Sunday, March 17, 2013

Brenda Novak -- In Seconds

Brenda Novak -- In Seconds

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ . ♥   {4.35}
Action: ♠♠♠.♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥.♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠♠.♠
Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 4.0 / Romance: 3.75 / Sensuous: 2.0 / Suspense: 4.5  //  Laughter: 0 / Tears: 1½

Setting:     Pineview, Montana
Era:           Present Day [2011]
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Brenda Novak wrote another sterling book when she penned In Seconds, the second book in The Bulletproof Trilogy.   Although this book did not rate quite as high as the first book in the trilogy (Inside) Novak, again, managed to deliver some dynamic insights about the feelings a wounded daughter experiences as she deals with one of the most difficult relationships in her life -- the mother / daughter relationship.   No, this book is not particularly about this dynamic, but being a member of the "Strained Relationships Between Mothers and Daughters" club, Novak's ability to put into words the conflicting thoughts of a betrayed daughter (and son) spoke volumes.

The foreword to this book was deeply appreciated.   Novak explained to readers why she was unable to pair Laurel Hodges, this book's heroine, with the man readers expected (and wanted) her to walk with into the sunset -- Rex McCready.   Even though this is not Rex and Laurel's story, Rex was, again, featured as the secondary hero of this book.   Talk about a flawed, angst-filled hero -- man, Novak has put Rex through the wringer . . . and in spite of incredibly difficult odds, he still manages to come across as a man you'd want by your side.

In Seconds opens four years after the ending of Inside.   (These books should definitely be read in order.)   After two years of living in Washington D.C., near her brother Virgil Skinner and his wife, Peyton, and having a tumultuous love affair with Rex, Laurel must take her children (Jake, now nine, and Mia, now seven) and relocate because the gang that is after them, The Crew, had somehow found them -- even though they were in the Witness Protection Program.   Virgil and Peyton assumed another alias and relocated to upstate New York.   Laurel changed her name to Vivian Stewart and has been living in the picturesque small town of Pineview, Montana for the past two years.

Any time an author writes a book that requires the use of aliases, it is sometimes difficult to keep the names of the characters straight as the story unfolds.   Novak did a great job in delineating between Vivian's and Laurel's personality.   Although she forever remained as Laurel in my mind, Novak explained why Laurel thought of herself as Vivian, the healthy persona of Laurel.

He'd been Laurel's crutch, Laurel's love, not Vivian's.   Vivian was too infatuated with the sheriff to be able to fall back into a relationship with Rex.   (Laurel, page 231)

She'd survived the abuse she'd suffered at Tom's hands, become a designer, even without a formal education, gotten over Rex when it would've been so much easier to continue wallowing in the mess they were together, and built a company to support her family.   And she'd done it all on her own.   She was established and successful and she wasn't going to let anyone take that away from her.   (Laurel, page 271)

Vivian's past comes up to haunt her when she and the rest of Pineview are rocked on their axis by the particularly brutal murder of Pat Stueben, the popular, jovial, well-liked real estate agent.   Vivian's best friend and the heroine of book three (In Close) is introduced into the story because Vivian is letting Claire cut her long dark hair into a short, sassy cut and going back to her natural blond color when news of Pat's death is revealed.   Claire spends very little time on the pages of this book so we know very little about her besides {1} her mother, Alana, went missing fifteen years ago, {2} she has a strained, guilt-ridden relationship with her wheelchair-bound sister, Leanne, {3} her husband, David, was recently killed in a hunting accident, and {4} she thinks the world of her stepfather, Darryl "Tug" O'Toole.   These facts, however, are a great inspiration to prompt readers to want to pick up the next book in the series to read Claire's story.   (After, of course, swallowing their disappointment that the third book of the trilogy is not Rex's story.)

Novak displays her talent at writing Romantic Suspense books that equally feature both aspects of the genre -- the Romance and the Suspense.   While Myles and Vivian dance around the issue of their undeniable attraction to one another, Novak is slowly, steadily building the suspense into such an intense level, that you cannot help but want to get to the end of the book to see how Myles and Vivian not only finally reach the point of declaring their love for one another, but also how they stay alive to do so.

Vivian's next door neighbor, Sheriff Myles King, is painted as the perfect contrast to Vivian and her troubled past.   Myles is talked about with reverence by the women of Pineview because of his devotion to his wife, Amber Rose, who died of cancer three years ago.   After being chased by all the available women in Pineview, Myles is ready to end his streak of celibacy and has repeatedly asked Vivian out.   Because of her secretive past, Vivian has rejected all Myles' offers.

Novak took a unique route in developing the romance between Myles and Vivian.   After telling Myles "no" to dinner dates and trying to stay out of his path, Myles was shocked to find Vivian at his door to ask for help the day of Pat's death.   Vivian had disabled her refrigerator and asked Myles if he could fix it so she could get details about Pat's murder.   Myles sensed the chemistry between him and Vivian, even though she rejected all his advances of friendship.   There are a number of excellent quotes that show the relationship building between Myles and Vivian.

