No Control by Shannon K. Butcher
(Forever,  $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-446-61866-7
*****
No Control is Shannon K. Butcher's sophomore effort in the writing of romantic suspense. For those of you who, like this reviewer, are unable to put this book down until the final page, I'll save you some time ... her first book is No Regrets - and certain to be your next purchase.

The characters are compelling, the plot is sufficiently complex, the suspenseful pacing of the story demonstrates a gifted touch, and the romance is exquisitely poignant. What more does any reader of romantic suspense need?

The prologue of No Regrets sets the tone that permeates the story from the beginning. A group of youthful US citizens have traveled to Armenia on a good will mission. Captured and taken to a remote area, they are systematically tortured and killed, while being televised. The small terrorist group in reality is seeking to prove itself to the upper hierarchy of the terrorist world. As well as the torturing and killing hostages, they are planning to bomb an elementary school. Their resident bomb expert is Miles Gentry, who in reality has been "dispatched" and replaced by a US Delta Force infiltrator.

Miles, who is actually Caleb Stone, is outmanned and on a specific mission for Delta Force. He is helpless and compelled to watch these tortures in silence until Delta Force strikes and he is able to wrest from the cave, the sole surviving tortured girl, Lana Hancock. He keeps a vigil by her bedside for three days before it is determined she will live.

Eighteen months later, Lana has physically recovered from the many broken bones; she has learned to walk again but suffers from nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder. During the day, she has pledged her resources both physical and financial to the establishment and running of a foundation that provides free day care for the "forgotten children" of the tougher neighborhoods. An artist of sorts, Lana is combining these talents in the daily activities as well as in the fund raisers. Lana's fiance dumped her because his political aspirations did not include a wife who was wheelchair bound as she had initially been.

Caleb is ordered by Delta Force to seek out Lana and find out what she knows that is prompting the interest of the terrorist organization that tortured her. The leaders of Delta Force are convinced Lana knows something she withheld during her debriefing.

Seeing Caleb, although now aware he is a not a terrorist, does not erase for Lana the times he stood and watched the tortures. His presence also serves as a constant reminder of those days she wants so badly to forget.

Caleb, very much aware of this, tries to be the unobtrusive inquisitor and protector. And when things start occurring that make it obvious that Lana does need protecting, it still does not become any easier for Lana to accept the help. Not to be overlooked is Caleb's guilt at not being able to prevent Lana's terrible injuries.

The author has created principal and secondary characters of extraordinary depth that interact in a way we all understand and can empathize with. PTSD is handled with care and understanding and should establish Shannon Butcher as a caring and gifted writer.

Is this book a keeper? Yes, but if you keep a story to reread in order to remember it, I can assure you this one will be on your shelf a long time before you are able to forget enough of it to need to reread it. And is there higher praise?

--Thea Davis


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