Seconds to Live – Susan Sleeman

Seconds to Live Susan Sleeman
Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman
Also by this author: Minutes to Die, Hours to Kill
Series: Homeland Heroes #1
Published by Bethany House on December 3, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Romance, Suspense
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"When cybercriminals hack into the U.S. Marshal's Witness Protection database and auction off personal details to the highest bidder, FBI Agent Sean Nichols begins a high-stakes chase to find the hacker. Trouble is, he has to work with U.S. Marshal Taylor Mills, who knows the secrets of his past, and the seconds are ticking down before someone dies"--

“One mistake. That was all it took to put Dustee’s life on the line–death right on her heels.” 

Well, that’s one way to draw in your readers! Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman was the first book by her I’ve read, and also the first story of her Homeland Heroes series. The novel gripped me from beginning to end, starting with the very first line. Who was Dustee? What was her mistake? Did someone want to kill her? Why? Would he (or she) succeed? And what sort of name was “Dustee?”

The difference between secular and Christian romance novels–outside of God, of course–is that the two protagonists always seem to share a history. In Seconds to Live, Sean Nichols and Taylor Mills had worked on a case together, though from different sides of the country. All of their communications had been electronic, and even after the case went cold (something that twists Sean’s insides), they maintained their contact. Grew close to the point of saying they were each other’s best friend, though not admitting it. A case brought them together virtually, and another did the job physically.

While they knew each other well from their written correspondence, Sean and Taylor quickly learned they still had much to discover about each other…and they couldn’t let that distract them from solving a mystery on which so many lives depended. A hacker had infiltrated the U.S. Marshals’ Witness Protection database. The cybercriminal sold the information on the dark web. No questions asked as long as you paid. One click, a bitcoin exchange, and the deed was done.

Although I’m in my 20s, I’m not too cyber-savvy. Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman used terminology I didn’t recognize, but she quickly explained everything in ways that didn’t go over my head. She held my attention through the last page. The romance never seemed forced, though it did seem exaggerated and a little unbelievable at times. Maybe that’s because I’m cynical, but I’d like to think real people would be better able to focus when a database full of people’s lives had been compromised. Not distracted by the sway of a hip or a dimpled smile.

Entertaining…but not Perfect

The book had some clichés that made me roll my eyes. A near-death experience. Trust issues that could fill the deepest abyss known to man. Tragic pasts. Someone getting hurt. Clashing personalities. The action and unique plot helped me overlook them, for the most part. I wouldn’t classify myself as a feminist, but I appreciated the strong female characters in Seconds to Live…even though in that respect, it almost reminded me of a Disney movie. The novel had more gunshots and blood than most Disney movies, though! Sleeman never explicitly described the violence. Unlike some books I’ve read, this one didn’t make me squeamish.

I enjoyed the book, though it left something to be desired, as reflected in the rating. I tired of Sean and Taylor questioning their relationship. Sleemen kept bringing it up, and I wanted to yell at the characters to get over themselves. The writing at times seemed inexperienced, and to be frank, immature. Like the characters were younger in age. I haven’t heard adults past their 20s use the phrase “I can’t even,” and I haven’t said the word “duh” since maybe middle school. Which is another thing that bugged me about Seconds to Live; I had no idea how old the characters were. I guessed in their 30s, but Sleeman never gave an indication of that, unless I overlooked it.

Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman is an exciting story, with multiple characters who I’d like to know better. I like how Sleeman set up the book to end, but also left some things hanging. Don’t worry, there’s no cliffhanger! Sleeman simply gives her readers a 10,000-foot view of a case that still has the RED Team scratching their heads. I’m looking forward to seeing if they’re able to find the answers–and resolution–the team members all seek!