By Kimberly Belle
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: 7/28/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars +
Top Books of 2015
A moving and evocative exploration of grief and guilt in the wake of one family's devastating loss
When former DC journalist Abigail Wolff attempts to rehabilitate her career, she finds herself at the heart of a US army cover-up involving the death of a soldier in Afghanistan—with unspeakable emotional consequences for one family. As the story of what happened comes to light, Abigail will do anything to write it.
The more evidence she stumbles upon in the case, the fewer people it seems she can trust, including her own father, a retired army general. And she certainly never expected to fall in love with the slain soldier's brother, Gabe, a bitter man struggling to hold his family together. The investigation eventually leads her to an impossible choice, one of unrelenting sacrifice to protect those she loves.
Beyond the buried truths and betrayals, questions of family loyalty and redemption, Abigail's search is, most of all, a desperate grasp at carrying on and coping—and seeking hope in the impossible.
About the Author
Home is where the laptop is. I grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Back then I couldn’t find an ounce of beauty in the blue ridges and green valleys and roaring streams, couldn’t find an ounce of appeal in the winding country roads. I was slave to my wanderlust. The summer after high school, I fled to Atlanta to attend Agnes Scott College, a small liberal arts school for women and a four-year pit stop on my quest to see the world.
It was in Atlanta I met the Dutchman, who whisked me off to the Netherlands. What was meant to be a six-month stay turned into twelve freezing but fabulous years, during which I began checking off the countries on my to-see list. Two decades later, I’ve still not seen them all.
Living abroad changed me in ways I can’t count, and though I don’t have the passport to prove it, I am in my heart and soul half Dutch. I know the culture, I speak the language like a native, I love that country like my own.
Ten years ago, the Dutchman and I moved back to Atlanta with our two children, but every chance I get, I hop a plane to Amsterdam, so I can stick my toes in sandy Dutch soil. And of course, wherever I go, the laptop also travels. Website Twitter
A special thank you to Harlequin MIRA and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Kimberly Belle returns following her strong debut, The Last Breath, landing on My Top 30 Books of 2014, with a riveting suspense THE ONES WE TRUST, a thought-provoking, and complex portrayal of grief, guilt, fear, tragedy, and trust, while exploring the loyalties of family. Another winner to be added to my Top 30 Books for 2015.
Trust is an ongoing theme, throughout the novel, questioning whether the truth is enough to overcome betrayal, and how deep loyalty and trust run, even in the closest of families. In addition, to figuring out who to trust, the characters must learn to trust themselves, in order to overcome their fears and doubts.
Abigail Wolff, a former driven DC journalist with a firm belief that public enlightenment is the cornerstone of democracy, and that it is not just her job but her duty to see and report the truth. However, presently she is lacking self-confidence in her journalistic abilities, after resigning a successful position three years earlier after she was blindsided when delivering a story to the world — ending with a horrible tragedy.
After breaking a high profile story, two weeks later, her career ended. When the truth is at the expense of others, what then? Devastated, shouldering the blame, guilt ridden, she gives up her position, her talent, and her passion for a regular job. Now she works for a health company as a website content curator—not a lot of risk involved with boring seniors and their issues. She is no longer uncovering misdeeds and corruption, interviewing celebrities, or tracking down terrorists.
Abigail can no longer be the one to write about secrets. "Secrets are a sneaky little seed. You can hide them, you can bury them, and you can disguise them, and cover them up. But then just when you think your secret has rotted away and decayed into nothing, it stirs back to life. She has learned her lesson. The truth always comes out eventually."
However, two events occur, bringing out the journalist instinct once again. A twelve year old Ben delivers some information questioning the story which sent her running for cover three years before. Now she feels obligated to help. While the sub-plot was not center stage in the novel, it has a strong presence in the background. (Very intriguing; could almost be another book).
Next, while she is remodeling her house, doing most of the work herself, to keep her mind occupied, prompting her to visit the local remodeling home improvement store, Handyman Market. Shocked, she runs into the Gabe, working at the store. She had interviewed Gabe’s older brother Zach (People’s sexiest Man Alive, the Hollywood golden boy) who chucked his big-screen career to die in a war that, on the day he enlisted, fifty-seven percent of Americans considered a mistake.
