September 2012, Romantic Suspense
Mira, $7.99, 400 pages, Amazon ASIN 0778313425 Part of a series
I am always amazed when I re-discover a long published author. As the story unfolded , I kept thinking to myself, ”This is a good book, why did you stop reading her?” Don’t Cry for Me has some plot holes that typically would drive me crazy, but in the hands of Ms. Sala I didn’t care. The positives of the book were too numerous to let those matter.
Abandoned as a newborn, Mariah Conrad grew up in foster care. Shuttled from one foster home to the next, she never formed any familial bonds. So upon reaching eighteen when she is no longer the responsibility of the state, she decides that the military service is the way to go, especially after spending some homeless nights on the street. While she knew that the country was at war, she figured if she could survive her childhood she would survive whatever the army threw at her.
Meeting Quinn Walker, another soldier in her unit, made Afghanistan bearable. Of course they liked and respected each other, but they spent most of the time indulging in amazing sex. She fell in love with him, but she knew that she couldn’t violate their unspoken agreement of no promises or ties. After he is injured and sent stateside, their relationship dissolves.
Quinn has recovered from his burns and injuries but he is still trying to leave the war behind. After his discharge he went to ground back in his hometown. Of course, using the word town is not really accurate, since he lives in the backwoods of Kentucky. He has found peace of sorts working as a backcountry ranger for the Daniel Boone National Forest service and reconnecting with his family.
His equilibrium is disrupted by a phone call from a former member of his unit informing him of Mariah’s hospitalization and upcoming discharge. However, since Mariah doesn’t have family she doesn’t have any place to go. Mariah saved Quinn’s life and he owes her. And who better to help her deal with her own PTSD than him.
Accepting Quinn’s offer of a place to stay is both a relief and a dilemma. She hopes he is not expecting her to resume their sexual relationship. Reassured that he has no ulterior motives, she lets the isolated environment work its magic. However just as she thinks she is making progress she hears the sounds of war again – helicopters in the night. What she doesn’t know is that she and Quinn will be drawn into the new threat facing Rebel Ridge.
I immediately liked the setting of the book and the characters, although the fact that two people that had a great relationship just let it die without reaching out to each other for three years was difficult for me to fathom. Still the dialogue between the characters is genuine and credible even if the time frame is not. The hero treats the heroine as I would want to be treated – with a caring, teasing, and matter-of-fact manner. Lust is put on the back burner until it is appropriate, which is a big positive for me.
I had more mixed feelings about a bear in the book, which can be a good news, maybe bad news scenario. Like Linda Howard did in her book Prey, Ms. Sala attributes cause and effect behavior to an animal. Of course, I personally don’t know if it is logical or not and I am not discounting it, but does a hurt animal actually cognitively reason that the cool water of the river numbs his pain? Instead of focusing on the story, I started wondering about animals’ intellectual ability. Luckily the bear isn’t in the story for long.
What the author does well is present an Against All Odds story – triumph over adversity with the heroine’s actions at the heart of the account. A female Rocky story, and I loved it. I am a pushover for strong, capable heroines with a hint of vulnerability. And I have no complaints about the hero either. In fact the characterization overall is excellent. Quinn’s family is perfect -demonstrative and caring but not over the top. The only twig of disbelief is related to the perverse relationship between the antagonist and a member of his family.
The issue of PTSD- post traumatic stress disorder and returning soldiers is deftly handled. While it is integral part of the story it doesn’t overshadow other aspects.
This book definitely sold me on her Rebel Ridge Novels. Strong heroine, great characterization, believable suspense plot and a touching romance make this book easy to recommend. This is the second book in the series, and I have just gone back and purchased the first. But don’t worry if you haven’t read it, because this book does stand on its own. Ms. Sala does have a new release out in April 2013 and I hope it is Quinn’s sister's story.
-- Leigh Davis
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