With so many US troops deployed in war-torn countries and so many help organizations right out there in the wilderness, novels which take a hard look at what those out there, and specifically what women have to endure, are not easy but welcome reads. Bold Strokes Books has set landmarks with one of the first accounts of veterans with PTSD in Battle Scars by Meghan O’Brien or Sophia Kell Hagin’s acclaimed debut Whatever Gods May Be which takes us right into the hell of war. Now Radclyffe gives us a superb novel, a novel that catches in a nutshell the good and the evil of war, the mind-numbing dread, the dirt, the pain, and the paid-by-blood moments of triumph.
Rachel is on a humanitarian mission in Somalia, a land in the claws of rebels and warlords where Doctors Without Borders and other organizations do their best to fight for stragglers and survivors in the middle of the jungle. When circumstances deteriorate, a US Navy team is deployed to extract them – among them Max, a surgeon whose tour is nearing its end, but no plan survives the first encounter with the enemy. And everything escalates quickly. Max and Rachel have to work together to escape that hell-hole.
Radclyffe gives us a gripping and gritty account of fighting and survival, she gives us a glimpse into the hearts and minds of those struggling to survive not only physically but mentally and emotionally. There are passages of great beauty and deep insights alternating with realistic, mind-boggling scenes full of blood and tension. This is not about the glorified side of war featured in press articles, but the story touches at the “heart” of what war does to the human soul – the stark moment when nothing else counts other than what you are right here, right now, the nightmares, the guilt, and the lure. She perfectly catches the times of insane action, the boredom in between missions, and the politics and paper-pushing.
“Her heart raced wildly and panic bubbled in her throat. She couldn’t relax enough to capture a full breath, afraid the instant her hyper vigilance ebbed, she’d be attacked. She doubted she’d ever relax again.”
The writing is dense, compact, crisp and is a joy to read at all times. The story-arc is excellent and holds the focus until the very end. Yes, there is romance there. And Radclyffe does not take the easy way out. Her character development takes us on the roller-coaster journey of the two main characters to find, acknowledge, and cherish love under circumstances which never again can be ideal for those whose hearts have been tried and tested in the crucibles of war.
This is a gripping and well-worth reading book, one of Radclyffe’s best to date.
You can download a sample or purchase Taking Fire: A First Responders Novel by clicking here.