The Bodyguard

Comanche Woman

The Cowboy

Sisters Found

A Strangerís Game

The Texan

Outcast by Joan Johnston
(Mira, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-007783-2574-1
While writing the review of Outcast, two things immediately came to mind.†This is much more of a taut thriller than a romance and there is a lot of stuff that may not stand up to scrutiny.

Ben Benedict is part of a family that could have been a miniseries all on its own.†His father is an advisor to the President and has always been politically powerful. His mother is married to a U.S. Senator and she has never worried about throwing around her influence.†Ben and his brothers have some baggage left over from the divorce which occurred almost twenty years ago.† Ben seemed to have more baggage then most.†He also has a myriad of half-sisters and half-brothers that make up this rather large and less than completely functional family.

Ben recently joined ICE, the immigration enforcement agency of Homeland Security. Prior to that he was a soldier and served in all the hot spots, including Afghanistan and Iraq.†Ben suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but so far has done a good job of hiding his nightmares and almost panic attacks.†He is currently teamed with his best friend Waverly Collins.†Wave is a sergeant with the Metro Police in Washington DC and is assigned to working the gangs. There is suspicion that terrorists may be targeting the gangs and infiltrating them, creating a serious homeland security issue.†So Ben works with Waverly trying to get their hands on the pulse of the action and prevent as much death and destruction as possible.

But that isnít always possible and one day, Ben is forced to kill a gang member who is threatening him and others after already killing one child.†Ben is sent to the local shrink and there he meets Dr. Anna Schuster.†He and Anna have a little history. They actually met when a Rottweiler got hit and he rushed the animal to the local Georgetown vet.†Anna was there with her very pregnant cat. Both were attracted and they even shared a kiss. Now Anna has to clear Ben before he can go back to work.

And the hits havenít stopped coming. It appears that Waverly and Ben have stumbled upon a plot to bring in a bioterrorism bomb of some type.† But he also has a lot of mind garbage to wade through before he can be considered healthy.

Anna decides to use her skills to help Ben even knowing that she is on the edge of unethical behavior.†But his angst and her need to help him overcome her logic. They share some hot steamy nights along with some horrific nights of nightmares and sharing traumatic stories.†And now Anna is a target too.

I put away the uneasiness about the lack of ethics from Anna.†It is a given in the story and one that the reader has to accept.†I was able to keep the edginess of the real terror in the story to the side but I was never comfortable with the storyline, as it seemed so real.†But the almost spectacular nature of the tale just seemed to grow as the story went on.†There are plenty of important people out there working to secure our country, yet we were forced to believe that Ben was the key. He is also a pretty messed up guy and it is scary to think that someone with that many hang-ups is why we are all safe at night.†The romance is more in the nature of an explosive lust that turns to real feelings due to the intensity of the emotions that both of the characters feel and live with.†There is violence in this tale that is not for the faint of heart either.

Even with my reservations about the nature of the romance and at times, the nature of the story, I am recommending Outcast due to the riveting, almost surreal storytelling that Joan Johnston showed in this book.

--Shirley Lyons

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