Tag Archives: United States Air Force Pararescue

Kaylea Cross’ Latest, Lethal Pursuit, Puts Her Among the Best Writers of Military Suspense

1 Oct

Lethal Pursuit (Bagram Special Ops #3 – Maya and Jackson) by Kaylea Cross (Carina Press, September 16, 2013)

There are times where some authors become my best kept secret, and that’s totally unfair. The point of this blog is to highlight the best romance writing (in my humble opinion) and Kaylea Cross definitely falls into that category. In terms of military romance, Cross is on par with the powerhouses of Catherine Mann and M. L. Buchman, so if you enjoy those authors, take a look at one of Cross’ many military romantic suspense series.

The latest book in her wonderful Bagram Ops series, is Lethal Pursuit, and – wow – was I impressed! I literally could not put this book down because of the unbelievable suspense plot which parallels the growing feelings of the hero and heroine.

Lethal Pursuit stars the tough Security Forces Lt. Maya Lopez, who is an utter badass as she breaks up fights and provides security detail, despite her petite frame. Maya has come from an extremely tough background and only through the sacrifices of her dead sister did she manage to excel in school and win a place at the Air Force Academy. She believes strongly in her warrior code and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the respect she has earned, respect she exercises every day at her post in Afghanistan.

Deadly Descent (Bagram Special Ops #1 – Devon and Cam) by Kaylea Cross (Carina Press, 2011)

But temptation exists in the form of Pararescueman and Texas hottie Jackson Thatcher. There has been serious sexual tension between these two in the previous books in the series, but it all explodes on these pages. Unfortunatley Jackson is enlisted, and the military has a pretty firm no-fraternization rule. Maya doesn’t think this is a problem since she has a brief fling in mind, just enough to get this slow-talking, Spanish-speaking man out of her system.

Jackson naturally has other ideas. He’s a romantic and even though he feels used by their first encounter, he can see through Maya enough to understand that whatever baggage she’s carrying, she needs to understand what the two of them could be together. Before they can even get a real relationship off the ground, they are captured along with a major government official and held hostage. Their fight for survival will either bind them together or drive them apart as they battle to escape from the heart of enemy territory.

Tactical Strike (Bagram Special Ops #2 – Candace and Ryan) by Kaylea Cross (Carina Press, March 2013)

Oh. My. God. I want to say off the bat that I enjoyed the previous two books in this series so much – Deadly Descent and Tactical Strike – and I love Cross’ trope of a tough, capable female officer finding a (enlisted) man who finally pushes all her buttons physically and emotionally. But this book was off the charts, not just for the two characters who I adored but for the pulse-pounding hostage story. Be warned, there is some scary torture in this book, but it’s worth reading as it gives amazing insight into the heart of what defines Maya and Jackson as individuals. From a feminist standpoint, it was terrific to read a book in which the man didn’t ultimately become the rescuer – Maya was the real hero, even though they leaned on each other a lot at various points. It’s only right that he calls her a superhero to his nephews and they look at her with such awe and respect.

While you by no means need to read the previous books in the series, I think you would 1) enjoy them tremendously and 2) find them incredibly affordable. Right now, Deadly Descent is on deep discount at only $.99 (whoo-hoo!) and Tactical Strike is a mere $2.99. Lethal Pursuit is a few cents more at $3.03 on Amazon, so you are looking at 700+ pages for the cost of one traditionally priced paperback from Mann or Buchman (granted each of their novels is probably longer, but mainly their cost comes from the bigger publishers they work through). Carina Press thankfully always keeps their books affordable, so Kaylea Cross ends up being an cost-effective indulgence.

The reason that I put Kaylea Cross on the same plane as Catherine Mann or M. L. Buchman is due to her fantastic research regarding the military piece of her writing. There are more than a few military romances where the author is just phoning in the details and you can tell as a reader, even when you aren’t an expert. Maybe this is my librarian showing, but Kaylea Cross seamlessly utilizes her research until I’m ready to believe her home base is somewhere in Kandahar in a repurposed shipping container with other military women. You can get a small inkling of her enthusiasm, particularly for pararescuemen, with her recent post on Carina’s blog “Why I Have  a Crush on All Pararescuemen.” This is someone with a strong respect and love for the military.

Please, if you enjoy military romance and have not had the opportunity to read any of Kaylea Cross’ books, run, don’t walk to your nearest ebookstore and download a few of them. You will be as thrilled as I was to find such an amazing writer turning out one terrific book after another, starring the men and women of our military.

