Rating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel

Jake Callahan was looking forward to spending time with his brother, Hayden, and Hayden’s boyfriend up at their cabin for Christmas. It had been an extremely tough year for everyone who worked at Sanctuary, the secret organization devoted to keeping witnesses and other “vulnerables” safe when the alphabet organizations (CIA, FBI etc) couldn’t. Sanctuary operatives were still trying to close down the Bullen case as there were files still to be encrypted and a few criminals left to round up. Still, this time of year was special to Jake and he needs it now more than ever as the betrayal by ex-FBI agent Sean Hanson is as painful as the day he first learned that Sean was working for Bullen. Now all Jake wants is some peace and time with his brother but Mother Nature is making that impossible. The northeast corridor is being blanketed by a snow storm, Hayden is stuck in New York City with his boyfriend Beckett, and Jake is facing Christmas alone at the cabin. That is until a bloody and injured Sean Hansen appears on his doorstep and faints into the snow.

Sean is being hunted by several factions, all of whom want him dead. The gunshot wound in his side attests to that and between the pain and the snow, Sean is beginning to despair of ever making his destination. The cabin called Sanctuary One is no longer used for official business, but Sean figured it would just be off the grid enough for him to be safe there until the last of his mission is finished. And then all Sean wants to do is find the man he had started to love, so he could explain and apologize. The last person he expects to see just before passing out from pain and blood loss is Jake, the man he has been thinking about.  As the snow storm turns into a blizzard that seals the cabin off from everyone around them, Jake and Sean are left to deal with their memories, emotions, and the fact that the killers are still on Sean’s trail, putting them both in danger.

RJ Scott’s Sanctuary series remains one of my top series for 2012 and this latest edition just cements it firmly in place. The Journal of Sanctuary One picks up where Full Circle left off, with members of the Bullen family in custody, the Bullen case coming to a close, and Sean Hansen escaping from a prison van and on the loose. Now only a short time later, all the operatives are in recovery mode in one way or another. Manny and Josh are at a safe house in Canada, working on the encryption of the files, Hayden and Beckett are in New York, Dale is waiting for Joseph to come back from a mission, and Jake is feeling alone and hurting from Sean’s betrayal. And you are there with him, feeling his pain and loneliness.

And that is one of the real joys of this series. Scott has created a cast of characters, so complex, so real, and from a variety of backgrounds that they are memorable from the very start. In some books and series, I have to think hard to bring up names and associate them with their personas.  Not so with the Sanctuary series. Mention Morgan and I can picture him in detail. Joseph and Dale, two of the hottest characters (Navy Seal and ex-Seal) in the series, and I feel as though I know them intimately. Over the course of the series, we meet one unforgettable character after another and watch as they bond with each other, and find love. And through it all, the thread that ties the books together along with the Sanctuary organization is the Bullen crime family, which extends from Congress to the many family businesses. The Bullens have destroyed families, tortured and murdered their way to the accumulation of wealth and power. And Scott managed to make the investigation as thrilling as her love stories. Each book moved the investigation forward (and sometimes back, depending upon the double cross) and always a new criminal element presented itself by the end of the book, as well as a new couple. How I loved every minute they continued to investigate the Bullen crime family, a most heinous group of thugs and the wild pathways they took to get evidence and witnesses.

And The Journal of Sanctuary One brings the investigation back to its very beginnings, including something I didn’t see coming, and back to Jake Callahan whose father started the Sanctuary organization and who built Sanctuary One. The author really pulls together all the elements from each book, including some I didn’t realize were important, to finish off the Bullens once and for all. We get a closer understanding not only of who Jake is, and what has driven him all these years, but that of Sean Hansen, an enigma whose story we have been waiting to hear. Scott has included most of the characters we love from the other stories, even if we only see and hear them over the phones and Skype.

And there is nothing like a snowbound cabin to bring out the emotional explosions and stress that have been building for these characters and the author delivers the required scenes in painful detail and authentically loud conversations. Just what you would expect from these men who are so much each others equal in every way, just perfect.

So have we heard the last from Sanctuary and its operatives? I hope not. I get the feeling that we will be hearing from Dale and Joseph soon. Remember Dale was expecting Joseph back from his mission and we never heard that he made it. Hmmmm….funny that. It brings me hope that this outstanding series will continue and that I will meet up once more with all my favorite couples as they investigate, hack, protect, and love. So if you haven’t made the acquaintance of Sanctuary and their operatives, start at the beginning with Guarding Morgan and work your way through the stories in the order they were written. That way you won’t miss a double cross, new witness, or new crime and of course, new couple. You will love them as much as I do.

The Sanctuary series in the order they should be read in order to fully understand the Bullen family conspiracy and the characters involved:

Note: This series was originally published by Silver Publishing but is now available through Love Lane Books.