Cover Image: Strong from the Heart

Strong from the Heart

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This review was posted on The Romance Dish on August 1, 2020. Link below.

Strong from the Heart delivers the same twisty plot, action, and character growth that have become hallmarks of this series. Land has a knack for crafting stories that play on issues of the time, such as the dangers of new 5G technology or, in this book, the opioid epidemic.

What keeps me reading the series, however, is not the great plotting but the characters. I picked up the first book, Strong Enough to Die, because I was intrigued by the title first and then by the blurb. In that book, Caitlin is a former ranger still struggling to come to terms with the end of her career. Her marriage isn’t in great shape, either. Her husband is back from the Middle East with amnesia, and things weren’t good between them when he left. As though she didn’t have enough trouble, former mob enforcer and ex-soldier Cort Wesley Masters has just been released from prison and is looking for Caitlin. He has committed more than enough criminal acts to justify far more time than he served, but he did not commit the crime for which she arrested him. He wants a word with her about that.

Cort Wesley finds Caitlin in the middle of a potentially lethal problem. The situation goes downhill from there, but they come out of it as reluctant allies. While that may seem highly improbable, Land has a knack for pulling off the enemies-to-allies-to-more trope. He has also written a series about a Shin Bet (the Israeli equivalent of the FBI) agent and a Palestinian-American detective. He finds commonality between disparate characters that makes their dynamic work.

Caitlin’s relationship with Cort Wesley develops slowly and must take into account his two sons by a deceased former lover. Through the series, Caitlin and Cort Wesley work to define and solidify their relationship as they and his sons gradually forge a family. By Strong From the Heart, the family bond is firmly established, but they face problems common to families everywhere. They must deal with those while confronting the larger threat of the main plot. If you don’t like series with continuing characters, this may not be for you. If you do, however, you may find this process as appealing as I do.

Ongoing supporting characters include Caitlin’s Texas Rangers captain and other rangers, the ghost of Cort Wesley’s deceased cellmate, and a former Venezuelan secret police operative who set out to kill Caitlin and instead, in part because he’s prone to self-examination and philosophy, has become part of her team.

Strong From the Heart opens with a mailman wandering the Texas desert, seemingly unaware of his surroundings. Agents from ICE intercept him. Tracing his straight-line path backward, they discover a small town where everyone is dead. They cordon off the area and assemble personnel to investigate. Caitlin Strong is the Texas Rangers’ liaison to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), so her captain sends her to join the investigation.

While Caitlin searches for the cause of this catastrophe, the opioid crisis hits home. One of Cort Wesley’s sons overdoses on Oxycontin and nearly dies. This sets Cort Wesley on a mission to shut off the drug supply that nearly killed his son. 

Both Cort Wesley and Caitlin are up against powerful figures whose wealth insulates them from consequences. They live in the shadows and intend to rule from there. The pills they’re making and selling will generate even more wealth, and the sudden death of an entire town spurs them to think on a bigger scale by weaponizing a deadly product. 

As the two investigations gradually become one, they turn up the heat on those responsible, who retaliate. After a confrontation with Caitlin, the pill pushers’ enforcer decides to take revenge in a very personal way. My one problem with the book, a small one, was that I wasn’t entirely sure the resolution of this situation was believable. I can’t say more without spoiling it.

Caitlin’s half sister, Nola Delgado, steps in to help Caitlin and Cort Wesley. The role she plays in the story and her connection to Caitlin, who didn’t know she existed until after their father’s death, is an interesting one. Where Caitlin goes for her gun only when she has no alternative, Nola revels in killing. In fact, she’s a professional assassin. Land uses her as a mirror for what Caitlin might otherwise have been and a warning of what Caitlin doesn’t want to become. At the same time, they struggle to determine how much of a relationship and how much similarity shared blood creates.

Also woven through the story, as usual, is a case handled by one of Caitlin’s Texas Ranger ancestors. This one involves Pancho Villa and Texas history and ties into the present case in a surprising way.

Obviously, this is a thriller, not a romance. But it’s a thriller with family woven through it. There’s also explosive action and a twisty plot.

Strong From the Heart stands alone but reading the earlier books, as with many thriller series, provides layers and shading to the characters. 

Highly recommended. 5 stars
Was this review helpful?
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie

This is my first visit with Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, and it won’t be my last! It is a fast-paced thrill ride, from a tiny Texas town to a long-term US government official with many cities of illegal opiate deaths exploding in between. The stakes have never been higher for Caitlin when the life of a loved one is on the line and a killer who has never been bested is after her. The mysteries are challenging, as even when the culprits are identified, proof must be found to take them down. Great-grandfather Texas Ranger William Ray Strong and Caitlin have many parallels in their professional lives, showing that history often repeats itself.

