By Kathleen Rowland
Jul 14, 2007 - 5:03:27 PM

Lieutenant Penelope Price, a physical therapist on a naval base, is filled with apprehension after receiving menacing phone calls at home.   In her edgy state, she looks forward to the return of SEAL Commander Joe Montgomery, her next-door neighbor, from his deployment in Afghanistan.    Although they are only passing acquaintances, Penny cares for his cat because his current girlfriend often neglects it.

Penny welcomes her irresponsible younger sister, Ophelia, into her home because she suffers from similar harassment of crank calls.    Both sisters suspect that their father’s accidental death was a murder and peg the caller, because of his stutter, as their late father’s partner, Eric Tomlison.    Penny and Lia contact the FBI but realize they’re trapped in their father’s world of pharmaceutical secrets.  


Penny hears a news report about the worst disaster in Special Forces history in Northern Afghanistan. The single survivor is not identified, and she worries about Joe.    Joe, as she hoped, is the survivor.   He returns with a battered spine, having been thrown during an explosion that killed every one of his men.   More than his physical pain, he’s tormented by the inner demon of guilt.   He feels responsible for losing his troops and turns to alcohol.    Penny is assigned to Joe as his physical therapist.   While working his awesome shoulders, she wishes she could comfort him from his mental anguish over the tragedy.   Joe is too apathetic to be grateful for anything more than the black and white tomcat that is often cradled in his arms.   Penny finds his scared face as handsome as ever although he doesn’t carry himself with the same self-assurance.   Her world is enriched by his presence.   They begin a cautious friendship, but when they become lovers, he doesn’t feel he deserves her.   Will their relationship weather the storm?


Penny’s sister, Lia, is the prettier one.   She captures the heart of a young Navy SEAL and enjoys a hot and heavy relationship.   By contrast, Penny is stand-offish with men after being jilted by her fiancé.   Penny never expects Joe to find her attractive.   The phone threats continue, and Lia makes a sincere and desperate plea to Joe for his help.    Joe learns the sisters are in danger.   Who is the real killer?   Will Joe find him in time?   Can he forgive himself and feel worthy of Penny’s love?


Marliss Melton weaves two beautiful love stories into a suspenseful plot in NEXT TO DIE. Penny, tender and kind, is willing to take a second chance on love. Tormented, Joe needs to forgive himself before he can love again. I hurt along with him when he suffered from his failure. Ophelia is attracted to a younger man who encourages her to expect more from herself and hold to honesty. I was overjoyed when Lia gave into her natural feelings for him. Melton has a flair for writing emotion. NEXT TO DIE grabbed me from the beginning, and any reader who enjoys a passion-filled thriller will adore this book with an authentic military history. This chilling suspense will keep you guessing until the very end.

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