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    Riveting new shift for Samantha Cole. Kudos!

    With The Friar, Samantha Cole has taken her readers in a totally new, direction. I'm not surprised I loved it. What surprised me & shouldn't have, is her versatility. Her prior series (Trident Security & The Omega Team) are thriller/mystery/BDSM romances. But The Friar is a complete departure. It's a romance but I can honestly say it's a romance unlike any other I've ever read. It's the story of Adam Westfield & Sage Hammond. Brother Adam, a Franciscan friar, kneels before an altar in a small church, dipping his fingers into holy water before him, praying for forgiveness. He waits, knowing what's coming. After hours on his knees, the police arrive to arrest him for the death of Brother Armand Santiago. Adam feels his guilt deep in his soul & doesn't consider resisting. The sad irony is his foster brother, Shane Stewart, the man he spent his teenage years with, is one of the detectives. It's almost as hard on Shane as it is on Adam, who accepts a plea deal for manslaughter & is sentenced to 10 years at Sing-Sing. Although he's resigned from the Brotherhood, Adam attempts to atone for his perceived sin by ministering to the inmates. He's a model prisoner, helps many & is released for good behavior just over 5 years later. But Adam has never forgiven himself. Nearly everyone involved with the case feels he went to prison unjustly. Adam caught Brother Armand red-handed molesting a young teenage boy. He reacted in the heat of passion & protectiveness. In the eyes of others, Adam did nothing wrong. Many consider him a hero. But Adam can't get past the fact that, however it happened, he killed a man whose life he'd had no right to take. Rather than put the young victim through a trial, Adam's guilt & remorse makes him accept the plea deal & do his time. Sage Hammond's a widow with two young children. Her husband was killed in a tragic riding accident two-and-one-half years ago, leaving her to run Heaven's Pastures, their horse breeding ranch. With the help of the family's long-time employees, Evan & Maddie Tanner, Sage has barely managed to keep the ranch afloat, what with Mark's medical bills & the mortgage taken on the ranch to pay them. She can't afford to pay ranch hands much. They just keep leaving, most without notice. She desperately needs help. After his release from prison, Adam prays, asking for guidance to find his new place in life. Without clear direction, he hitchhikes around the country, moving from place to place, job to job, never staying in one place for long. Then he lands in Rosewood, OK, where he meets Reverend Stephens. After getting to know each other, the reverend sends Adam to Sage's ranch. Sage needs help. Adam needs a job. So Adam walks the 6 miles to Sage's ranch to see if she'll take a chance on him. After a convoluted series of events & with no small amount of hesitation about hiring an ex-con, Sage offers Adam the job. From here, the story takes the reader through twists, turns, mysteries, unexpected events & emotions of every sort. There's the wealthy neighbor with a large ranch of his own who seems desperate to buy Sage's ranch, Sage's best friend who both approves & disapproves of Adam, a small town split between typical small town gossip & distrust of strangers & the inherent goodness of people to give others a second chance. As the relationship between Sage & Adam grows from initial distrust & an uneasy truce, trust, friendship & perhaps even more, begin to grow. Then events take a dark turn. With Adam's past hanging over them like a cloud, & Sage's inability to put her past behind her, do these two even stand a chance? The Friar is the story of two damaged souls seeking redemption, acceptance, & love. But it's so much more. Samantha Cole once again shows her proficiency, cleverness & command of literary style. I give The Friar my highest possible recommendation. Kudos Samantha! You have yet another winner on your hands! Thanks for reading my review & happy reading!
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