After hacking into his company’s servers and stealing information in order to prove it is not secure, Thomas Aberthol is sentenced to five years in prison. While there, he learns that he has a daughter on the way and then must watch helplessly as she wastes away from leukemia. Once out of prison, Thomas is unable to find work and even with his mother Charlotte’s support, Hannah’s medical bills have left the family on the brink of homelessness and without any way to afford the bone marrow transplant or medications that could save her life. When Thomas goes for an interview at Polytech, he is shocked to find his former best friend and the man he ran out on after a drunken make-out session.
When Aleksander “Aleks” Sanna comes across a special interest piece about Thomas and his daughter, he’s moved to help the only man he’s ever loved; however, when he discovers the extent of Thomas’s financial plight, he proposes a plan that will not only help Thomas’s family, but also help him find answers to his father’s mysterious murder—a marriage of convenience. Unfortunately, in finding answers, Thomas’s biggest worries morph from going back to prison to fearing for the life of his family and the one person he’s ever felt an intense connection with when he uncovers someone’s involvement with a criminal organization.
Saving Hannah pulled me into Thomas’s desperation, heartbreak, and humanity from the first pages with such power that I could ignore some of the shakier or less believable aspects of the story. It is gut wrenching to see Thomas’s pain, hopelessness, and guilt, or his and Charlotte’s tears as they contemplate their dismal future. While Aleks’s backstory and motivations for offering to marry Thomas to provide health insurance and financial assistance for Hannah’s cancer are not as soul-stirring per se, Barnaby does a good job portraying Aleks’ loneliness and lifelong desire for a family and his love for Thomas to keep Aleks from seeming too much like an opportunistic creep.
As enjoyable as the book is, there is a bit of unevenness and lack of follow through with a few story elements that make it feel like some things were cut from the story. For instance, Charlotte starts off as a pragmatic and supportive figure, but seems to turn on a dime after Thomas accepts Aleks’s offer and basically calls her son a whore and demonizes Aleks. There are also mentions of Thomas’ hacking into his company being more involved and him being screwed over by someone named Richard, but nothing comes of it. Also, once the mystery/suspense element takes over about halfway through, readers’ patience and suspension of disbelief may be tested by some of Thomas and Aleks’ choices and the compression of their relationship development into the space of about a week. Although the story is in the mystery/suspense genre, this aspect is so on the backburner that it is easy to forget the story isn’t a contemporary romance and be a bit thrown with the sudden shift from an engaging story of building a family into a very high stakes crime thriller.
That being said, even with the story’s shift, Barnaby is able to keep readers invested because of the fact that the characters’ reactions and emotional volatility are relatable and believable. The anguish, fear, frustration, hopelessness, etc they all go through as the course of their lives are once again dictated by outside forces they feel helpless to combat holds the narrative pieces together. Despite some hiccups and an ending that is believable but may not be for everyone, Saving Hannah is a well-paced read about the lengths that love and a desire for a loving family will drive some people to and how, no matter the outside hardships, people are lucky to have it.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.