Sworn to Protect by DiAnn Mills

Having lived in the midwest for more than 10 years, I haven’t given much thought to our country’s borders or the people who reside near them. DiAnn Mills’ new suspense fiction, Sworn to Protect, gives an interesting look into the southernmost areas of the U.S. and the profession that works to keep the borders safe.

Set in McAllen, Texas, this page-turner opens with a dangerous operation that takes place near the Rio Grande, a river that serves as the Mexico-United States border. While on duty preventing illegal human and drug trafficking, U.S. Border Patrol agent Danika Morales recalls a dreadful event that happened two years ago: her husband, Toby, was murdered, and his body was left beside an obscure road. The crime went unresolved.

The unseen offender is now stalking her, aiming to end her life and destroy her family. As a single mother, Danika is concerned about her deaf little girl, Tiana, and Tiana’s nanny and family’s housekeeper, Sandra Rodriguez.

The Border Patrol suspects there is “a rogue agent” who secretly supplies information about the sensors’ locations to an outsider. Danika’s coworkers and supervisor turn their eyes to Jacob, Danika’s brother-in-law. Since his brother’s death, Jacob has fallen into a deep, angry depression. Danika’s job brings her to befriend an overworked doctor at a local medical clinic. With compassion and dedication, Dr. Alex Price gives free medical help to a flow of undocumented workers who need his urgent care.

Despite their different stands on immigration issues, Danika and Alex form a warm friendship. Then someone in Danika’s family disappears, and the shooter strikes again. Danika discovers that people who are close to her most are not what they appear to be. Her brother-in-law, her housekeeper, and even Alex have all been keeping secrets from her.

In this exciting, complicated tale, Mills brilliantly creates a winsome protagonist in Danika Morales. As the plot unfolds, the reader will sympathize and adore this capable heroine. With a risky and demanding career, Danika is a widow who raises a child with special needs. She is vulnerable yet intelligent and strong. Her devotion to her country and family is noble and respectful. Throughout the book, seeing the book cover and Danika’s last name, I imagined her as a gorgeous, tall, and slender heroine with long black hair. However, Danika is described by Mills as a beautiful “blue-gray eyed blonde.”

This fiction has more action than romance. About one third of the way into book, Danika decides to go out on a date with Alex. But the details of the outing are omitted by the author.

The storyline of Sworn to Protect is not novel  -- the heroine’s husband was killed and she is being hunted by the murderer and pursued by a handsome hero. The author, though, throws in twists and turns that keep the reader interested. The only drawback about this book is the portrayal of its supporting characters, who act irrationally, rendering part of the story unrealistic. Additional backgrounds to explain the characters’ decisions would greatly improve the story.

The author explores many facets of the Border Patrol’s work and responsibilities. The agents put their lives on the line as they work tirelessly in dangerous terrains. Their job involves not only preventing undocumented workers from entering the U.S. illegally but also dealing with drug smugglers, gangs, and terrorists.

Mills includes a note section at the back of the book that is worthwhile to read. While she was conducting research to write the book, she discovered that she “didn’t know much at all about the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual stresses of our neighbor south of the Rio Grande or the brave men and women who protect our borders.” And “I hope this novel has made you more aware of our immigration issue, and may we pray together for a resolution.”

A winner of 2011 Christy Award in the Contemporary Romance category, Sworn to Protect is a great read, not just for female fans of a romantic suspense genre. This book would also satisfy male readers who enjoy suspense fiction with a strong heroine character in an exciting line of work.

About the Author

Sukalaya Kenworthy is a senior library assistant and ESL instructor at the Westport Branch. Interested in learning English as a second language? The ESL class meets the first and fourth Wednesday of the month at 4:00 p.m. For more information, e-mail Sukalaya or call 816.701.3488.