Book Review: Keeping Creed

Bent on revenge and uncaring if he lives or dies, Creed begins to learn that home is more than a place. It’s what you protect.

Keeping Creed by Shaun Holt is a quirky military romance novel centering around Samuel Creed and Tessa Holt, whose teenage years were moulded by tragedy. Finding their way to each other gives Tessa the prince she never knew she wanted, and Creed the reason he needs to always return home.

When the events of 9/11 rob Creed of his older brother and Tessa of her much-loved uncle, their worlds are shattered into a world of grief. Tessa turns to literature and escape, while Creed turns to the military and revenge. A whirlwind of basic training and three tours in Afghanistan later finds Creed jaded and Tessa working at a library in Washington D.C., where the two meet through Creed’s niece, Rose.

Their romance lights like a match. But Creed’s newest job working at a counter-terrorism agency won’t let him forget the innocent lives yet being lost to the minds and actions of terrible men. When his work and love life collide, Creed has to make a choice: revenge for the brother he loved, or the new life he’s built?

The Good:

There are two main points of view in the novel, Creed and Tessa. They were both well done, but I especially enjoyed the Jane Austen quotes in the beginning of Tessa’s chapters as they related to the subject of each chapter. It reflected her love for literature and added a deeper connection to the character.

The prose is sharp, detailed. Many times I was surprised at how in-depth and precise the descriptions were, making the reader really feel like they were in the presence of the characters standing in that room or in that place. The dialogue is witty and natural, especially the commentary between Creed and Rose. I really enjoyed their interactions throughout the novel, they felt the most genuine and often heartwarming.

There are several points in the novel where the prose breaks the fourth wall- that is, interacts with the reader in some way. I thought this was an interesting take, and brought forward the idea that this novel was meant to be fun and light despite some of it’s heavy leanings when it comes to revenge and war.

Lastly, while the interaction with Sawyer’s spirit caught me off guard at first, I enjoyed those scenes and thought they added a lot to the story. It again pushed forward that this novel was meant to be taken with a sense of lightness, even with it’s heavy subjects. His interactions with the world as a spirit were sometimes comedic, other times beautiful, and the novel wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Should You Read It:

First things first, if you’re concerned about triggers, check the Trigger Warnings section at the bottom of the article to see if there are any that may prevent you from enjoying this book

The military romance genre is a niche market, but Keeping Creed would appeal to a wider range of audiences than would be expected. It felt like it could be categorized in either romance or general fiction without issue, as while the romance was key, it was not the sole focus of the story. A lot of attention is spent on how Creed is meant to come to terms with and work through the loss of his brother through his military career.

This book is a hard one to explain in that it’s light, but heavy. Entertaining, but wise. With the exception of early on during the 9/11 attacks, there were few areas that felt heavy on my soul despite some darker subjects, and I can’t quite understand how Holt managed to do it. Because of this, I would caution to be prepared with some tissues at the beginning, but after that it’s a beautiful, funny, whimsical, snarky, wild ride that I’m glad to have been on.

Spark Level:

I rated Keeping Creed as spark level Torch; a deep read that’s light at heart, this military romance reminded me that we carry home with us in the memories and dreams of the ones we love.

Trigger Warnings: Mentions of rape and torture; Explicit violence and sexuality; Depictions of racism and islamophobia

Author Interview: Shaun Holt

Keeping Creed caught me off guard. A novel as much about family connection as it is about an action hero and romance, it’s a wonderful combination of light and serious that you can’t help but get immersed in.

Having interviewed him, I can see how his down to earth attitude and authenticity make a writer that speaks to readers and makes for an entertaining story—and honestly, don’t we all need that in our lives?

(If you haven’t yet, you can check out my book review of Keeping Creed.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a writer, reader, gamer, YouTube browser, and spend most of my free time having one-sided conversations with my pet parakeet, Snowflake. I enjoy road trips, but lately that’s mostly been weekend trips to Vegas, where I catch some shows and gamble about $30 on the roulette tables.

