Review by John Shivers, for Georgia Mountain Laurel, June 2016 (Paperback Edition + Unbecoming)
Read. Unwritten. Unbecoming. Now!
“Want to hide something?” Caroline Blaine Reese asked one of her subordinates. “Hide it somewhere in plain sight.” Her own life was similarly structured, which explains, at least in part, why those closest to her are unable to pin down who she is, or exactly what she does. Or why she does it. And in the darkest hours of the night, especially when thunder rumbles and heavenly fireworks explode, even Caroline can’t answer all the questions.
The slogan for a favorite chewing gum once proclaimed, “double the pleasure, double the fun,” and the same could be said for Monica Collier’s two books, Unwritten and Unbecoming, that tell Caroline’s story. When you finish the first, you’re oh so thankful you don’t have to abruptly say goodbye. Unbecoming is scheduled for release June 1, and Unwritten is being re-released in paperback.
Unwritten was Monica’s first novel, although she’s been writing short stories and articles since age eleven. Writing provided an outlet while she was sidelined with an injury and, in the process, she became more enamored of her craft. So enamored, and so proficient is this Franklin, N.C. native, she’s crossed genre lines with great finesse. It’s difficult to imprison these two books into one specific interest area. With the relationship theme that runs throughout both books, including several very tastefully-written but nevertheless expressive, sometimes steamy, scenes of marital intimacy, the stories definitely qualify as chick lit.
But the entire saga is set against a background of U.S. Naval service, military protocol, treason, espionage, secret agents and threats to national security and ordinary people. So expertly are those aspects written, so believably is the story staged against military integrity, there’s enough meat and potatoes here to satisfy even the most gung-ho of guys.
Yet throughout the good and the bad, the ups and downs, runs a thread of the God whose grace protects and guides, and promises to be there for Caroline and company, no matter what. Talk about inspirational fiction!
To understand Caroline, North Carolina wine grower, trainer of military pilots, who loves David Reese and has killed 131 people on the QT, you have to understand that in the parlance of U.S. covert, undercover operations, she’s a “spook.” If you want a more clearly-defined explanation, you’ll just have to read the books. Suffice to say, Caroline’s military affiliation is all entwined in the alphabet soup jargon so prevalent in bureaucracy and counter-terrorism.
Monica’s depiction of the military, its unique lingo, customs and mandates, has both depth and breadth. It should. Her dad is a Vietnam veteran in the 101rst Airborne, and her initial plunge into the pool of everything military began with him. That gave her the springboard to research and write the story that originally came to her at the Biltmore Estate in 2001. That research included picking the brains of actors in the TV programs JAG and NCIS. She’s also talking movie rights with Hollywood for the finished books.
“You have to live to write, and you never know who will cross your path or how they will affect you,” she explains, when asked how she comes by her material. “I write some each day… blog… journal… new storyline… work already in progress.” She goes on to point out that grace and inspiration are two very necessary elements. “If I’m quiet in God’s presence, and enjoy walking around in what He has created, I get inspired.” Music also provides that needed nudge and direction, and her novels have soundtracks. Check out her web site www.monicacollier.com.
One very unique aspect of these two books, and more are planned, is the one-word title for each. The last word in each book provides the title, but you’ll have to read all the words before it, to truly grasp the story. “My hook is the last word in the novel,” Monica says. “In it lies the title. I know how I want my storyline to end from the very beginning of the writing process.”
Unwritten. Unbecoming. Two easy-reading books, but with fully-fleshed out storylines that keep the reader turning those pages. The biggest travesty that could befall these two books would be for them to be unread!