Gabe, not so famous, the one who had a meltdown the day of his brother’s funeral. Just as good-looking, with a rough and tough exterior; Harvard graduate, with a successful financial career, now working in a home improvement store, while he deals with the aftermath of his brother’s death. Needless to say, his personality- as far as the media was concerned is hostile at best. He is the gatekeeper for the family as the media scrambles for interviews with his mother or his brother, Nick who was only a few feet away when the three bullets tore through Zach’s skull. Nick is also left unstable with PTSD, living in a remote cabin in the woods. His family is blaming the US Army for the death of his brother and they want answers. Gabe feels if he can determine who is to blame, he can deal with it and move on.
After purchasing half the store, she begins thinking about Gabe and his family. Soon thereafter, an envelope appears on her doorstop. It holds evidence of a US army cover-up involving a soldier in Afghanistan—Zach! She is shocked and realizes this is not the transcript the media received. This one contains evidence, implicating wrong doing. She now has to decide if she wants to get involved, after she had resigned herself never to become personally involved in a high profile case, which may cause harm to the future of others, when the truth comes to light. Now, Gabe’s mom, Jean is requesting Abigail to write their story, but fear holds her back. She is afraid of making the same mistakes.
Abigail is intrigued and soon finds herself wearing her investigative hat. Gabe and his mother have a pending lawsuit against the US army and here she is with possible evidence. She is torn between not getting involved, and doing the right thing in turning it over to them. After meeting the mother, Jean which she loved, she and Gabe become engrossed in finding the killer. To further complicate matters her own father is a retired army general. Gabe is bitter, trying to defend his family, and mistrusts Abigail’s motives, as well as her father and godfather, Chris, also with the army.
When her father warns her to leave it alone, she wonders what he is hiding. Someone starts following her, and the more evidence she stumbles upon, the fewer people it seems she can trust, especially her father.
The deeper they become involved in the mystery, she finds herself falling in love with Gabe and wants to protect him and his fragile family. Will she have to turn her back on her own family in order to protect her new love? Will she have to choose? Who is behind the killing of Gabe’s brother? Who is trying to reopen the case? How is her dad connected?
Wow, a lot of depth here! Master storyteller, Kimberly Belle grabs you from the first page to the last with an intense page-turner. A suspenseful, and emotional saga of two (really three) families, with twists and turns at every corner. In addition to the riveting and complex main plot of the solider, Gabe, his family, Abigail, and her father --the mysterious sub-plot ongoing in the background connecting with the present day in ways you do not see coming—scandalous surprises, keeping you guessing until the end, mixed with humor.
With excellent character and crafty plot development, and superb writing, Belle creates highly emotional tensions between Abigail and Gabe. Both have been burned and afraid to trust; likable characters with some heavy burdens to shoulder, guilt, and betrayal, as well as feeling responsible. At the beginning of the book, Gabe is defensive and slowly as the book moves on he becomes accepting, and able to open his heart. Gabe is a complex character; having been betrayed, and traumatized; making it harder for him to trust.
There is a strong sense of words, as relates to war. How they are crafted, and how they can harm, as related to a bullet and the havoc it caused these families. Some strong dynamics between father and daughter, when nothing is as it appears, causing misjudgments, and ongoing doubts. Sacrifices are made to protect others with good intentions.
As Belle expressed, sometimes in order to receive trust, we must be willing to take our own leap of faith and give it in return. Each character has to take a leap of faith; reacting differently. One is restricted by loyalty and secrets they are protecting. Tom, the father demands something he was not willing to give. Gabe invites Abigail into his intimate family circle.
In addition to Kimberly’s smooth writing style, I also appreciated her well written Reader’s Guide. (Wish more authors would take the time to do so.) After an author spends so much time, talent, passion, and effort into the writing of a novel, as a reader, I enjoy lingering, reflecting; the meaning, the message, and inspiration behind the novel. In addition to enhancing the reader’s overall experience, it also helps with the writing of reviews, while providing a wonderful guide for book clubs and further discussions.
What can I say, two winners in a row! THE ONE WE TRUST not only tackles highly charged topics, it also serves as a life lesson for us all—we all tip toe around the word TRUST in our daily lives (involving hope, faith, confidence, or belief in the integrity, ability or character of a person or thing). Sometimes a scary thing to rely on something we cannot see.
Buy the Book
The Last Breath 9/30/2014