Tell us about your novel, Keeping Creed.

Keeping Creed was my attempt to write a book about an action hero that female readers might enjoy reading. Rather than focusing on his job in counter-terrorism, the attention is on his family, and relationships. The book started due to my inability to make the plot of a Trevor Knight book work, so I began to think maybe this book isn’t meant to be a Trevor Knight novel. That got me started on creating this character, Samuel Creed. Many characters in the series have become my favorites since then, and there’s a lot planned for them.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

Well my personal favorite book is “The City of Dreaming Books” by Walter Moers, a brilliant German writer and illustrator. I think it’s the greatest thing ever written in the history of humanity, and that’s not an exaggeration. As for the book that had the most influence on me, that would probably be “Atlantis Found” by Clive Cussler. I didn’t get into reading until high school, when I was apparently no longer able to fake it in book reports, so I picked up “Atlantis Found” from the library, almost at random. I fell in love with the Dirk Pitt books, read all of them within a year, and that strongly influenced my writing. The Trevor Knight series in particular is a tribute to Cussler’s novels.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your books? 

The main thing for commercial fiction is that it should be entertaining, so that’s my main goal. It doesn’t matter whether readers are happy, sad, mad, whatever, so long as they have a reaction. I don’t really write anything to make readers laugh or cry, because I’m not sure what’s funny, in fact my humor seems to be really hit-or-miss to people. If I enjoy it, I keep it; I write novels that I would enjoy reading.

What is different about your novels?

I think the biggest thing is that I don’t take books too seriously. I like to have fun with them and have fun with readers, so hopefully that bleeds out onto the page. A lot of the humor in my books is very tongue-in-cheek, some of it may be obvious, other parts more subtle, but I definitely like to play around in my writing.

What are your plans for future novels?

“Keeping Strong”, the second book in the Samuel Creed series, is closest to publication, maybe a year away. I’m wrestling with “Ottoman Destiny”, which will be the fourth book in the Trevor Knight series. After that, I might go off to do an all-new romance novel set in Savannah, Georgia, then it’s likely back to the Trevor Knight and Samuel Creed series.

What inspires you to write?

My dream to be a published author began in fourth grade, but it took about twenty years to fulfill that dream. Really the biggest thing that keeps me going is enjoying the characters I’ve created, wanting to find out what happens next with them, and also enjoying going to new places, trying out different genres, and developing as a writer.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

Brainstorming and plotting novels are pretty fun times, the first pen to paper (or fingers to keys) are thrilling as well, but then it can be a grind. I’ve found the first two drafts of novels tend to be the most difficult, because there’s really three books there – the book you meant to write, the book you actually wrote, and the book you should write. It can be aggravating trying to figure out which way to go with it, and it’s not always clear if you’re heading in the right direction or not. Once the writing part is more or less done, I love, love, love editing, which seems to make me an anomaly among writers, who often say they hate editing. To me, that’s where you really start to make a novel shine. But the absolute best moment is holding your published novel for the first time. It makes all the months of work feel worth it.

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

The biggest struggle for me is procrastination. I don’t think it’s motivation or writer’s block, so much, because I typically know what I want to write, but it’s difficult to actually start, to put in the hours, when I’d rather just take a nap, watch a movie, or play a video game (or oh yes, check twitter, the greatest siren of them all). We live in a golden age of distractions. I don’t have any words of wisdom on how to overcome it, because I haven’t found a way myself. Baby steps is all I’d say. If all you can do is write four hundred words a week, at least that’s something. Keep doing it, and one of these weeks you’ll write a few thousand words, and then maybe you’ll get on a roll. 

How can we purchase your books?

The easiest way is to go to amazon.com/author/shaunholt

There is another Shaun Holt who has published books on Amazon, a doctor of some kind I think, I’d like to meet him one day, maybe he’s an evil clone of me (or maybe I’m the evil clone). Either way, so long as one of us sells books, we’re living the dream.