He knew desire when he saw it; she was as attracted to him as he was to her.   (Myles: page 15)
~ ~ ~
Was he as preoccupied with her as she was with him?   She hoped not.   For the past several months she'd been absolutely infatuated.   He and he alone occupied her thoughts during the long nights . . . (Laurel, pages 31-32)
~ ~ ~
She got the impression he wanted to touch her.   Desperate for even this small amount of contact -- it'd been so long since she'd been with a man . . . (Laurel, page 33)
~ ~ ~
"You're sending me mixed messages again," he pointed out.
She couldn't seem to help herself.   Although she was starved for the physical stimulation she'd grown accustomed to during the year she'd spent with her brother's best friend and former cell mate, she couldn't let this go any further. . . .
"What if I prefer what you're not saying?"
He didn't realize what he was doing, stirring up such longing.   She was so tired and scared she couldn't seem to marshal her self control.   "What do you want from me?" she whispered.
. . .
. . .   Nothing seemed to matter except obliterating that aching need.   "I have a better idea."
He cocked his head, and she swallowed hard before continuing.   "What if we made an . . . arrangement?"
"What kind of arrangement?"
Her heart felt like a fish flopping around on the sand.   "An arrangement that would . . . last for one night?"   (Myles and Vivian, pages 34-35)
~ ~ ~
She knew it would be awkward, but they could deal with it, put the barriers back up.   And if they couldn't, she didn't care.   She refused to be logical, to acknowledge the risks.   (Laurel, page 37)
~ ~ ~
"You're not giving us a chance."   (Myles, page 92)
~ ~ ~
"What happened last night didn't come from wanting to get laid as much as it came from all the hours you've watched me . . . like I've watched you."   (Myles, page 98)
~ ~ ~
Last night had lit a fuse.   Now it burned quickly to the explosion.   For the first time since Amber Rose died, he felt some positive emotion about life in general . . .   (Myles, page 103)
~ ~ ~
. . .   craved the support of someone who could be with her in body as well as spirit?   She didn't want to get involved with Myles for the wrong reasons.   She'd just become healthy again.   (Laurel, page 122)
~ ~ ~
He wanted Vivian with a desperation he'd never experienced before.   She wasn't just a stand-in because he couldn't have Amber Rose, and that jolted everything he'd come to believe about himself and his marriage.   (Myles, page 136)
~ ~ ~
"Trying to reach you is like . . . grasping at smoke!" (Myles, page 146)
~ ~ ~
This was a disaster, . . .   Instead of feeling better, liberated, free from all that pent-up longing and desire, she felt as if she'd rolled around on broken glass and was bleeding from little cuts all over her body.   (Laurel, page 146)

Probably the biggest disappointment in this book is the lack of sensuality.   Even though Myles finally took Vivian up on her proposition for a one-night stand, Novak revealed that there was a lot of understated passion flowing between Myles and Vivian, but kept readers mostly in the dark as to how Vivian kept her control, yet forced Myles to lose his -- numerous times even.   Myles and Vivian only kissed and made love twice during the entire 440-page book.   This lack of sexuality took away some of the romance factor of the book.

Another talent that Novak displays with skill and dexterity is to introduce secondary characters and bring them to life.   For instance, take Laurel's kids, Jake and Mia.   Although they did not get much page time, when they did, they acted just like real kids.   Jake is all excited about going fishing with Vera Soblasky, the unmarried retired schoolteacher who was a stand-in "Nana" to Laurel's kids, for his half-birthday (what a neat concept).   And Mia, of course, wanted to go along.   Then when Jake and Nana caught three fish, Jake would not rest until he could get Myles to gut the fish for him.   Then while Laurel was fighting tears during her telephone conversation with Virgil, she had to pretend to be happy and smile at Mia's impromptu dance performance.

Look at Chrissy Gunther, the town busy-body.   She was just the type of character we all know and hate.   Chrissy went running to Myles the moment she saw the gun when it fell out of Vivian's purse when she bumped into Buster Hayes on her way out the bank.   Just loved the way Novak described the "I think I'm all that" Chrissy, who not only treated her husband badly, but inappropriately goes out of her way to flirt with Myles.   And wouldn't you just know it -- she would be the one person in town who tells Ink and L.J. where Laurel lives.

Another secondary character introduced in book one showed up in this book as well.   Eugene Rider, more commonly known as Ink, broke out of The California Men's Colony and made his way to Pineview to kill Laurel and her kids.   It was surprising that Novak gave Ink, The Crew member who nearly killed Laurel in Colorado four years ago, a voice.   If the description of Ink does not send chills up and down your spine, his cold-bloodedness certainly will.   Ink was in constant pain as a result of the bullet that damaged his spinal cord and he was on a mission to make the people responsible for his injuries pay; namely, Rex, Laurel and Virgil.   The tone of voice that Novak gave to Ink was surprising.   Yes, he came across as a thug with no conscience, but somehow instead of portraying him as the too unpredictable, too volatile murderer that he was, Novak also assigned a sense of humaneness to him.

