Review: The Will to Love by Lindsay McKenna
Title: The Will to Love
Author: Lindsay McKenna
Series: Silhouette Intimate Moments, Oct. 2002
This is the first Lindsay McKenna book I’ve read and I can already say it will not be the last. It’s also the first book I downloaded through a neighbouring city’s library after getting myself a card, and has already confirmed that it’s the best $40 I ever spent.
The cover synopsis:
When Lieutenant Quinn Grayson reached the earthquake-ravaged L.A. Basin, he discovered devastation. But when he looked into survivor Kerry Chelton’s eyes, he saw hope. For the spirited deputy sheriff had single-handedly kept her community going–until Quinn and his dream team arrived. Now the weary beauty could share her load with Quinn. For the brave marine filled her with a new will to live. And once in his arms, she dreamed this brooding soldier would discover the will to love….
This isn’t the first book in the “Morgan’s Mercenaries: Ultimate Rescue” series, but at no time did I feel like I was missing out on information needed to understand the story and the characters. Partly, this may be because of the nature of the plot.
The earthquake mentioned in the blurb is a monumental one, which took place about two weeks before the start of this story. All the roads into the LA Basin have been destroyed, so the only way in or out is by helicopter. The basin has been divided up into 21 areas, and Quinn’s task is to make contact and offer assistance to Kerry Chelton, the only surviving police officer in Area 5.
The worldbuilding here is fascinating. McKenna constantly adds in descriptive details and reminders of exactly how large a disaster our heroes are dealing with. Homes are damaged or unsafe, particularly as there are still aftershocks, and Quinn and Kelly mention seeing people sleeping under what little safe cover they can find, building fires to cook and stay warm. When Quinn meets Kelly for the first time, she’s filthy (though naturally her beauty shines through the dirt), and trying to hold herself together for the others in the neighbourhood. People are desperate for any food or water they can get, and urgently in need of medical care. McKenna mentions the appearance of diseases like cholera and diptheria; diseases caused by drinking unsanitaty water and eating food that’s gone off. Part of the plot concerns a gang known as Diablo, that is threatening and killing those who can still remain in their homes, stealing all the food and water they can find.
Of course one kind of has to wonder exactly how realistic it is, at first, considering the time frame. But considering as of 2005 (from what I can tell from Wikipedia) there was a population of at least 12million people living in the area, part of that might be because it’s difficult to wrap one’s head around a disaster of that size. Even with a significant number of people dead, there are still an overwhelming number that would need help. And of course, while it may have been harder to believe that there wouldn’t be somehow be a massive evacuation plan in 2002 when the book was written, it’s a little easier to imagine now for anyone who remembers watching the nightly news footage in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
One of the things that also brings the world McKenna has created home are the reactions of the characters. Kelly, who’s still in shock from seeing her co-workers killed when the sheriff’s department headquarters collapsed on them, and who’s managed to hold it together until Quinn and his fellow soldiers arrive and she nearly–but doesn’t–break down in tears. Quinn, who acts as the eyes of the reader, repeatedly being surprised by the kind of devastation unknown to most people in North America.
Even better, Kelly and Quinn are equal partners, with a great deal of respect for each other once they get to know each other a little. And when they do confess their feelings, they don’t automatically decide to get married, shock! They decide that they need time to get to know each other more, particularly time outside the pressure cooker of the disaster area. Holy shit, when was the last time you read that in a romance novel?
There are some quibbles I had, however.
The first major drawback–one the author might not have had much of a choice in–is that dealing with such a big event as a major element of the plot and using it as a series means that we barely scrape the surface of the larger events in this book. Really, this series would have been perfect for a mass-market paperback, instead of being squished and chopped up into a series of categories. Though perhaps it was part of her contract with Harlequin/Silhouette to do a number of series novels, or because there were a number of different couples and areas to cover, McKenna felt that separate instalments of a caegory series was the way to go, which I can see.
As a result of that, however, the part of the plot involving the Diablo gang feels a little tacked on; there’s only really one scene involving them while the rest of the time the characters just talk about the gang with the threat lurking in the background. It mainly feels like the gang is mentioned as much as it is as an excuse for them to get military in that specific area before others, and the incident with the gang is the catalyst for the hero’s “OMG I love her” moment. Other than that, it doesn’t take up much of the page count and isn’t resolved in this book; I’m hoping that there’s a big showdown in a later book in the series.
By the same token, it felt like once the leads of this book had all their interaction outside the disaster area, we didn’t get to see as much of what was happening and instead are told about it. At the same time, this is the same part where some of the realism of the situation that I mentioned earlier comes in, though again it’s told, not shown. Obviously in a work of this length, anything that doesn’t advance the leads’ romantic storyline has to be left out.
And one final quibble, that didn’t really have to do with the length of the book: Quinn’s initial ideas about women. At first, Quinn was irking me with his ideas on women (at ene point early in the book we learn that he thinks women are “not especially handy or practical” and that nurturing is their best asset, which isn’t helpful in the Marine Corps) and on initally meeting Kerry he starts falling a little into the romance-cliche of judging every woman’s actions by the motivations of some heinous ex. It’s actuially laid on pretty think in the first chapter and then…he just kind of changes his mind when he meets Kerry. At first it’s the way she fits into his prejudices that attracts him to her (her maternal care for an orphaned child, for instance). But it really never comes up as an issue between them–as I said earlier, they’re very much a team in the disaster area–and the change of heart, while there, is pretty quiet. Because of that, I’m not sure why it’s something that’s emphasized in the first chapter to the extent that it is.
However all that being said, this was an enjoyable book and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series as well as McKenna’s other works. This one gets a B from me.