REVIEW: To The Limit by Jo LeighSunday, September 22, 2013 0:00
I’ve never found Jo Leigh’s books particularly sexy, more, say, than a Modern or a Desire, so I’m not sure why she’s writing for Blaze, except it’s fast becoming the line where the ex-military and currently serving heroes have found a home. However, having said that, Leigh is undoubtedly one of the most talented writers Harlequin possesses, so I’ll read whatever she wants to give me.
This story is about Sam and Emma. It’s the second of two stories. I can’t remember reading the first, but if it’s anything like this one, I will definitely find it.
Sam is a former fighter pilot, who has been grounded after an eye operation left him with a defect – not enough to affect his normal life, but enough to stop him flying. Emma is the widow of Danny, who was killed on duty. She hasn’t seen Sam or their friend John since she moved to Alamo base and got a job as an instructor.
Then Sam arrives as an instructor on drones. On my recent visit to the Smithsonian Flight and Space Institute, I learned that the next stage of aerial warfare is drones, so Leigh is spot on with that aspect. While flying fighter planes is glamorous and acts as a guitar or a motorbike on “women pulling” power, it isn’t where the future of aerial warfare lies. While the characters make the point in the course of the book, Sam still misses his flyboy days. He has an outside chance of getting them back by having another eye operation, which, while experimental, has minimum risk.
I wrote about a laser eye operation gone wrong in Texas Heat, so I did a bit of research then. While the vast majority of laser operations are successful and problem-free, the ones that stop it being 100% can be disruptive, to say the least. I gave Vin a serious infection in that book. While Jo Leigh doesn’t go as far as threatening Sam’s sight, the results are just as devastating to him, but he has manned up, accepted his fate without whining and gets on with retraining as an instructor.
Small-town Texas life is so well described here, that I could feel myself back in Alvin, Texas. It’s a wonderful experience, but I can imagine how limiting it might be, even when that small community also contains an air base. Sam’s arrival is described in detail, but with a sense of reality that gives the reader an insight into Sam’s character and a view of the community. It’s how a beginner shouldn’t start a book, but I don’t think Leigh needs to worry. I read every word.
Emma is teaching creative writing and English on the base, and she’s fitted in well. It’s a couple of years since Danny died, and while she doesn’t paint him in rosy colours, she misses him. But she knows what he was, faults and all, and accepts that he’s gone.
Sam has kept away from Emma, partly because of his guilt that he wanted her, too. But in a glorious turn of phrase, Sam reflects wryly, “Danny had seen Emma, and she’d seen him right back.” The book is full of gems like that. Not least, the reason for Sam’s doubts and fears: “Sam was under no delusions that he had hidden behind his testosterone like a kid hides under the covers to keep the monsters away.” What a great piece of writing.
Sam and Emma hook up and move in together. The descriptions of Emma helping Sam to set up his soulless apartment, and her realisation that he leased the first apartment he saw because he was still in mourning for his flying career, is marvellous. They are made for each other, but Sam is still restless and Emma knows it. Neither try to make the other into something they’re not, and their understanding of each other’s problems is beautifully done. While there isn’t much sex, what there is is hot and it’s a fitting testament to the way they are coming to feel about each other.
The denouement is particularly well done. Neither Sam nor Emma resort to juvenile behaviour to create a fake black moment. Their dilemma is real and it’s not forced onto either of them. It’s part of what they are. The conclusion is even better, and the end reflects back to their first lovemaking session, which is filled with Sam’s memories of his first solo flight.
Jo Leigh writes about flyboys with a sense of reality I’ve rarely read in Harlequins, or anywhere else for that matter. I have no experience at all in this field, so I can only take her word for it, but her stories seem firmly grounded in reality. Life on base and the people who work there are vividly depicted, and I can enter her world, trusting her to guide me through it. The characters are believable and likeable. I definitely recommend this one.
Subject: Captain Sam “Jaws” Brody
Mission: Test his limits…and push hers! Air force pilot Sam Brody’s posting at Holloman AFB is
a new start…and a brutal reminder that he’ll never fly again. The bright side? It’s the same town as teacher (and widow) Emma Lockwood—the woman he’s always had a major thing for. The woman who married his best friend….
For years, Emma ignored the spark between her and Sam. Now that he’s in town, the spark has turned into full-on electrical overload! She tells herself to stay grounded. She doesn’t want another hotshot flyboy, no matter how sexy. But with every night of wicked passion with Sam, she finds herself closer to the point of no return….
Uniformly Hot! The Few. The Proud. The Sexy as Hell.
Read an excerpt.