Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
Bloodlines & Betrayals is an interesting Christian suspense and detective mystery novel by Sarah Hualde. The book follows Lydia Everette, a middle-aged amateur detective and home school mom, who constantly finds herself caught up in solving much of the crime that affects her community, the aptly named Honey Pot.
Lydia is joined by many of her fellow home school moms from the community as well as some of the victims she has helped save, having adopted Ivy (a victim of abuse and human trafficking from a previous novel) and her daughter, Scout, whom she conceived after being coerced into sex by Martin, one of the main villains of the novel and of the series.
Martin is a despicable, creepy, and frightening human being (if you could even call him a “human being”) who is a source of most of the novel's tension. His presence alone is enough to send chills down the spines of the characters as well as the reader. Not only is he trying to weasel his way back into Ivy's life (after ruining it), he is also trying to gain access to their daughter, Scout. It is as uncomfortable and creepy as it sounds. Along the way, we get to see his predatory behavior on full display as he stalks his victims, alters his appearance, gets into their good graces with sweets, bribes, and compliments, and even hides in a women's restroom at one point. We get to see how charming and disingenuous he can be.
We were absolutely terrified for Randy, the girl whom Martin is constantly trying to groom in this book. It feels like a race against the clock to protect Randy from becoming a victim like Ivy was.
Martin is disgusting, but he isn't alone. This book does a good job at highlighting that human trafficking isn't just performed by the people in the field, there are higher-ups with deeper pockets who fund it and ensure that it continues.
Much of this book centers around Lydia's attempts to solve the murder of one of Martin's trafficked girls as well as a case worker within two hours of each other. Lydia is married to the town's sheriff, Evan, which puts both of them in a tough predicament with Evan having to balance his trust for his wife's intuitions (essentially a talent she has for solving crimes) with his desire to keep her safe. Apparently, she was kidnapped twice and had a bunch of other stuff happen to her in previous books that we aren't privy to.
Kat is also interesting as she seems to be the friend (of Lydia's) who has connections in the red light district, knowing some of the people who might be aware of what's going on with the murders and the girls in danger.
However, the most compelling character in this book is Ivy, the victim in a previous book who is now a young mother and turning 18. What's interesting about Ivy is that she's an example that being the victim of abuse or exploitation does not define the rest of your life. You can go out and fall in love, start a family, get an education, start a career, and still find things to be thankful for such as the grace of God. Ivy knows that she loves this boy, Grant Justice, but struggles with the idea of starting a relationship. This is obviously triggered by her traumatic experiences and her trust being abused by someone she knew. Ivy's thought process through that whole thing is very sympathetic. You can't help cheer that she finds happiness again.
Ivy is also able to use her experiences to help another endangered girl by providing her phone number in the form of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”--a trick she learned while she herself had to communicate subtly for help.
The first time we read this book, we were lost. We were bombarded with information and characters. The thing is, we didn't know that this was actually the last in a seven book series, so we were missing a lot of background information and context.
Still, after several rereadings, we gained an appreciation for what the author was trying to accomplish.
You can check this out on Amazon!