Reluctant Smuggler [NOOK Book]

Overview

They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer…but what if you can’t tell the difference?

For security consultant Desiree Jacobs, the assignment was simple: make off with an ancient Mayan artifact and hand it over to the good guys in time to plan her wedding to ultra-fine FBI agent Tony Lucano.

...
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Reluctant Smuggler

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Overview

They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer…but what if you can’t tell the difference?

For security consultant Desiree Jacobs, the assignment was simple: make off with an ancient Mayan artifact and hand it over to the good guys in time to plan her wedding to ultra-fine FBI agent Tony Lucano.

Yet, in a world where no one is as they seem, Desi must decipher who the good guys are–before she ends up in the hands of a ruthless enemy.

Suddenly, artifact recovery turns into archaeological espionage, and the woman who finds all the answers must now ask questions: Who’s looting priceless antiquities underneath the nose of the baffled Mexican government? And what does a violent gang of drug and human traffickers have to do with missing artifacts?

Even with Tony on her side, Desi will need way more than luck to survive against the odds. She’ll need the truth–not just to set her free, but to liberate many innocents caught in the snare of calculating evil.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In Nelson's worthy third series entry (after Reluctant Burglarand Reluctant Runaway), Desiree Jacob's security firm pulls out all the stops to protect priceless antiques from thieves. Helping her in trying to outwit looters, corrupt government officials, and drug traffickers is FBI boyfriend Tony Lucano. Along the way, Desiree and Tony try to figure out how to find time to build a life together without giving up their respective careers. This is a smart, fast-paced suspense title with enough relationship drama to please both fans of thriller and romance genres. Recommended for CF and women's fiction collections. Nelson lives in Minnesota.


—Tamara Butler
From the Publisher
“Devotees of classic romantic suspense will love Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s Reluctant Smuggler. Lots of bad guys, a handsome fiancé, a cool chick who’s not afraid to hunt for the truth, stolen artifacts, danger and delight, wedding plans and gangster schemes, it’s all here. Desiree and Tony are expertly-developed characters who are only larger than life when duty requires it. The rest of the time, they are just like the rest of us, and that makes them supremely likeable–and very deserving of this book’s very satisfying ending.”
- Susan Meissner, author of Widows and Orphans

“Author Jill Elizabeth Nelson delivers the goods in Reluctant Smuggler. Desiree Jacobs and Tony Lucano are daring, endearing protagonists portrayed in a lively and distinctive style sure to delight readers.”
- Kacy Barnett-Gramckow, author of The Genesis Trilogy

“Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s Reluctant Smuggler will steal your attention with its fast-paced action and your heart with its south-of-the-border romance. A real page-turner from a master writer.”
- DiAnn Mills, author of When the Nile Runs Red

“Sassy security expert Desiree Jacobs faces her toughest challenge yet in Reluctant Smuggler. Not only is someone out to wreck Desi’s business, she seems to have upset some very powerful bad guys whose influence reaches all the way from the Mexican underworld to her home in Boston. Jill Elizabeth Nelson delivers a fast-paced tale of danger, political intrigue, and a breathtaking dash through the jungles of Mexico. Blend all that with a satisfying touch of romance and the result is one terrific read.”
- Virginia Smith, author of Stuck in the Middle, book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister Series

“Jill Elizabeth Nelson has crafted an amazing tale of international intrigue, pulse-pounding drama, and sacrificial love, as well as one exceptional story line. Reluctant Smuggler is a great read and highly recommended!”
- Mark Mynheir, homicide detective and author of The Void

Reluctant Smuggler is a must-read from romantic suspense author Jill Elizabeth Nelson! Security expert Desiree Jacobs will be sure to ‘steal’ your heart–all while she tries to track down art thieves in the exotic jungles of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Reluctant Smuggler takes readers on the ultimate adventure–in love, in faith, and in danger! It’s just my kind of book.”
- Christy Barritt, author of the Squeaky Clean Mystery Series

“What a ride! Reluctant Smuggler has everything–intrigue, adventure, exotic locations, wonderful characters, and through it all, the knowledge that God’s grace is sufficient. Jill Elizabeth Nelson has just become one of my very favorite authors.”
- DeAnna Julie Dodson, author of In Honor Bound

“Take one exotic location, add a beautiful woman, a dedicated FBI agent, a few missing artifacts, and mix at high speed and you have one nonstop thrill ride that will have you flipping the pages late into the night. Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, Jill Nelson manages to turn the heat up on her wonderful characters. You’ll find yourself gasping more than once and quickly turning the page to see how it turns out.”
- Wanda Dyson, critically acclaimed author of The Shefford-Johnson Case Files

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307561565
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/2010
  • Series: To Catch a Thief
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 685,991
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Jill Elizabeth Nelson takes art seriously–when she’s not having fun with it, that is. The To Catch a Thief series combines her love of the written word with her love of other art forms. She’s thrilled if the adventures that spill from her imagination can raise awareness about art theft–a problem the FBI deems a “looming criminal enterprise.” Jill and her husband, Doug, have four children and live in Minnesota.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Desiree Jacobs deadpanned a steady look below the eye of a security camera in the world-famous Museo de Arte Mejicana, an ornate building embedded in the heart of Mexico’s capital city. Her gaze held on the Alfredo Ramos Martínez painting in front of her, a colorful rural scene depicting native women carrying sacks of produce on their backs. That’s it, Señor Camera. Take a good film of this browsing turista, because mousy Myra is all you’ll see.

