Smoke Screen – Terri Blackstock – Thomas Nelson – Published 5 November 2019
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.
Smoke Screen is a story about family, love, wrongs dealt unjustly, reputations and the havoc of a messy divorce and custody battle.
Brenna is a mess after her husband left her for a much younger woman and is now fighting for custody of their two young children. Brenna has turned to alcohol to cope and the news that the man responsible for murdering her father has been pardoned only heightens her stress levels. When smoke jumper, Nate Beckett hears of his father’s pardon, he has no intention of returning to the small town that so quickly turned their backs on his family and accused Nate of burning down the church in revenge. But an injury while fighting large wild fires, means he must return, coming face-to-face with the woman who still holds his heart.
I was intrigued by the story in Smoke Screen. It is more a contemporary novel about romance, broken relationships and heartbreak, than suspense novel. There are two investigations in this story, both of which concluded, incorrectly, many years ago. But while these investigations are being re-evaluated now due to current events, they tick along in the background. It is Brenna’s story of alcohol abuse and battle for custody that drives the plot and brings tension to the book. I thought it was very obvious who the murderer would be and I was not surprised to be proven correct. The story just had too many easy fixes and neat endings not to go with that clean tie-up.
As Brenna and Nate rekindle their romance from their teenage years, both have a lot of baggage, past and present, with which to deal. Nate’s support of Brenna was admirable, especially when she didn’t always reciprocate. Nate also encourages her to turn to God rather than relying on herself or him as the rescuer she claims he is. And, despite all the stress and turmoil, there is a nice, neat happy ending. Brenna, while she certainly had my sympathy for the terribly unfair situation she found herself in, however, was not an easy character to like.
While I am not a huge fan of Terri Blackstock’s writing style, which is heavy on words that tell the story rather than showing it through the character’s actions, I do enjoy her way of bringing together important topics, like alcohol abuse and the effects of custody battles, lots of tension and sweet romance.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Adult fiction
Genre: Christian – contemporary.
Themes: Romance, divorce, custody, parenting, children, family, alcoholism, murder, fires, smoke jumping, arson.
Published: 5 November 2019 by Thomas Nelson
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 352 pages.