Friday, 16 September 2011

Book Review: Deadly Descent by Kaylea Cross

Title: Deadly Descent
Author: Kaylea Cross
Series: Book #1 in the Bagram Special Ops series
Release Date: 5 September 2011
Publisher: Carina Press
Source: ebook provided by publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon
Goodreads appetizer: Devon Crawford is an officer; Air Force Pararescueman Cam Munro is enlisted. Dev flies medical evacuations; Cam jumps into danger zones to save lives. Dev wants to return home from Afghanistan with her heart untouched; Cam will do anything to win the woman he loves.

Reaching for happiness in a war zone is the last thing Captain Devon Crawford plans, but she can't ignore the feelings she's hidden for so long. Cam's sexy charm and wicked kisses weaken her resistance, but she's too afraid of losing him to give in.

When Dev's helicopter and crew are shot down and set up as bait by a notorious warlord, Cam risks all to save the team. What he doesn't know is that the trap is set for him...

This review was originally posted on Book Lovers Inc.

My Thoughts: I've read a few romance novels where the hero was an ex-marine/navy/soldier, but Deadly Descent is as far from them as Cinderella is from Bridget Jones! Deadly Descent reads like a unique combination of action movie/documentary, the nonstop action and tension won't let up and you'll only catch your breath when you have finished reading it.

(I would like to start by saying that though Deadly Descent was a fantastic read writing this review was really hard. Exactly because of Deadly Descent being such a thoughtprovoking and complex novel I had too many thoughts I wanted to mention and comment on. So sorry if this is long and reads a bit like a puzzle.)

Just to give you a slight lay of the land of the plot: Dev flies a helicopter on medical evacuation missions while Cam is a PJ (=pararescue jumper) whose mission is to recover fighter pilots who have been shot down behind enemy lines. The novel opens on the news of Ty's death (a fellow PJ who Dev has been dating for a short while) and we witness how hard it hits Dev, Cam and Ryan (another close buddy of theirs). Besides her grief Dev is also battling her enormous guilt, because ever since meeting Cam she has felt this incredibly strong spark towards him and even though she and Ty were casual and she planned on breaking it off, she still feels guilty about her secret feelings for Cam.

Cam is the ideal hero: he is responsible, selfless, protective, gentle and generous. He is determined and committed in everything he does (even when that is pursuing Dev):
"For the record? It doesn’t matter to me how many men you’ve dated. What matters is how I feel about you."
"How do you feel about me?" she whispered, her eyes locked with his. The hope he read there turned him into mush.
"Pretty damn serious."
and so so sweet. He just made my heart melt in this scene when he met Dev's older brother:
“Cam who?”
“Technical Sergeant Cam Munro, U.S. Air Force.” When that didn’t earn him any leeway, he stole a quick glance at Devon before facing her scowling brother. Maybe she hadn’t told her family about him. Well, he was going to set the record straight right now. He faced the brother and met the hostile stare squarely. “I’m the guy who’s going to marry your sister.”

As I'm completely unfamiliar with military organization and rules I was surprised and a bit lost at the beginning trying to understand the differences between Dev and Cam's rank and social standing.  It was surprising and confusing for me how strict anti-fraternizing rules were: that due to Cam being an enlisted they couldn't even talk to each other in the dining hall where others (=superiors) might see them? He had to salute her and call her ma'am?

Through describing Cam's and the other PJs' job and portraying their mentality I was amazed at how masterfully Kaylea Cross gave substance to words and abstract notions like heroism and courage. The characters' sacrifice and attitude towards service was simply humbling and for me as a civil astonishing.

With Deadly Descent Kaylea Cross' task was two fold difficult: first she set out to write a realistic story which was true to the real life of soldiers and their procedures, secondly the topic and setting of her novel is more than a little problematic. She explores Afghanistan, the moral of troops there and even portrays the other camp, giving a glimpse behind enemy lines and showing the motivation and emotions of Afghanis. I say that this setting is delicate because she didn't want to convey a too political message in a fiction novel, she didn't want to patronize the reader yet tried to show both sides of the coin and I have to applaud her for that. I loved that Deadly Descent was not a black and white, good vs. evil story but that it showcased the humanity of people fighting on both ends.

I also enjoyed how Kaylea Cross gave a few details regarding Muslim traditions (about burials, their faith, customs, etc.):
... coming down the mountains that made his eyes sting. It had nothing to do with the fact he carried his beloved brother to an early grave. Grieving would mean he questioned Allah’s divine will, and a devout Muslim would never do such a thing.

Deadly Descent is very informative regarding how the military operates, which I as a civilian enjoyed a lot to read about. The action and setting felt and sounded realistic to me, which is one of the main differences from the usual romantic suspense stories. Kaylea Cross didn't shy away from the less than pleasant aspects of war, she described the horrors and carnage of war realisticly with not sparing the gore.

Though I enjoyed learning a lot about the different military divisions and what they specialize in (thanks to Deadly Descent I now know what PJs do and whoNight Stalkers  are among other things), it would have been useful if there had been a glossary at the end or beginning of the novel explaining what LZ (=landing zone), R&R (=rest and recuperation), KIA (=killed in action) and other acronyms mean in case one doesn't have a laptop and internet ready to reasearch them.

Deadly Descent succeeds in pulling it off in several areas: it is a breack-neck action packed military novel and an exciting love story as well.

She prayed he was right. "There’s one more thing."
"Yeah?" That trademark crooked smile curved his lips. "What’s that?"
Gathering her courage, she swallowed past the lump in her throat and held his gaze. It wasn’t how she’d envisioned telling him, but she couldn’t let him go without saying the words. "I’m falling in love with you."
The smile died, his amused expression dissolving into shock. "What?"
"Yeah. So you have to come back so I can finish the job."
Never heard a better "come-back-to-me-safe-and-sound" speech :-D

Verdict: A good novel sucks the reader in and makes them forget abour real life. Deadly Descent did more than that: I sweat and chewed my nails, wrang my hands while rooting for the characters to survive enemy fire as if I were with them on the team. Deadly Descent is an amazing story and Kaylea Cross is a great new author I've just discovered, I'll definitely check out her other novels!

Plot: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Writing: 9/10
Ending: 7/10
Cover: 8/10

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