The Friar
Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli's most recent novel is "Deborah Rising" (HarperColllins 2016), the story of the first woman to lead a nation in history.

The Friar, a novel by Samantha A. Cole, is a contemporary story of suspense, romance, and, at its essence, the redemptive power of love.

The male protagonist, Adam Westfield, had spent most of his adult life as a celibate member of the Franciscan Brotherhood, and the last five years in prison for a sinful crime that forces him, upon release, to seek a new meaning and self-forgiveness on the road. The female protagonist, Sage Hammond, has inherited from her dead husband a ranch with a long family history and a short supply of cash, leaving her with a mighty struggle to feed her children and her horses, let alone any employees. The arrival of a wandering man with a wounded soul and a healthy physique (not to mention a loveless past of religious celibacy, recently disavowed) couldn’t be more fortuitous, until trouble—and danger—begins.

Author Samantha A. Cole achieves a perfect balance in gradually building a fire under this unlikely romance between an ex-con and a mother who’s still grieving for her good husband. For example: “She may be a widow who was still mourning the only man she’d ever loved, but she would have to be six feet under along with Mark to not appreciate the perfect male form in front of her.” And from the opposite sex: “The thought of Sage’s womanly curves had him twitching in his sweatpants. He was no longer in the Brotherhood, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still faithful to his God.”

With equally deft hand, the author tackles the introduction of violence in a realistic, personal way that draws the reader in without over-dramatizing. For example: “Adam gathered up his tools and placed them with the old, rotted posts in the bed of the truck. He bent down to pick up the remaining roll of fence wire when something struck the dirt next to it, sending a puff of dust into the air. A split second later, he heard the rifle shot.”

And so, The Friar whips up a perfect storm of emotional and personal conflicts, painful secrets that beget violence, all told against an authentic setting. Moral and ethical dilemmas heat up in an organic, genuine storytelling style, and the novel succeeds in painting three-dimensional, imperfect heroes that readers will easily relate to.

In summary, The Friar is an excellent novel, mixing romance and suspense in a highly believable setting. The story moves along at a fast pace with high suspense, the characters are authentic and interesting, and the facts unfold with clarity and plausibility. The author skillfully balances the underlying, simmering dangers of violence and deep emotions, and while the resolution to the mystery begins to surface, new dangers appear. This is a veritable page-turner that will keep readers at the edge of their seats until the unexpected, yet satisfying ending. Highly recommended!