Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Say No More by Karen Rose
Series: Romantic Suspense #24
Published by Berkley on August 11, 2020
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Mercy Callahan thought she'd escaped the cult decades ago, but its long fingers are reaching out for her again in this electrifying novel in the Sacramento series...
Seventeen years ago. That was the last time Mercy Callahan saw Ephraim Burton, the leader of the twisted Eden cult where she was raised. But even though she escaped the abuse and terror, they continue to haunt her.
When her brother Gideon discovers new evidence of the cult's—and their victims'—whereabouts, Mercy goes to Sacramento to reconnect with him. There, she meets Gideon's closest friend—homicide detective Rafe Sokolov. From Rafe, she receives an offer she never knew she needed: to track down Ephraim and make him pay for everything.
But Ephraim, who had thought Mercy long dead, discovers she is in fact alive and that she is digging around for the cult's secrets. And now he'll do anything to take her back to Eden—dead or alive.
I really enjoy the Romantic Suspense series. I’ve read them all. I started the series with the first Cincinnati book, with Faith and Deacon. It was actually #16 overall. Then I went back and read the previous 15 books. Say No More continues the story in Sacramento. Say You’re Sorry was the first Sacramento book and #22 in the series. It featured Gideon, who escaped from a cult, paired him with Daisy, his sister Mercy, and his best friend Rafe, who is from a large family.
Now we get Rafe’s story, along with Gideon’s sister, Mercy, who also escaped the cult. I was so happy to see Gideon and Daisy, and Rafe along with his big family. Mercy also brought along her best friend, Farrah from New Orleans. In Say No More, Mercy and Daisy are kidnapped by a serial killer. Gideon is an FBI agent. Rafe is a homicide detective. Mercy comes back to Sacramento to deal with unresolved feelings about her brother.
Unfortunately, the publicity from the serial killer brought Mercy into the spotlight and now the cult people are after her. More than one of the cult “brothers” is more than willing to kill anyone in his way. Mercy and Gideon face a search for them, as they also try to keep all their loved ones safe. We learn much more about the cult and their family history.
This author does an excellent job of developing her world and building characters with realistic emotions and growth. Rafe and Mercy are both facing emotional issues and change in their lives. They are such good people but it is so hard to let yourself be vulnerable and honest.
I would not jump into this in the middle of the series. One could start at the beginning of a city since those stories connect well, and they seem to be labelled on Goodreads. For example, Say No More is only the second book in the Sacramento series. There are cool connections though. Tom Hunter who is a newer FBI agent came from Chicago and we know his family there. I bet Tom is the focus of the next Sacramento book. Some of the cult is still out there.
I really enjoy the action and strategy used by both the good guys and the criminals. I was naturally horrified by these cult types. They mask their money greed and sexual depravity in religion and give religion a bad name. There is plenty of action and a tender romance. As dark as they stories are, it is comforting to see criminals captured and a happily ever after.
Excerpt (from Chapter 2):
Amos Terrill rubbed his thumb over the lines of the script he’d just carved into the lid of the hope chest. He was almost finished with it, this special project on which he’d been laboring for the past five months, mostly in secret. He’d made countless hope chests, coffee tables, kitchen cabinets, armoires, and jewelry boxes over the thirty years he’d lived in Eden. All of them had been gifts for the membership or items to be sold to bring money into the community coffers.
This was the first time he’d ever made something for himself. Something he didn’t intend to share with anyone.
No one except his Abigail. His heart.
A splinter caught at his thumb and he pulled it out, sucking at the small wound before returning to his task. He could sand the hope chest later. He didn’t have much more time to himself. Everyone knew he stopped working at suppertime, and then people would start dropping by.
Amos, can you fix this? Amos, a minute of your time? Amos, need a pair of strong hands to help with… It didn’t matter what. It was all the same after thirty years.
He picked up the detail blade, his favorite of all of his carving tools. He’d brought it with him to Eden, when he was young and full of hope, ready to change the world.
Now he knew the truth and every day had become a struggle, each harder than the day before.
He had to stay positive. Had to keep smiling. Had to stay patient. Had to nod and pleasantly reply that all was well when he was greeted in passing.
In other words, he had to lie.
He finished carving the last word and took a look at his work. It had become something of a trademark, a personal signature he’d added to all the larger pieces of cabinetry he created.
The words were carved in a scrolling, old‑fashioned script: Surely Goodness And Mercy Shall Follow Me All The Days Of My Life. Psalms 23:6. Anyone in the community would think it simply a beautiful Bible verse, one that matched the song that used to be in his heart.
But it wasn’t. It was a tribute. Penance, even. His way of trying to make it up to a beautiful little girl whom he’d failed. So utterly.
Mercy. He thought of her often, especially after the birth of his Abigail, whose name meant father’s joy. As with most things in his life, Abigail’s birth had been bittersweet, losing her mother just minutes after they’d held their baby for the first time.
He’d thought he’d lose them both. Like he’d lost his first family. Mercy. Gideon. Rhoda. Dammit, Rhoda, I’m so sorry. You tried to tell me, but I wouldn’t listen.
He hadn’t wanted to listen.
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