He used to enjoy horrified reactions he often inspired.   But fear and intimidation were different from pity.   Ever since a bullet had damaged his spinal cord, the stares he receive made him desperate to stop all gawkers, or punish them, just like when he'd let loose on that Realtor.   (Ink, page 117)

Novak should have made Ink come across as cold-blooded and conscience-less as the villain Karen Rose created in her book (Nothing To Fear).   Rather than appreciating that there may have been some humanity somewhere within Ink, it did not seem to mesh with his role as the soulless killer who destroyed four families when he killed four men just so he could have their cabin.   In fact, Ink even admitted that:

No one liked him once they really got to know him, and that bothered him more than he wanted to admit.   (Ink, page 243)

Ink was partnered by Lloyd Beachum, known as L.J., the young kid (nineteen), who had been his cell mate and helped him break out of prison in exchange for becoming a member of The Crew.   The voice that Novak gave to L.J. made more sense and was a better fit to his character.   It was impossible not to feel some compassion for L.J. as he walked through the pages of the book with Ink.   L.J. realized he was in way over his head and was in a mess that he didn't know how to escape.

This was all so senseless.   His life was turning into a nightmare.   He didn't feel big or bad, like he thought he would.   He just felt like shit.   (L.J., page 297)

Punishing the world for his shitty childhood only insured he had a shitty adulthood, and nothing had been worse than the past week with Ink.   It'd shown him he wasn't like Ink at all, and no longer aspired to be.   (L.J., page 415)

One secondary character that was memorable even though he stayed mostly in the background was Jared Davis, the detective that Myles assigned to investigate Pat's murder.   Novak has a true talent at painting vivid pictures of characters' personalities with just a few well-chosen descriptive words.   Jared is a prime example of a character who came across as an interesting figure even though his role in the book did not contain much depth.   (Or it could be that his similarity to Columbo inspired that interest.)   The inclusion of Linda Gardiner, the other investigator Myles's assigned to Pat's case, added more flavor and realism to the story as she interacted with Myles and Jared as they discussed the case.

Thankfully, Novak did not leave Virgil and Peyton out of Laurel's book.   Because of the brutal murder in her small town, Laurel broke protocol and called Virgil to find out what was going on and to assuage the loneliness that was eating away at her.   Laurel's conversations with Virgil lead to many revelations about not only her relationship to their mother, Ellen, but also inspired a tear-jerking response from Virgil regarding their mother's betrayal.   Even though Ellen was not introduced in this book, Novak painted a picture of a mother whose inability to put her children's welfare above her own resulted in a disastrous situation that eventually came full circle back to her door.   (And justly so!)

Novak's writing style is particularly engaging.   She paints contrasts in the same story frame. Look at the contrasts in the scene in which the very pregnant Peyton is sitting on Virgil's lap (very touching) while they discuss the very dire situation Laurel is facing.   While Virgil and Peyton discuss the ugliness that The Crew is heaping upon their family, their little boy, Brady, crawls up into his daddy's lap.   (How sweet!)

Laurel and Virgil's conversations are not restricted to the problems with The Crew, but also the problems with Rex.   Rex returned to his addiction of OxyContin because he did not deal well with the death of his mother, nor his breakup with Laurel.   Rex's hero status rose up a couple of notches when he showed up at Laurel's doorstep to help protect her from The Crew after a two-week, self-imposed effort to quit cold turkey.   (That action inspired even more admiration towards Rex.)   Then he climbed another few rungs up the ladder of heroism when he admitted that he and Laurel were not the right match for each other because of their brokenness.   (You just knew that Rex's heart was breaking in two!)

She couldn't love someone who was so broken.   She was too broken herself.   (Laurel, page 181)
~ ~ ~
it wasn't a lack of love or attraction that'd driven them apart, and that made it difficult not to fall back into bed.   (Rex, page 196)
~ ~ ~
. . . he couldn't continue to be what she needed . . .   Maybe he wasn't the man who'd become her husband and the father of her children.   But he wanted her to be happy, even if it meant seeing her with someone else.   (Rex, page 198)
~ ~ ~
. . . he was free.   Because it felt as if he had a second chance at becoming the man he wanted to be.   He wasn't sure where this moment of contentment had come from or how long it would last. . . .   But for now, he was happy just to be with her and have everything right between them.   He was in charge of his own life for the first time in months, was exactly where he needed to be, doing exactly what he needed to do.   (Rex, page 199)

Novak threw in an unexpected twist near the end of the story regarding Virgil that increased the already tense suspense level of the story up several more decibels.   How could Virgil make such a move?   And then Novak used Virgil's actions to feature Rex in a heroic display of loyalty towards his friend.

And while she had readers on pins and needles wondering what is going to happen next, Novak reveals that Laurel is just as guilty of acting like a woman in love as the rest of her sex.   Novak was right on target when she revealed the truth behind Vivian's actions.   Women are such unique (perhaps fickle is the better word) characters.   We spout out all kinds of good intentioned remarks about why we take certain (sometimes crazy) actions, and yet what it all boils down to is that we are acting on our attraction to a man.   As the story progressed and the threat of death came closer and closer to Laurel's doorstep, she spouted all kinds of reasons to Rex and Virgil (and herself) about why she refused to be forced, once again, from her home by The Crew.   But the truth came out:

Sure, she'd stayed in Pineview because of Claire, the gals at the Thursday-night book group, Myles's daughter, who was so willing to babysit, Nana Vera and all the others.   She'd also stayed because she loved her home, and her children were happy here.   But all these things wouldn't have been enough, wouldn't have motivated her to take the risks she was taking now.   It was Sheriff King she hadn't been able to leave.   She was afraid she would never meet another man like him, one who so closely fit her ideal of what a husband and father should be.   (Vivian: page 319)

In true Romantic Suspense style, the exciting finale featuring Myles, Laurel, Ink, and L.J. resulted in 'good' winning over 'evil' and the requisite 'and they lived happily ever after' ending.   This book was an exciting and enjoyable read.