Señores and señoras, we will move on to the work of Francisco Goitia,” the tour guide said. “Not as well known as others, he was still one of the great Mexican painters of the last century. Goitia reflected the heart of his people with great love and passion.”

The guide went on with her spiel, and Desi trailed the group like an obedient tourist. Her flat-footed, slump-shouldered gait helped her fall farther and farther behind. The group disappeared around a corner, and Desi stopped beside a custodial closet.

Heart rate quickening, she glanced both ways. All clear. She pulled a pin from beneath her gray wig and worked the lock. A moment later, she stepped into the closet and shut the door. Standing in the dark, she smiled. No one in the tour group would miss the dowdy little nobody who never said a word and avoided eye contact.

Desi shrugged out of her backpack, a big no-no for a visitor to haul around in a museum. But a ruckus in the foyer, caused by a street person only too willing to earn a fistful of pesos, had helped her melt into the tour group before anyone could demand she check her bag at the desk.

Not even the tour guide had given mousy Myra a second glance since. Hopefully the hungry-looking begger she hired had made good his escape from the irate museum staff so he could enjoy his well-gotten gains.

Grinning, Desi got to work removing her frumpy clothes, wig, and blue contact lenses.

If she and Max had miscalculated on the smallest detail, those dirty, rotten Greybecks would score big again. Her jaw clenched. That couldn’t happen. Her future–and the futures of those who trusted her–depended on success.

Dad, I won’t let you down.
He wasn’t alive to defend himself. She was his legacy. His hope. Tonight’s heist, and the aftermath, would redeem his reputation.

Desi pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on them. What would Daddy have done while biding his time in the dark? She knew. Pray.

At midnight, snug inside the ventilation duct, Desiree peered from the vent through night-vision goggles that bathed the darkened museum showroom in a surreal greenish glow. Her gaze focused on a display case containing the golden headdress of Pakal, mightiest of the ancient Mayan kings. This single item, dating from a few centuries after Christ, was the pride and joy of the Museo de Arte Mejicana.

Not for long.

“You are mine, Your Majesty,” Desi murmured in south-of-the border Spanish.

Behind the mask over her mouth, the words echoed hollowly. She’d practiced for hours to breathe right without the need to think about it–inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth. Tubes from her mask trailed over her shoulders and sent the lung-warmed air down the shaft, away from the vent opening.

In the showroom, the SmartSensor hunted for an infrared heat signature larger than a mouse. She might be small, but a mouse she wasn’t. Her breathing apparatus allowed her to move close enough to shut the system down.

Desi checked her watch. A few more seconds and… Okay, time. The first of a series of stink bombs should have gone off elsewhere in the museum, drawing the security guard from the control room to check out the smell. Now she had ten, maybe fifteen minutes, while he chased the elusive scent from one site to the next, like an odorous animal scampering ahead of him.

Elbows clamped to her sides in the enclosed space, she wiggled a thin box out of the breast pocket of her jumpsuit. Max’s Miracle, Desi had dubbed the gadget, brainchild of the best accomplice a thief could ever have. Clayton Greybeck, the electronics expert for Greybeck and Sons Security Company, might consider himself a techno-god and the Casanova of geekdom, but Desi knew a West Texas ranch girl named Maxine Webb who could think rings around him. Too bad Max had to sit this caper out. A sick kid and urgent damage-control projects had kept her home in Boston. Desi was solo on this one, but their plan was foolproof.

Maybe. She swallowed. It had to be.

She flipped the gadget on and pointed the lighted end at the dualaction motion detector/heat sensor on the other side of the room. The pinprick of light danced around the unit. Man, it was hard to aim in the cramped conditions. Desi’s breathing rasped, and a drop of sweat filmed her vision. She set the gadget down, lifted her goggles, and wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve.

“You’ve got one chance to hit the target spot-on,”Max had said. “Then the lithium battery’s dry, and you’re toast.”

Well, she’d be toast anyway if she fooled around any longer. She scooped up the gadget, pointed, and blasted. A pop and a little puff of smoke came from the sensor box. No more heat or motion detector.

Desi grinned. Amazing what a pulse of electromagnetic energy could do.

