Necessary Secrets
by Barbara Phinney
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1344, $4.99 PG) ISBN 0-373-27414-9
Barbara Phinney sets her second book with Intimate Moments in Trail, Alberta Canada - a town that serves the outlying ranches; so a distinctive western and small town flavor is brought to this story.

Warrant Officer Sylvie Mitchell, now on early retirement, is coping with the return to civilian life. Her last stint of foreign service had her opting out early but not without signing a nondisclosure agreement specifically relating to a an incident still under investigation by the military.

Her designation was supply. And on her last mission she and a very junior serviceman were delivering supplies to a German outpost in Bosnia when they were ambushed. Rick died at the site and, unknown to the military, Sylvie left the service pregnant with Rick’s child.

Home in Alberta and adjusting to ranching life, she is in town to make a prenatal appointment when she runs into Jon, Rick’s brother. Jon is Rick’s sole surviving relative and he had taken leave from his position as a Toronto police officer to try and get some answers about the death of his brother. The military had attempted to brush him off with their secrecy issues so he had opted to find his brother’s commanding officer and approach from that direction.

Sylvie hides behind her nondisclosure statement and the reader is warned early that Sylvie feels that she personally has much to hide about the incident as well. Jon bulldozes his way onto her ranch and hires on as a summer cowhand to press his investigation.

A lot is packed into this story including the respective baggage of Jon and Sylvie. His anger and distrust are tied directly to his wife leaving him pregnant with her lover’ child. Sylvie’s is a bit more complicated and it is gradually revealed she is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

This issue is rather casually handled and seemed simplified beyond recognition. That said, the everyday life at a ranch shines through as Sylvie and Jon grow closer together, but are still separated by that final night with Rick. Resolution is a bit too swift, but then with too much packed into this story, not unexpected.

The sense of setting was well done and one of the best attributes of this book. The secondary characters are as well drawn as the principal characters, although not in such depth. With the exception of dialog about PTSD, the dialog is good.

Necessary Secrets is a story about protagonists working through mutual angst, secrets and PTSD. If these issues are sufficient to keep you entertained them you will have an enjoyable read about warm characters in a not too common setting.

--Thea Davis

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