The fight against human trafficking and teen prostitution may not seem like a place ripe for romance, but in Saving Hope, the latest novel from Margaret Daley, it is. The first in her new Men of the Texas Rangers series, Saving Hope introduces readers to Ranger Wyatt Sheridan, who serves on a task force investigating crimes against children, and Kate Winslow, the director of a home for troubled girls.
HERE'S THE SITCH:
Nine years ago Wyatt Sheridan witnessed his wife's murder. Since then he's dedicated his life to keeping his daughter Maddie safe – and serving the public through his career as a Texas Ranger. Wyatt's latest case lands him at the door of Beacon of Hope, a halfway house facility for teen girls who've walked the seamier streets of life.
Beacon of Hope's director, Kate Winslow, is beside herself with worry over Rose, a young resident who has disappeared. She fears Rose may have been tricked back into the teen prostitution ring that almost took her life and, even though the evidence points to her leaving of her own accord, Kate doesn't believe Rose would ever willingly return to her pimp. But when the van Rose left in is discovered abandoned – and the dead body of another teen is buried in a shallow grave nearby – Kate fears she may be too late to save Rose.
The discovery of a spy among the residents of Beacon of Hope adds to Kate's fears. She wonders if they will ever find Rose alive – but until proved otherwise, she refuses to give up hope.
Working closely together, Kate and Wyatt discover an unexpected attraction to one another as they piece together clues and try to discover where Rose has been taken. But when they begin to close in on the head of the sex trafficking organization, Wyatt's 14-year-old daughter – and Kate – become targets.
It's a race against the clock as Wyatt seeks to protect his daughter from becoming just another statistic – while trying to find the woman who has quickly worked her way into his heart.
HITS & MISSES
There were times I wished the story could have moved a little faster, but the author packs a lot of punch into the last third of the novel and the pace of the story picks up. Perhaps due to that perceived lag in the middle, the drama of those moments is all the more tense. Especially in those last few chapters, this is a hard book to put down.
Although a few of the minor characters seemed a bit one-dimensional, the major players are all-in. Daley does a great job painting the personalities of Kate and Wyatt – and the reluctant pull they both feel toward romance. Their kiss scenes are brief, but the lasting afterglow of each kiss – and the desire it awakens – is what really sells the romance plot of this suspenseful tale.
TO READ, OR NOT TO READ?
Sex trafficking is a very real danger that, sadly, many teens must face every day. Saving Hope does not pussyfoot around the degradation of this injustice, nor does it downplay the physical and emotional perils these girls face.
While reading this novel there were moments that I couldn't help but catalog the "what ifs" of my own daughters' time outside the zone of my protection. Some readers may find that sort of identification with the issue difficult to swallow, but that shouldn't keep them from reading this book. In characters like Kate and Wyatt the author shows the compassion of dedicated professions who've made it their life's work to rescue girls from this fate, proving that hope lives, even within this darkest of human degradations.