There is a rich legacy of Texas Rangers in Caitlin’s family, starting with her great-great grandfather. We get to see great-grandfather William Ray this time. It is 1898, and children in the border town of Camino Pass were kidnapped. A posse that included their fathers left days earlier and no word was heard from them. William Ray was there to pick up a prisoner to take to trial and imminent death for his crime of murder. William Ray and Pancho Villa rode off to look for the missing children before taking Villa to court. What they found was astounding, beyond what he could have ever anticipated.

In the present, Luke Torres is the son of former outlaw Cort Wesley Masters, a close friend of Caitlin’s. She had been a surrogate mother to him and his brother since their mother was murdered. Luke was in the hospital from an opiate overdose. Had his boarding school roommate not found him when he did, they would be planning a funeral.

Caitlin was in Camino Pass as part of the Surge Capacity Force team that responds to certain emergencies with Homeland Security. All the not quite 300 residents of the town were found dead of unknown causes. While searching the town, they discovered one survivor who had been in the back room of the clinic, sleeping off a drunk. They are to find what killed the residents, and whether it was an accident or a bioweapon attack. They also had to keep it out of the news to avoid an influx of lookie-loos and press before they learn the source.

Caitlin is torn, wanting to join forces with Cort Wesley to find who gave Luke the drugs and where they came from. She also has work to do with the team at Camino Pass where national security may be at risk. She is at the hospital where the survivor is being tested when the National Guard members standing guard are killed, along with the medical team in the isolation unit, and the survivor. Caitlin tracked the killer to the sub-basement, where she tried to bring down a huge man and injured him seriously before he got away. She is now in the crosshairs of a killer who fights to the death, has never lost, and has the indirect backing of a high-ranking government official.

The characters are very well defined; the protagonist and her friends and associates are very likable. Caitlin’s half-sister Nola is a wildcard, however. They have only known of each other’s existence a short time. Nola is a killer, a psychopath – or sociopath – who seems to enjoy killing those she executes. She has Caitlin’s back, however, and will go the distance to save her sister’s life. Watching the interplay between them is worth seeing. I like Caitlin and appreciate her standards and pride in being a Ranger. What I did learn about Cort Wesley and Colonel Paz is just enough to whet my curiosity for next time.

This is an intense, riveting masterpiece that traces some of the history of the Texas Rangers through real and legendary Rangers. It is also a tightly plotted novel of seemingly unrelated situations and challenging crimes for which only Caitlin and her colleagues could find solutions. The incredibly volatile, unpredictable ending is very satisfying, with all loose ends tied up; I highly recommend this, particularly to those who appreciate the history of the Texas-Mexico border and seeing the Texas Rangers in action.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*
Was this review helpful?
An entire town is wiped out. Each person died in their home as if they just fell asleep. What could have killed over three hundred people? Caitlin Strong, Texas Ranger, is on the case. When two survivors are found, perhaps an answer can be found as to why they didn’t die. Opioid use has hit Texas and becomes personal when Cort Wesley Masters’ younger son almost dies from an overdose. Cort, in his own take charge manner works to uncover who supplied the pills. With the help of the continuing secondary characters, can Caitlin and Cort solve both complex cases that seem to be connected in this thrilling story? Woven through each amazing Caitlin Strong story is the history of her past family members in the Texas Rangers. I received an advance review copy at no cost and without obligation for an honest review. (by paytonpuppy)
Was this review helpful?
Reading a thriller by Jon Land is like getting a visit from an old friend. 
This book is no exception. 
Caitlin and company still know how to kick butt without bothering to take names. 
I usually enjoy the history lesson that Caitlin gets about one of the members of her family. 
But this time, it felt little forced. 
In this book, three different people told her the story. But without knowing where the other people left off, they all seemed to know exactly where the story should be picked up. 
I still say that Mr. Land just needs to write a full on Western novel…
Was this review helpful?
Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong charges in guns blazing once more in Jon Land's "Strong from the Heart", eleventh in this gripping series. 

This time, she and Cort Wesley take on the opioid trade - not only Big Pharma but also some very powerful figures that pull the strings in the background. Said trade hit home hard for them both after Cort'Wesley's younger son almost died from an overdose.

Each episode is enlivened by fascinating Texas Ranger lore, and back stories about Caitlin's Ranger predecessors. Former secret police colonel Guillermo Paz continues to have Caitlin's back as does a fairly recent addition to the series, her newly discovered half sister.

The series is often over the top but always highly entertaining.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! So many strands woven together bringing the past into the present and today’s opioid epidemic. Above-the-law politicians need to learn that nobody is beyond the reach of a Texas Ranger. Ranger Strong gets moving when her high school “son” overdoses. This starts the action which builds with so many characters joining the action, all with their own agendas and demons.
Was this review helpful?