In summary, the details that stood out in Brenda Novak's second book in The Bulletproof Trilogy, In Seconds, included: {1} the hero, Sheriff Myles King, who was too wonderfully perfect to be real; {2} the heroine, Laurel Hodges, using the alias Vivian Stewart in her efforts to hide from members of a prison gang out to kill her and her family, who was slowly healing from the brokenness of having an uncaring mother and an abusive ex-husband; {3} enough 'day to day'-type action that moved the story along at a steady, read-inducing pace; {4} a depth of suspense that slowly increased to reach nail-biting levels with each turn of the page; {5} a strong sense of romance as the attraction between Myles and Laurel grew in intensity as it simmered beneath the surface; {6} the emotional angst of a daughter and son coming to terms with a mother who bitterly betrayed them; {7} the emotional devastation of the man left behind; {8} the interesting and unique portrayal of secondary characters, who added a rich flavor to the story; and {9} a minute display of sensuality during the minimal bouts of lovemaking.   This engaging, interesting book is well worth reading (especially after reading the first book in the series).
--Vonda M. Reid (Monday, March 11, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.)     [300]

Books In The Series: "The Bulletproof Trilogy"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.07-2011InsideVirgil Skinner; wrongfully incarceratedPeyton Adams; Chief Deputy Warden
1/806-2012Blood In, Blood Out [1]Rex "Pretty Boy" McCready; ex-conLaurel Hodges, Virgil's sister
02.09-2011In SecondsMyles King; Pineview SheriffLaurel Hodges: aka Vivian Stewart; Virgil's sister
03.11-2011In CloseIsaac Morgan; wildlife photogrpaherClaire O'Toole; Pineview hairdresser
[1]   This very short story is found in the anthology Love Is Murder {edited by Sandra Brown}.

