Author: Timothy Jay Smith
Publisher: iUniverse (January 16th, 2012)
Length: Novel (220pages)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4Heart
Blurb: Army sharpshooter and deserter Cooper Chance is trapped. Recruited from Iraq to fight in an African country ravaged by a chronic civil war, Cooper wants nothing more than to go home. Unfortunately, the only thing waiting for him in America is jail, and Cooper is acutely claustrophobic. Whether he likes it or not, he now leads the life of a mercenary, in a gritty world filled with thugs, prostitutes and corrupt cops.
To survive his desperate circumstances, Cooper trades diamonds. One day he wanders into a diamond shop, where he meets Sadiq, a young merchant as lost in the world as he is. As they fall in love, Cooper has no idea Sadiq has ulterior motives. Meanwhile huge oil reserves are discovered nearby, and the CIA offers Cooper a way home without jail time if Cooper agrees to carry out a risky, high-stakes mission.
Cooper will do anything to get home – except sell his soul to the devil. But when a teenage prostitute he has promised to save suddenly disappears, Cooper finally relents. Unfortunately, he has no idea that unexpected consequences wait.
Review: I should start off by saying this was a more somber read than my normal books of choice. That being said, I was compelled to read it and the sad truths it held. I was wary about starting it, but once I did, Mr. Smith hooked me. Cooper is a soldier trapped in Lalanga. He’s forced to leave his post because of an affair with his CO, who is in denial of his preference for men. The situation was life or death for Cooper. Leaving meant he was a deserter. So he’s trying to survive when he happens upon one of Lalanga’s many brothels and meets a girl name Lulay whom he has an instant need to protect. She says she seventeen, but it’s closer to fifteen. It’s not like there aren’t hundreds like her, but this one girl gives him a purpose beyond surviving the hot hell that is Lalanga. He’s in no position to save her so he does the best he can. Buys her time, condoms and protects her when he can. To make money he buys stolen blood diamonds from the children who work the mines. It’s dangerous to steal from the Colonel Diamond, but the living conditions are so poor they risk the danger.
Cooper sells the diamonds to diamond business man in town. One day he walks into the shop and sees a beautiful boy named, Sadiq, the owner’s son. Cooper is immediately intrigued by the boy and seeks him out whenever possible. They develop a friendship while Cooper secretly hopes for more. The duties expected of Sadiq as the only son of his family make admitting his preference for men impossible. So they steal away moments of passion where they can.
When Cooper is busted by the local dirty police chief, he’s pushed into a situation needing the help of an annoyingly ever-present CIA agent. The agent requests Cooper’s help with a major task based on his special skills. Cooper refuses until the situation with Lulay is dire. Her owner has plans to sell her to a possibly worse situation. Cooper can’t buy anymore diamonds to sell. When he goes to find her he learns she’s been sold. Frantic with worry he goes to the CIA agent to make a deal for finding Lulay. The tension builds as the books final pages play out.
I, of course, won’t give away the ending, but it’s safe to say this wasn’t an easy read. The conditions these people lived in hurt my heart. This is a tale of girls and boys being sold or tricked into prostitution, ruthless evil men doing as they please and a lovely but tragic possible romance between two men hoping for the chance to love.