Acceptable Risk // by Lynette Eason

//published 2020//

Earlier this year I read the first book in this series, Collateral Damage.  Since I enjoyed it, I requested to receive a copy of this sequel from the publisher in exchange for a review.  Unfortunately, while Acceptable Risk wasn’t a bad read, it never quite pulled me in.  The pacing felt uneven, and I never really connected with the plot.

Sarah is an investigative reporter in the Army, and the book opens shortly after she’s been kidnapped by a terrorist.  She’s rescued by a character we met in the first book, Gavin, but there’s a shoot-out in the process and Sarah is injured.  While she’s in the hospital, her father, a high-level Army officer, discreetly “arranges” to have Sarah discharged for mental health reasons because Sarah is having bad nightmares.  Sarah’s relationship with her dad has always been very poor.  He never wanted her to join the Army at all, and disinherited her when she did.  Sarah is outraged when she finds out that she’s been discharged, and is determined to find her way back to the Army once she heals.  In the meantime, she turns her investigative skills towards finding out more details about her brother’s last few weeks of life – he committed suicide just a few days before Sarah was kidnapped, despite the fact that he seemed to be doing much better with his mental health according to everyone closest to him, including his doctors.  As Sarah and Gavin begin unraveling seemingly disparate threads, they begin to wonder if there is something much, much bigger going on.

So there were a lot of things about this book that I did enjoy.  While I had mixed feelings about Sarah herself (more on that later), I really liked Gavin a lot, and also Sarah’s brother Caden, whom we met in the last book.  (It’s another brother who has killed himself.)  The concept that somehow someone is forcing veterans to kill themselves was creepy and intriguing.  Also, with a theme like suicide there is obviously some discussion about mental health, which I overall felt like was handled well, acknowledging how treatment for one person doesn’t look the same as it does for another person.  Sarah, for instance, is very against medication, but her brother was on medication that he felt was helping him adjust, and neither option is presented as better or worse than the other.

Sarah herself is a character I had a rather love/hate relationship with.  There were a lot of things about Sarah that I liked – she’s intelligent, hardworking, and loyal – but she also has this HUGE beef with her dad and spends pretty much the entire book whining about him, and has apparently spent her entire life trying to hurt his feelings/make him mad.  She absolutely refuses to even consider that it’s even a tiny bit possible that even a little fraction of his actions come from a place of love and wanting to protect her.  Instead, she’s obsessed with him being the big villain in her life who ruins everything because he’s a control freak – which basically turns her into a control freak because she literally can’t handle anyone else making decisions for or about her, even small ones, or even ones that are made while she’s UNCONSCIOUS for pity’s sake.  I really have a lot of trouble empathizing with adults who blame all of their life problems on their parents.  Yes, your parents are important and your parents can really screw you up.  But if you’re 30 and still blaming your parents for your life problems, when you’ve been on your own for a decade, it’s time to wonder if at least some of your problems are because of you.  Also, Sarah is supposedly a Christian, but the fact that she has this gigantic forgiveness issue isn’t ever really addressed within that framework – the entire deal with Sarah and her dad is just kind of tidied up at the end with a “oh I guess he loves me after all!” and then we all move on… ???  There’s another point where Gavin tells Sarah’s dad that he (the dad) needs to apologize to Sarah if he ever wants Sarah’s forgiveness and… that’s not actually how forgiveness is supposed to work.  You don’t have to get an apology first.  If you’re hanging on to bitterness and anger, you’re only hurting yourself – getting an apology is a completely different part of healing.  In short, I felt like Sarah was just as much to blame for her bad relationship with her dad as her dad was, but her dad gets all the blame and is supposed to do all the groveling, and that really annoyed me.

In the end, there is a big chase scene/villain reveal that felt kind of over-the-top all things considered.  Exciting, but a bit more in a ???? way than an I’m-genuinely-engaged way, if that makes sense.

All in all, I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either, leaving it with that dreaded 3* rating.  I’ll still definitely read the third book when it appears, but this one felt like a weaker entry to the series to me.

Thank you to Revell for a review copy of this book – receiving it for free didn’t change my opinions at all.