Characters Found In "In Seconds"
Character Description
Sheriff Myles King[Hero] Vivian's next door neighbor; not the type to divulge details until good and ready; by-the-book kind of cop; handsome widower with 13-y-o daughter (10) cop-speak (12) 6'2"; 4" taller than Vivian (15) celibate 3 years; single women came on to him all the time (17) looked better in a pair of jeans than any man had a right to (18) green, brown-flecked eyes (20) father an attorney; father's dad most frugal individual on earth; 3 brothers; father insisted all the boys learn to repair everything; household of rough-and-tumble brothers; charming; energetic; college; rebuilt old clunker when 16; crooked smile that had women swooning over him; loved to tinker (22) restoring old Ducati; dimple in cheek (23) from Phoenix; nicked and scarred large hands; could read people well; gently deflected unwanted female attention; kept finger on pulse of everything that went on around him (30) tall; commanding in his uniform; gorgeous (47) real, warm, unaffected by the power his office gave him; had natural sense of authority; take charge personality (48) worked for Phoenix police department (56) full, soft-looking lips (93) rode bike as if extension of his muscular body (130) taking care of people was part of his nature (139) every inch of his body was lean and well toned (144) 6'2" (158) 39-y-o (201) parents alive; brother lived in Arizona (332)
Laurel Hodges
aka: Vivian Stewart
[Heroine] Vivian Stewart for 2 years; fledgling purse design business (7) returned to natural blond; sassy cut (8) stepfather shot and killed (12) preferred to fade into background (13) skittish; slender; fit; didn't seem like type to be easily threatened; beautiful brunette, who was no longer a brunette; 5'10" (15) complicated (17) purse design won when entered contest sponsored by Coach purses and Vogue magazine (20) no fashion school; no college (21) prickly wasn't her true nature, a learned response (22) 30-y-o; with Rex less than a year (37) tendency to shield children too much (49) The Crew forced her to leave Colorado and Washington, D.C. (77) gotten good at guarding her tongue (95) complicated; full of shadows (102) larger than Amber Rose, taller, bigger-boned, bigger-breasted (137) stunning; gorgeous; heart-stopping image (138) left home at 16 (215) Laurel Hodges (221) 5'10" (222) Blazer (302) married when 18; met Tom in donut shop where worked (323) 20 years younger than Tom; married 6 years (327)
. . . . . .
Alana[No Appearance] Claire's mother (276) as devoted to her children as Ellen has been selfish; wealthy family (277)
Nadine Archer[Brief Appearances] dispatcher (109)
Ned Blackburn[One Appearance] insurance salesman; on Myles's softball team; gave Ink, L.J. lift (268) 40-y-o; lived in Pineview most of his life; dressed like old cowboy; big belly that hung well over his belt (284) bought Leland's Christmas tree farm few months ago (285) bowed legs; fancy snakeskin boots (286)
Bob[One Appearance] at Gas-n-Go; saw Ink, L.J.; tape too worn to get photo (244)
Deputy Botha[No Appearance] Myles's deputy; called to Kicking Horse (340)
Jett Busath[No Appearance] Alexis' boyfriend (290)
Deputy Campbell[Brief Appearances] Pineview deputy; lived in Libby (83) had young family (289)
Claire[Minor Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book 3] 5'3"; mom disappeared 15-y-a; husband died after few years of marriage (8) artsy house, in a hippie sort of way, located on the poor side of Pineview; lived in Pineview entire life; searched every street, alley, field and cabin for her mother (11) always willing to help Vivian out (27) Vivian's best friend (273) shared deepest, darkest secrets with Vivian (274) married at 26; married 4 year; dreamed of becoming famous hairstylist in New York or L.A.; would not leave Pineview (278) worships stepfather (307)
Ellen [Crawley][No Appearance] Laurel and Virgil's mother; solicited brother's help to kill husband, let Virgil pay for it (69) police unable to prove her role in Martin's murder; in Los Angeles; going from man to man; getting older; suffering from arthritis and type 2 diabetes (71) ruined Virgil's life; went after husband's life-insurance policy (77) always cordial to everyone; soft-spoken; non-confrontational; too indecisive to stand up and fight, even for her children; projected an appealing illusion of a loving mother wrongfully accused (213) could be quite convincing (218)
Martin Crawley[No Appearance] Laurel and Virgil's stepfather; killed by Gary Lawson; Virgil originally blamed (69)
David[No Appearance] Claire's husband; died couple months ago (276)
Jared Davis[Secondary Character] old dented Porsche 911; trench coat; wing-tipped shoes; reminded Myles of Columbo; little disheveled and disorganized; often absorbed and seemingly inattentive; rarely missed a thing; 5'8" (54) jaded; 20 years in LAPD; tendency to take things literally; carried logic to illogical extremes (55) absolute reliance on logic usually helpful in investigation (56) meticulous, time-consuming investigator; desk no cleaner than car; created orderly reports about detailed investigation out of chaos (201) mess surrounded him; obsessive tendencies; literal nature; no wife or children; would work 24/7 if left to his own devices (209)
Delbert[No Appearance] Pat's stepson (56)
Quentin J. Ferguson[No Appearance] owner of stolen truck (107) Monrovia, California (109) 46-y-o (110)
Linda Gardiner[Brief Appearance] other investigator Myles's assigned to Pat's case (60) frizzy dark hair with sprinkling of gray framed her face; tamed hair by wearing a ponytail; glasses always sat a little crookedly on her nose (202) thick lenses (205) invited Jared to dinner twice a week (209)
Tony Garvey[One Appearance] work boots; dirty jeans and t-shirt; owned Garvey's Sand and Gravel; worked alongside his employees; one of David's best friends; getting a divorce (279)
Mrs. Garvey[No Appearance] Tony's wife; had affair with chiropractor (279)
Lawrence Goebel[No Appearance] county coroner; Vera's ballroom dance partner; to veterans' hall once a month; decade earlier entered numerous competitions; gay (127)
Nancy Granger[One Appearance] teller of Mountain Bank and Trust; recently joined Vivian's book group (79)
George Grannuto[Brief Appearance] broke the news to Vivian and Claire that Pat had been killed // postman; ruddy colored face; 55-y-o; tall; bony; resembled a cartoon stork delivering a baby when carrying bulging mailbag (8) shorts revealed stiltlike legs with knobby knees and varicose veins; always smiled (9)
Gully[One Appearance] worked with Horse; wore leather vest without a shirt; overweight; pasty skin; tattoos (382)
Chrissy Gunther[Secondary Character] squawking like old hen; high-strung nature; married; sought out Myles; little dynamo; world didn't extend beyond her kids; a handful (83) paid attention to actions and mistakes of others; flirtatious smiles (84) hair-piece ponytail; skin orange from self tanner; rhinestones embedded in acrylic nails (85) dressed as if one of cheerleaders she coached (86) not bad looking; bossy personality; treated husband poorly (87)
Mr. Gunther[No Appearance] Chrissy's husband; ran secondhand shop located near bank (87)
Brett Hamerschlit[One Appearance] drove Janet to Trudie's (422)
Deputy Haney[No Appearance] Myles's deputy; called in sick (340)
Kimberly Hannah[One Appearance] worked dispatch (340)
Harvey[One Appearance] tow operator (105) scripture on truck (116) large man; tufts of gray hair sticking out from a greasy ball cap; nose permanently reddened by years of working outdoors (117)
Buster Hayes[One Appearance] 6'4"; 350 pounds; collegiate football star; plowed into Vivian outside bank (82)
Jake [Hodges / Stewart][Secondary Character] Laurel's 9-y-o son (7) liked to follow Myles around; helped with yard work (16) thick blond hair (48) independent; determined to throw off yoke of Laurel's protection (121)
Mia [Hodges / Stewart][Secondary Character] Laurel's 7-y-o daughter (7) not about to miss out on anything; felt should be able to trail after brother 24/7 (50) thin shoulders; nothing bothered her for long (62)
Jacob "Tom" Hodges[No Appearance] Laurel's ex-husband (31) forced Laurel to have sex; undermined Laurel's attempts to get a job to make her dependent; physically abusive (32) carved his initials into Laurel's arm (33) first name: Jacob (162) emotional problems (323) stockbroker; educated; established; successful (328)
Eugene Rider
[Major Secondary Character] The Crew member; in prison (73) came after Laurel in Colorado; covered from head to toe in tattoos; eyebrows tattooed into lightning bolts; a frightening specter of gang life; flat, dark eyes; months of physical therapy, no longer confined to wheelchair; still crippled; serving lengthy prison term (73) an awkward gait; skin covered in ink, even his face; images of snakes and gargoyles were off-putting (104) alias: Ron Howard (107) as fascinating as he was repulsive (108) chronic pain (111) broke out of prison (112) tattoos and limp made him distinctive (114) used to enjoy horrified expression his tattoos drew; bullet damaged spinal cord; hated pity gawkers; injury screwed up his mind as well as his body (117) broke out of California Men's Colony (182) no conscience (257) Eugene Rider (261) rap sheet included: rape, armed robbery, arson, several counts of murder (262) level-four prisoner (263) family lives in San Diego, lost touch with them years ago; career criminal; not right in the head; family scared of him (264) didn't like being told what to do; got angry quickly for no reason (296) 15 years older than L.J. (298) too unpredictable; too volatile; cold eyes; coldest smile L.J. had ever seen (299) felt no tenderness, no sense of connection (335) cunning; uneducated (388)
