Title: Running Fire
Series: Shadow Warriors, Book 8
Series: Shadow Warriors, Book 8
Author: Lindsay McKenna
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: Contemporary, Military (Active), Romance
ARC Received From: TLC Books
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SEAL Kell Ballard's goal was to get the injured pilot out of harm's way and find shelter deep in the labyrinth of caves. It's a place of dark intimacy, where Leah finds unexpected safety in a man's arms. Where prohibited attraction burns brightly. And where they'll hide until the time comes to face the enemy outside...and the enemy within their ranks.
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(Please note: This story deals with domestic abuse and rape. Both are addressed in my review. Please take this into consideration before reading further and/or purchasing this book.)
There wasn't a whole lot of exchange (friendly or otherwise) between the Americans and the Taliban, but there was this intensity to this story that left me on the edge of my seat. Because while Kell and Leah holed up in caves, they both knew that danger awaited them and I don't just mean on their journey to Bravo but when they got there as well.
I really loved watching Kell and Leah's relationship grow. Leah had issues before she landed in Kell's arms, and they weren't small either. Distrust in men, daddy issues, physical abuse, and spousal rape. You'd never know it from Ms. McKenna's description of her though, but then you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover.
The first time Leah yelled in her sleep, my heart dropped. It seems to do that a lot when I read these kinds of stories. I thought Kell would be more cautious around her, maybe treat her with kid gloves or avoid her altogether. He didn't. The more he learned about Leah, the more he wanted to protect her, keep her safe, keep her with him. And the more he learned about Leah's ex-husband, a pilot who was out to get her at any cost, the more he wanted to run his fist through the bastard's face.
And I wanted him to have that chance. Her ex deserved that and so much more for what he did to Leah during their married years: using her to forward his military career, threatening her into agreeing, raping her if she didn't comply. I hated him and I didn't meet him until further on in this story. By then, I wanted him to meet then fists of Kell's SEAL brothers so he could understand how you don't go abusing people weaker than you just because you can.
Then there was her ex's attempted rape of another female pilot. Leah had already been through so much by this point in the story that I wished Ms. McKenna hadn't written this turn of events. I almost quit reading because I wasn't sure I wanted to read one more heinous act her ex committed. I really didn't. I left my reader on the bed for a few hours, hoping I'd actually forget. But I didn't. I went back and finished it. I needed Leah to stand tall in that instant. I needed to see what she would do. Would she cower and ignore the other woman's plight? Or would she stand up with the other woman and bring her ex to justice?
She did herself and Kell proud by taking that chance, risking her career, and finally--yes, finally!--standing up to that bastard. I cheered out loud for her bravery because it was a long time coming, and I anxiously waited for him to get what was coming to him.
Through all of this, Kell was Leah's rock. The men in her life had failed her and had caused her not to trust men in general, but Kell showed her that her trust in him wasn't misplaced, that he'd earned the right to have it, that he would protect it like he would her. His freakishly accurate ability to read Leah helped his cause. For all that he could see in her, he never pushed for more than she was willing to give. His gentleness and concern enabled her to trust him with her body, her heart, and her brokenness.
It is rare that I read an active military duty romance. Most are post military duty, dealing with PTSD and the soldier's return to civilian life. This is one of a few active military duty romances I have read, and I am so glad I did. I love that Ms. McKenna didn't shy away from hard to deal with issues. I'm glad she didn't downplay them in favor for romance, and that she paired a patient, caring man with a woman who needed and would appreciate both qualities in him.
A terrific story from beginning to end, this is one I'll read again and one I'll definitely recommend.
A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition. Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women. Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warrior series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories.