Two women engineers struggle to develop the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft amid ever intensifying global terrorism and muddled personal lives. Trisha Callahan has an abiding faith in God, and “those roots of middy blouses and pleated skirts, prayer books and incense-filled churches went deep.” This faith is tested when she finds herself in love with a married man. Audra Shields sees herself as a modern Lady Chatterley, “liberated but not forsaking breeding, intellect, or femininity.” When she becomes involved with a dangerous stranger, she begins to question her lifestyle. Both women try sorting out their personal problems while racing the clock to finish a project fraught with sabotage and murder. And who’s behind it all? When the Department of Homeland Security and the Mossad finally figure it out, the answer surprises everyone.
Trisha Callahan and Audra Shields are two female engineers employed by Patterson Aviation. Their current project is to develop the world's first nuclear powered aircraft, work that could not be more aptly timed as the world falls victim to chaos fueled by ever-growing threats of global terrorism. In this novel, the United States has been almost entirely taken over by multiple Islamic extremist groups, the largest one going so far as to address the US as now being ISA or the Islamic State of America. In this world, the US is still technically governed by a president, President Thaddeus Baker, but our president in this story seems to have become little more than a political figurehead. In fact, those who vocally oppose the political changes taking over the US, citizens deemed "subversives", suspect that President Baker is actually working with the extremists for his own personal gains. But now Baker's term is coming to a close, meaning it's time for the election of a new president -- will the US win a candidate who can fight back against the extremists and get our country back on track or will the citizens be stuck with yet another four years of a sycophantic puppet to ISA leaders?
Trisha and Audra work to keep their focus on this vitally important technology. It occurs to them that if they can get the nuclear technology to work on the plane, there are actually numerous other applications that could greatly benefit from this project, namely their plans to develop nuclear power from the use of seawater, potentially allowing the US to no longer dependent on foreign oil. Once word of this technology starts to leak to outside ears, Trisha and Audra quickly find not only their work but their lives threatened. There's evidence of sabotage to the building site and people tied to the project start turning up dead under mysterious circumstances.
While all this is going on, there's also a secondary story that unfolds with Joshua Chapman. Joshua is an Israeli Jew with dual citizenship and the brother of Daniel, one of Trisha's best friends. He also happens to be a member of the Mossad, a Middle Eastern intelligence agency (a sort of Secret Service, you might say) quietly trying to assist members of the US government wanting to bring down the terrorist groups. He poses as a computer security specialist with the company Global Icon and is hired by Cassy, the niece of presidential candidate Senator Merrill to monitor any technologically based threats sent his way. While working together, Joshua and Cassy uncover some shady information regarding the other major presidential candidate Senator Garby whose dealings with the current president might not be all that much on the up & up. Just as Joshua and Cassy become privy to these details, President Baker comes out and declares the US under a state of martial law while also throwing around a bit of eminent domain. Scary, scary times for our characters!
Bambola definitely gets you thinking with some of these passages!
It doesn't stop there though, this is one layered plot! While all that business with political murkiness is going on there is an additional side story written around the personal / romantic lives of Trisha and Audra. Trisha is a woman of deep faith and religious convictions, but even so finds herself in love with her married boss, Mike Patterson, now the owner of his father's company, Patterson Aviation. Due to her moral code though, Trisha forces herself to keep silent about her feelings. Meanwhile, Audra is living the complete opposite lifestyle. Audra feels like the world is going into the proverbial toilet, so she's all about living in the moment, having casual, fun hookups with men without developing any strong attachments to anyone. This YOLO type thinking lands her in a number of less than enjoyable circumstances, one such being her dalliance with bar fly Bubba Hanagan. It's her dealings with Bubba that finally wake Audra up and get her thinking that just maybe she DOES want more out of life than what she's been bringing home lately.
Author Sylvia Bambola provides the reader with a note on the text before you even get into the novel, notifying you that this book is a bit of an updated, expanded version of her now out of print novel, Vessel of Honor, a story she wrote three years prior to the 9/11 attacks. Though she is upfront with that information, she is also quick to point out that it's not a straight up repackaging, but more like she used the previous novel as a starting point for some other plot ideas she wanted to work into a story... just so happens the ideas that came to her more recently worked in nicely with that older work.
I never read Vessel of Honor, so I can't give you a comparison here. I will say that I did enjoy this story and could appreciate the amount of work that went into making this such a layered, complex work. I found myself impressed at how well the little details of the plot were laid out, how all the characters seemed to have these faint connections to one another, the kind that would almost go unnoticed but if the connection wasn't there the story as a whole would lose some of its impact in the pivotal moments. One example being how Mike's wife, Renee, gets involved in campaigning for Senator Garby... or even how Joshua, the brother of Trisha's friend Daniel, ends up playing such an important role in protecting her down the road. In the grand scheme of things, their connections / interactions to more major characters is quite small, but their contributions to the story prove to be essential by novel's end. That's some serious writer skill right there!
That being said, in all honesty it was not my favorite of Bambola's works to date. What was lacking for me was what I've come to love from her other books, her seemingly effortless ability to make characters come alive. What's stood out to me as a reader is her way of getting through to this admittedly maybe slightly jaded reader. I go through A TON of books each year, I read some great stuff but let's be real, there's a mountain of mediocre out there. I sometimes go through stretches where I read several books that, while well written, I realize didn't profoundly move me. Bambola's books have given me that sensation of deeply caring that I so missed, but I don't know what happened with this one. It falls under that category of definitely being well-written but I didn't really fall in love with any one character here. The closest I could maybe say was reading the closing of Audra's story. I was saddened at how her exit plays out, and though Bambola provides an afterword explaining why she gave Audra the ending she did, I still didn't love it.
Note To Readers: Sylvia Bambola is an author of Christian Fiction. While I've noted in past reviews that much of her historical fiction (of what I've personally read anyway) is pretty light on the religious aspect and thus friendly to readers of any and all faiths, be aware that this one is much heavier on the Christian themes. Just wanted to make note of that for any readers who prefer to steer away from that.
FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash.com and Heritage Publishing kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.