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‘An Uncertain Refuge’ by Carolyn J. Rose


A child orphaned by violence. A woman sworn to protect and raise him. A killer come to claim him. A few deadly minutes in An Uncertain Refuge.

Kate Dalton lives by the rules of honesty and fair play until she steps between a battered woman and the man intent on killing her. Amanda Blake barely survives; her ex-husband dies by Kate’s hand. The repercussions force Kate from her job at a domestic violence shelter. Fleeing unwanted publicity and yearning to break with her past, she heads to the Oregon coast, burdened by a coerced promise to Amanda—to care for the nine-year-old son of the man she killed and shield him from the truth.
For several weeks Kate holds a tattered web of lies together. Then Way-Ray’s vengeful uncle murders Amanda, an ambush journalist tells the story, and the boy bolts in horror. Aided by a dangerous man she only half-trusts, Kate searches for the boy she’s come to love. But a sadistic killer intent on claiming his kin is watching every move.


Photograph of author Carolyn J. RoseCarolyn J. Rose is the author of several novels, including Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and No Substitute for Murder. The sequel to that, No Substitute for Money, was recently released in June, 2013. She penned a young-adult fantasy, Drum Warrior, with her husband, Mike Nettleton (the other half of the ‘Deadly Duo Mysteries’), as well as several mysteries now out of print, but soon to be re-released.

Carolyn grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains. After graduating from the University of Arizona, she spent two years in Arkansas with ‘Volunteers in Service to America’. A further 25 years were spent as a television news researcher, writer, producer and assignment editor, in locations as far apart as Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

Carolyn founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore ‘Cover to Cover Books’.

Her interests are reading, gardening and not cooking!


Kate had never suffered physical abuse, but she knew about dominance in the name of love, knew about limited options and the desire to escape.

… She thought about hope. More than wish or desire, but not exactly trust or confidence, it was a fragile yet powerful thing. Hope could stretch and hold, like a bungee cord anchored above a chasm, or it could splinter like a frozen twig in a winter storm.

Sorry? A flash of white anger seared Kate’s brain. That was the most destructive word in a victim’s vocabulary. It shouldered undeserved blame. It corrupted justice.

And I’ve learned that bad people sometimes do good things because they want to, and good people sometimes do bad things because they have to.”


“You’re what my boy needs now. My biggest hope is that he will be what you need, too.”

Although both the opening and closing chapters, were powerful and explosive, this certainly wasn’t an action packed, fast paced thriller. It was definitely all in the anticipation, excellent plot building and character forming skills of the author. I knew exactly what the threat was and who it was coming from, right from the very start …. the only unknown, emotionally and psychologically challenging dilemma, was just when and where it was going to happen and I was sat on the edge of my seat and right there with a frazzled Kate, who spends most of the story looking over her shoulder!

Amanda’s decision to take her young son and break free from their lives with an abusive husband and father, result in drastic consequences as the system fails them in spectacular style. Life and death choices and decisions, dominate the strong opening scenes, making this an uncomfortable, yet engrossing beginning to the story, as I tried to anticipate just what decisions and outcomes there would be to the horrific events, unfolding line by line and which would ultimately have such far-reaching consequences, for so many people.

When it becomes apparent that her husband’s family are equally as disturbed and hell-bent on retribution as her husband was, Amanda is faced with having to make even more radical decisions, in an effort to secure a future for her son, Way-Ray, even though she fully knows and accepts the personal risks and sacrifices she is making. The largest proportion of the story is therefore, essentially given over to building on the characters of Kate and Way-Ray, both their individual strengths and weaknesses, how they learn to adapt and adjust to life together, the bonds that draw them together, the insecurities and untruths which threaten to tear them apart and the unexpected anguish Kate feels when she thinks she has lost Way-Ray for good. Kate learns the lesson the hard way, that lying to Way-Ray, no matter that he is still a child, isn’t really protecting him, regardless of the genuine motives she has behind the subterfuge. The truth will always ‘out’ and the consequences may be much more violent and destructive, than she had ever anticipated.

All the time Kate is breaking just about every rule in the book, to help a broken and defeated Amanda and provide some sense of stability and love to Way-Ray, she is hearing the voices of her parents inside her head, remonstrating with her for taking the risk and becoming so emotionally involved in someone else’s problem. In fact, parental domination and the feelings of low esteem and self-worth which this engenders, is a recurring theme for Kate throughout much of the story, which influences much of her thinking and dominates many of her thought and decision making processes. It is only when she finally manages to ‘shake the monkey off  her back’ and allows those who have come to care for her, to get close enough to show their true feelings, that her world begins to expand in a more positive way than she ever thought possible.

