Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review: Bound by Guilt by C.J. Darlington

5 Stars

From the Cover:
            Roxi Gold is a throwaway, shuttled from one foster home to another for most of her life.  She longs for a family and will do anything to fit in – even if it’s against the law. Soon she’s traveling the country stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores, until a first edition of The Great Gatsby catches up with her.

            Police Officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society, and not just at work. The job she once loved has become a chore, the world isn’t any safer, and there’s no joy in her life. One fateful night a nam’s innocent blood changes both Roxi’s and Abby’s lives forever.  One searches for justice; the other finds herself on the run.  Will the power of forgiveness set them free, or will they both remain bound by guilt?

            When I agreed to be part of C.J. Darlington’s blog tour for Bound by Guilt, I was a bit uncertain.  As you may (or may not) know, I’m an avid inspirational romance reader. This book is not a romance at all. In fact, the only hint of romance in Bound by Guilt is snuffed out early on with a senseless murder. I’ve never had any interest in antique or rare books, outside of Antiques Roadshow, and I’ve never liked The Great Gatsby even a little.

            Right now you may be thinking to yourself, “This doesn’t sound much like a 5 star review.” If you are, please keep reading.

            I loved this book! (Is that better?) The first two chapters introduced all the major characters, and by the end of Chapter 3, I was hooked.  Once it hooked me, it never let loose until I finished it…at 3:00 AM.   My husband can attest to the many times I put the book in my lap and said, “Wow! She’s good.”

            The characters came alive for me. That may sound like a cliché, but I just don’t know any better way to say it. I ached for Roxi and Diego who had such lousy role models. No child should have to work as hard as these two did just to be loved. I mourned with Abby when she realized the career she once loved was not worth the price she paid for it. I cheered when Christy allowed her faith to give her strength in the face of despair and temptation.

            Ms. Darlington sprinkled in a few characters – like Gordon the trucker and Stan the coffee shop owner – who serve as “the hand of God” so to speak, protecting Roxi and steering her toward His will for her life. It is a credit to the author that these characters are realistic and not merely convenient.

            The conflict in the story was compelling, and the tension never let up. The pace was ideal. I never once wished something would hurry up and happen.  When the resolution neared, everything happened exactly as I wanted it to. Any avid reader knows how rare it is to put down a book and honestly think, “There is nothing in this story I would change.”

            At the same time, I cannot say all the threads were neatly tied up at the end of the story.  I still want to see Abby reconciled with her daughter. I think this is implied, but I want to see it.  I want to see Diego’s conversion, which simply must be imminent. I’d love to see Christy find love (that might just be the hopeless romantic in me, though). If C.J Darlington’s next book addresses any of these “loose ends,” I’ll be overjoyed. If not, I can accept the ending as it is, knowing that real life often leaves these things undone.

            I have never read Thicker than Blood, Ms. Darlington’s first novel. While I can almost always spot a sequel within a few chapters, and I find it distracting to start with the second book, I did not encounter these issues in Bound by Guilt. I didn’t even realize this is a sequel until I read the “interview” printed in the back of the book. There are references to events that happen in Thicker Than Blood, but they are few and brief enough that they don’t drag this story down. 

While making me hurt for and rejoice with these characters, the author did another remarkable thing. She sparked in me an interest in the world of antique and rare bookselling. It was fascinating to learn how competitive, even cutthroat, a seemingly tame industry can be.  While I still have no desire to reread The Great Gatsby, I definitely do want to read C.J. Darlington’s next novel.