Book Review: Beautiful Sacrifice by Elizabeth Lowell

This book was recommended to me by the little old lady in the blue cardigan that works Wednesdays at the Library Bookstore. She happened to notice that I like romance novels and mysteries, so she pulled it out, glanced at the back and told me I would probably like it. So I took it to the front, paid my ten cents, and decided to read it on the weekend.

Loosely, it’s about a woman who is Mexican-American, from a wealthy (mostly dysfunctional) family and a professor of archaeology whose path crosses with a former ICE agent who is now some sort of enforcer south of the border, around December 21 2012 – Yes people, Mayan apocalypse time!

So you can see why I had to read it?


According to Maya legend, December 21, 2012, will mark the end of the world as we know it. Is it myth . . . or will their prediction become reality?

Archaeologist Lina Taylor has devoted her life to studying ancient Maya artifacts, splitting her time between digs in South America and the classroom teaching college students. But the professor’s structured, academic life is about to spin out of control. Some extremely valuable and important Maya artifacts have gone missing. Are the culprits fanatics determined to create chaos and usher in annihilation?

Helping out a friend, former immigration and customs enforcement officer Hunter Johnston is determined to recover the missing pieces and he needs Lina’s help. A man used to calling the shots and working alone, he isn’t comfortable letting anyone get close, especially a beautiful and brainy woman like Lina. His gift for reading people tells him there’s a lot going on below that professional exterior, and he’s more than a little curious to probe her depths.

Burying herself in her work, Lina’s had little experience handling men, especially one as fascinating and exasperating as the secretive, headstrong Hunter. A devoted archaeologist, she has the skill to excavate those protective layers all the way to his core.

But finding the missing artifacts is only the beginning of a mystery that will plunge these unlikely partners into adventure, romance, and danger more thrilling, sensual, and deadly than either of them knows. . .

So, right off – let me just say this: if you’re an archaeology buff or have a particular interest in Mayan history – don’t read this book. It will make you cringe a bit. Seriously – it’s interesting stuff, but definitely no accurate by any stretch of the imagination (and in my edition, the author does make a note of this).

With that out of the way, here’s my review:

First off – Lina. Lina is an interesting person at the beginning – she’s smart, she’s capable, she’s sort of a hard-ass and there are hints at a troubled childhood and a tense familial situation. She’s a scholar and an archaeologist, after her obsessive father, and spends a lot of her time trying to keep her family out of trouble in the antiquities trade. As the story opens up, Lina is convinced someone is watching her, even though there’s no reason she ca think of for someone to stalk her. Meanwhile, a mystery falls in her lap – the theft of some undocumented antiquities that were acquired from an ICE bust that lands Hunter right in her way.

Now, as I said, when the book opens, Lina is my hero – she’s sophisticated, a little broken, a little headstrong, whatever. After she meets Hunter and they begin their headlong fall into love, she becomes a little bit of a wimp. No seriously. He sort of takes over her life in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable. She becomes a thing of feeling, her reason escaping her and her portayal a little shaky.

Then, we get to the real action and she steps up to the plate and bats it out. She becomes a stronger character, relying on her own smarts and her own experiences to navigate her troubles, even while understanding she cannot do everything on her own, and makes room for Hunter.

Hunter is your regular Alpha Male – formerly ICE, now a sort of vigilante bounty hunter that spends a lot of time in Mexico, and it’s hinted that he has a pretty good family life, some great friends and a steady income. He speaks Spanish (yay!) and actually is pretty cool in that the reason he first meets Lina is that he is taking a class she teaches on Mayan religion. There is something about a man who can take instructions from a woman in a romance novel that makes me happy. Very happy.

Anyway, the story itself is a little disjointed, it’s not as fluid as other Lowell works, but it is an interesting one that doesn’t shrink away from the scary or slightly toe-curling things. Again, with someone from a archaeological background, it may not work – but with someone who only has a passing interest in the things we can find buried in dirt – it works out alright.

While I wouldn’t urge you to run out and grab this book right now (sidenote: it’s a very hard book to track down), it is worth the summer read if you’re on a beach somewhere.





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