In December, I caught a rare glimpse of a falcon in my neighborhood. The bird was perched on rooftop of a building just across the street from the parking garage. As the rooftop and the level on which I was parked were the same, I got a really good look at one of these magnificent birds. The reason I chose to read Lindsay McKenna’s Dangerous Prey was because I wanted to learn a little bit more about the creatures while enjoying a romance in the bargain.
Kelly Trahern was a helicopter pilot until two tragic accidents forced her to give up flying. The first occurred while she was a Marine flying missions in Afghanistan, which led to medical discharge, and the second happened when she was flying a water-dumping helicopter into a wild fire area. This crash caused the deaths of two men who were also on the flight and permanently damaged her leg so badly that she could no longer fly. Already suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of her wartime activities, she fell into a black hole of depression, from which she seemingly could not be roused.
In desperation, her mother Laura seeks out a childhood friend of Kelly’s, Sky McCoy, to ask for his help. Reluctant at first, he grudgingly agrees to see her. To help make conversation, he brings Bella, a Harris Hawk he is caring for, and asks Kelly for help in looking after the birds at his small raptor rehabilitation center. Sky understands the power of the birds to help the people who are trying to aid them. When he was only 19, his parents were murdered when Billy Jo Talbot, a childhood bully who had tormented Sky for years, torched their house. After his conviction for the murders, Talbot swore he would kill Sky after his release.
Kelly comes out to view the center, and the animals captivate her. She wants to work with him, but she realizes she will have to get the physical rehabilitation she has refused since the accident. When she is physically able to work at center, she moves in with Sky. Though the relationship is totally platonic, both have feelings for the other that they are unwilling to act upon. Sky is particularly reluctant, as Talbot’s release date is fast approaching and he knows he will have to deal with the man once and for all. He does not want involve Kelly in the unpleasantness about to unfold.
The romance between Kelly and Sky is long and slow, and I didn’t mind that. The friendship they shared in childhood is reborn and built upon to make something stronger and lasting. Both characters have to go through several healing processes, physical and mental, before taking their relationship to the next level.
Billy Jo is a fairly good villain. He bullied Sky primarily because he was Native American and he thought that Sky was weak. When Sky fought back and won, he became the symbol for everything that had gone badly in Billy Jo’s life – and therefore Billy Jo must terminate him. The author did make an effort to humanize Billy Jo; at times I felt she tried a little too hard, as I preferred the times when he was plotting and planning his revenge to the moments he imagined helping his mother weed her flower bed.
There were several times when I felt that the author was laying it on too thick with the various accidents and the resulting medical conditions. At times it seemed that if it weren’t for bad luck, Sky and Kelly would have no luck at all. However, I could overlook that, because the characters were decent people – kind, responsible, capable and trying to do right as best they could. Also, I usually have a hard time recognizing symbolism in novels, but I thought McKenna was fairly obvious with the Kelly/broken bird comparisons.
Despite the drawbacks I mentioned, I did enjoy the novel and I did learn a thing or two about raptors, and their place in the world. It might be worth a look, especially if you want something a little out of the common way.