Review: Opal by Freya Barker (GEM #1)

Note: An advance reader copy (ARC) was provided by the author via Buoni Amici Press.

Freya Barker has a new series, and it's gotten off to a heck of a start. Opal is the first book in the GEM series, which looks to be a trilogy, but don't hold me to that. GEM stands for Gather, Evaluate, Mobilize, a private group whose primary objective is to locate and rescue missing minors who have been exploited, particularly the ones who are often overlooked by the system and law enforcement. In the series starter, readers are introduced to the group as a whole, and it's led by the mysterious Jacob Branch and it's composed of three operatives--Opal, Pearl, and Onyx. The titular character for book one is actually forty-year-old Katherine Faith Jones, aka Kate and uses the code name Opal. When she goes undercover at a youth center to find out what happened to a teenager who had disappeared, the last thing she expects is to be seen by Mitchell James Kenny, aka Mitch Kenny, a forty-four-year-old single father and agent with the FBI and part of the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team. She can't allow him to blow her cover, so maybe working together for the best. As the number of missing teens increases, getting distracted isn't an option for Kate or Mitch. But does that including falling in love?

When it comes to romantic suspense reads, Freya Barker always manages to bring that extra bit of originality and creativity to make things even more intense. There's this constant thrum of tension throughout this series starter. Both main characters are intent on getting to the truth and finding not only the teenagers who have disappeared, but also bringing the perpetrators to justice. Of course, falling for someone in the middle of everything that was happening wasn't part of either Kate's or Mitch's plans, but I think that it was the case that brought them together and helped them to see the far more personal and intimate layers beneath their professional facades. The author didn't shy away from the grittier elements of what was going on, and I appreciated that because it offered up that feeling of authenticity. Readers also get enough of the notable supporting characters to pique their curiosity, and while there is a happy ending for the couple, there's a story arc that continues into the second book--and possibly even the third, but I'm simply guessing here--so I'm already counting the days till that's released. For now, I'm totally satisfied with how Opal played out; it's a five-starred beginning to the GEM series.

Release Date: 22 May 2023

Date Read: 21 May 2023

Learn more about Freya Barker.

Purchase Opal on Amazon | Apple Books | B&N | Kobo.


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