I won a paperback copy of Linda Howard‘s The Woman Left Behind through Goodreads. However, it’s audiobooks I’ve been going through lately. So, I borrowed an audio version from Hoopla instead.
Description from Goodreads:
Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it. She likes the money, she likes the coolness factor—and it was very cool, even for Washington, DC. She liked being able to kick terrorist butts without ever leaving the climate-controlled comfort of the control room.
But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly, and in order to be fit for the field, she has to learn how to run and swim for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot a gun…or else be out of a job.
Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina–who he dubbed Babe as soon as he heard her raspy, sexy voice–making it through the rigors of training. The last thing he needs is some tech geek holding them back from completing a dangerous, covert operation. In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Babe, who hates to sweat, begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates. What’s even more surprising is that the usually very disciplined GO-team leader can’t stop thinking about kissing her smart, stubborn mouth…or the building chemistry and tension between them.
Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. While the rest of the operatives set off on their mission, Jina remains at the base to control the surveillance drone, when the base is suddenly attacked with explosives. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time before they’re exfiltrated out of the country.
But Levi never leaves a soldier behind, especially the brave woman he’s fallen for. He’s bringing back the woman they left behind, dead or alive.
This was a perfectly fine contemporary romance, I suppose. Certainly the writing is fine and the narrator (Saskia Maarleveld) did a good job. But what constitutes a satisfying story and happy ending apparently differs for the author and I.
Literally half the book is Babe in training. So exactly half the book that I suspect there was a plot outline that demarcated two halves of the book. And I was bored with all of it. It felt very much like those YA, fantasy novels where you think you’re getting an exciting adventure but you get pages and pages of potions classes instead.
But even once she finishes the endless training there is no real spark between the main characters and very little happens. The event of the blurb, which is made out to be the plot of the book, doesn’t happen until like 80% and it’s a nothing of an event (one night of running through the night to catch a flight, that she makes). It was a super let down. Certainly not the plot, just one thing that happens.
But what really irritated me came as a result of that. After the whole book bing intensely focused on how determined Babe is to not be a quitter, and overcoming all her challenges, she quits. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that women have to be like men in a book. But what author would write her badass male character as willing to give up just because she had one bad mission? (Certainly none of the male Go-team menses are quitting.) It felt intensely like a girl not being able to hack it with the men. And I hate that. What’s more, the ‘romance’ was contingent on her quitting. So, you knew all along that she was going to eventually. Which made everything that came before irrelevant, even as you read it.
None of this was helped by the fact the characters have sex for the first time after she quits. And it’s angry sex with no foreplay. So, it too was a let down. Certainly not worthy of being the only real one in the book.
All in all, though this might be a fine book objectively, I’d give it a one star based on my own enjoyment. I disliked so very much about it.