Desi tugged on a rope attached to her waist, and a cordless hot knife slid into her fingers. She fired up the knife and sliced through the bolts holding the vent cover in place. The grill clattered to the marble floor, and Desi’s heart kabumped. Easy now, girl. The guard should be out of earshot, chasing smells at the other end of the building. A museum ought to have two night guards, but the board of directors liked to pinch pesos. Good deal for her tonight. Hard to say whether that would hold true tomorrow.

She lowered a nylon rope through the opening. A yank proved the line held fast on a joint inside the duct. Desi squirmed onto her back, pulled her torso out, and slapped a pair of short-handled suction cups onto the wall on either side of the vent. She hauled the rest of her body out of the duct, and then released the cup handles. Her feet met the floor, impact flowing through her body, familiar as a routine dismount from the parallel bars.

A security camera in the corner watched every move, transmitting it to the empty control room. Desi waved at the electronic eye. No one would watch the footage until the theft was discovered, and with her mask and goggles on, they couldn’t make identification.

A tug on another line brought her pack out of the vent. She removed two wooden sticks an inch thick and eighteen inches long, one of them fitted with a lever, and screwed them together. Next she took out a square of plastic framed with cord, unfolded it to its full three-foot by three-foot size, and attached it to the handle. The resulting object resembled an oversized butterfly net, using plastic instead of gauze, and with a cord and hollow tube sticking out at the spot where the plastic joined the handle. But this was no insect catcher. It was a history-maker.

Smiling behind her mask, Desi took her net and her backpack and stepped up to the case that displayed the bust of a dusky-skinned Mayan. A skull piece of beaten gold hugged the statue’s head, and above it arched a golden cornhusk encrusted with jewels–a tribute to the nourishing golden grain the Mayans had worshiped more than the metal. Magnificent!

Desi itched to step up and grab, but that would be a fatal mistake. Four tiny red eyes guarded the case–wireless heat sensors. If a gawker got too close, alarms went off. Desi tugged on neoprene gloves, and then pulled a metal canister like a mini fire extinguisher from her pack.

She attached the nozzle to the tube on the net.

From a safe distance, she lowered the plastic over the case and pulled the lever on the handle. The net snicked shut like a noose over the case. Desi turned a knob on the metal canister and released gas at a temperature of ninety degrees below zero. The glass instantly iced over. So did the heat sensors. They’d be out of commission for just long enough.

Moving quickly now, Desi released the lever, loosened the suction, and pulled the plastic net off the case. She worked her pick in the lock, and a click signaled release. The gloves protected her hands as she took the cover from the pedestal. Pulse throbbing, she lifted the headdress from the model Mayan.

Heavens! The mighty Pakal would have needed mighty neck muscles to support his crown. Hugging the headdress with one arm, she took a padded bag from her pack and eased the antiquity inside. She put the bag into her pack on top of her Myra disguise.

From the looted case, the bare head of the Mayan pouted at her with thick lips and cold eyes. A shiver darted down her spine. “Sorry, buddy,” she whispered. “Let’s see if we can fix you up.”

She took a chip from her pocket, placed it on his head, and pressed a button. The crown of Pakal appeared on the model’s head. Desi pulled her hand back through the hologram. Quickly she fitted the cover on the pedestal and retreated. Exhilaration sang in her veins.

The headdress was hers!

Not if she didn’t skedaddle pronto. Was the guard still chasing stink? She checked her watch, and her heart stuttered. He could be headed back to the control room right now.

Desi shoved her equipment and backpack into a corner out of sight of the security camera, which was trained on the Pakal case. She slung the heavy sack containing the crown onto her shoulders and shinnied up the rope to the vent opening. Grunting, she stuffed the pack into the hole and followed it fast.

She plunged into the pitch darkness of the ductwork. Here, even her night-vision goggles were nearly blind. Smooth metal passed beneath her stomach, punctuated by seam bands. Her nose tickled. Ah-choo! The sound echoed, and she froze. Please,God, don’t let the guard hear that. Clenching her jaw, she crawled on.
Where was that left turn? She passed her hand along the duct wall. She was supposed to come to it before she reached the vent in the custodial closet where she’d waited. If she missed the turn, she’d have to push backward and find it. Not fun in this cracker box. Good thing she wasn’t claustrophobic.

Her hand passed into air.

Desi stuffed the crown into the opening, and it jammed tight. Great! She tugged the bag, but it didn’t budge. Double great! The duct she was supposed to follow out of the building must be smaller than the one she was in. The schematic she and Max had used to plan the caper had shown it as older, but the drawing hadn’t mentioned that the older ductwork was also narrower. Even if she got the crown loose, she wouldn’t fit into the opening herself. Triple great!

Plan B. Desi closed her eyes and concentrated on recalling the building plans. If she continued down this passage, where would she end up?