Sonja Ivey[One Appearance] Ellen's next door neighbor; overweight (217)
Byron Jacobs[No Appearance] handyman (16)
Trudie Jenson[One Appearance] worked at Trudie's Groceries; birdlike woman (292) hired died awful orange color, teased up; purple smock; bright red lipstick, matching nail polish; wasn't bad-looking for 70-something with terrible dye job (293)
George Johnson[One Appearance] owner of Chowhound; heavy smoker (280)
Agent Jones[No Appearance] U.S. Marshal; Virgil, Rex, Laurel's handler (183)
Ben Jones[One Appearance] Myles's deputy, newest hire (267)
Naomi Jowalksi[One Appearance] Mountain Bank and Trust assistant manager (79)
Amber Rose King[No Appearance] Myles's wife; died of cancer 3-y-a (17) safe; trusting; warm; sunny (102)
Marley King[Secondary Character] Myles's 13-y-o daughter (13) big brown eyes; tall; dark; slender (413)
Lloyd Beachum
[Major Secondary Character] (112) young (104) dark eyebrows met over vivid blue eyes (105) 19 or 20-y-o; needed a shower; clothes wrinkled and dirty; not bad looking; tall; thin; good build; furtive air (106) alias: Peter Ferguson (107) baby face (113) dealt with nervous energy by fidgeting; constant questions; green; helped Ink break out of prison; would never challenge Ink; strong, healthy body (114) Lloyd Beachum; 19-y-o (261) drug possession; grand larceny (262) lived with grandparents during summers between fifth and seventh grade; foster care; Ink's cell mate (292) never had a father (298)
C.C. Larsen[No Appearance] Gertie used his phone to call sheriff; house a quarter mile from Pat's rental cabins (11)
Gary Lawson[No Appearance] Ellen's brother; serving time for killing Martin Crawley (69)
Leah[No Appearance] waitress from local diner; introduced Vivian to Thursday night book group (81) Vivian's friend; works at Golden Griddle (188)
Leanne[Brief Appearances] motorized wheelchair; crippled in sledding accident when 13-y-o (13) Claire's sister; made stained glass windows and lamps (277) sold work in stores around Montana and on internet; did incredible work (278)
Chester Magnuson[No Appearance] [owner] of Pineview's paper (13)
Jack McCready[No Appearance] Rex's little brother (166) 12-y-o when died cliff diving into river (167)
Rex McCready[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Novella] Vivian trying to get over; Virgil's best friend; entered Witness protection when Vivian did (10) Laurel's ex-lover; knew how to give pleasure (31) Virgil's best friend and former cell mate (35) had been perfect man for Laurel to fall for; ex-Crew member (47) Laurel's good friend; talented lover (63) still doing jobs here or there for Virgil; no longer partner in their bodyguard business; burning through Virgil's buy-out money (64) aka: Wesley Alderman; addicted to OxyCotin; not doing well since split with Laurel (65) went downhill when family blamed him for mother's death; break up with Laurel sent him into tailspin (67) successful brothers (68) been estranged from family for years; had trouble forgetting the people in past; emotional issues as a result of old dysfunctional relationships kept him in state of limbo; hadn't been able to cope (71) difficulty navigating a world that didn't include gang affiliations (73) could be heroic; unpredictable, especially when using (74) unstable, last move hit him hard (75) "Pretty Boy" nickname when belonged to The Crew; tall; fast metabolism; lean; lithe; had trouble keeping weight on; no tattoos; no physical scars; deeply scarred on the inside; would never be completely whole; vulnerable green eyes (164) always lived on edge; couldn't outdistance his ghosts; rawboned, hollow-eyed face (165) one brother a doctor; one brother an engineer; felt responsible for Jack's death (167) wiry (177) torn t-shirt with sleeves cut out, holey jeans, unlaced boots (178) sexy; appealing, arresting, pretty face (181) reckless, rock-star air about him (246) humility did not come easy (247)
Mona[One Appearance] Shady's ex-girlfriend; The Crew keeps her supplied with drugs (195) used by so many men, no telling what diseases she had (196) fishnet stockings; high-heeled black boots; skirt didn't cover her ass; sagging boobs; looked well-used and strung out; two years servicing The Crew equivalent to 10 on street; heart-shaped face; hair dyed jet black (381)
Natalie[No Appearance] Ellen's sister; lived in Texas with husband, who'd been in Air Force most of career (232) kept her distance from Ellen (233)
Darryl "Tug" O'Toole[No Appearance] Claire's stepfather; last person to see wife alive; benefitted from her death; inherited couple million dollars; bought nursery, bowling alley in Libby; owned other businesses; snow removal company; mostly retired, enjoying the good life in luxurious home in the mountains with woman he'd moved in with on 6 months after Alana went missing (277)
Harold "Horse" Pew[One Appearance] tracking Laurel, Virgil, Rex; member of The Crew (65) took Shady's spot as gang leader (73) doesn't drink; serious man; a businessman; methodical; thorough (168) big; pockmarked ugly; mean; since became leader, power had gone to his head; deep, raspy voice (313) shaved head; cheeks scarred by acne; 6'8"; bulbous nose; large yellow teeth (382)
Randall[No Appearance] Ellen's latest boyfriend (218)
Allen Riddle[One Appearance] house where Ned dropped off Ink, L.J.; lodgelike home; middle-aged bachelor; split time between Montan and Alaska; hired out as hunting guide (284)
Alexis Rogers[Secondary Character] Elizabeth's 16-y-o sister; spaghetti-strip t-shirt; shortest shorts; chest falling out of her shirt; sun-burned (289) long dark hair; porn-star boobs; tiny waist; curvy; cute; wearing skimpy bikini; talking on cordless phone (173)
Elizabeth [Rogers][Secondary Character] Marley's best friend (42)
Janet Rogers[Secondary Character] Elizabeth and Alexis' mother (290)
Sandra[Brief Appearances] Virgil's administrative assistance (316)
Herb Scarborough[One Appearance] manager of Mountain Bank and Trust; attended Vivian's church (79)
Shady[No Appearance] The Crew member; at funeral Horse swore a blood oath to avenge his death (71)
Kate Shumley[No Appearance] ran woman's shelter in Tucson, Arizona; helped Laurel (329)
Anna Skinner[One Appearance] Virgil, Peyton's newborn (438)
Brady Skinner[Brief Appearance] Virgil and Peyton's son (76)
Cole Skinner[No Appearance] Laurel and Virgil's father; left Ellen shortly after Laurel's birth; Laurel heard from 3 times in her life (77)
Peyton Skinner[Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book 1] Virgils wife; aka: Mariah Greene (27) normally worked in corrections; left job when moved; would resume career when kids were older (67) miscarried at 7 months (76) long hair (260)
Virgil Skinner[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 1] Laurel's older brother; at 18-y-o, prosecuted for killing stepfather (12) served 14 years in prison before being exonerated; joined gang while in prison (13) aka: Daniel Greene (27) broke away from The Crew (49) started bodyguard service with Rex; sold out in D.C.; moved to upstate New York (67) wrongfully accused of killed stepfather; joined The Crew in prison; told authorities all about The Crew after attack on Laurel in Colorado (69) trusted by The Crew who held power, put above others who remained loyal (70) Rex's cell mate for nearly a decade (73) tall; huge (160) difficult to rely on anyone else (257) employed 8 bodyguards, 3 to do background checks (315)
Vera Soblasky[Secondary Character] occasionally watched Jake and Mia (17) lived behind the church; unmarried retired schoolteacher; worked as librarian 3 days a week; no children or grandchildren; preferred to spend free time with Jake and Mia as stand-in "Nana" (27) bony shoulders (126) to veterans' hall once a month with L. Goebel; decade earlier entered numerous competitions (127)
Pearl Stringham[No Appearance] Mia's dance instructor (81)
Gertie Stueben[No Appearance] Pat's wife (8) found Pat (9) married 40 years; Pat gave her anything she wanted (55)
Pat Stueben[No Appearance] murder victim (8) not svelte as picture on real-estate signs (9) popular; jovial; well-liked (10) real estate agent (13) a good man; a friend to everyone (16) real estate agent; always wore plaid jacket (44) fake hair; old-fashioned jacket (46) 60s; sweet; harmless (68)
The Crew[Organization] gang Virgil joined while in prison; ruthless (13), determined to make Laurel, Rex, Virgil pay (49) drugs epidemic to gang culture (65) nothing worse to a gang leader than appearing weak; profiting off other people's hard work, not their own (70) nothing has higher priority than nursing a grudge and paying off old debts, especially a personal one; lives revolve around planning violence, perpetrating violence, or taking credit for violence (71) "They were determined, brutal, relentless." (257) the most bloodthirsty group Virgil ever knew (371)
Trace[No Appearance] worked at Reliable Auto (211)
Harold Willis[One Appearance] from Libby; at Vivian's house (367)
Mr. Winn[No Appearance] owned liquor store; Virgil provided security (317)
Trinity Woods[No Appearance] young woman; used to babysit for Laurel in Colorado; shot and killed on doorstep by The Crew (122)
Warden Wright[One Appearance] warden of California Men's Colony (262)

