. Winfree, it is handled with taste and gentleness. The heroine of this book is Ruthie Chason, and is the victim who gets away from her controlling husband through several unplanned but welcome occurrences. She’s been planning for this for years, but can’t believe it when the chance comes. When husband Stephen announces he has to take a business trip, and the housekeeper has a family emergency and has to leave, Ruthie sees her only window of opportunity open wide. She grabs the children, takes the ledgers her husband has hidden showing he’s into much more than being controlling, and runs. She abandons the expensive car, takes an old van she has hidden in a long term garage, and leaves with as little as possible to slow her down. She heads for her hometown in Georgia, but not to her mother’s home, as she realizes that is the first place her husband will look for her.

Ms Winfree brings back the family from earlier books, the Calverts. Ruthie is Tick and Del Calvert’s sister, and all the family and extended family seen often in the Hearts of the South books show up here. Ruthie give her brother, an officer and former federal agent the ledgers, and he decides to find someplace safe for her to hide and someone to keep her safe. Enter our hero, Deputy Chris Parker, a sexy but wounded man in search of some peace for himself. Tick asks Chris to take Ruthie and her three children and keep them away from danger. The husband comes back, and causes trouble in many ways, including kidnapping the family matriarch, drugging her, and leaving her in an alley, showing that he is not above any trick to get Ruthie and the books back.

This is not an easy read, and I would not recommend it to someone who is still recovering from a situation similar to this. But it is a gentle and wonderful story of love, recovery and new beginnings. I loved that Ms. Winfree shows not only the feminine side of an abusive and controlling relationship, but also shows that it can and does happen often to men as well. The gentle growth of the feelings between Ruthie and Chris give the characters a chance to learn about each other gradually, and not rush into anything. There is a side romance between the federal agents who were watching the family because of an ongoing investigation of Stephen’s business activities, and the ups and downs inherent when you become attracted to and involved with your co-worker. Even the ever-amusing Troy Lee Farr makes an appearance or two here. I love the feeling of family that comes through in this book, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly as one fantastic experience.