Her thoughts scurried like mice in a maze. What was the matter with her? A sound like a rushing wind filled her head, and the atmosphere closed in. Heavy. Dark. She could die here. Never see light again.
Sucking air through her nose, her mind cleared. She ripped the mask off and flung it away, along with the useless goggles. No wonder she couldn’t think. After that sneeze, she’d started breathing in through her mouth, getting mostly her own exhaled carbon dioxide from the tubes down her back. She could have killed herself without realizing what she was doing.

Buckle down, woman. First order of business–get the crown unstuck, and that would take old-fashioned elbow grease. Desi jerked and tugged. How had she jammed the antiquity so tightly into the small space? Poor judgment–no doubt a side effect of her near asphyxiation.

She gave a mighty yank. With a crack and a rip, the pack sprang free. Her mouth went dry. She’d better not have damaged the headdress.

No time to speculate. Now that her mind was clear, she knew this duct would take her to the elevator shaft, where she could climb to the roof and then leave the building via the fire escape. Not as clear-cut as a short crawl to the rear workroom where she could disable a simple alarm and walk out the back door, pretty as you please, but it would have to do.

Thirty minutes later, Desi’s feet left the last rung of the fire escape and touched the packed dirt of a deserted alley outside the museum building. Mexico City’s cool January air refreshed her lungs. Stillness enfolded her as she gazed toward the velvet blackness of a sky populated with fading stars. This was the magic time before dawn, when even the cantina music had fallen silent.

Tension melted from her muscles. She was a walking dust bunny and could stand under a hot shower for a week, but she’d done it–beaten the Greybeck security system and grabbed the greatest prize of her career.
But had she damaged the piece during her exit? Her heart hit her toes. She pulled the padded bag from her pack and ran her hands over the crown’s outline. No obvious deformities. Maybe she should get back to her hotel and check.

No, this couldn’t wait. She was as private here as anywhere. Desi placed the bag on a crate where a shaft of light from a street pole reached into the alley. Her fingers trembled on the drawstring, and her pulse throbbed.

If she’d harmed the headdress, she’d run shrieking into the street. She’d turn herself in at the nearest police station. She’d sell her home to pay for the repairs. She’d bow and kiss Clayton Greybeck’s feet. Blech! She’d step down as head of HJ Securities. She’d…

Desi gaped at the flakes and chunks that slipped from the bag along with the headdress, minus the tip of one cornhusk leaf. Her jaw snapped shut. Flakes? She picked one up and tasted it. Paint! Chunks? She cradled one in her palm and examined it. Lead!

She gave a strangled cry. Those double-dealing, dastardly cowards. She’d spent days of planning and a sleepless, nerve-racking night to pilfer a piece of junk. Not to mention just about having heart failure when she thought she’d damaged a priceless antiquity.

Those Greybecks…no, wait. Not them–the museum board of directors. A tight smile stretched her lips. The stuffed shirts suspected she might get away with it, and they’d hedged their bets by making sure she wouldn’t lay her hands on the real deal. A backhanded compliment if she ever heard of one. Worse, Greybeck and Sons must have been informed she was coming–a violation of the provisional contract with HJ Securities.

Desi stuffed the leaden fake into the bag, then swept the chunks and flakes into her palm and put them in the pocket of her jumpsuit opposite the one that held Max’s miracle gadget. Let’s see what the august gentlemen of the board had to say for themselves tomorrow– er, today. She glanced at her watch. A few hours remained to plan a suitable response, and–

“There she is!” a man grated in Spanish. “Get her!”

Desi whipped around to find three large shapes charging toward her up the alley. The menacing rhythm of booted feet sent her heart into overdrive.

“Run!” Did she holler that out loud? Yes, but it got her moving.

She grabbed the bag and backpack and tore up the alley. The leaden crown weighted her steps. Why not fling it at them? The worthless thing might do good damage. She clutched the bag. Too stubborn for her own good. A slingshot swing would work better if they got closer.

Desi burst onto the deserted street. To her right, voices shouted from the other end of the museum, followed by more galloping feet. She took off in the opposite direction. Canopied adobe buildings flashed past.

“Don’t let her get away!”

Desi made out the words from the garble of frenzied Spanish behind her. What did these thugs want? Did they think she had the real headdress? Well, duh! Her blood chilled. Men would kill for the crown of Pakal.

She glanced over her shoulder. Five of them–and gaining on her. Desi’s lungs burned. Bother this altitude! She wasn’t used to 7,000-plus feet above sea level, and she couldn’t run much longer. Correction. She couldn’t run any longer.

Wheezing, Desi stopped and turned. The man in the lead faltered, and the others passed him. Smart fellow. She whirled the bag by the drawstring…faster…faster.

Her pursuers slowed. Streetlights bathed their looming figures, but she couldn’t make out faces beneath dark clothing and ski masks. One of the men put up his hands–big hands, spatulate, with index fingers longer than the middle fingers. “Be careful, señorita.”

