About the Book
Book: Smoke Screen
Author: Terri Blackstock
Genre: Christian Suspense
November 5, 2019
One father was murdered, and another 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 home town. His mother begs him to come to Carlisle 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 had 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, people assumed it was Nate getting even for his father’s conviction. He let the rumors fly and left Carlisle without looking back.
Now, 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 she’s dealing with 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. She’s barely hanging on, and she’s turned to alcohol to cope. Shame and fear consume her.
As they deal with the present—including new information about that fateful night and a wildfire that’s threatening their town—their past keeps igniting. Nate is the steady force Brenna has so desperately needed. But she’ll have to learn to trust him again first.
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About the Author
Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times
and USA TODAY
bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention
, Vicious Cycle
, and Downfall
, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series. Visit her website at www.terriblackstock.com
Excerpt from 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.
Although many of the books I review fall into the historical fiction and nonfiction genres, I have always loved mysteries and suspense. I grew up with The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Mandie, so when a review opportunity for Christian suspense comes along, I don’t even have to think twice. I read Terri Blackstock’s “If I Run” series as it was released and enjoyed all three books, and I was excited to see “Smoke Screen” hit shelves. I was also happy to note that it does contain discussion questions at the end to facilitate conversation and reflection.
By the time “Smoke Screen” reached the top of my stack of books to read for review, I was ready to dive in. After reading chapter one, I began to doubt whether I was going to like this book. The mystery angle was fairly interesting, if predictable, but the family drama honestly grated on my nerves. Even though I’m not much of a romance reader, I did enjoy Brenna and Nate’s blossoming relationship. The firefighting aspect was informative and interesting to learn about. Nate was my favorite character not only because of what he had overcome since his teenage years, but also because of the way he overcame—by going to therapy and to church. Romans 8:37 rang in my mind: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Jesus has already won the ultimate victory, and when we ask Him into our hearts, that victory becomes ours, too, no matter what we face in this life.
Many of the reasons that I didn’t engage with this book as much as I was expecting to are my issues and not the author’s. Alcoholism and divorce both play a major role in this story, and I am not a fan of reading about either, but they are undeniably prevalent in society today, and Blackstock writes about these issues well and in a clean manner, which I think is so important. Brenna’s ex-husband and his family had me shaking my head every time they entered the narrative, which was no doubt the author’s intent. Blackstock creates convincing characters and situations that evoke empathy and are thought-provoking. By alternating between Brenna and Nate’s first-person viewpoints, she gives readers insight into how trauma affects our reasoning and our faith—sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I appreciated how, in one scene, Brenna helped Nate to see his mom in a different light. One particular conversation between them, though, really tugged at my heartstrings:
“But I’m not the same person I used to be. You probably won’t like me once you get to know me.”
“Oh, you’re still the same,” he said. “You’re just a little burned. But trust me. Burns heal.”
The underlying message of “Smoke Screen” is one of perseverance and hope, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. With a faith element that is gentle, this story speaks to the everlasting love of God and His pursuit of us, drawing us into relationship with Him and through the cleansing refiner’s fire.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
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