There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.  Washington Irving

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes. They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.” Clare Boothe Luce

As we do at such times I turned on my automatic pilot and went through the motions of normalcy on the outside, so that I could concentrate all my powers on surviving the near-mortal wound inside.” Sonia Johnson

Photo of Chief Warrant Officer Monica Narhi
Courtesy of America’s North Shore Journal
This is a much better photo than the book cover!

Chief Warrant Officer Sarah Benson is a U.S. Army Medevac Black Hawk Pilot. She flies the skies of Afghanistan, rescuing wounded men and women, sometimes under heavy fire, ferrying them to safety. Fierce in her commitment to these brave soldiers, she risks everything, including her own life, to save them. She is a true hero.

 And yet, as a woman in a “man’s world” of the Army, she is disrespected and harassed at every turn, with no support from the other pilots of her squadron, and dismissive disrespect from her commander. You see and know all of this about Sarah from the start. And yet, there is no bemoaning her treatment. She is simply quiet, determined, and honorable, going about the business of saving the wounded, sometimes under the ‘lead curtain’ of gunfire and RPGs.

 It isn’t easy being a female in Afghanistan, where not only the Afghans are dismissive, cruel, and murderously violent against women. Even the military personnel Sarah works with, whose lives she saves, can be cruel and violent, seeing her and the other women in the squads as ‘less.’ It is a vicious truth that the military mentality can be incredibly stupid about women and their place in the world, a sad and idiotic truth to be sure. Sarah’s dignity, and the dignity of the other women pilots, both Black Hawk pilots and the Apache pilots, is written brilliantly. It was more than mildly interesting to learn the inner workings of medevac pilots in a war zone. Mckenna has done her homework, making the scenes as realistic as possible, both within the Army, Air Force, and within the SEALS. And she has served herself in the U.S. Navy.

Photo of UH-60 medevac helicopter courtesy of Joshua Carnes
All rights reserved

This is, of course, not simply a book about a woman surviving within the boundaries of an FOB (Forward Operating Base). While that part of the book truly is fascinating to me, this is also a romance. Well, it is Harlequin, it has to be, right? And the actual ‘romance’ portion of the book is much more interesting than others of its ilk. Sarah has been devastated all her life by the cruelties of men. She trusts no man, holding herself separate while giving all of herself to saving those who need her. Ethan Quinn, the Navy Seal love interest is himself a very different man from the common warrior. A warrior in truth, but also a poet, Ethan sees the pain in the woman they call “Blue Eyes” the valiant pilot who holds herself aloof from those around her.

A violent attack by an Army soldier against Sarah on the grounds of the base draws Ethan to her assistance, and begins a friendship with the shy Sarah. What is both interesting and touching about their relationship is the poetry that Ethan writes for her, beautiful stanzas, on beautiful blue papyrus, slipped under her tent flap in the darkness, there for her when she awakes. Though Sarah is terrified of men, for good reason, Ethan’s gentleness touches her, and his poetry (the actual poetry of Darius Gottlieb, Love Poems and Other Elixirs) helps to pull her out of her fear, allowing a relationship to slowly develop between them. Sarah appreciates both his strength and his gentleness, while Ethan is astounded not only by Sarah’s internal and external beauty, but by her bravery as he twice witnesses her flying in under the ‘iron curtain’ to rescue wounded soldiers. She holds her position while under heavy fire in both instances, taking life threatening wounds of her own and yet still saving those under her care. She is, in a word, a kick-ass heroine with a gentle, broken soul. One of my favorite heroines in a long time.

Sarah and Ethan’s next exciting adventure in Afghanistan, Degree of Risk, will be out in March and I have already preordered it. As I rarely ever do that, you can be ascertained that I highly recommend this book to readers of military suspense/romance.

This is another book which I received from Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way influences my review. All thoughts and comments are my own. I must say, though – it is definitely NOT one of the better covers out there. Instead of a woman and a Black Hawk, which would be appropriate, you get a picture of a guy in a T-shirt. Pffft. Sexist. That’s why you are seeing pictures of a Black Hawk and a WOMAN Black Hawk Pilot instead of the stupid looking cover of the book!