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Connection: Gifted Book Two
Retired Army Captain Jackson Howe views his ability to "connect" with others as invasive and inconvenient, but he deals with it by only using his power to help others. He's found purpose at Havenhart Academy using art therapy with child victims of trauma and his friends have embraced him and his quirky behavior, but after meeting Delaney's friend Cassidy—and developing a stronger than usual "connection" with her—he fears he's destined to forever be on the outside looking in. But when Cassidy's link to Havenhart makes her a target and the plane she's flying is hijacked, she's forced to crashland in the Florida Everglades and becomes a pawn in the struggle between good and evil. Jackson will call on his training—and special skills—to save her from an enemy determined to spread evil and hurt those Jackson holds dear. Follow the continuing saga of Havenhart Academy in Book Two of the Gifted Series.
Reviews
Merrill continues her Gifted series (after Healer) of paranormal romance thrillers with former Army Ranger captain Jack Howe using his extraordinary gifts to help rescue a kidnapped woman. Jack officially works as an art teacher at Havenhart Academy in Arkansas, a school for kids impacted by tragic circumstances, but he is more than just an art teacher—he also excels at using psychic abilities to heal others. When Cassidy Mackenzie, a charter pilot and best friend to Havenhart’s school counselor Delaney, is abducted by Gerald Rains, leader of a powerful religious cult, Jack volunteers to rescue her. Jack has his own history with Rains, and as he reconnects with a former Ranger buddy to save Cassidy, he knows nothing will get in his way.

Jack’s a compelling character, and his vividly described psychic sight is the underlying current powering much of the narrative. He stumbles onto Cassidy’s abduction through his clairvoyance, in the process discovering Gerald is still alive–despite Jack believing he was dead after his team previously prevented Gerald from kidnapping his own daughter, Joanna, who happens to attend Havenhart. Jack’s psychic Connection with Cassidy is his strongest yet, leading him to risk everything for her recovery. Merrill’s focus on her characters’ paranormal abilities creates a unique attachment between them as well as glimpses of their inner workings, and Jack’s narrative is both authentic and insightful—particularly when he delves into his past psychic experience with his father’s death by suicide.

Merrill’s view and development of The Maker’s Plan Community is disturbingly real and reminiscent of famous cults in history. The community resides in the vast and almost undetectable swamplands of the Florida Everglades, which lends credibility to the isolation and indoctrination of its members. An ever-present element of suspense reinforces the story’s rapid pace, and Merrill delivers a riveting conclusion that will entice readers with the possibility of future installments.

Takeaway: A former Army Ranger with intense psychic abilities relies sets out to rescue a woman abducted by a religious cult.

Great for fans of: Gregg Olsen’s The Hive, Matt Miksa’s Don’t Get Close.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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