She breathed in air heavy with spicy cooking scents from the closed restaurant beside her. “You want it? Go get it.” She let go of the string, and the bag flipped end over end to land above their heads in the striped canopy over the entrance.

A collective groan came from her pursuers. They stared at the canopy. Desi took off. Without the crown’s weight, she could do the few hundred feet to her car. But only if they didn’t chase her. Her energy meter had plunged into the wimp zone.

She dashed around a corner into an alley, leaped over the huddled form of a street beggar, and reached a private lot behind a building. Her breath caught. Where was her rental VW Bug? She’d paid good money to the manager for overnight parking. It better be…

There! Somebody had parked a hulking Mercedes beside it, blocking her view. She opened the Bug, threw her pack inside, and collapsed behind the wheel, pulse off the Richter scale.

Desi peeled out of the lot with nary a glimpse of her pursuers. Fine! She’d left them holding the bag. It was their own fault if they ended up with a two-ton sack of nothing.

Laughter bubbled up…until the tears came. All she had for all she’d done was a whole lot of nothing too.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Foreword

1. At the beginning of the story, Desiree is using work to cover her grief over her dad’s death, rather than deal with it. What avoidance mechanisms do we sometimes use to keep from confronting the real issues in our lives?

2. President Montoya compliments Desiree’s perceptiveness about the deeper motives behind Greybeck and Sons’ smear campaign, rather than being swept away by emotions that could blind her to the real root of the attack. Often we are tempted to become caught up in battling flesh and blood. What Scriptures admonish us to look beyond the person to the dark forces working through them? What methods can we use to combat those forces while walking in love toward those who behave badly toward us?

3. Tony runs into a sticky situation with his ex-partner’s prayer request about the woman Steve wants to marry. Tony strives to convey the truth without giving offense. Did he succeed? Could he or should he have responded differently? Have you run into similar difficult situations with people who seek your prayers but not your Lord? How did you handle those situations?

4. Culture and environment can be huge factors in the choices we make. Zapopa’s grandson must choose between honoring his grandmother, as his culture dictates, or giving in to the hopelessness of his environment and staying with the gang. In this instance, the former path happens to line up with Scripture and the latter leads to destruction. There are times when both culture and environment can steer us wrong, and we must rise above those factors in order to follow God’s Word. Name ways for good or ill that your culture or environment has molded you andinfluenced your choices. Name ways that you have defied those influences in obedience to Christ. Name ways that you need to change in order to resist culture and environment and live a life pleasing to God.

5. When Tony is in a coma, he faces a grave choice–continue physical life or go on to be with the Lord. How much of a factor is our will in these matters of life or death? Later in the story, what nonphysical battle must Tony win in order to assure his full recovery? How important are our attitudes about ourselves in determining outcomes in the issues of life? Give examples from the Bible that illustrate this concept.

6. Why do you think Desi had so much trouble calling Tony’s mother “Mom”? Was Max’s advice good in telling Desi to be patient until that right moment came? Do we sometimes trip up our relationships with others by trying to force things, or conversely, by resisting a call to deepen a relationship? What finally broke through the barrier in Desi’s heart and cemented her mother/daughter relationship with Gina?

7. How did you feel about Tony’s gift to Desi on their wedding day? What healing revelation did that gift inspire in her heart? Share a time when a gift in season changed your life.

8. Tony and Desi have a deep conversation about the gang mentality. Do you agree with Desi’s assessment that hopelessness is a prime factor influencing young people to form and join gangs? Why or why not? How important is a sense of hope to any person, group, culture, or race? What does the Bible say about hope and the human spirit?

9. El Jaguar does evil because he likes it. Clayton Greybeck appears to be a victim of upbringing and circumstance. For which person do you feel the most compassion? Why? Is that a purely human assessment? How does God evaluate evil?

10. At the end of the story, Tony states that he and Desi must work hard to be worthy of a child’s trust. Desi counters that work is involved, but worthiness is only by grace. What does she mean by that? How do we walk out that balance of work and grace–especially in our attempts to influence children for good?

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Reading Group Guide

1. At the beginning of the story, Desiree is using work to cover her grief over her dad’s death, rather than deal with it. What avoidance mechanisms do we sometimes use to keep from confronting the real issues in our lives?

2. President Montoya compliments Desiree’s perceptiveness about the deeper motives behind Greybeck and Sons’ smear campaign, rather than being swept away by emotions that could blind her to the real root of the attack. Often we are tempted to become caught up in battling flesh and blood. What Scriptures admonish us to look beyond the person to the dark forces working through them? What methods can we use to combat those forces while walking in love toward those who behave badly toward us?

