Author: Mary Calmes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Terrence Moss. Conrad Harris. Gold Team Leader. Darius Hawthorne. The Vault. Juggling all these names would bother some, but for Darius, it’s business as usual. When he closes a chapter in his life, he leaves a name—and the people associated with it—behind. He’s managed to keep a few colleagues, even fewer friends, and no companionship through his forty-plus years… but that’s now changing.
The newest chapter of his life is bringing serious change: a stable home, a recovered identity, an unlikely family, and now a chance encounter with the one man Darius ever loved: Efrem Lahm. The reasons they parted are still valid, and there’s no way they can trust each other. But Efrem has already decided he won’t let Darius go… and Darius will have to decide if he wants to take a chance with his heart this late in the day.
It’s hard to do this review without any spoilers—per the author’s request—so much of it is packed with action, memory scenes, and romance that any of the details could be considered spoilers. It’s also packed with visits from past characters from at least three of her previous books—a pleasant surprise. But taking my clue from the blurb, I guess there’s some info that can be shared so I’ll attempt my spoiler-free review.
This story is about the man whose unit was saved when Ceaton (A Day Makes) refused orders to abandon them. Known to most people as Conrad Harris, he was born as Darius Hawthorne and when his parents were murdered, he was put into witness protection as Terrence Moss. There he met his childhood friend, who happens to be a character from one of Ms. Calmes’s early books, but even that friend doesn’t know Darius is his real name since he’s always kept his past separate from his present and very rarely allows anyone into his inner circle. His personal information is his own.
Now he’s retiring from his most recent work with the CIA and finally feels safe enough to share more of his life with friends, something he’s never really had before. Once he accepts his new position as the Vault with an organization he’d never previously heard of, he finds security and begins to put down roots, making him more comfortable about building relationships. Some of those involve characters from other books—either having appeared in a minor role or having had a major role in another book and a cameo in this one. Without giving spoilers, I hesitate to go into detail. I will say, however, that two of the characters appeared in a book I read over 5 years ago, so although I thought I recognized their names, I really didn’t remember them until I went back and looked over that old story. I’ve had a few too many thousands of stories pass through my memory banks since then, and I’m not gifted with perfect recall. But I love that this author does this. I appreciate it and wish others would do so, and IMHO, it’s worth going back to revisit that old story for a refresher. In fact, it somewhat infuses new life into old stories so I’m happy to add rereading some of them to my list of things to do.
I digress—getting back to this story—there’s someone from Darius’s past that he’s shocked to see and the man shows up when Darius least expects it. But Darius’s pessimistic attitude and learned distrust of others, based on past painful experiences, leads him to distrust this man and he nearly loses a chance at happiness.
Speaking of chances at happiness, there’s a lot of world-building in this book and the romance doesn’t come until everything else in the story is established. The author takes the time to introduce us to the concept of the Vault and all the intricacies involved in it. There are other positions in this secret corporate structure and a whole host of new characters that I hope we get to revisit in the future. I did find this early segment of the book confusing—it’s highly detailed so I’m sure when I go back to it and when I read any future stories it will make more sense. It reminded me a bit of the world-building that occurs in the Change of Heart series. When I first read the segments about the structure of the world in which they lived, I was outright confused. And yet, as the series progressed and when I returned to that world for a revisit, I was astounded at the author’s vivid imagination and attention to detail. I’m sure I’ll have the same reactions here when I revisit this story—and I will—before any future installments of this series.
As stated above, the romance and Darius’s chance at happiness comes late in this story. But when it does come, it’s like a firecracker goes off and the heat index rises exponentially. Get out the fans! And sometimes the best things in life are worth the wait, so the bottom line is wait for it, wait for it. It’s definitely worth it. If you like complex action stories with memorable MCs, you should most definitely enjoy this one.