Series Review: Elite Force Series by Catherine Mann Is the Best Balance of Romance and Suspense

21 May

So often, the problem with romantic suspense is that it usually leans one way or the other – either the book is primarily romance with a token suspense plot thrown in to keep the conflict going (and you can see the resolution or villian a mile away) or it’s a killer suspense plot with only occasional smooching or a tossed in smoldering look. Either scenario, the reader is left feeling a little crankypants for the book not living up to her expectations.

Catherine Mann’s books will not leave you crankypants.

In fact, speaking as someone who has read (according to my Goodreads account) over 50 romantic suspense novels in the last couple of months, I think Catherine Mann is one of the few authors on the market who has the perfect balance of romance and suspense in her books, particularly those in her Elite Force series.

A major reason for the strength of her writing is Mann’s familiarity with her material. A military wife of many years, Mann’s husband is an airman, a detail which lends a great deal of veracity to her writing about pararescuemen. In a world of vague allusions to SEALs and special forces, it’s a pleasure to have the details of training, weaponry and large equipment sussed out with such authority. Based on how smoking hot the love scenes are in her books, I’m guessing her marriage is a pretty happy one, too!

Cover Me by Catherine Mann (July 2011, Sourcebooks)

In Cover Me, Pararescuemen Wade Rocha and his team are stationed in Alaska, ready to respond to just about anything. When they receive a call that some people are stranded in the wilderness, they head out to an Aleutian Island. While other team members rescue a couple of hikers, Wade spots another hiker in a different area and jumps down to help.

The only problem is, Sunny Foster really doesn’t need Wade’s assistance. In fact, she’s as competent in the wilderness as he is, a fact he quickly realizes with more than a little chagrin. But they are stuck with each other as Wade is stranded until his team can come back for him, and when he gets a good look at how beautiful Sunny is under all her gear, he’s willing to not have an immediate extraction.

Sunny fights her attraction for the great-looking pararescueman who seems as kind as he is competent, because she has a lot to hide. There’s a reason she is such a terrific wilderness guide – it’s her job to escort departing members of her off the grid ecological community from their sequestered existence to civilization. She knows, all too well, that there are people in her isolated town with good reason to not come to the attention of authorities and Wade constitutes an authority.

When the two of them stumble across a crevasse filled with the dead bodies of the people Sunny has previously helped and bullets start flying, Wade and Sunny realize that they have stumbled on something that endangers them both. Wade knows that there’s no way he’s leaving her alone and Sunny wants to stay with him, even harboring a secret that might make him leave.

What had me reaching for the next book in the series was not only Mann’s page-turning writing, but the fact that her female characters register pretty high on the badass scale. Sunny is amazingly competent and a strong match for Wade, despite her untraditional upbringing. The love scenes are outstandingly hot but emotionally intimate, and you’ll find yourself snapping at loved ones who attempt to interrupt your reading for such mundane topics as financial questions or “what’s for dinner?” inquiries.

Hot Zone by Catherine Mann (December 1, 2011, Sourcebooks)

Mann also deserves major kudos for her fully fleshed out minor characters. Not only does she lay the foundation for future books by focusing on a couple of other squad members who are bound to have  stories themselves, but she always includes a subplot (in Cover Me‘s case, Sunny’s sister and the man she’s been in love with for years) of a couple who are also brought together in the same timeline, having their own bumps along the road to happily ever after. The fact that she can do this and manage to not detract from the larger story is nothing short of tremendous.

In Hot Zone, our wonderful pararescuemen, now stationed in Florida, are coming to the aid of victims of a big earthquake in the Bahamas, but they don’t find an island paradise. Master Sergeant Hugh Franco is crawling through rubble to a trapped woman with a baby. Captivated in the dark and dust by a beautiful pair of eyes and brave soul, Hugh finds himself drawn to a woman in a way he hasn’t been since the loss of his wife and child years ago. He’s acquired a deserved reputation for being an adrenaline junkie with a death wish, but suddenly there is something else, a lot more frightening, he’s running toward.

Lawyer Amelia Bailey is terrified and in a lot of pain but is managing to keep it together for her newly adopted thirteen month old nephew fitfully breathing alongside her. When the gorgeous pararescueman arrives to save her, she chalks her startling feelings of attraction up to the situation and his kindness. She’s sworn off relationships after her cheating ex and, right now, her focus is on the new baby and finding her brother and his wife. As Hugh and she find reasons to see each other in the disaster zone while searching for her new nephew’s parents, what’s between them grows rather than diminishes. When Amelia finds herself and her nephew in mortal danger from an unforeseen enemy, Hugh faces the knowledge that this is one woman who he will not let go without a fight.