3. Tony runs into a sticky situation with his ex-partner’s prayer request about the woman Steve wants to marry. Tony strives to convey the truth without giving offense. Did he succeed? Could he or should he have responded differently? Have you run into similar difficult situations with people who seek your prayers but not your Lord? How did you handle those situations?

4. Culture and environment can be huge factors in the choices we make. Zapopa’s grandson must choose between honoring his grandmother, as his culture dictates, or giving in to the hopelessness of his environment and staying with the gang. In this instance, the former path happens to line up with Scripture and the latter leads to destruction. There are times when both culture and environment can steer us wrong, and we must rise above those factors in order to follow God’s Word. Name ways for good or ill that your culture or environment has molded you and influenced your choices. Name ways that you have defied those influences in obedience to Christ. Name ways that you need to change in order to resist culture and environment and live a life pleasing to God.

5. When Tony is in a coma, he faces a grave choice–continue physical life or go on to be with the Lord. How much of a factor is our will in these matters of life or death? Later in the story, what nonphysical battle must Tony win in order to assure his full recovery? How important are our attitudes about ourselves in determining outcomes in the issues of life? Give examples from the Bible that illustrate this concept.

6. Why do you think Desi had so much trouble calling Tony’s mother “Mom”? Was Max’s advice good in telling Desi to be patient until that right moment came? Do we sometimes trip up our relationships with others by trying to force things, or conversely, by resisting a call to deepen a relationship? What finally broke through the barrier in Desi’s heart and cemented her mother/daughter relationship with Gina?

7. How did you feel about Tony’s gift to Desi on their wedding day? What healing revelation did that gift inspire in her heart? Share a time when a gift in season changed your life.

8. Tony and Desi have a deep conversation about the gang mentality. Do you agree with Desi’s assessment that hopelessness is a prime factor influencing young people to form and join gangs? Why or why not? How important is a sense of hope to any person, group, culture, or race? What does the Bible say about hope and the human spirit?

9. El Jaguar does evil because he likes it. Clayton Greybeck appears to be a victim of upbringing and circumstance. For which person do you feel the most compassion? Why? Is that a purely human assessment? How does God evaluate evil?

10. At the end of the story, Tony states that he and Desi must work hard to be worthy of a child’s trust. Desi counters that work is involved, but worthiness is only by grace. What does she mean by that? How do we walk out that balance of work and grace–especially in our attempts to influence children for good?

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 3, 2011

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    Don't Spend Money on this Book

    Still waiting on something exciting to happen. This book is pretty bad. Between the errors on the Nook version and tge actual story line, it's horrible. I thought the book was about smuggling, but the majority of it has centered around the main characters relationship, which is just so perfect. I would not recommend this book to anyone. I hope I can finish it.

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Reluctant Smuggler

    THEY SAY KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER... BUT WHAT IF YOU CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE? 'Reluctant Smuggler' is the third book in Jill Elizabeth Nelson's 'To Catch a Thief' series and my favorite of the three. Desiree Jacobs is trying to plan her wedding, run her business 'HJ Securities', and avoid dangerous situations. But her plan isn't working - it seems as though danger follows Desi everywhere. While she's in Mexico, she was robbed three times in the same day, was held at gun point, and many other similar incidents. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Tony Lucano was stuck in Boston...literally. A blizzard made airports close, phone lines go down, and cell phone service unavailable. And when Tony goes on a mission during the storm, he ends up in a coma fighting for his life. "Don't even try to tell me you're a victim. The reluctant smuggler. Hah!" - Page 301 'Reluctant Smuggler' is my favorite in the series (so far). I don't know whether there will be another addition, but if there is, I will definitely want to read it. As usual, I loved Desi's, Tony's, and Max's characters, but I also enjoyed Mama Gina and even Stevo's character. I loved this story - it had so many twists and kept me guessing. There were many times I was "on the edge of my seat" waiting for what was going to happen next. I won't mention one other thing that I really liked about this novel because I feel it would spoil parts of the book for you - should you decide to read it. I recommend 'Reluctant Smuggler' if you enjoy a good, clean suspense/mystery book (with romance)! 4.5 Stars

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  • Posted March 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Book Number Three Can Stand Alone

    I've visited Cancun and the nearby area of the Yucatan peninsula twice and I was totally immersed into the Mayan influence as I read Reluctant Smuggler. I enjoyed the seeing the story unfold even though I had not read the first two in the series. Reluctant Smuggler can stand on it's own but now, of course I want to go back and read the other two.

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  • Posted October 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat package

    Review by Gretchen Hoffman

    I was so excited when Reluctant Smuggler came out. I started reading the series when the first two books were out, but I had to wait for this one. Book three did not disappoint.

