Saturday, April 5, 2014

Degree of Risk - Lindsay McKenna (HRS #1791 - Mar 2014)

Series: Shadow Warriors (Book 4)

When her Black Hawk helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan, Army medevac pilot Sarah Benson does what she must to survive. Hiding by day and hiking through the mountains by night, Sarah manages to save a mother and daughter before being taken captive. Even then she fights. She has to get back to the base--and to the man she loves.

Once Ethan Quinn learns that Sarah has survived the crash, he refuses to stop until he finds her, though the battle-hardened Navy SEAL knows the odds are against him. For him, it's more than a matter of courage--it's their future he is fighting for.

Wonderful sequel to Risk Taker.  This one is a little less of a romance, as Sarah and Ethan's love is well established, but it is a testament to the strength of their love and the strength it gives to each of them. It starts out with Sarah and Ethan struggling to find chances to be together, not easy with their schedules.  It's even harder with the way Sarah's CO has it in for her and schedules her more than anyone else - until the SEAL Master Chief steps in.  Sarah and Ethan have a rare two days off together to recharge their relationship.

When not flying Sarah spends her downtime with her new SEAL family.  One night, as she prepares her Army issued emergency pack, her SEAL brothers intervene, giving her one like those they carry.  This ends up being a very important gift.  A few days later Sarah and her copilot are shot down while delivery ammunition to a forward operating base.  Sarah's copilot is killed, but Sarah escapes, taking her emergency pack with her.

This scene was incredibly intense as we see it from two points of view.  First, we have the attack from Sarah's perspective.  There is the tension of the flight itself, dangerous because of the weather conditions which force them to fly low.  There is also the ever present danger of attack by Taliban forces.  When they are shot at with a missile, the efforts made by Sarah and Tait to evade are heart pounding. As the helo crashes, Sarah is desperate to escape and to live to make it back to Ethan.  On the other side, Ethan and his team were in that same area and witnessed the attack and crash.  Ethan's grief at the possibility of her death and his fears for her safety if she escaped are heart wrenching. 

As we follow Sarah in her efforts to escape detection by the Taliban and make her way to safety, her strength of will is amazing.  She deals with her fears that she is presumed dead and that no one will be looking for her by calling on the independence she built up during her growing up years.  She tries to remain hopeful that Ethan and the others will believe in her survival.  As she does her best to evade capture, she witnesses a brutal attack on a woman and young girl and risks her own safety to save them.  When she is captured, the man in charge brings flashbacks of the foster father who abused her.  The skills she learned back then came in handy during her captivity, enabling her to stay relatively safe while trying to find a way to escape.  

Meanwhile, Ethan and his team refuse to accept the Army's insistence that Sarah is dead and go on the hunt for evidence of her escape.  Ethan's relief when they found it was palpable.  The involvement of all of Sarah's "brothers" was exciting to watch as each one put their own unique talents to work. Even the Master Chief got personally involved in this mission. Ethan had to work very hard to keep his focus on what he was doing, as his mind tried to wander through all his memories of their time together.  The tension as they got closer to Sarah, hoping that they would be in time, kept the story flying forward.

The final showdown had me hoping that all would go well.  The chaos that ensued as Sarah's actions blended with those of the SEALs had me on the edge of my seat.  When all the shooting was done, the reunion was so emotional.  I loved seeing her favorite combat medic arrive on the medevac chopper, and the interesting twist that came with his examination of her injuries.

The conclusion of the book was a wonderful statement of the strength of the love that Sarah and Ethan had for each other.  The ceremony involving all the SEALs was incredibly moving and showed just how much Sarah had come to mean to them all.  It also showed the huge strides that Sarah had made in her own life.

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