Locations, Organizations Found In "In Seconds"
Location / Organization Description
Big Sky BagsLaurel's business (25) showrooms, PR companies, ad agencies in New York; warehouses in New Jersey; running business on internet past 2 years; designs gaining popularity among a few influential fashionistas in Los Angeles; factories in Hong Kong (26)
California Department of Corrections and RehabilitationMyles called (261)
California Men's Colonyprison Ink and L.J. broke out of; known as the country-club prison because of all the programs they've got (182)
Chain of Lakes[Actual Montana Land Site] area around Pineview where hunters and fisherman gathered during the summer months (12)
Chowhoundat night became a strip club; during day served breakfast and lunch (279)
Claire's Salonhair salon owned by Claire, Vivian's best friend (7)
Crystal LakePineview lake (10)
EZ SecurityVirgil's business (398)
Fresh KetchPineview restaurant (8)
Golden Griddleacross street from Kicking Horse Saloon; only served breakfast (60)
Garvey's Sand and GravelTony Garvey's business (279)
Harvey's TowHarvey's business (108) 133 North Main, Pineview, Montana (116)
Hell's Furygang taking over Pelican Bay (330)
Innocent Americatook Virgil's case (329)
Kalispellnearest town to Pineview with a Walmart (204)
Kicking Horse SaloonPineview's favorite bar; killer placed call from payphone outside (58) Laurel used payphone outside to call her mother (72)
Mountain Bank and TrustPineview's bank; Laurel had gun in safety deposit box (79)
Nice TwiceChrissy Gunther's shop (278)
Pelican Bayprison in Colorado (330)
Pineview, MontanaFictional location where story takes place (7) extremely low crime rate; Vivian's home for 2 years (7) no cell phone service (10) rustic paradise (54)
Reliable Autowhere stolen truck to be towed (119)
Trudie's Groceriesmom-and-pop establishment; elevator music playing; kind of place that sold homemade pie and jellies; reminded L.J. of store his grandparents used to own (292)

