Taking a much-needed break from her stressful yet rewarding job as administrator of a psychiatric hospital, Rebecca Paige goes on a retreat to GetAway Resort, a secluded cabin in the woods. Expecting peace and solace, she walks right into the thick of a criminal plot involving characters with far more dangerous intentions and damaged personalities than many locked up in her own facility. In The Poet (Gatekeeper Press), Stephanie Jo Harris leads us through a harrowing hostage operation and introduces us to a character who may be more sinister than the very ghouls who are holding the guests captive.

Jack Shelley cordially intercepts an ill-intended pursuer from the beautiful Rebecca as she momentarily lets her guard down on a walk outside, but are his intentions any better? Mine. The word he thinks before he swiftly cuts off the stalker from his goal and strikes up his own relationship with the enticing solitary woman. Rebecca knows from the gun hidden in Jack’s coat and his reticent manner that her mysterious companion has more than a few bloody secrets he’s hiding from his job in “risk management.”

But equally important to Rebecca is the fact that she instantly feels closer to this stranger than anyone else in her personal life. She is suspicious but also enchanted by Jack who shares nothing but never tires listening to her, who spurns the ones who have taken her for granted in the past as fools, and who is intensely handsome despite a scar with a story that snakes down his neck.

As Rebecca and many of the other guests are held captive by men with little clue what, if anything, will be exchanged to save them, Jack must make choices with a conscience that has felt little pull to act on anything but his own desires since his childhood. Jack, who originally was supposed to be in the company of the captives, managed to escape by leaving the resort on one of his work obligations. Orphaned from his family, isolated by his classmates and unmoved by many figures except a friendly and determined priest, Jack felt little reason to involve himself compassionately on behalf of others, until he became acquainted with Rebecca.

As the night inches tortuously forward, the men holding the guests hostage become restless, whatever or whoever they are waiting for isn’t being delivered and someone has to pay. Rebecca knows she has to come up with a plan. Hints left by the criminal operatives suggest that their captives are not the only ones who fear for their lives. Whispered allusions that someone named “The Poet,” a man who is known for his ruthless in his assassination jobs may be on the loose. The book is split between chapters of the present and past. The present details the horrific hostage operation with Rebecca and the other guests and Jack’s labored decisions on how far to intervene. The past gives context as to how Jack came to be such a conflicted character, weighed by his own dark experiences.

Stephanie Jo Harris has created a thrilling story with characters that are complex and real enough to jump off the page. As the fateful night reaches its climax and the dust settles, readers will gain new insight as to how individuals react when a nightmare scenario becomes reality, ask ourselves what we would do in their shoes and learn once and for all who the mysterious poet really is.

The Poet is now available to purchase.

The second installment to this frightening thriller series is The Poet Recusant, and will be coming soon. Don’t miss out!

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Stephanie Jo Harris is the author of psychological thrillers, and she has a special affection for all things disturbing and uncomfortable. A life-long Midwesterner and a licensed counselor, she spends her free time writing, daydreaming, and pursuing atypical conversation.