Thursday, April 26, 2018

Release Blitz: Whisper by Tal Bauer (Review + Giveaway)

Love Has No Gender
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Publication Date: April 26th, 2018

The truth is complicated.

On September 11th, 2001, Kris Caldera was a junior member of the CIA’s Alec Station, the unit dedicated to finding and stopping Osama Bin Laden. They failed.

Ten days later, he was on the ground in Afghanistan with a Special Forces team, driven to avenge the ghosts that haunted him and the nation he’d let down. On the battlefield, he meets Special Forces Sergeant David Haddad. David – Arab American, Muslim, and gay – becomes the man Kris loves, the man he lives for, and the man he kills for, through the long years of the raging wars.

David Haddad thought he’d be an outsider his whole life. Too American for the Middle East, too Arab for America, and too gay to be Muslim. It took Kris to bring the parts of himself together, to make him the man he’d always wanted to be. But the War on Terror wreaks havoc on David’s soul, threatening to shatter the fragile peace he’s finally found with Kris.

When a botched mission rips David from Kris’s life, Kris’s world falls into ruin and ash. A shell of the man who once loved with the strength to shake both the CIA and the world, he marks time on the edges of his life. The days bleed together, meaningless after losing the love of his life.

After being captured, tortured to the edge of his life, and left for dead by his comrades, David doesn’t know how much of himself is left. He vanished one day in the tribal belt of Pakistan, and the man who walks out almost a decade later is someone new: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.

But strange rumblings are whispering through the CIA. Intelligence from multiple sources overseas points to something new. Something deadly, and moving to strike the United States. Intercepts say an army from Khorasan, the land of the dead where the Apocalypse of Islam will rise, is coming.

And, at the head of this army, a shadowy figure the US hasn’t seen before: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.

David is coming home.





5 Stars!

I suspect that this will be my book of 2018, and OK, we are only 4 months in, but I don’t see that changing - Tal Bauer has no comparison. 

This is a book that has been many, many months in the making, one which I've awaited more than any other book I can remember and it delivers in every single way that I needed. Can I categorise it? No, not entirely, as it's the sum of many glorious parts, and it deserves a classification of its own. 

Kris Caldera was introduced as a side character in Hush and exited at the right time, because he could have—with the entirety of who he is, as utterly and painfully honest as he's revealed in Whisper—likely taken over the tale had he stayed longer. I loved seeing him there, fashioned by life and loss as he was, and loved getting to know him here. This tale tells us how Kris came to be the man we met, and shows us his hidden depths and what drives him. And, it's an emotional one for him, for the many side characters, for David, and for readers. I cried with fellow betas, I stepped away from it at times, but I came back to it each time, like a moth to a flame. 

It’s a tale that I’d never have suspected for Kris, but OMG, was it the tale that I needed, and that I think TB needed to write for him. I won’t summarise the storyline in this review, as I couldn’t do the book justice. It’s a deep, complex read that needs to be savoured slowly and in detail. I can’t fault TB’s research and passion, and I am in awe of the book that he’s produced. It feels like a labour of love, and it reads like a labour of love. 

It's a slower tale in some ways, but also action-packed in much of it, and it's written in Then and Now parts, and it's detailed, incredibly detailed. TB's descriptions of the scenery, the vividness of events, the horror and sadness of some things that have since been revealed as fact are awe-inspiring. I learned from this book, and I suspect that those who pick it up will go on to feel the same way. 

It’s very, very different to other TB books, as this is more full-on thriller than the Executive Office series, and anchored in so much recent history, i.e., lived history, and the tale feels like a constant reveal to this Brit. I came away from it with my mind and heart engaged and full, and feeling like I'd lived through parts of 9/11. I came away feeling educated, feeling emotional, and I am not ashamed to say that I cried many times - you will need tissues for this, believe me.

David is as big a character as Kris in this tale, and he comes into his own slowly and with a history that you have to read and imagine, to appreciate. He's a man who'd buried so much of himself, so much of his past and what made him, because of what life demanded, and Kris was his catalyst for change, for finding, accepting and coming to love his suppressed, silenced parts, and for finding his missing parts and becoming whole again. Kris was his...salvation and his meaning. And David was Kris's champion, his strength, what he'd been silently and unconsciously searching for, and became his reason for living, and his loss became the reason for Kris's mere existence in a world without meaning. At times, each man 'ruled' sections of the book, and though I knew Kris from the outset, David impacted on me just as much, I came to know him as much, and he made me love him just as much. This couple is as 'up there' for me with the TB guys I've come to love and know, and in fact, are challenging for #1. 

These guys endure; their lives together and their relationship span from 2001 to 2017, in the most challenging of conditions, which made me feel for them, cry for them, hurt for them, and rejoice in their happiness and sadness, and made them believable for me. TB has the gift of making you feel you're in a movie, 'living it as it happens' with his characters and never so much as in this book. Their love felt all the more real because of what they went through and how it was forged.

The romance in this, in some ways, feels more relatable-to than that of TB’s other characters, which is not a criticism of any of the books or characters, but merely me trying to express that I 'lived it' with Kris and David, because they were everyday guys. There was so much that I connected with in this tale, that I've not stopped thinking about it since it hit my life several weeks ago as part of the beta'ing process. I suspect it'll stay with me for a lot longer, because what I gained from it, what I read about, I feel I need to explore and learn more about. There's much to be learned from it, though TB doesn't preach, but simply delves into fact, fiction and history, and into possibilities and allows readers to interpret what they choose, for themselves, and then perhaps to question...many things.

It is hard hitting, and there are parts that will move you to tears, and not of the good variety, though there are plenty of the latter, too. This book is heavy on Islam, in the sense that TB goes to huge pains to portray the Islam that can be traced back to the original, true words of the Quran, and not that that is simply bandied about via others' interpretations, or how the media and, unfortunately, what happens in the name of so-called Islam, portrays it. It's a tale that left me with as many questions as it did facts, and it's a book that will stay with me for the rest of my life, I suspect. 

It ends in a HEA that I completely believed in, one that hit all the right buttons for me, but it also hit many 'shades of grey' triggers for me. I liked that it challenged my mind and heart and made me want to reach for more of the meaningful. 

Disclaimer: I was lucky enough to be part of the author's beta team.



Amazon UK

Tal Bauer is an award-winning and best-selling author of LGBT romantic thrillers, bringing together a career in law enforcement and international humanitarian aid to create dynamic characters, intriguing plots, and exotic locations. He is happily married and lives with his husband and their Basset Hound in Texas. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.




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  1. Congrats on your new book release! Thank you for the excerpt!