The protagonist, Cat Stanton, serves well as the ideal woman: independent, headstrong, elegantly attractive, focused, ambitious; a woman with a deep-rooted sense of family -- whether she opposes (and ultimately hates) her father, or suffers an intense, loving relationship with her twin brother. The first chapter establishes her career, her heart and her strong sense of responsibility to the memory of her brother Joel.
The story line held me in its grip: from Cat's determination to discover the truth about her brother's fate (she believes he was murdered while he scouted the bush in Nairobi for the right location to put up an exclusive resort hotel), to the eventual entanglement of emotions when forced to deal with Jock Campbell, owner of Campbell Safaris, to get her to that location. It is implied that Campbell knows the truth about Joel's death. Cat suspects that he does and hires Campbell, much to his own resistance to have anything to do with her. She does so on the pretext of completing her dead brother's dream.
She is challenged at every turn trying to find out who Campbell really is and what side, if any, is he on. The relationship that develops between the two creates an exciting roller coaster of events, from meeting Campbell's aristocratic family to a barrage of life-threatening situations the closer they get to the hotel site, which turns out to be a bucolic, exquisite environment untouched by commerce. The sexual attraction is palpable. Being the modern woman, Cat thinks she can be satisfied by Campbell's advances and a few sexual gymnastics, but gradually we see there is more between them than immediate gratification.
The other characters play into the intrigue and adventure. The mysterious young woman who enrages Cat because of her feelings for Campbell (which she keeps suppressed); Tom M'Bala, Campbell's business partner, a man of high breeding and intelligence; Father Gaston, an interesting character whom Cat befriends; Reitholder, the obvious villain, is strangle-worthy. Then there are the three Maasai warriors for whom I felt admiration and affection. They served as guides and attended the needs of the safari. They were also formidable fighters when challenged by the opposition.
The war that breaks out in the bush between the Campbell/Stanton faction and a "mystery" band of poachers(led by Reitholder and instigated by his partner, a Frenchman named Colonel Francis)held me in thrall. I was astonished that such scenes could be written by a woman, but Ms. Brien proves throughout this story that she has a very broad brush running through her talent. The war made my heart jump, the violence and the description of what was happening to each of its participants kept me turning the pages and hoping that the good guys would win out. I won't say what happens, but I will say that finding that chapter is worth the effort if you want to witness superb writing.
Nell Brien goes far beyond the obvious and opens the door to understanding the jungle habitat in ways I never knew before. I am convinced she was on safari herself when she got the idea for this book. I look forward to her next and hope she never stops.