In the midst of all the emotional turmoil and mayhem, Carolyn introduces a whole new cast of disparate, yet well defined characters, who collectively, to Kate and I have to admit, to me also, appear to be a gathering from every misfit stratum of society. At first, Kate treats them with an attitude almost akin to contempt, however it is only as time passes she realises that in fact these people are her true friends, who have accepted both herself and Way-Ray, without question or condemnation, with no emotional restrictions and without taking the moral high ground. In return Kate learns to accept her new found allies for who and what they are, without challenging their attitudes or appearances, learning to believe in their help as genuinely offered and to reach out and take the hand of friendship, without feeling the need to move on and run away from her true feelings, before she becomes too involved with them.

The almost inevitable climax to events, is a real humdinger of a scene, full of violence, suspense, guessing, second-guessing, manoeuvre and counter-manoeuvre. Kate realises exactly what it is to love and need to protect another person so much, that you are willing to make that ultimate sacrifice and give up your own life to do so. She summons all her hidden reserves of strength and courage, in an effort to have the opportunity to prove to Way-Ray and herself, that there is an alternative to the ‘arms-length’ relationship they have both been living and that together they can embrace life and the future, as a single, united family unit.

Carolyn Rose, has gifted me a copy of ‘An Uncertain Refuge’, in exchange for me reading and sharing my thoughts. The fact that my copy was gifted, has not influenced, nor in any way will influence in the future, any comments I may  express about the book, in any posts I may publish. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.



Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • Thanks so much for your insight and this wonderfully detailed review. I appreciate the time you spent thinking about plot and character and theme and the effort you put into crafting your “diagnosis.”
    I’m going to have to get back to England so we can meet.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      You are most welcome to the review. These are my honest thoughts about the storyline and characters and I am looking forward to reading the second Kate Dalton book, just to see how much, if any, of my ‘diagnosis’, is accurate.

      If you are ever back in England, please don’t up and leave again without dropping me a line, as I would love the opportunity to meet you in person.

      The weather has taken a distinctly non-Summer turn this morning by the looks of things, but then it is only 5:30am (I know, it is a Sunday – things to do and places to go today!), so hopefully things will brighten up later!

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    • Hi Vicki,

      This is the first book of Carolyn’s that I have read, however she has kindly gifted me several books from her portfolio, so there are plenty more mysteries and moments of suspense, on the horizon.

      Luckily, ‘An Uncertain Refuge’ is the first book in the Kate Dalton series, so I can read them in sequential order, which is a rare event for me. The second book ‘Sea Of Regret’, is next up on my reading schedule.

      I hope that you are well and enjoying your Summer.

      Thanks for stopping by, you know how I always appreciate your comments.

    • Hi Tracy,

      ‘An Uncertain Refuge’ is not a non-stop action thriller, yet somehow it became a real page-turner for me, as the plot built to an inevitable crescendo.

      Suspense with a capital S, definitely sums up this books’ attributes in one word.

      Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate them.

      • Thanks for mentioning that the action isn’t non-stop. Some readers have been disappointed that the pace of the first chapter didn’t continue through the entire book, so I appreciate reviews that make it clear you won’t be biting your nails at every paragraph.

        • Hi Carolyn,

          Speaking purely from a personal point of view; whilst I do enjoy a good suspense / thriller, it doesn’t need to have non-stop action for me to enjoy it. I like a good mix of action and descriptive writing, with some good plot-building and believable characters.

          I think that in these days of self-publishing and a growth market in independent publishers, this all round skill is surely what is going to separate a good author from a mediocre one!

  • This does sound intriguing Yvonne. Kate sounds like an interesting character and it seems like the author does a good job at building the story up, until the finale.

    • Hi Naida,

      A strong opening, followed by some solid plot and character building, ending in an explosive finale …. for me this is the perfect recipe for hit story!

      I shall soon be reading the follow up to this story, which is called ‘Sea Of Regret’, so I am wondering if this winning formula is going to replicated!

      I am hoping that now Kate has discovered that having feelings and getting close to people is not such a bad idea, she may possibly be in for some serious relationship building in ‘Sea …’

      Thanks for taking the time to check on back posts and leave your comments, I always appreciate your visits.

Written by Yvonne