Thursday, January 2, 2014

5 Stars for Badlands by Jill Sorenson


Love is the most dangerous territory of all . . .

Every day, bodyguard Owen Jackson puts his life on the line — and keeps his feelings for Penny Sandoval locked away. Assigned to protect Penny's father, a presidential candidate, Owen can't get emotionally involved. That is, until Penny and her young son, Cruz, are abducted and taken deep into the California badlands.

Owen knows the bleak territory from his childhood. Worse, he knows the gang leader making ransom demands — his own brother, Shane. When a terrified Penny escapes into the desert with Cruz, Owen has to save her: from the elements and from the gang in close pursuit. Owen has hidden the darkness in his past from Penny. Now his only chance of keeping her alive is to let her see the man he really is — even if it means losing the only woman he'll ever want.

Five years after the earthquake, Owen Jackson is working for the Sandoval family as Penny’s bodyguard. There’s still a whole truckload of feelings between these two, feelings that Owen is unable to act on for multiple reasons. The action heats up very quickly when Shane, Owen’s brother, orchestrates the abduction of Penny, Cruz and Owen.

The story takes off like a shot from this point forward. It’s one of the things I love about Jill Sorenson’s writing. Like a well-crafted action/adventure movie, her writing pulls me right into the story. For me, this read isn’t so much about the end result, as it is about the ride.

Under the pressure of eluding their kidnappers, Owen and Penny’s feelings for each other are no longer easy to keep under control, especially with Shane needling them both about it. And there’s not only a chase through the Badlands and lots of sexual tension, there’s also Shane and Owen settling some brother-to-brother scores, too.

I just loved Owen. He appears in all books so far in this series, but we really didn’t get to know him like we do in Badlands. He’s had a hard life. He’s got lots to think about and has had lots of time do it. Meeting Penny during the earthquake changes his life. I loved the chemistry between Owen and Penny. She was the “gentle” he needed in his life, he was the strength she needed in hers.

With all that is going on around them, Owen breaks down emotionally a number of times, and in many ways it is in this vulnerability that he shows his strength. He’ll do anything for Penny, that’s clear. He takes an incredible amount of physical abuse and struggles with dysfunctions from his incarceration. He really takes some big chances in showing Penny how he feels. Penny was almost the opposite, naive in her approach to him, still sheltered by her family, but she sees the good in Owen, and believes in him.

There were some great secondary characters in Badlands. Shane was an intricate character, sometimes scary, sometimes just a brother as he strips Owen down emotionally a number of times. The relationship between Owen and Shane, and the things they experienced in their family seemed very authentic. The addition of Shane’s ex-wife Janelle brought an interesting twist to the action. Owen’s scenes with Cruz touched my heart. I loved Owen’s devotion to the child and the way that Cruz looked up to him.

I really liked everything in this read, except for the fact that I wanted more Owen and Penny and Cruz! Luckily I still hadn’t read Aftershock, the first book in the series, so I was happy to be able to read more about how Penny and Owen meet.

This book had what makes it a 5 star read for me-- non-stop action, interesting characters, great emotional content and I didn’t stop reading until the end. I really love this series. Recommended.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review.

Harlequin HQN
January 2014
ISBN 978-0373778348


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