Monday, December 16, 2013

Down Range - Lindsay McKenna (HQN - Dec 2013)

Series: Shadow Warriors (Book 2)

Trained to kill, but built for love…

Captain Morgan Boland is at the top of her game, as is her former lover, Navy SEAL Jake Ramsey. Then a military computer selects them to partner in a special op. The mission can't be compromised by their personal history -- and they have truckloads of it.

But the Afghan assignment might provide the discipline they need to finally get it together -- outside the bedroom, that is. A lot has happened over the two years since they last went their separate ways. And there's way more to Morgan than Jake has ever given her credit for….

Fantastic book.  Morgan and Jake have a turbulent history.  They met at the Naval Academy and grew close there, but misunderstandings tore them apart.  They met again later and had three terrific days together before military commitments separated them and more emotional baggage kept them apart.  When they were partnered for a special operation they had to leave that baggage behind in order to work together.  They also had to learn to trust each other.  

I loved the whole subject of the book.  The idea that women who wish to participate in combat and are capable of doing so is something that's time has come.  I really enjoyed the descriptions of the training and challenges that were faced.  When it came to the mission itself, I loved the details that were provided.  I could picture the guide, Reza, and his reaction to Morgan's gift.  Morgan's care for the people of the village and her reactions to the poverty of their lives made a very vivid picture in my mind.  Seeing the way that Jake and Morgan had to work together every step of the way made their differences of opinion so much more obvious.  By the time that first attack was over, Jake's conversion was complete.  When they started tracking Khogari I could feel the tension they were under and I couldn't read fast enough to find out what would happen.  I could feel my heart pounding as I read what happened, and I was right there with Jake and his fears for Morgan's survival.  I loved his actions when they arrived at the hospital and the lengths he went to for her.  His feelings for her showed in everything he did during her recovery.  When he had to leave for a mission I loved Morgan's realization of what the families left behind go through when their loved ones are gone and the difference it made to her outlook for their future.  Jake's actions on his return were great and I loved the scene with the rings.  The only thing left for them to cover was for Morgan to finally tell him about their daughter.  That scene was one of the most emotional of the entire book.

Morgan is the daughter of two former military special operations people.  As such she has always been aware of the dangers but it has been her dream to become one of them.  As a midshipman at the Academy she worked hard to be the best she could be, earning her degree in engineering and linguistics.  The linguistics got her foot in the door working in Afghanistan where her abilities were appreciated.  When the military asked her to be part of an experimental unit training women for combat she jumped at the chance.  For the past three years she has been working as a sniper with various special ops units.  Getting selected for this operation, taking down a Afghani drug lord, is something she is ready to do.  Finding out that Jake will be her partner is a surprise.  She knows that Jake's opinion is that women are not capable of performing in combat and convincing him otherwise is going to be an uphill battle.  She's right, and we can see his prejudice right from the beginning.  I loved the way that she keeps things businesslike and is determined to show him that he's wrong.  Starting with their arrival in the Afghani village her skills are obvious.  She knows she has to prove herself to Jake and she does so by simply being who she is.  I loved seeing her relate to the people of the village, fully participate in the backbreaking work of helping them in their work, and then be front and center in repelling an attack on the village.  During this time she and Jake start to work through a little bit of their past.  Morgan discovers that Jake isn't the same selfish jerk that he had been and that maybe there is a chance to move forward together.  She also admits that she wasn't always in the right either.  Her feelings for him have never changed but she still has trouble believing that he is done running from any kind of emotional commitment.  I liked seeing the way that she begins to regain her trust in him.  

Jake had noticed Morgan when they were at the Academy and they had a short time when they were very close.  But Jake was young and pretty self-centered and made some mistakes that tore them apart.  After leaving the Academy he became a SEAL and was very good at what he did.  After a mission that nearly went very wrong he began to see his life in a new way and started to make some changes.  He fell in love and married and was ready to leave the military when his wife and son were killed by a drunk driver.  He retreated to his old life and the military became everything to him, his fellow SEALs were his family.  Because his mother had been chronically ill while he was growing up, he always saw women as the weaker sex and didn't believe that they had any place in combat operations.  Seeing Morgan again a few years later brought back the old feelings of attraction and he thoroughly enjoyed their three days together.  But they argued again over their views on the subject and went their separate ways.  Jake was furious when he found out he would be paired with Morgan on a special sniper operation.  He really puts his foot in his mouth when he tells the (female) general that he won't "allow" a woman on his op.  I absolutely loved her reaction and seeing his attempts to recover was great.  Jake has a long way to go to make up for his blunder.  Once they were in Afghanistan Jake got to see Morgan at work and he slowly began to see the changes she had been through.  I loved seeing his eyes opened to just how good she was.  Jake was able to show her just how much he had changed also.  For the first time he actually let her see his emotions as he shared his feelings about their previous times together and told her about his wife and son.  As they got further into their mission Jake got to know Morgan and her capabilities better.  He also started seeing how the operative was such an important part of the whole woman.  I loved seeing how the changes in Jake enabled him to show her the tenderness and care he felt for her without her feeling like he didn't respect her. 

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