"In Close" Quotations
31"You live in the background of a place that's already in the background."   (Myles)
125"The answer to that question is yes.   I've missed her every day of my life since she stabbed me in the back.   I wish I could hate her.   Sometimes I do.   But more than anything, I wonder what was wrong with me that she couldn't love me the way I love my son."   (Virgil)
149He wanted someone he should leave alone.   (Myles)
164. . . he had scars, on the inside.   And they were deep, so deep Vivian didn't think he'd ever be completely whole.   (Vivian, about Rex)
194She had no idea what he'd been through, how hard he was trying, . . .   (Rex)
215. . . wanted to purge the anger that'd been trapped inside her for so many years.   It was too dark, too negative; sometimes that darkness seemed about to overtake everything else.   (Laurel)
276It broke Vivian's heart to see how deeply the past still affected the present.   (Vivian)

"Brenda Novak -- In Seconds" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
---- Brenda Novak's WebsiteAuthor
---- Brenda Novak's FacebookAuthor
---- Brenda Novak's TwitterAuthor
. . . . . . . . . . . .
B- / warm09-22-2011All About Romanceby: Maggie Boyd / well-written; some valid points
4.18 average{28 reviews}Amazonas of: March 16, 2013
B // 3.5006-12-2011Badass Book Reviewsokay // also on: Amazon, Good Reads, Library Thing
4.50 average{27 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: March 16, 2013
4.0011-15-2011Book BlissLouise // didn't read book one
2.5008-09-2011Cocktails and Booksdisliked; disagreed / also on: Good Reads
5.0002-02-2012Coffee Time Romance and Moretoo brief and pat // also on: Amazon, B&N
----Fact FictList of Books In "The Bulletproof Series"
----Fantastic FictionList of Brenda Novak's Books
--03-31-2011Feathered Quill Book ReviewsBrenda Novak Interview
----Fiction DBList of Brenda Novak's Books
a must read08-09-2011Fresh Fictionby: Sandra Wurman
4.06 average{58 reviews}Good Readsas of: March 16, 2013
2.0008-25-2011Happily Ever After - Readsgreat review, lots of data / also on: Amazon
5.0009-08-2011Joyfully Reviewedgood review / {qv} too many buzz words // also on: Amazon
3.69 average{8 ratings}Library Thingas of: March 16, 2013
3.0010-26-2011One Good Book Deserves Anotherexcellent review // also on: Amazon, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari
3.90 average{39 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: March 16, 2013
4.00 / Hot09-11-2011RT {Romantic Times} Book Reviews 
3.0009-06-2011Scooper Speaksshould have read book one / also on: Good Reads
4.0007-31-2011Seduced By A Bookalso on: Good Reads
3.67 average{3 reviews}Shelfarias of: March 17, 2013
B+08-25-2011The Book Pushersgreat review / also on: Good Reads
4.0009-12-2011The Book Vixenliked / okay / also on: Amazon, Good Reads, Library Thing
4.0009-07-2011The Bookaholic Catlots of great detail / also: on Amazon, Good Reads
5.0008-29-2011The Long and Short of It{qv} also on: Amazon, B&N, Good Reads
5.0008-27-2011The Romanceaholicexcellent / also on Good Reads
3.50 // 2.008-29-2011Under The Coversgreat points / also on Good Reads
4.3503-17-2013Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

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♥   Very Subjective Rating
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