When I say this book is heart-stopping, I mean it. The scenes of Amelia and Hugh trapped in the rubble with aftershocks happening around them as the toddler’s condition worsens had me stopping reading to go gulp a glass of water and control my nerves. While Amelia is not the survivalist Sunny is in the previous book, she has her own brand of bravery that is incredibly appealing. Our secondary couple is Amelia’s brother and sister-in-law who, despite being in the Bahamas to adopt their son, are going through some serious marital problems. We get to see their journey to resolution while also getting a peek at the burgeoning romance between Major Liam McCabe and the sassy canine search and rescue worker who intrigues him.

Under Fire by Catherine Mann (May 1, 2012, Sourcebooks)

Because of my love for Liam, I was ecstatic when I discovered that the third book in the series would focus on him. Liam and his overwhelming attraction to Rachel Flores, the canine search and rescue handler in Cover Me, was a subplot that I enjoyed as much as the main couple. In Under Fire, Liam is still smarting from six months of unreturned phone calls to Rachel, who has clearly decided that the thrice-married and divorced Liam is too much of a risk.

Liam has always known he falls in love too easily and for the wrong reasons, and right now he’s trying to get Rachel Flores out of his mind and heart and concentrate on his upcoming retirement. His 38-year-old body has taken way too much punishment and it’s beginning to put up a major protest. When he gets into his jeep after an exhausting training session, he’s astonished to find Rachel huddled in the back, her arm around one of her rescue dogs. Her terrified expression kicks him into protection mode and he hustles her back to his place to find out what’s going on.

Rachel knows she doesn’t resemble the confident rescue worker who attracted Liam months ago. The earthquake burned her out and she has since turned to using her animals to help former military personnel suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). One of them confessed to her that he had overheard treasonous information on his last assignment, but when she champions his cause and tries to get this shattered man’s information taken seriously, she finds herself under attack. With no one to turn to, she knows that Liam is the one person she can trust, if he can stand seeing her again after she’s ignored him all these months.

Liam is initially not sure if Rachel’s friend is telling the truth or deluded, but he knows that someone has it out for her. Turning to the authorities on his base has them put in a safe house, but Liam gets a tip that the danger is much closer than anyone realizes and is told to run. With the help of his team members, he takes Rachel into hiding where the attraction they’ve both denied for so long becomes an unstoppable force. But Rachel knows the three garters hanging from Liam’s rearview mirror is a reminder that he might not be a good romantic chance to take. Despite acknowledging that he’s previous experiences at falling in love didn’t feel anything like what he feels for Rachel, Liam believes he’s just going to stand in her way when she realizes she’s ready to go back to the search and rescue work that is her first love.

This was my favorite of the series so far, possibly because the dogs make such good minor characters! Liam is smokin’ hot and he and Rachel are perfect for each other, even when you do want to bash their heads together for being so damn difficult about it. Rachel’s friend with PTSD has the great minor romance plot with her dogsitter and we get a view of happily married Wade and Sunny that just makes your heart sing. Please, please let the next book be Cuervo!! He’s so dark and fabulous and want to see him find his happily ever after.

One of my criteria for an author I admire is that I insist they have some kind of presence on the web so I can indulge myself between books. As an author, Catherine Mann appears to have a strong platform, complete with an informative website, active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and you can usually find her giving a live interview in case you want to pepper her with questions about those green foot tattoos on her heroes. Her Goodreads page is a great place to get the order of the books in her various series.

Since her recent books have been published by Sourcebooks, I thought I’d mention the bargain I got in buying Under Fire. Sourcebooks has begun their own reader’s club, Discover a New Love, and while I usually don’t indulge in these types of offers, this publishing house has enough authors I read to make it worthwhile. For a $9.99 six month membership, I get one featured title free each month and a super discount off the list price of other books. I got Under Fire, the latest Kathryne Kennedy book and a new cowboy romance for something like three dollars! (They were ebooks, so no shipping.) I just downloaded them from the website in the Kindle format and sent them to my Kindle account. (Did you know you can do that? Anyone with a Kindle or Kindle app – I use my iPad – has a email address to send items to your Kindle. It’s your amazon username@kindle.com and just embed the pdf or mobi file in the email and wait a few minutes. Voila!)

So if you haven’t read her yet, check out Catherine Mann and this fabulous series in whatever format that floats your boat. You’ll find that the Elite Force series is definitely at the top of the romantic suspense genre.

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