I enjoy going to dark places in my books. I like seeing my hero and heroine battle their way out of tough situations. However, the dark side to this book was so dark and violent I found myself questioning whether or not true love really would win the day.
In Breaking Point, book 5 in the Shadow Warrior series, we met Bay Thorn and Navy SEAL Chief Gabe Griffin. During that book Gabe and Bay are fellow team mates in Afghanistan who hold off on their attraction to each other until their deployment ends. Gabe is now stateside and he eagerly waits for Bay, who is inbound from her own deployment, at the airport. They are engaged and eager for some down time together, little knowing the future won’t hold much of that for them.
Their reunion is all that they dreamed of. They laugh together, cry together and play together. They have the time to deepen the relationship both emotionally and physically. The break is idyllic in many ways and when the time comes for Bay to redeploy she is able to take a reminder of this glorious interlude with her – a small jaguar that Gabe has carved for her.
Getting on a plane to finish her last six-month tour in Afghanistan for the Shadow Warrior program is the hardest thing Bay has ever done but she is determined not to let the program down. She arrives with a good attitude, determined to be the medic her team needs. Her commander is determined too – determined to keep Bay safe in an area experiencing heavy insurgent activity. He has Bay set up a clinic for women and children within the town, where she will be surrounded by other soldiers. All the precautions fail, though, when a child nabbing renegade raids one of Bay’s clinics and kidnaps her along with several children.
Gabe learns about the incident almost immediately and calls in every favor he has to get to Afghanistan and search for Bay. What will happen to her before he finds her? And what will happen to him if he can’t?
Female combatants are the heart and soul of McKenna’s writing and this novel is no different. The author explains the place woman warriors should have on our Special Forces teams while acknowledging the many different types of concerns that must be addressed to make that possible. Bay makes for an interesting addition to the woman warrior lexicon. On the one hand, she is a tough fighter willing to take risks to alleviate another’s danger. When she is captured she not only survives some truly horrific experiences, she uses her wits and skills to get out of tough situations. She proves that female soldiers can be just as interesting to read about, just as resilient through bad experiences as their male counterparts.
She is also a very sensitive person, willing to show her emotions. She has a firm belief in the supernatural and isn’t afraid to be thought silly for embracing the magic in the world around us. She plays a much more traditional role around Gabe in their civilian life, allowing him to be the alpha in their relationship and allowing herself the role of pampered mate.
There are a lot fewer layers to Gabe. He is a typical tough, protective alpha Navy SEAL; he is a hard-ass to the outside world but is a marshmallow when it comes to his lady love. He has friends – SEAL brothers that he is close to – and hobbies but I felt we knew far less about him at the end of the tale then we did about Bay.
That may be the reason that I found myself doubting Bay and Gabe’s happily ever after. I felt that towards the end of the story Bay was ready to leave a life of violence behind her. She seemed anxious to embrace the peace and holistic nature of the life her own mother has. Gabe still seemed to embrace altercations, even after he left the SEALs. There is a portion of the story where he deals with some villains and it seems clear he will battle any time he feels a need for it. He also seems to have temper control issues. There is a scene about two-thirds of the way through the book where he disagrees with some advice Bay is given and actually rants about it. The scene seemed charged with an angry, suppressed violence vibe that just didn’t sit well with me. Gabe was making fists with his hands, jabbing his fingers, growling and basically forcing Bay to admit how right he was about an issue. I think the scene was supposed to reinforce how well he knew her and how wise he was in regards to how things should be handled. In my reading of the scene his rage at a moment when Bay was subdued and hurting made me think he wasn’t ready to be a civilian married to a sensitive young woman. Maybe knowing him better would have made a difference but the only role I saw Gabe play was protector and there was a sense of ownership attached to that I just didn’t like.
That said, this is a well written, intense story that depicts the reality of warfare in the Middle East. I think it is the type of tale that contains hot button issues – pro-military, large degrees of violence, super protective alpha-hero – that might turn off some readers. On the other hand, if you like that sort of tale it might be the perfect read for you. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but if anything I said intrigued you or if you are a fan of the author, I think it might be worth checking it out.