Title: Vanguard

Author: CJ Markusfeld

Genre: Suspense / Contemporary Romance

Release Date: 17th July, 2015






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Sophie Swenda, a refugee aid expert, is accustomed to saving lives on a grand scale. It becomes more than a job when the person she needs to save is the man she loves.

Michael Nariovsky-Trent, a Baltic-born American doctor, vanished months ago after joining the resistance in the Soviet Republic. Sophie believes he’s trapped inside the fences and barbed wire of a sinister refugee camp, lost in a sea of freezing, starving prisoners of war.

Despite her long-ago failed romance with Michael, Sophie’s always believed their time would come – no matter how unlikely it seems to everyone around them. His blazing temper, her obstinacy, and their shared brilliance and competitiveness have made the road to love a rocky one. More than a decade after they separated, they’re too stubborn to forgive past mistakes … and still too in love to move on.

She embarks on a mission like no other before. Unless Sophie can find him, their long-delayed chance at love will be lost forever. With the world’s security forces deadlocked and the camp’s commander seeking vengeance, Sophie is on her own. She must bargain for the life of the man she loves – and everyone else in the camp – before the commander destroys them all.

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Sophie sat aboard the New York-bound train, looking at Michael’s passport picture. Even in a black and white photocopy, Michael was beautiful. Throughout their most bitter battles of the last decade, during their long separations and furious arguments, he’d  always  been beautiful to her. She didn’t think she’d ever told him that, and now might never get a chance.

For a moment, pain and panic overwhelmed her. She leaned her forehead against the window, forcing herself to breathe evenly, then turned back to the dossier.

Sophie examined the picture, but there was nothing she didn’t already knows. Michael’s far was watched on her heart. He wasn’t smiling in the picture–he rarely smiled in photos– which made him look more foreign. His mother’s Orlisian blood dominated in his heavy brow, generous mouth, and stern expression. He looked more American when he smiled, showing his boyish dimples beneath the black hair he’d inherited from his father.  A perfect blend of parents, and the two cultures that shared him.


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Reviewed by Rachel McEwan and Sharon Thérèse Nuttall

“She lived too long not knowing if he were alive or dead ……”.

Our minds were blown, captivated beyond words! You know it’s that special kind of read when your tummy gets the butterflies and continues throughout the whole book! This was a story which had us gripped to our kindles from the very first page to the last, and to say this book was ‘unputdownable’ would be an understatement. One of us started the book without telling the other (tut, tut) with the intention of just reading a few pages, well, that certainly didn’t happen and left the other playing catch me if you can. Let’s just say it was finished ‘tout suite’ but with the offer to read it again as it was that good!

Michael ~ “I will always love you. Even when I am this angry at you, I still love you.”

The author has woven a story set in a fictitious country, Orlisia, invaded by the neighbouring Russian Republic. This conflict comparable with other world disputes is so vividly described that you can feel the suffering, feel the harsh winter and desperation. However, before this happens we are introduced to the heroine in this story, Sophie Swenda.

Michael ~ “Mama mila, you are the most beautiful woman in the world to me.”

Sophie is a young woman who has unquestionable talent in her field of work and is highly respected by all those who are fortunate enough to know her. She has achieved so much in such little time for her years as an expert organizer in a refugee aid agency which works and coordinates alongside other security forces. You can’t help but not like Sophie. She’s one of the bravest, selfless and most tenacious characters we have ever met in all our years of reading. Let’s just say all those qualities and more were required for the toughest journey she will ever have to go on to bring back her best friend and soul mate from the brink of death. We say ‘best friend’ lightly here because their relationship has never really been defined. They are essentially best friends who have spent many years of their adult life in touch but never really made it to the ‘couple’ stage. All we can say is to fully understand Sophie and Michael’s relationship, you must read this book!

Sophie ~ “You’ve always called me that … mana mila. ‘My love’. Am I really your love, Mikael ?”

Michael ~ “Yes. You are my love. My one and only love. You have always will be. I love you. Do you know that ? I love you.”

Michael. Wow, we loved him but there were times could’ve given him a swift kick up the arse! He is extremely honourable and at times very difficult too. He was determined to do what he felt was his duty to his mother country. Nevertheless, if it’s possible, it actually made us love him more. You couldn’t help feel very proud of what he wanted to achieve however naïve it may have been. He feels it’s a calling he simply cannot refuse. He’s a doctor and humanitarian and feels it’s his duty to go help save and protect his people.

Michael ~ “I have to go mana mila, It is my home. I must do something.”

The dialogue is so moving that many times it has us in tears! We felt every emotion they was going through as if it you were living and breathing their situation yourselves. It is simply beautiful, stunning and haunting all at the same time, oh and don’t forget the witty banter. To find that all in one book was for us, perfect. There isn’t anything we would change in this book other than more Sophie and Michael! One thing also worth noting is that it’s written in third person and normally we both really struggle to connect with books written this way but in this case, both of us didn’t notice it at all until after finishing the book.

Michael ~ “We have not had a conventional relationship, love. Neither of us is conventional. We have been friends. We have been enemies. We have saved one another’s lives. And we are the most passionate of lovers. Now it is time for us to be equals. This will take practice on both our parts.”

Yes, primarily this book’s about a couple who have to endure something nobody should, yet it really does come into its own when you are introduced to the secondary characters. They were nothing less than brilliant! We have to mention that one of our favourites has to be Anjali who is a doctor working on the refugee camp and also Sophia’s boss’ wife. Some of the best one liners in the book are from her. She’s moralistic, sharp witted and has absolutely no filter! As you can expect from this type of storyline, there are some harrowing scenes but the author’s witty prose brought light to some of the darkest scenes.

Anjali ~ “My he has a temper, doesn’t he? That’s good. It means he’s probably very passionate in bed.”

That is just one of many the quotes we highlighted in this book! We understand that this book is the authors début, but we would love to hear Anjali and Will’s story. No pressure Ms Markusfeld! I don’t think either one of us have ever highlighted as many times in any other book.

In conclusion, in our opinion this book is a truly remarkable read! It’s a story about love and never losing hope for that one person who is your true soul mate. We have read and reviewed many authors’ books and due to the fact that this book left such a lifelong impression on us, it deserves more than 5 stars. So for the first time in our blogging history we award ‘Vanguard’ 6 stars! If you are looking for an outstanding, swoon-worthy and spine-tingling read, then look no further than the first book Ms Markusfeld has written, and believe us when we say this, she writes exceptionally well. Bravo!


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white backgroundBIO STAR


CJ Markusfeld is a writer and digital marketer. She spent four years writing for PLAN International, one of the world’s largest international development agencies, where she developed a passionate interest in such issues such as children’s rights, education, and habitat security.

She has a Bachelor of Journalism, and is an alumna of the global education organization Up with People, spending a year of her life performing and volunteering in communities around the globe.

CJ writes about the convergence of unlikely things – humanity and ecommerce, big business and non-profit, and even romance and refugee camps. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her daughter.


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