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Book review: Author blends intrigue with romance in 'Precious Cargo'

By Cecily Markland

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 2 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

"PRECIOUS CARGO," by Jean Holbrook Mathews, Covenant Communications, $15.99, 212 pages (f)

“Precious Cargo,” the latest novel by Jean Holbrook Mathews, brings together a story of heart-wrenching intrigue and heart-warming romance. The combination, in the end, seems to work for a well-worth-it read.

Set in the Philippines, the story wrenches the emotions and promises high drama from the outset, as the book begins with the kidnapping of two children, the latest victims of a child-trafficking scheme. Into the midst of this hazardous, crime-ridden situation drops Julia Wentworth, a U.S. businesswoman returning to Manila on company business. Her return has a bit of drama of its own as it was in Manila that Julia barely escaped from a terrorist group and met the detective she affectionately calls “Monty.”

As the story unfolds, the author artfully uses setting of the rain-soaked Philippines in the midst of an impending typhoon to convey the heaviness of the situation and the dangers of a mudslide and a sinking ferry. Mathews also weaves in the intrigue and the unpleasantness of the criminal investigation and the tender unraveling of feelings between Julia and Monty as they face the question of whether they will be able to surmount the differences in cultural background and distance to ultimately come together in a relationship, which in the book doesn't go beyond chaste kissing.

While the pacing seems a little slow in some places, other scenes are definite page-turners and serve to heighten the overall interest and entertainment value of “Precious Cargo.” Additional flavor and richness comes through in Mathews’ handling of the setting and the development of the characters.

Mathews, who was born in Ogden, is the author of three other novels, “The Light Above,” “Escape to Zion” and “The Assignment.” Mathews spent 10 years as a member of the Missouri State House of Representatives, during which time she continued to pursue her love of history, especially LDS Church history, and she received her master’s degree from the University of Missouri–Columbia.

Cecily Markland is a freelance writer, book editor, publicist and author of "Hope: One Mile Ahead" and the children’s book, "If I Made a Bug." She owns Inglestone Publishing and produces a calendar of LDS events in Arizona (www.cecilymarkland.com).

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