by Terri Blackstock
Published by Thomas Nelson
Publication Date November 5, 2019
Genres: Christian Fiction, Suspense, Mystery, Clean Romance
Setting: Colorado Contemporary
Main Character Ages: 25-34
Written for: Adults
A gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Terri Blackstock.
One father was murdered. Another was convicted of his death. All because their children fell in love.
Nate Beckett has spent his life fighting wildfires instead of the lies and rumors that drove him from his Colorado hometown. His mother begs him to come back now that his father has been released from prison, but it isn’t until he’s sidelined by an injury that he’s forced to return and face his past. But that means facing Brenna too.
Fourteen years ago, Nate was in love with the preacher’s daughter. When Pastor Strickland discovered Brenna defied him to sneak out with Nate, the fight between Strickland and Nate’s drunken dad was loud—and very public. Strickland was found murdered later that night, and everyone accused Roy Beckett. When the church burned down not long after, people assumed Nate set the fire to get even for his father’s conviction. He let the rumors fly and left town without looking back.
Brenna is stunned to learn that the man convicted of murdering her father has been pardoned. The events of that night set her life on a bad course, and now she’s fighting a brutal custody battle with her ex and his new wife where he’s using lies and his family’s money to sway the judge. Brenna is barely hanging on, and she’s turned to alcohol to cope. Shame and fear consume her.
As Nate and Brenna deal with the present—including new information about that fateful night and a wildfire that’s threatening their town—the past keeps igniting. Nate is the steady force Brenna has so desperately needed. But she’ll have to learn to trust him again first.
I would like to thank Celebrate Lit, Netgalley for giving me this copy of the book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
Some books just tear me up inside while I’m reading them. Sometimes it is the circumstances of the characters’ lives. Sometimes it’s the choices they make. With Smoke Screen, it was both!
Brenna and Nate’s families were both against seeing the two of them together. Brenna’s because they believed his father guilty of murdering hers, Nate’s for the same reason. While this alone would have been tension enough to make a great story, the added drama of the custody hearing pushed it over the top.
Nate was something wonderful! Despite the accusations of the town he grew up in, he came back to heal from injuries sustained fighting wildfires. And even though Brenna had reason for not wanting to see him after what his father had allegedly done, he couldn’t stay away. His heroic mindset – not seeing anything amazing in what he had done – was such a deep part of who he was. And his concern for Brenna and desire to help her get out of the pit she was in was very touching.
I loved the secret that Nate was willing to keep, and his reason, especially because of the impact it had on the way he was perceived. His clear thinking helped Brenna provide her attorney with valuable information for the hearing. Moreover, his faith helped Brenna to turn her eyes back on Jesus, the source of that faith.
While my heart went out to Brenna for her deep grief over the custody battle and her ex-husband’s infidelity, I was torn apart each time she turned to alcohol. It made for painful reading and I was glad for the breaks I had to sleep and go to work. When Nate walked away from her when she chose to drink instead of dealing with her pain, I wanted to cry and cheer at the same time! Keep in mind, the author wrote this in a way that was fitting and appropriate – it is simply that my heart broke at the pain and poor choices made as a result.
The overall tone of the story is suspenseful and somber. There are some moments of dry humor and the ending is satisfying. If you enjoy serious suspense that brings glory to God, I encourage you to read Smoke Screen.
I woke up in a blinding bright room, my clothes off and something clamped to my face. I tried to reach it, but I couldn’t bend my right arm, and my hand stung. An IV was taped to my other hand, but I moved carefully and touched the thing over my face.
An oxygen mask. I tried to sit up. “What happened?”
T-bird came to my bedside, a sheen of smoky sweat still soiling his face. “Nate, lie back, man.”
“The fire,” I said. “Need to get back. My men.”
“They’re still there. Making progress. But you’re not going anywhere near a fire for a month or so.”
I took the mask off and coughed a little, but managed to catch my breath. “A month?”
“Yep. Second degree burns on 20 percent of your body. Some of the burns are deep.”
It came back to me, the event that had gotten me here.
“The family. Were they injured?”
“Not a scratch or burn. Turns out it was a U.S. Senator from Kansas. He says you’re a hero.”
“You know I had no choice. They were in the path—”
“Take the praise where you can get it, man. We don’t get that much.”
I looked at my right side. My right arm was bandaged, and so was my side and down my right leg to the point where my boots had stopped the flames. Second degree wasn’t so bad, I told myself. Third degree would have been brutal. I’d be able to leave the hospital soon. I’d heal.
“I won’t need a month,” I said.
“Yes, you will. They can’t let you go back. Doctor’s orders. You’re grounded until he releases you.”
I managed to sit up, but it was a bad idea. The burns pulling on my skin reminded me why I shouldn’t. “I can’t be grounded during fire season. Are you crazy? I need to be there. You don’t have enough men as it is.”
“Sorry, Nate. It is what it is. Why don’t you go home to Carlisle for a while? Take it easy.”
Go home? Pop had just been pardoned, and he and my mom were trying to navigate the reunion. Though she would love to have me home, I didn’t know if I was up to it. My father could be challenging, and fourteen years of prison hadn’t done him any favors.
Taken from “Smoke Screen” by Terri Blackstock. Copyright © 2019 by Terri Blackstock. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.
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