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A Hunted Heart by J.J. Massa

Title: A Hunted Heart
Author: J.J. Massa

Published in 2007 by Linden Bay Romances
Genre: Contemporary
ISBN: 978-1-60202-051-1

Other books: Daddy's Girl, Petals of Passion 1: Dinner for One, Petals of Passion 2: Teacher Teacher, Counting Midnight, Wizard, Witch, Acting Like Family: The Montgomery Family 1, Family Harmony: The Montgomery Family 2, A Family Portrait: The Montgomery Family 3, Managing A Family: The Montgomery Family 4, Family Doctor: The Montgomery Family 5, A Fragile Family: The Montgomery Family Legacies 1, Electric Rayne: The Weather Series 1, Ashes in the Wind: The Weather Series 2, Angel’s Forecast: The Weather Series 3, Knights and Cookies, Signet and Silk Book 1, Signet and Silk Book 2, Fair Game, Lucky, Get Lucky, Learning Curve, Bar Back, Life’s Mysteries, Storm Whispers and Storm View
The Agency Books: Vanya and Lance, Engel and Gustavo, Zeki and Aaron, Merek and Tyrone; Love Like Blood
The Essence Trilogy, Melange, Secret Thoughts: Erotique, Yaoime,

The very beast that destroyed her cherished marriage in tormenting this woman, as her estranged husband carries on an animosity that lasts ten years. This phantom menace inadvertently unites these two fallen lovers, except this time truths are told as forgiveness manifests a new foundation for love. However, the stalker vows, again, to ruin that love… though more permanently.

Tatiana grew up in the Branigan household given that her father worked for them. At six years old, she carried a girlish crush on the oldest Branigan son, Von. No surprise when they married so young, and for eighteen months they existed in a fog of marital bliss. Then Von finds out her secret, shattering their fairy-tale life. He wouldn’t listen, never allowing her explain why she did it. Worse of all is the threat of retaliation if she didn’t perform as her captor wanted; fearing for Von’s life as well as her own. Blind and deaf with heart ache, Von just sends her away. If not for the housekeeper, Mrs. Smith, Tatiana would never have gotten the help needed to move on with her life. Not only to overcome what had been physically done to her, but what Von didn’t do emotionally… he didn’t believe in her.

Von remembers falling in love with Tatiana. It was during the lowest time of his life. Failing in the family business, which he hated anyway, she pulled him from that deep slump encouraging him to pursue the thing he loved most – building sailboats. That move made him happier and richer than his family. Still, with explicit photos and having seen for himself, her in the arms of another man, Von did what any husband would do. He reacted, emotionally, to the physical evidence before him, though never giving Tatiana an opportunity to redeem herself. To him she manipulated his trust, something he gave only to her so explicitly. After her departure, his heart and soul torn beyond repair Von lives the life of a recluse. Now, with the obtuse phone call from the police department, Von regrets not mending a pain that could have healed.

A Hunted Heart opens with suspense as Tatiana faces her mysterious stalker. After slamming her head into the wall and then pushing her down the stairwell sets the level of intrigue that continues throughout this fast-paced story. With her doctorate in criminal psychology, Tatiana Branigan becomes a renowned criminal profiler, although more known for authoring a widely read suspense series, Life Shadows. For ten years she has been hounded by an entity that knows the most intimate details of her life. After the attack in her apartment complex, long time friend and police detective, Bill Lester calls Von hoping he will provide a safe haven so she may heal from the assault. Just hearing his voice causes old pains to emerge from their icy depths, but calling her by his favorite name, “angel” makes all those fears melt away.

This fascinating story, published by Linden Bay Romance gives way to a robust, authentic cast that supports this vigorous, thrilling plot. The characters agile though at times gentle dialog soothes the terror interwoven in this tale. After his arrival at the police station, Von is stunned, though relieved to find Tatiana alive, if not a bit battle weary. Though shocked, Detective Lester quickly ascertains that he is Tatiana’s husband; explaining her lack of interest in other men. In a way, Von feels obligated to give Tati a safe place to relax and recover, since she saved him over a decade ago. Yet, that debt is overshadowed by the familiar tingle of love they shared too. During her stay, Von is baffled by her jumpy behavior as an unspoken fear hangs in the air, mostly towards him. When gathering some things needed from her apartment, he begins to fathom her wary behavior. The stalker gained entrance into the apartment, leaving blatant clues to his being there, although they’re clear messages that only Tatiana can decipher. Von assumes this stalker makes Tatiana nervous. Her admission later not only stuns Von, but also has him inundated with guilt.

Hidden well and at a prudent distance the stalker watches as Von enters Tatiana’s home. Furious that he is back in her life, his resentment towards Von escalates. Yet, he fondly remembers ruining the man’s happiness ten years ago. Reciprocation for all the misdeeds Von has done to him over the years. With Von back in the picture, securing Tatiana for himself will be hard, but murder has always been an option. The stalker plans his next move except this time with more lethal intent.

Bringing to light the horrors of rape and its long-term aftermath, Ms. Massa handles it with dignity and grace; though still a hard story to read. Beautifully illustrating the strength and initiative a rape victim embraces as she rises above the hostile act. Tatiana is still troubled the brutal rape and beating she endured ten years ago. Though she never presses charges, her attacker continues his assault through numerous pranks and finally an all out stalking. With Von’s renewed support and love, she confesses her suspicions about who her stalker may be; now ready to confront him after a decade of torment. Ms. Massa masterfully conveys Von as a extremely tolerant man giving his wife time to divulge her ordeal when she is ready. However, when she finally speaks of it his reaction is natural, as anger and disbelief run the emotional gauntlet. His love for Tatiana still storng as he seeks counsel from a therapist wanting to understand the ramifications of rape. Even while reading her books he scans for clues to the attacker’s identity, but all he finds is that the man is someone close to the family.

An engaging fascinating suspense story, A Hunted Heart thrills and charms, submerging the reader into a delightful romance filled with mystery and suspense. Ms. Massa is a multi-genre author, even writing M/M romance stories for women. A moment if I may to “fan-gush”… I am so addicted to J.J. Massa’s manlove books! Anyhow, The Essence Trilogy and The Edge are due soon for re-release. As four toehr pieces are due out as new releases; Summer Fantasies, an anthology and three The Agency stories; Piet and Nico, Ryan and Si, and Yuesfu and Cade. Although missing from her re-publication list is two M/M erotic novels Rocks and Hard Places and Rusty Chemistry, part of my JJ Massa ebooks from Venus Press, a publisher now closed. Hopefully they too will find a new home, maintaining the varied array and quantity of entertaining books from Ms. Massa’s collection.

A Dedicated Reader,

Pamela Jenewein

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