"What? You don't already know?" Nope, I don't! That's one of the puzzles of being a writer. When you're in the creative space, the whole "What am I writing?" or even "Is this any good?" sort of goes away. I mean, sure, I think those questions, but when the writing is going well I sure don't care about those questions, I just care about the next problem, puzzle, challenge, scene, paragraph, sentence, word... Even when I know all the broad strokes of the book, the "writing" space is about what goes next on the blank page and nothing much else. Sure it has to fit the character and the story and the series and all that, but what I'm caring about is the next word...
So, why, when I wander past my book case that now contains over a dozen novels under three different names, does this one make me smile? I can think of a couple reasons. Sure, I discovered some cool new helicopter technology and got to use that as a major plot element. Sure, there's a pretty cool and outrageous military thriller crisis that was fun. And the romance... Well, that's what gets me about this book. Or any book for that matter, but this one in particular.
I love these two characters! And they both make me laugh, and cry as a good character does, for entirely different reasons.
Staff Sergeant Big John Wallace is a bear of a man and an amazing mechanic. He is large, funny, and loves nothing more than a good story and a circle of friends. His core, the reason that he has made flying helicopters for the U.S. Army Special Forces a career, is his love of family and his family's love of him. He is their anchor in so many ways. Of course, the last thing on the planet that he's ready for, is falling in love with a loner.
Sergeant Connie Davis is a brilliant mechanic and a total introvert. If left to herself, she's fine. Perfectly content to be with herself, to be who she is. The rigid structure of Army service suits her perfectly. Or she always was fine until she meets Big John. His joy and passion for life break chinks in her armor despite it being as heavy as a submarine's hull. An armor she has tended ever so carefully since her father died on a classified mission while she was still a teen.
It is the collision of these two opposites around family that truly brings this book to life for me. Here's one scene that offers a peek. It is between Big John's younger sister, Noreen, who has taken a passionate dislike to Connie, while she is visiting John's family during a mid-mission leave:
Connie looked at herself in the mirror. She’d showered off the grease, even dug the worst of it out from beneath her nails.
Tan slacks, a gray cotton blouse, and a jeans jacket. She didn’t own a dress except for her U.S. Army Class “A”s, and those were in a storage locker back at Fort Campbell where they’d been for over a year.
She looked ridiculous. Her friends, well, the flight crews that were still in Bati, were wearing armor and fighting for their lives in a country where both sides would prefer they were all dead. She shouldn’t be here. She should—
Connie spotted Noreen’s reflection in the mirror as the girl came to lean against the doorjamb to the guest room. Arms crossed tightly over her chest.
“John’s wearing a jacket. Only one place in town you can wear a jacket without getting laughed out. He’s never taken a woman there.”
Connie simply watched her in the mirror.
“You can’t go dressed like that.”
Connie inspected herself once more, “I look fine. Besides, it’s the best I’ve got.”
Noreen looked up at the ceiling, either counting to herself or cursing, it was hard to tell. She refocused on Connie.
When Connie didn’t move, she took three quick steps into the room, snagged Connie’s arm and began to drag her out of the room, toward the stairs.
Noreen’s room was small, tucked partly under the eaves of the old house. The closets were low built-ins decorated as you’d expect with posters of bands. In contrast, a big quilt draped the bed nearly to the floor lending the room a deep, homey feel. An old rug showed age, wear, and care. It was the inside of the closets that were a surprise.
They weren’t packed with glitz, or leather, or any of the dozen other variations Connie had expected. They weren’t packed solid with a disorganized array of items. Neatly arranged, there was space to see what hung in each spot, and they were beautiful. Jewel tones that would offset Noreen’s complexion. A neckline with an elegant draped design to it. Pastels that would accentuate and warm her tones. A small rack of cozy sweaters and practical but feminine shoes.
Connie would expect someone of Noreen’s beauty to have closets of slinky or… Well, there was more to the girl than first appeared.
In moments Noreen selected a forest green top and handed it to Connie.
Connie stripped off her top, because it was clearly expected.
“Oh, give me a break.”
Connie froze. “What?”
“You can’t wear a sports bra.”
Noreen dropped onto the bed. “What hole have you lived your life in?”
“The U.S. Army and it isn’t a hole.”
“A deep and dark one apparently.” She turned to a small dresser and dug around. Then she held out a pair of bras. “Blue or sunshine yellow?”
“What’s wrong with—”
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Noreen muttered at the ceiling before focusing back on Connie. “First, it will make you look nicer, give my brother something he’ll enjoy looking at from across the table. Second, I really am going to say this, crap! Second, if he gets that blouse off you, he should find something a little more interesting than a faded-out sports bra.”
Connie looked down at herself.
“That’s not going to—”
“Don’t!” Noreen stopped her. “If it doesn’t, fine. I’ll sleep better. But you don’t want to promise something that might make you feel guilty later and end up being even weirder around me than I’m already making you feel. Take the blue one.”
“What, you want the yellow one? They’re both fresh washed if that’s what’s worrying you.”
Connie took the blue one. The green pull-on blouse hugged her form and left Noreen nodding.
“Now a skirt. How are your legs?”
The first one she pulled out of the closet would barely cover Connie’s underwear, a red leather mini-skirt made with less material than her gun holster. She couldn’t even answer.
“Just kidding. Wanted to see your face. I bought this the day after I broke up with Jeff to punish him.”
Connie could feel herself smiling. “Did it work?”
“It was awesome!”
Hope you love the book as much as I do!
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