13 May 2011

Up Close and Dangerous


First line: Bailey Wingate woke up crying.

Publisher's Synopsis: Bailey Wingate’s scheming adult stepchildren are surprised when their father’s will leaves Bailey in control of their fortune, and war ensues. A year later, while flying in a small plane, Bailey nearly dies herself when the engine sputters – and then fails. Cam Justice, her sexy Texan pilot, manages to crash-land the aircraft. Stranded in the wilderness, and struggling to douse her feelings for the ruggedly handsome man by her side, Bailey begins to wonder whether this terrifying incident was actually a murder attempt. Cut off from the world, and with little hope of rescue, Bailey must trust her life – and heart – to Cam, as they battle the harsh elements to find a way out of the unforgiving wilds and back to civilization…where a killer may be waiting to finish the job.

Linda Howard just became my new favorite author. This is the first of her books that I've read. My mom and I both love Sandra Brown, and so she (my mom) thought I would like Linda Howard and gave me a few of her books, but I never got around to them. However, when I came across more of her books at a library book sale, I went ahead and picked them up based on my mom's recommendation, which is a long way of telling you how I got this book.

Bailey Wingate entered into marriage with an older man as a business arrangement. His two kids are spoiled and selfish and loaf around, and their father did not trust them to handle their inheritance money once he died. So he put it all in a trust fund, and made Bailey the trustee. The step kids (one of whom, and maybe both, are a little older than Bailey) hate her, and are very resentful that she lives in what was once their mother's home.

Cam Justice is a pilot for a small airline that handles charter flights for the Wingate family. He's never liked Bailey, thinking she's a cold-hearted bitch. She doesn't like him either, thinking he's a sour-pus. She’s never seen him crack a smile. When she books a flight to meet her brother and sister-in-law for some white water rafting, Cam's partner, who is always her pilot, gets sick at the last minute, and Cam has to take the flight in his place.

The plane crashes in snow-covered mountains, and Cam is knocked unconscious. Bailey has to go into survival mode, finding a way to get herself and Cam out of the wreckage, take care of his head wound, and keep him alive through the first night while they wait to be rescued. But even though Cam had sent out a Mayday call, rescuers do not come, and one day turns into two days turns into three days.

The details following the crash are mesmerizing to read. I feel that if I am ever in a plane flying over snow-covered mountains, I should keep this book with me to use as a how-to manual in case of a crash! Bailey has no survival training, but she does have plenty of common sense. And as much as she hates Captain Justice ("She wanted to snort in derision every time she heard the name...it sounded like the character of a comic book"), she was very impressed with his skill in trying to land the plane, which she knows saved her life, and she is determined to now save his.

Cam, for his part, while unable to do much but lie on the ground for the first day, finds himself very impressed at Bailey's ingenuity in taking care of him and getting them settled for their first night in the wilderness. He quickly revises his former opinion of her, and just as quickly decides that once they are rescued and are back home, he will not allow her to retreat back behind the defenses she has built up around herself.

I love a good character study, and this is a good one. We get to know both Cam and Bailey very well, while they get to know each other. In order to survive, they have to become intimate with each other. Not sexually, though there are certainly undercurrents of sexual tension, but emotionally, which is foreign to Bailey. I also love humor to be mixed into the story, and there were times when Cam and Bailey’s verbal sparring made me laugh out loud.

When I was younger, much younger, I often sat up half the night reading. These days I can't handle that, I need my sleep. But last night when I crawled into bed to read, I did not put this book down until I'd read the last page. I couldn't. And unfortunately, I will now be forced to make a list of all Linda Howard’s books, and track them down, one by one. Dammit.

(I bought this book at a library book sale in February 2010.)

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