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Never Look Back
by Kathy Herman

Reviewed by Cheryl Russell

"..with a deft hand, [Herman] gives enough realism to maker her characters believable while at the same time keeping a message of hope and faith alive."

Never Look Back, second in the Phantom Hollow series by Kathy Herman, continues the story of Ivy Griffith's path to redemption begun in Ever Present Danger.

Ivy ran away from her hometown of Jacob's Ear, Colorado, ten years earlier to escape the memory of witnessing and covering up her classmate's murder. That led her down a dark path of drug use and prostitution, during which time she gave birth to a son, now seven-year-old Montana, whose father she doesn't even remember.

Never Look Back begins with Ivy's release from jail after serving her sentence for her part in the cover up. Eager to make a fresh start, Ivy faces the prospect of finally being able to be a real mom to her son with both eagerness and trepidation. She doesn't want to let him down again. A new job at her parent's Christian conference center, along with a cabin of her own on the center grounds for she and Montana, make Ivy feel for the first time in a long time that she has a family and home of her own.

When Ivy meets Rue Kessler, one of the men hired to refinish the chalet cabins, she is drawn to his kindness toward Montana and his attentiveness to her. But Rue has secrets of his own and, although he has been sober for almost a year, their shared history of addiction concerns her. While Ivy wants to give Montana a father who loves him, she also wants to be sure that she's not falling into her old, destructive patterns again.

Then a series of brutal beatings has the town in fear and law enforcement looking for clues. While Rue is on the suspect list, Ivy trusts his claims of innocence. But what are he and Montana hiding from her? And, although she knows that God has forgiven her, can she leave the shame of her past behind and live in the freedom of that forgiveness?

Kathy Herman takes a storyline containing many dark areas and, with a deft hand, gives enough realism to make her characters believable while at the same time keeping a message of hope and faith alive. She is a master at creating a whole town of characters and making each one, no matter how big or small their part in the story, distinctive and memorable.

I appreciate the realistic way faith in Christ is portrayed in the characters who are believers. Ivy and Rue struggle to remain pure, keeping the physical attraction between them under control even though both desire to give into it. Ivy's father, Elam, can't let himself forgive his best friend, Sheriff Flint Carter, for his part in Ivy's arrest. These issues are ones many readers will identify with, and I found the way Kathy dealt with them honest and refreshing.

In addition to great characters, Kathy writes a page-turning mystery, one with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing until the very end.

I look forward to continuing Ivy's story in The Grand Scheme, book three in the Phantom Hollow series, scheduled to be released in April of 2008.

Cheryl Russell lives in the Midwest with her husband and three children. Her short stories, as well as a few articles, have been published in print and online. She's loved to read for as long as she can remember and puts all that time to good use writing book reviews for Infuze, Novel Reviews, and Title Trakk. She's also a member of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, FIRST network, Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour and American Christian Fiction Writers. She's currently working on her first novel. If she could, she'd spend her time hanging out in the thermal areas of Yellowstone in general, Norris Geyser Basin in particular. Another favorite spot is Kennicott, an old copper mining town in Wrangel-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, which is at the end of a 60 mile dirt road, 8 hours west of Anchorage. She and her family are frequent hikers in the national parks, and have pounded the dirt trails in Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. You can visit her at her blog, Unseen Worlds or at her website.