The latest in Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s unique To Catch a Thief series, Reluctant Runaway continues the legacy of her spirited heroine, Desiree Jacobs. Owner of an art museum security company, Desiree has a knack for landing herself in sticky situations. Her latest caper and a southwestern wind combine to sweep Desi from her cherished Boston to arid New Mexico, where, much to her FBI boyfriend Tony Lucano’s chagrin, she tackles religious fanatics, drug dealers, and murderers.
When her best friend and employee Maxine Webb’s niece Karen disappears from her Albuquerque home, do-or-die Desiree is determined to help. By the time Desi reaches New Mexico, however, the mystery has already deepened. Suspicious evidence surrounding Karen’s disappearance leaves local authorities dubious of Karen’s innocence. Is she really the victim of a dangerous cult? Or is she on the run after robbing the prominent Santa Fe museum where she worked? The lines of truth twist further when Tony’s organized crime case leads him after the same bad guys Desi is tracking.
With characters compiled from casts ranging from a biker gang to pueblo Indians to White House employees, Reluctant Runaway pops with color and life from start to finish. Desi’s lively spirit and courageous (yet tender) heart make her a well-rounded and likeable heroine, while Tony’s self-possession and private manner set him as a perfect contrast to his leading lady. Their differences provide for chemistry and tension which Nelson skillfully interweaves with her novel’s action points. Though at times their quarrels seem over-written, their struggle to find a balance between Tony’s over-protectiveness and Desiree’s risk-taking actions is a very real one. Some of her secondary characters, such as Texan Maxine Webb, seem less realistic, but add diversity to the story.
The spiritual component of Nelson’s book is nothing if not unique. Tackling themes rarely dealt with in Christian fiction, Reluctant Runaway deals with cult activity and darker spiritual themes. Her handling of these issues reveals her as an honest writer unafraid to deal with the seedier side of life. An accurate portrayal of the dangerous reality of cults and their seduction of the hurting and needy is a much-needed revelation regarding the threat they pose today. Nelson also hints at the spiritual warfare many other authors avoid, leaving Reluctant Runaway distinct among contemporary Christian novels.
Nelson also does a skillful job of pulling the reader into the novel with imagery and descriptions that make the story come alive. For a Minnesota author to describe so vividly the beauty and culture of New Mexico is no small feat. Reluctant Runaway’s colorful language, both in dialogue and description, may be its most distinguishing feature. At times, the novel is even grows overwhelming in its use of colloquialisms and clichés. On the whole, however, Nelson’s clever style supplements her quirky storyline and characters.
Combining attractive heroes, a lively plot, and an excellent pace, Reluctant Runaway provides fun as well as food for thought. Those seeking an entertaining and engaging story will find themselves more than satisfied with Nelson’s latest work. – Lauren Peltier, Christian Book Previews.com
Museum security expert Desiree Jacobs doesn’t mean to get in danger’s path. Really she doesn’t. But when a friend is in trouble you don’t just walk away. No matter what your overprotective FBI agent boyfriend says! So when Desi and Tony’s date at a presidential ball is interrupted by a frantic Maxine Webb, Desi doesn’t hesitate to jump in.
Soon Desi is neck-deep in a confusing array of villains. Did Max’s niece run away or was she taken? Is she still alive or the victim of a perverse ritual? And who wants her infant son–and why?
Then Tony’s organized crime case collides with Desi’s investigation, throwing them both into the path of something dark and sinister. Something that craves blood…
From the streets of Desi’s beloved Boston to the mountain desert of New Mexico, Desi and Tony must rely on God to thwart unseen forces–and save a young woman and her baby from a villain more evil than any of them can imagine.