Sworn to Protect
by Kimberly Van Meter
(Harl. Rom. Suspense #1666, $5.25, PG) ISBN 978-0373-27736-0
The suspense story in this book deals with a serial rapist. The subject matter is handled with good delicacy and generally with realism for the recovery of the victim. The “who” was fairly easy to guess although the author did throw in a curve ball that kept me from knowing for sure until much closer to the end of the story.

Iris Beaudoin is a nurse on the Indian Reservation near the Hoh River. Her family life was not great growing up but it wasn’t for many. Her best friend is Mya Jonson and since she is a doctor in the health clinic, it only makes sense that Iris work there too and help keeps things straight. Mya’s brother Sundance is the local sheriff, and in fact, the only law on the reservation. He is always busy and takes his job to heart. He and Iris have always had a love-hate relationship, teasing and generally irritating each other their whole lives. Lately, each has begun thinking of the other more romantically, but both are too stubborn and too uncertain to tell the other.

The tale opens as Iris wakes up in the emergency room of the health center after a brutal beating and rape. She has no real memory of what happened and it appears she had been drugged. Iris is embarrassed, in pain and most of all horrified that Sundance had to see her like this. After all, she went to the bar to drink and try to forget her burgeoning feelings. Meanwhile, Sundance is angry about the assault and carries some guilt himself, feeling if he had followed through on his feelings, Iris never would have been in the situation.

As time goes and Iris slowly starts to heal, it is Sundance that pushes her to break out and start living again. That both endears him to Iris and makes her feel vulnerable. He gets her a guard dog that has been trained to kill to help her feel less fearful in her own home. When another woman is attacked and left in even worse condition, Sundance realizes he has a real problem and Iris feels responsible for not trying harder to remember that night. She agrees to seek out a hypnotherapist. This puts her in danger again.

The descriptions of the journey towards recovery from the rape seem realistic; including the time it takes Iris to become “normal” again. Even then she suffers with anxiety, as one could only imagine a victim would feel. Sundance is a strong hero, helping Iris feel good again without pushing and yet, with an undercurrent of the anger he feels. I liked the pair and felt good rooting for them to make things work out.

The mystery of the story is easy to figure due to the limited number of suspects. There are a few hooks thrown in but one’s first guess is most likely to be the real killer.

Overall, I was engaged in the story and was rooting for Iris to recover and Sundance to play the hero. Mya is an interesting character and it is clear that she too will have her own story soon. Another interesting character was the second victim, a 16 year old girl named Sierra. I wanted to know how her life would turn out. I hope Ms. Van Meter gives her a story of her own which will allow her to triumph over the attack that occurred so early in her life.

If you like stories that concentrate on people who overcome major traumas, then Sworn to Protect will fit your bill.

--Shirley Lyons

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