Susan May Warren
Fleming H. Revell Company
January 4, 2022
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by Susan May Warren
Review by Eliot Parker
Good stories flow with a mix of intellect, wit, and charm.
For author Susan May Warren, a USA Today bestselling author of more than 85 novels, her latest tome Sunrise combines all of those elements to tell a story that blends action, danger, and romance set against the backdrop of the rugged Alaskan wilderness.
The novel focuses on protagonist Dodge Kingston, who was the heir to the Big Sky Ranch and a former bush pilot stationed near Denali National Park. After a terrible family fight, Dodge leaves Alaska but returns home ten years later after his father is injured. During his return, Dodge reconnects with Echo, a former lover who is a research guide for the DNR. When Echo investigates the disappearance of one of her assistants, she ends up missing as well. Dodge senses something is wrong and vows to find Echo before it’s too late.
Warren’s writing is lyrical in its descriptions and depictions of the rural and rugged landscape of the Alaska that Dodge and Echo know so well. Warren writes, “..with the sky clear, the massive hulk of Denali framed the horizon, whitened peaks jutting ruthlessly through the finest wisp of brave clouds…” (34). With each page and each description, the sights, smells and other memories that Dodge has about the place he calls home, come to life. More importantly, Warren establishes this rugged landscape as the place where beauty and darkness coexists. In one early scene, Dodge flies a supply mission through Cache Creek Canyon to visit the Farleys. While the good-natured Farleys live in what is described as an idyllic life on a narrow peninsula of land in the bottom of the Canyon, the beauty masks an inherent danger: a bear that has been threatening the family and eating their food rations. This theme of beauty and darkness, both external regarding the setting and internal through the thoughts and actions of the characters, force Dodge and others to navigate between the beauty and darkness that encompasses their lives.
Another strength of the book is the way that Warren peals back the layers of complexity that exist with Dodge and Echo, revealing two characters that are idealists, but also risk-takers and they function as characters that are not afraid to put themselves in great peril in order to serve a greater good. To that end, Warren successfully creates two characters that would be attracted to one another, while the reader can understand why Dodge and Echo would be unfilled without the other. This is a common trope present in romance novels, and in the hands of a less-skilled writer, the book could resemble more of a soap opera. However, the talented Warren imbues this reality with Dodge and Echo around danger and suspense. Moreover, Dodge and Echo are seeking forgiveness—from each other and from their loved ones. After Dodge’s frantic encounter with a bear, leading to a daring rescue, Echo makes a statement that exemplifies their relationship: “This was love. Love showed up. Love stayed. Love sacrificed” (312).”
Warren has an interesting and emotional conclusion to the story that leads readers to believe she is not done writing about these characters and exploring their relationships with each other. Readers will enjoy this book filled with fast-paced action, family drama, and a swoony romance.
Eliot Parker is the author of four thriller novels and a collection of short stories. His thriller novel, A Knife’s Edge, was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award in 2019. He has received the PenCraft Literary Award and the Feathered Quill Book Award for his work. For more, visit https://www.eliotparker.com