Review: Sworn to Protect (Vows of the Heart #1) by Kathryn Loch

Book Blurb

In Los Angeles, Bethany Kress has been forced to work for international arms dealer and drug lord, Jose Cordova, as a professional thief, stealing cars and running drug shipments. Cordova holds her ailing father and if she does not comply, Cordova will kill him. But the DEA has infiltrated Cordova's operation in Los Angeles and the undercover agent, Aaron, befriends Bethany.

Bethany hates being forced into a life of crime and willingly works with Aaron to bring Cordova down.. Due to an innocent mistake on Bethany's part, Cordova learns of Aaron's true identity and kills him. The DEA manages to rescue Bethany as a protected witness but as they pull her out, she sees Aaron's ghost, enraged at her for betraying him. Cordova escapes L.A. and flees to New York.

For two years Ethan Lancaster has worked undercover in New York for the ATF trying to gather evidence against Cordova for arms dealing. But days before Ethan is supposed to get his informant out, his cover is blown. Ethan's team fights to save Ethan but he is nearly killed and two team members die in the assault. Fortunately, Cordova is arrested and will stand trial.

Ethan survives but has been on medical leave while the doctors try to determine if the injuries he suffered will end his career. Then he learns Cordova has escaped. His Captain orders him into protective custody with the US Marshals. Ethan is one of the few people still alive who can testify, the other being Bethany who is also being transferred to the Marshals.

But Bethany is guilt ridden over Aaron's murder and is plagued with constant nightmares of his ghost hunting her. While waiting for Ethan to be delivered into protective custody at the motel, Bethany sees Aaron's ghost. Terrified she runs from the room just as two US Marshals try to kill her.

Ethan, furious with being forced into protective custody, arrives right as Bethany escapes by jumping through a motel window. Suddenly involved in a major shootout, Ethan discovers himself standing alone as Bethany's protector.

Cordova isolates Ethan and Bethany by involving Ethan in an elaborate frame-up. On the run from both Cordova and honest law enforcement, Ethan quickly learns Bethany's ability as a professional thief is his best asset. She can boost almost any type of car and out-drive even the best cops. But she has an uncanny and disturbing ability to run, absolutely terrified, from danger before it actually happens.

Ethan discovers himself powerfully attracted to Bethany but what hope do they have when either one of them could be killed at any moment? If by some miracle they did survive, what sort of future would an ATF agent and a thief possibly have?

Then Ethan learns the truth about Aaron and that Bethany believes his ghost is trying to kill her. She blames herself for Aaron's death and Cordova learning Ethan's identity. Even though he is on medical leave, Ethan is still an ATF agent and he is sworn to protect Bethany no matter the circumstance. But how can he defend her against something he cannot shoot? All the while he has a target painted on his own back not only from Cordova but his own agency.

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Toot's Review by Stacy Sabala

Bethany Kress is a witness and under protection.  She watches her friend and undercover DEA agent, Aaron, killed before her eyes.  Her guilt and horror almost undo her.
ATF agent, Ethan, is undercover.  He is deep in Cordova’s operation.  He swore to protect Cordova’s girlfriend after she helped get information.  Unfortunately he lost his cover.  There is a mole in the ATF.  He watches Cordova attack her before he tortures him.  When his partner and team finally get to him, two of his friends lose their lives in the process.  He survives but suffers from survivor’s guilt.  He is now a witness and his captain puts him in witness protection.  Cordova has escaped and his life is in danger.
He and Bethany are the only ones alive that can testify against Cordova. However Cordova has help in finding them.  Ethan and Bethany go on the run.  They don’t know who to trust. Cordova’s reach has infested the Marshal’s office.  Ethan and Bethany can only count on each other as they run from those who are supposed to protect them.
Ethan is being framed and blamed for all the deaths being dropped at Cordova’s feet.  Ethan and Bethany work together to clear Ethan’s name as time is running out.  A massive man hunt is crossing the country and both depend on each other to stay alive.
This book was full of a lot of action.  Cordova was created as a very bad man, not a care for human life. There was a lot of violence in the book with a scenes of gun battles and fighting.  Definitely adult themes.  However not too graphic of details.
The author keeps you and the characters guessing about who is corrupt and who Ethan can get help from.  It was insane. Aaron’s ghost as a guide added a touch of paranormal to the story.  It was an extra and not needed to keep the story going.  There was enough going on that the storyline would role pretty quickly.  I liked how Bethany was a kick-ass driver and thief.  The author made her smart and extremely logical.  Her problem solving skills were excellent.  It was comical to watch everyone’s reactions when she drove.  Loved it. 

Ethan was a great hero, a little rough around the edges but sincere.  They were a good pairing.  It was a good story.  I give it a 4 out of 5.

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