    In the final book of the trilogy, Desiree Jacobs faces her most difficult task yet. It started off simple-obtain an antique Mayan artifact and get it to the good guys. But the simple task gets complicated when espionage, people looting Mexican antiquities, corrupt government officials, and a violent gang, the Fraternidad de la Garra, find their way into the picture. How is Desi supposed to plan the perfect wedding to her fiancé, FBI agent Tony Lucano, with all this trouble?

    With injuries, lots of questions, and someone close who ends up in the hospital, Desi faces a lot of "what-if" situations and must rely on more than her wits to survive. She needs to find the truth before anyone else, including herself, gets hurt.

    If you've read book one and two, this book is a must. Ms. Nelson ties everything together in a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat package. Check it out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2008

    Suspense Tripping Romance!

    Security consultant Desiree Jacobs is at it--again! What should have been a simple artifact retrieval lands her in the jungles of Mexico, where differentiating the good guys from drug traffickers is no easy job. Whether or not Desiree can outrun the nasty boys and keep her wedding date with FBI agent Tony Lucano proves to be Desiree's greatest adventure yet. Book three of the To Catch A Thief series, Reluctant Smuggler by author Jill Elizabeth Nelson is another front runner! Decisively character driven, Reluctant Smuggler is packed with action and riveting suspense that makes for an intense page-turner. I applaud Jill Elizabeth Nelson's gift to transport readers to a world of romantic suspense and, to believe they are with Desiree whether inside a grand palace or the mysterious Mayan ruins. Nelson has a natural gift of unobtrusively showing Desiree and Tony's unwavering faith. Reluctant Smuggler will appeal to inspirational and secular readers alike. And if you haven't read the first two books of this amazing series you must! Jill Elizabeth Nelson's, Reluctant Smuggler is my favorite of the Catch A Thief series. I'm chewing my nails in suspenseful anticipation for her next book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2008

    Three Times A Winner

    Desiree Jacobs wants to be married. And she has everything she could ask for in her fiancé, FBI Agent Tony Lucano. But so much seems to be in their way of setting a date. She becomes sidetracked when her assignment to ¿steal¿ an ancient Mayan artifact goes awry and turns into an archeological nightmare. The search for clues brings up old memories she wished she could forget. When Tony becomes seriously injured during an investigation, his life as he knows it is threatened. While grateful to be alive after a near death experience, can he adapt to another career should he be unable to pass his FBI physical? Could he marry Desi if he is not the man she fell in love with? Once again, Jill Nelson brings this couple through a series of challenges. The excitement is non stop from page one. As challenging as their missions, so is their faith tested throughout the journey. Well written and well crafted, the story is sure to please.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2008

    Hang On! Let Me Catch My Breath!

    Murder! Kidnapping! Smuggling! Espionage! Exotic locations! A beautiful security consultant determined to recover priceless artifacts. A handsome FBI agent determined to find priceless human cargo while protecting his lovely fiancée ¿ who, incidentally, can take care of herself! Jill Elizabeth Nelson¿s Reluctant Smuggler is an action-packed romantic suspense that takes you to exotic locations and puts you in situations that, hopefully, you¿ll never experience. This thriller presents both sides of Mexico ¿ the lovely, welcoming tourist destinations and the cruel underground of gangs and drugs. WARNING: Plan to read the whole thing when you start! This is fast-paced novel that has a lot going on ¿ but don¿t worry about getting lost. Nelson is an experienced storyteller. Her setting descriptions are so realistic. I¿ve never been to Mexico or the Yucatan, but I had no trouble imagining myself there with Desi and Tony. Speaking of her characters, I like that they are real, with the same doubts and fears that we would have in the same situation ¿ well, almost. (I¿m a big `fraidy cat!) I won¿t go into details, but Desi Jacobs and her fiancé, Special Agent Tony Lucano, FBI, fight all kinds of nefarious characters at home and in Mexico. And with the prayer support of their family and co-workers, they ¿ well, you¿ll have to see for yourself what happens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2008

    A reviewer

    Keeping in line with Reluctant Burglar and Reluctant Runaway, the first two books in Jill Elizabeth Nelson's To Catch A Thief series, Reluctant Smuggler is action-packed! There is mystery, romance, suspense, history ... all with the underlying message that God is in control and He always wins!! I love the fact that you get 'lost' in this book -- in a Mayan village, in the deep jungle, in a cenote at Cichen Itza, to be exact! The descriptions are so real you feel like you're running with Tony searching for El Jaguar's lair. When Tony's heart thundered in his ears - MINE echoed it!! When a thousand spider feet crawled up Desi's spine - I felt the tingle up MINE, too! In the midst of all this action, a beautiful wedding takes place. And then there's the honeymoon... definitely a UNIQUE honeymoon. I highly recommend Reluctant Smuggler, but be warned - you won't be able to put it down!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2008

