Author: Gary Smith
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Gary Smith's debut novella, The Willing is a suspenseful tale of a retired sixty-five year old widower, Warren Steelgrave who recently lost his third wife as a result of a car accident. Warren is determined that he will not sit around twiddling his thumbs during the last chapter of his life or play golf as is the case with most of his friends.
He is of Italian heritage and decides to travel to Italy and get together with some of his lost family. He also makes up his mind to enrol in an Italian language course at the Florence School of Italian Language.
On his first day of class Warren encounters a beautiful American woman, Cindy O'Brian who is twenty-five years his junior and who has a husband and children. Little did he know what he was getting himself into and where this would all end when he met Cynthia. Although the couple enter into a platonic relationship, and that it exactly what it is, they still feel something more for each other, however, they refrain from permitting it to go beyond this stage.
As the story evolves Warren learns that there is something troubling Cindy and can't quite figure it out. He believes that she is in hiding and running away from someone and because of her involvement with him, he is also being closely watched.
Warren contacts his friend, Jim Marino, whom he has known for thirty years. Jim is the head of his own successful security firm with its main office in San Francisco, he was a former chief of police of the Redwood City Police Department.
Warren requests from Jim a complete new set of identity documents for a husband and wife that will include credit cards, ATM cards, passports, and two phones. Jim, through some of his shady contacts, comes through and is able to get all of these documents to Warren in Italy. Jim advises Warren, however, to walk away as soon as possible as he is probably way over his head and he doesn't think this is going to end in a pleasant way.
Apparently, Homeland Security is looking for Cindy along with what appears to be some members of a terrorist group. Warren is forewarned that he is aiding and abetting a fugitive from the Federal Government that could lead to some serious consequences. Nonetheless, he refuses to step aside and asks Jim to trust him but also requests that Jim protect himself and his company from any entanglement.
What follows next is Warren's discovery from Jim that Rick O'Brian, Cindy's husband is a business partner with Imad Saidi and they own a coffee international importing company in San Francisco. Imad and Rick are both being wanted for questioning by the Feds as it is believed that their importing business is a front for the purchasing and smuggling of arms to different terrorist cells, mostly in Europe. In addition, and here is the part that becomes chilling, there may be a possible link to someone high up in Homeland Security. Nonetheless, there is a piece missing and Jim thinks it involves Cindy and her husband as she may have left the USA with important evidence the Feds need.
And here is the kicker, Warren determines through his meetings with Cindy that there is in fact some kind of a shady link concerning her husband's business and Homeland Security. Moreover, when Cindy was helping her husband in his business back in the USA and while looking over some emails, she found a suspicious file containing correspondence from Homeland Security. She had downloaded all the emails into her flash drive and hid it in the woman's room where the importing company was located as she was unable to remove it from the building without being detected.
The yarn is a quick read and unfolds in user-friendly prose however its lacking of professional editing is particularly in evidence with some clumsy sentences and grammatical errors. In addition, there is a great deal of telling and not enough showing, which is a common trap self-published authors fall into.
On the other hand, while The Willing may not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with novellas of the same genre, it nevertheless is entertaining and although it may be brisk it is not without a pulse.
Smith succeeds in getting inside the minds of both Warren and Cindy without descending into romantic boring mush and keeps their adventure/romance relationship on a higher emotional plateau.