Honor Mackenzie, a Search and Rescue team leader and dog
trainer, is trying to rise above a past tarnished by
innuendo and character aspersions at the hands of an
unscrupulous journalist. Upon meeting Matt Phillips, a
Baltimore reporter, she wants nothing to do with him or any
others of his kind. Because she knows his kind, or at least
Honor thinks she does. But Matt, a widower with twin ten
year-old sons, forces Honor to reconsider her opinion as
well as her determination to remain alone. When Honor goes
from search expert to missing victim, Matt leads the effort
to rescue her. But will he be too late?
HONOR REDEEMED is book two of the First Responder series, a
series intended to pay homage, in the wake of 9/11, to those
who put their lives on the line day in and day out. It meets
that objective, shining a light on a segment of emergency
personnel that is often overlooked, the responder dogs and
Coming from a family of firefighters, I wanted to love this
book, but I didn't. I found some of the progression in Honor
and Matt's relationship to be dubious relational leaps.
Then, and most importantly, because this was a romance, I
expected a happy ending. I didn't get one. Rather, the
ending sets up book three by leaving open the door for that
HEA, but my disappointment leaves me unmotivated to read the
next book to see whether the possibility holds up.
"Honor Mackenzie works hard guarding the dark secrets of her
past as she does training Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs. As
for reporter Matt Phillips, not even his former SAR work is
as important as protecting his twins.
Then a jumbo jet crash puts them face-to-face at the grisly
scene--and forces Matt and Honor to reconsidertheir
long-standing ""single forever"" status. Yet Matt has issues
with Honor’s past, and is still struggling with them when
he's told Honor has disappeared during a rescue effort.
Matt leads the search team, desparate to find Honor before a
blizzard moves in. But even if he does, will they find their
way back to each other or go back to living life alone? "
Patapsco State Park, near Baltimore, Maryland
Honor Mackenzie shivered, and not just because the temper-
ature had dipped to near-freezing. The far-off wail of a
coyote harmonized with the moaning wind, and the creak of
leafless trees only intensified the ghostly atmosphere.
Crisscrossing beams of high-powered flashlights sliced
through the sleety black haze and shimmered from the river's
surface. The Patapsco River seemed alive tonight, pulsing
and undulating like a monstrous turbid snake. From deep in
the woods, Honor felt the cagey stares of a thousand
unblinking eyes and shivered again as she panned a wide arc,
walking backward every few steps; the crash had probably
sent every critter scurrying . . . but that's what she'd
told herself those scary hours with Uncle Mike, and the
night a feral dog bul- leted from the underbrush, teeth
bared and snarling and—
"Is it just me," Elton huffed, jogging up beside her, "or do
I smell gas?"
She jumped, then jumped again to make the first one look
like an attempt to maneuver around a tree root. "Maybe it's
that swill you claim takes off the chill." Elton was a good
guy but got way too much pleasure from scaring her out of
A puckish grin warned her to brace herself, but before he
could deliver a biting comeback, a frantic baritone blasted
through the fog: "Over here!"
"Sending up a flare," hollered another.
Most of the Boeing 747 that plummeted from the mid- November
sky during rush hour had landed square in the middle of
I-95. The cops shut down all lanes in both directions to
enable the two available medevac copters to airlift
passengers of the airliner—and those in the vehicles it had
crushed—to Baltimore's shock trauma. And because
eyewitnesses reported seeing fiery bits of the plane falling
due north of the explosion, Honor's search and rescue squad
was sent into Patapsco State Park. Her unit included a
couple of young guys just return- ing from Texas, where
they'd earned wilderness certifications. Like thoroughbreds
at the gate, both chomped at the bit to prove they could
keep up with more experienced personnel. With any luck, they
hadn't yet heard the rumors about her past and wouldn't
pummel her with the usual acerbic questions when the mission
The scent of jet fuel grew stronger with every step, and she
thanked God for the sleet. Yes, it added to their physical
discomforts, but it would douse any embers hiding in the
wreckage. Helped her focus on the task, instead of potential
taunts, too. Elton stopped walking so fast that his boots
sent up a spray of damp leaves. His voice was barely a
whisper when he grated, "Oh, my God!"
Honor followed his line of vision. "Oh, my God" was right.
There, in the clearing a few yards to their left, was the
tail section of the airliner. Like a beached whale, it
teetered belly up on the bank, one mangled wing pointing
skyward, the top half of the airline's logo submerged in
riverbed muck. Twin witch-finger pillars of smoke spiraled
upward, as if reaching for the treetops in a last-ditch
attempt to pull itself free of the sludge.
A nanosecond later, they were on the move again, hop- ping
over rivulets carved into the earth by rushing rainwater,
ducking under low-lying pine boughs as they picked their way
closer. Two pink palms slapped against a window, and between
them, the bloodied and terrified face of a boy no more than
ten. The sight startled Elton so badly that he lost his
footing in the slimy mud. Arms windmilling, he staggered
backward a step or two before regaining his balance.
"Donaldson!" he bellowed.
"Kent? That you?"
"No," Elton snarled, "it's your old maid auntie." He
muttered something under his breath, then added, "Fire up
the radio. Let 'em know we need more boots on the ground.
And equip- ment, on the double. We've got survivors!"
Well, at least one survivor, Honor thought, closing in on
the craft. She hopped onto the rain-slicked wing and inched
nearer the window, then lay her palm against the glass and
matched the kid's handprint, finger for finger. "You're
okay," she said, trying to look like she believed it. Not an
easy feat, now that she'd aimed her flashlight's beam over
his shoul- der. Only God knew what he'd seen, or
which of his family members lay motionless at his feet.
She'd seen that fran- tic expression before, and it reminded
her of the day when the Susquehanna overflowed its banks and
slammed through a Boy Scout camp. After hours of searching
for one still-missing kid, something made her look up, and
she found him, clinging to a tree. Though the water had
receded, he'd been too frantic to climb down. She'd probably
said "Don't be scared" a dozen times before he found his
voice. "Why do grown-ups always say dumb things like that?"
And she'd never uttered the words again.
"You're okay," she repeated now. "Help is on the way."
"Mackenzie, get down from there."
The poor kid's pleading, teary eyes locked with hers,
seeking reassurance and hope, and she couldn't look away.
Wouldn't walk away, either.
In the window's reflection, she saw Elton behind her, point-
ing toward the biggest column of smoke. "I'm dead serious,
Mack. Get down from there," he repeated, this time through
A second later, the heat of yellow and orange flames flared
on her right. The boy saw it, too, as evidenced by a pitiful
wail that, because of the thick, double-paned window, no one
out- side the airplane could hear. "Help is coming," she