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Monday, September 5, 2011

Secrets in the Sand by Alana Lorens

Secrets in the Sand by Alana Lorens
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (216 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

After a run of bad relationships, Lily Pearl Evans has finally become an independent woman. In the New Mexico desert town of Chaparral, she works for herself, sets her own rules, and is determined no man will hold her back again.

Gene Nicholas worked for more than a decade to achieve his dream to be a doctor. Wanting to share his gifts with those less fortunate, he leaves south Florida to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders in Mexico.

When Gene provokes a showdown with the local Mexican drug cartel, he becomes a man with a price on his head. On the run, he ends up on Lily’s doorstep--a mystery man forced to conceal his past to protect them both. With the cartel’s dangerous web drawing tight around them, can Lily and Gene survive a drug lord’s revenge?

The storms within are to be feared far more than the storms outside is true for the characters in Secrets in the Sand.

Dr. Gene Nicholas feels like he sold his soul and probably his mortal life for a bit of moral satisfaction. In blind fear, he runs from the Agustin drug cartel in Mexican where he had been working as a doctor with Doctors without Borders. Scared, disoriented, exhausted and blood spattered, he appears out of the night at the door of the Sassafras Social Club in the sparsely populated corner of southeastern New Mexico.

The Sassafras Social Club, operated by Lily Pearl Evans with seven co-workers, is a place where peace reigns—a place where no questions are asked and empathic listeners are always available. Lily knows she operates on the edge of respectability but the independence that she and her co-workers have for the first time in their lives overrides all else. They keep a low profile and offer a sought-after service and nobody that disrupts is allowed to stay—well, almost nobody.

The doctor’s integration into the workings of the Sassafras Social Club unveils the inner personal storms in each person there—storms that each of them tries to keep hidden. Working as a handy man under a false name, he wrestles with his conscious as he works to keep the people he cares about safe from the brutal cartel. His often ineptness efforts, his non-threatening demeanor, and his giving, caring ways endear him to the women at the club. They are comfortable with him and appreciate his input and help. Even Lily, who had long since sealed her feelings away in her determination to not be hurt again, is drawn to him. They connect in a way that she had never before experienced.

There were times when I felt that I was on the outside of the action and just being told about it, but it was usually when the secondary characters were involved. However, these characters keep the emotional pot bubbling. Carmen and Inez from Mexico cause the doctor some anxious moments, but their secrets are as dangerous as his. The pregnant Vallie, who is working to become a nurse, plays a unique role in the scheme of things, while, Ester, the cook (and so much more), creates a little storm of hostility every time she has any interaction with or about the mysterious handyman. She has her reasons.

Lonnie, the trucker from California that Lily had once lived with, and Big Mike who is the unofficial bounce at the club who seems to have his own agenda, are both driving forces as the plot unfolds. Some of the antagonists who stoop so low as to use children to accomplish their own evil ends tap into one’s outrage. They do make for some tense moments.

Alana Lorens’ descriptions of storms in New Mexico plop the reader down into the experience in a way that assails the sense. As she deals with some of the less-than-noble aspects of humanity and with modern society’s less-than-noble enterprises, she captivates with her ability to reveal the innermost needs and fears of the characters as they rise above adversity and find that happy-ever-after that had seemed so out of reach.