Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Stronghold by Lisa Carter

Reading this novel was not really a pleasant experience for me. There were several factors that made it tough reading.

One was the setting. The novel takes place on the Arizona rez and in Mexican mountains. Both of these locations are foreign to me and I had trouble imagining them in my mind. It was almost like the author felt I should be familiar with the scenery and geological features so did not do what I felt was an adequate job of setting each scene for me.

Another factor was the ethnicity of the characters. They were Apache and Mexicans. The author used many words from their native languages that were new to me and I didn't understand. There was also the practice of calling people by different parts of their full name that I found confusing. I didn't like the behavior of many of the Apache characters. There seemed to be lots of lying and deception and putting Apache honor before truth or honesty.

And then there were the characters themselves. I did not find myself being drawn in by them or feeling compassion for them. I found Alex to be an odd man. He was an FBI agent yet had unrestrained emotions. Rather than being a strong male character, I found his emotional outbursts to be disconcerting and disliked. I don't like a lead male character who cannot control himself, whether it be sexual desires or angry outbursts. I didn't like Pilar (or Pia or Maria or Caterina or Mia) very well. Yes, she'd been sexually assaulted and gravely hurt in the past. I did not feel she had successfully worked her way through the hurt and was captive to it. I did not see her as a strong female lead character who would garner my admiration.

The subject of the plot is female kidnapping and sexual slavery of Apache women and children by Mexicans. There was a long history to this practice and it was being done in the novel by a drug lord. That was a hard subject to read about.

Perhaps what I found most disconcerting about the novel was the author's writing style. There were many incomplete sentences and prepositional phrases as sentences. Sometimes sentences were one word. Or two. The choppy nature of the text was distracting. I prefer authors use accepted rules of language to create a suspenseful scene, not a choppy writing style.

I found the structure of the novel difficult as well. It was not until I was about half way through that the whole thing began to make sense to me. The flashbacks helped flesh out the current situation but it took several of them to do so. Perhaps there would have been a better way to structure the story so I would have been drawn into it right away.

I would recommend this novel to readers who would enjoy lots of violence incorporated into the setting of Apache Mexican interaction. There is a strong Christian element in the form of Alex. (Another reason to wonder at his uncontrolled angry outbursts.) There is a lengthy discussion guide included.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Lisa Carter is the author of several novels. She and her husband have two daughters and live in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can find out more at

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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