Welcome! Without further ado, I’m delighted to welcome back bestselling author, Elizabeth Heiter!
Alaska Mountain Rescue by Elizabeth Heiter is an engaging romantic suspense novel. What makes these stories stand out is the special bond between the dogs and their owners. Heiter has the uncanny ability to take a reader on a journey through the Alaskan wilderness as part of the K-9 team.
The Alaskan setting is vibrantly developed and comes to life as a character. Navigating through the wilderness allows the story to have many twists and turns. Although this is a stand-alone, readers might want to read the first book in the series, K-9 Defense, to understand how Alanna Morgan’s life changed upside down at the age of five. She was kidnapped along with other children, where the kidnappers formed a “family.” The kidnappers were her parents and the other kidnappees were her siblings. They moved to Alaska to keep the family isolated. The first book has Alanna’s biological sister searching and finding her, reuniting her with her real family.
Now five years later, the kidnapped mother, Darcy, has escaped from prison and is heading back to Alaska. She is turning back to old ways, kidnapping children, to form a make-shift family. Alanna is on a collision course with the woman who stole her childhood, since she cannot let other helpless victims be abducted. Along with her therapy dog, Chance, a St. Bernard, she travels to Desparre Alaska to find Darcy. But her plans are interrupted when Peter Robak, a rookie police officer, decides her motives are not what she purports them to be and are divided. Fighting his own demons, including trying to overcome a hearing handicap, he reluctantly joins forces with Alanna to find her “mother.” The relationship builds as both realize they have common hardships.
This book has readers on the edge of their seats. As with her other stories, this one is no different. They feature strong heroines, chilling victims, psychological twists, intertwined with some romance.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Elizabeth Heiter: When I was writing K-9 Defense, I knew I wanted to write another book and put as the main protagonist, Alanna’s story. She is a fascinating character with a fascinating story. I sold the first novel as a single book, but then decided I wanted to make a series out of it. I wanted to show how, after being kidnapped at five years of age, her life was impacted. She has mixed feelings about her kidnapper mom. I wanted to explore the idea of the pull of love and loyalty versus doing what is right.
EC: You also explore how the male lead, Peter, has conflicting feelings about Alanna?
EH: While working as a war reporter he saw a hostage blow themselves up, which is where he received his loss of hearing. In his mind, Alanna, is just like the hostage, since she appears to have loyalties to the kidnappers. He sees her judgement as clouded.
EC: How would you describe the mom, Darcy?
EH: I wanted to write her as a somewhat sympathetic villain, not 100% bad. People could understand her longing for a child. Yet, at the same time to see the darkness in her after she was willing to kidnap someone else’s child. Her backstory is that she felt all alone until she met her husband. They came close to adopting a child, until it passed away. At the end of the day, she belongs in jail. I wanted to show there was a reason she got where she was. She could be manipulative, volatile, desperate, and selfish, with huge swings of emotion.
EC: Was there Stockholm Syndrome?
EH: Early on, Alanna was dependent and fearful of her kidnapped parents. She did grow to love them with some misplaced loyalty and attachment. She does not want to lose the closeness she had with her kidnapped siblings.
EC: How would you describe Alanna?
EH: Loyal, shy, trustworthy, and committed to doing the right thing. She has issues with anxiety and is not very confident. Because of her childhood, and now, always in the media’s radar, she has socially isolated herself.
EC: Why a St. Bernard?
EH: Because the story takes place in Alaska during a winter season, I wanted a “snow” dog. A St. Bernard has a fantastic sense of smell, a great sense of direction, and the ability to withstand extreme cold. They can scent a person under 20 feet of snow and use their enormous paws to dig them out, a scene I put in the story. Once they do, the rescue dogs lie on the person to keep them warm. Having grown up with St. Bernard’s, I can say that they love the snow and are naturally protective, too. Unfortunately, I do not have a dog now, because I moved into a neighborhood that does not allow for fences.
EC: How would you describe Peter?
EH: Detail-oriented, committed to doing the right thing. He is also serious, analytical, distrustful, prickly, and sympathetic.
EC: How did Peter’s being hard of hearing play a role?
EH: His fellow officers don’t trust his ability to perform because of it, with the exception of his partner. He is a bit resentful because he feels he lost something he should not have lost.
EC: How about the relationship?
EH: It is slow developing because they were slow to trust each other. Deep down in many ways they are similar, including a commitment to helping others and to do what is right. By the end of the book, they will sacrifice a lot for each other.
EC: The power of nature affects the story?
EH: Alaska has a volatile nature. In the mountains there is the potential of avalanches and for people to be snowed in until spring. There are always the potential threats from the elements. I think the setting echoes what is happening in Alanna’s life. She felt isolated and that her life was in danger.
EC: How would you describe Alaska?
EH: There is emptiness, coldness, isolation, and can be volatile, just like Alanna felt. The remote part enables people to disappear.
EC: What about your next book?
EH: It is titled, K-9 Cold Case and is out in April. The protagonist is the Police Chief Keara Hernandez. The backstory has her detective husband murdered in Houston. She felt she failed him because as a detective herself she could not find his killer. Offered the job in Alaska she became the Police Chief. Fast-forward to current day when a bomb goes off. The FBI sent in an agent, Jax, with his therapy dog to help the victims. He works with Keara because it appears the bombing is related to her past.
Out in July, K-9 Hideout. The main protagonist is Peter’s partner, Tate who is now a K-9 handler. The plot has a woman escaping to Alaska to hide from her stalker boyfriend. But after he finds her, she goes to the police. She and Tate work together to find the stalker.
…and a St. Bernard.
Alanna Morgan was raised in remote Alaska by a couple who called themselves her parents–not kidnappers. A jailbreak brings her face-to-face with the past she wants to escape and on a collision course with the woman who stole her childhood. Alanna can’t let other helpless victims be abducted and sets out with Chance, a therapy St. Bernard, by her side. But Desparre rookie police officer Peter Robak has other plans for the civilian investigator. Together, in the mountain wilderness in frigid temperatures, criminals aren’t the only threat they face. A wary alliance and a rescue dog will have to be enough to keep them alive and to catch a desperate fugitive.
From Harlequin Intrigue: Seek thrills. Solve crimes. Justice served.
A K-9 Alaska Novel
Book 1: K-9 Defense
Book 2: Alaska Mountain Rescue
Click the book cover to go to each Amazon page (UK)