    Action-packed suspense

    This is the third book in the To Catch a Thief series. I have not read the first two books, yet I was not lost and now have the desire to go back to the first two just to get more background on the characters, whom I loved. The characters were so aptly described that I felt like I knew them personally. The suspense and action kept me interested all throughout. Desi is a woman who knows what she wants and is very independent. Tony is her fiance and an FBI agent. They both find themselves in impossible situations where they each have to learn to trust in God. I kept anticipating what would happen next and was never disappointed by the outcomes. I would highly recommend this book and I can't wait to read the first two.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2008

    A reviewer

    The Reluctant Smuggler, the third installment in Jill Elizabeth Nelson¿s To Catch A Thief series, takes the reader from the snow covered landscape of Boston to the tropical jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, to archaeological digs. While trying to find flaws in the Mexican museum¿s security system, Desiree Jacobs finds herself chased and the false artifact she carries stolen. Back in Boston, her fiancée, FBI agent Tony Lucano is almost killed during a raid and lies in a coma. Page turning thrills and suspense tie these two incidents together and threaten to jeopardize Desi¿s and Tony¿s upcoming wedding. In The Reluctant Smuggler, Jill Elizabeth Nelson digs deeper in Desi¿s and Tony¿s love for each other, the dangers of crime-solving and protecting precious antiquities, and shows us the strength of true-love. The Reluctant Smuggler was my favorite of the three books in the To Catch a Thief Series. Full of romance, danger, suspense and God¿s sovereignty. I¿m looking forward to more adventures written by Jill Elizabeth Nelson I'd like to see this book made into a movie!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    A GREAT NON-STOP ACTION READ

    Desi Jacobs finds herself in trouble on Page 1 and the excitement doesn't let up until the final sentence. The book opens with Desi breaking into a Mexican Museum to steal a precious aritifact. No, she's not a thief, she's a security expert out to prove why the Mexican government should hire her firm. Unfortunately, the nefarious Claybeck family, a competing firm, doesn't play by the rules and Desi refuses to have anything further to do with the deal. Her goal: Get home to Tony, her fiance. Which proves to be a crazy adventure in itself. From there, she's immersed into even more danger even as she plans her wedding. Trouble from Mexico follows her home then all the way back to Mexico where she must fully rely on God to rescue her from evil. A fast-paced, well-written book that kept me up at night wanting to know what happened next!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    Fantastic Conclusion to Great Romantic Suspense Series

    fulfilling a contract. Not so with Reluctant Smuggler. Instead, this book is filled with twists, turns, delightful surprises, and a very satisfying ending for those who have been with the series from book one. Desiree is thrown into all kinds of situations¿both physical and emotional ¿ that must be dealt with before she can grow and the book can conclude. While Desiree and Tony are on parallel paths, they approach them from distinctly different perspectives. I could see myself in many of Desiree¿s struggles about balancing career and getting married, the honing down to what¿s truly important. The settings were lush. I could sense the sights and smells of the different locations in Mexico. The book was almost as good as a plane ticket down there to see it all myself. The setting supported the book and plot without taking over. And I loved seeing the growth in many of the secondary characters, too. They weren¿t merely props inserted into the book to make the main characters look good. Over the course of the series each of them grew as well. My only disappointment is that the series had to end!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2008

    A Page-Turner From Start to Finish!

    Desiree Jacobs thrives on action--it's part of her job as a security consultant. But this latest assignment for the Mexican government has placed more than protecting antiquities on the line...her life is in danger. Reluctant Smuggler is a page-turner from start to finish that you're sure to love as much as I do!!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    In Mexico City, American security consultant Desiree Jacobs of HJ Securties has been hired to test rival Greybeck and Sons¿ security measures at the internationally renowned Museo de Arte Museum. Desi sort of succeeds, but rejects the job offer to provide security because the museum did not live up to their provisional agreement. Instead she plans to fly home the next day and begin wedding plans with her beloved FBI agent, Ton-y Lucano.------------- However instead of returning home, Mexican Presidente Montoya asks Desi for a favor as he trusts her due to knowing her late maligned father personally and her display of ethics during the museum caper. He wants her to investigate stolen art treasures, which she agrees to do as long as it is understood she is not law enforcement. As she begins to unravel the truth, she finds a tie to the illegal drug trade that makes her a target of ruthless killers. Tony realizes his beloved is in trouble and defying FBI policy immediately races to Mexico to insure his Desi is safe, but fears he may be too late as a snake betrays her.------------ The third To Catch a Thief saga (see RELUCTANT RUNAWAY and RELUCTANT RUNAWAY) is an exhilarating inspirational suspense thriller that focuses on the antiquities black market. The story line is fast-paced from the opening segue that showcase Desiree¿s talent through her ordeal with killing thieves and to the final confrontation with a shocking twist. Although the Greybeck subplot feels contrived, fans will enjoy the latest ¿reluctant¿ tale wondering if Desi will make it out of Mexico alive and in time to wed Tony.----------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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