Back in July 2016, I saw a new writer talk to a small but appreciative audience at Wetherby Library, sharing her excitement at the publication of her first book after winning a magazine competition – you’ll find my post about it here. That writer was Rachel Dove – her latest book, The Long Walk Back, was published yesterday, 11th January, by HQ Digital, and is now available via Amazon and on all other major e-book platforms. I read her last book, The Flower Shop on Foxley St, and really did like it very much (review here). But this book… well, it could be from someone different altogether. I was so impressed by the sheer confidence of the writing, and thoroughly delighted to see that the author has completely successfully found her own voice.
Does everyone deserve a second chance?
As an army trauma surgeon Kate knows how to keep her cool in the most high pressure of situations. Although back at home in England her marriage is falling apart, out in the desert she’s happy knowing that she’s saving lives.
Until she meets Cooper. It’s up to Kate to make a split-second decision to save Cooper’s life. Yet Cooper doesn’t want to be saved. Can Kate convince him to give his life a second chance even though its turning out dramatically different from how he planned?
I’ve often said that a book I’m happy to shout about has to capture my heart – this book grabbed it in a vice-like grip from the opening pages. And it never let go – it squeezed and pulled from beginning to end, made me cry repeatedly, gave me an achy stomach… then threw me out at the end with a big smile on my face. Yes, it really is that good.
If the blurb makes you think of People’s Friend, don’t be fooled for a moment – this is a book with real power that would blow away the most critical of readers. It’s a romance, but one with a real difference, not just army surgeon and injured soldier but two lead characters that you’ll take to your heart from the explosive beginning to the uncertain end. Kate’s family story gave it additional depth (and some of the most heart-breaking moments, through the struggles of and with her son), but it was the central love story that really did it for me. There’s a scene near the end – at a prize-giving ceremony – that had me in pieces.
The research – and its use – is detailed and meticulous, the psychological impact on a patient in Coop’s position so well described (I loved the mirror…). That carried through to the son too – everyone knows my antipathy towards children in key roles in books, but this one broke my heart into little pieces. The characterisation is just wonderful, damaged people finding joy among the immense sadness of their situation. As for Cooper himself, my goodness, what a wonderful character – his damaged body, his love for his “family”, his immense capacity for love – words fail me. I absolutely loved this book – but I’m rather guessing you can tell.
Fancy an extract? My pleasure…
Kate was in a real mood; Trevor could tell from the way she pounded across the tent to him. He was doing his rounds, and they had had a good night. A good night here was when they still had the same number alive as the day before. A great day was when there were no casualties at all, but Trevor was hard pushed to remember many days like that.
‘Who’s upset you? Neil whingeing about doing the dishwasher again, is he?’ Trevor asked, and immediately regretted cracking the joke when the icicles from Kate’s frosty glare jabbed him in the chest.
‘Captain Cooper thinks he is hilarious. I’m just waiting for him to call me ‘toots’ and slap me on the behind,’ Kate said, seething. Trevor checked the vitals on his sleeping patient, and satisfied, made notes on his chart.
‘So he’s awake? That’s amazing! How is he doing?’
‘Oh he’s doing just fine, for a male chauvinist pig.’
‘Kate,’ Trevor admonished, trying not to laugh at her furious expression. ‘How are his vitals?’
Kate pursed her lips, taking a breath to focus on the job. ‘He’s stable, the chest drain is working well. I’m still concerned about his leg though. He has limited blood flow to the area, and I’ m worried about sepsis.’
Trevor nodded sadly. ‘So he will probably lose the leg, if we try to keep him alive.’ He rubbed at his temples. ‘Not told him any of this, have you?’
Kate shook her head. ‘I told him you would explain on this morning’s ward round. I wanted to go through everything again, monitor him closely for as long as we safely can before we make a decision.’
Trevor looked at her, his face unreadable. ‘It may not be our decision, it’s up to him.’
Kate looked nonplussed. ‘The evac chopper is coming in two days. At present, he’s too unstable to move. We need to get him home then, leg or no leg. A decision between losing a limb and dying is not a great thing to have thrust at you, granted – but he wants to live, surely?’
Trevor placed the chart at the foot of the bed and started to walk towards the next patient, issuing medication instructions to the nurse as he walked.
‘Kate,’ he began in a tone he might have used to tell his child that Father Christmas wasn’t real. ‘I have worked on men like Captain Cooper since this whole nightmare started. These are army men to the core. Sometimes going home means no family, no buddies, no job, and a lifetime of relying on other people. They are proud, and sometimes, to them, the reality is worse than death. Don’t take anything for granted when it comes to patient wishes.’
‘A boy died yesterday, to save these men. Surely that’s reason enough to want to live?’
Kate ran her fingers through her hair, suddenly feeling tired all over again.
‘Cooper knows that. Better than most, probably. It’s still his decision, he has to live with it. Understood?’ Trevor spoke firmly now.
Kate opened her mouth to argue, but she thought better of it. She respected her mentor, always had, and she didn’t want to argue. Not when the fact that life was so short and precious was evident in every face, every feature she saw over here.
I bet you’d like to win a copy of this one, wouldn’t you? With thanks to Rachel and tour organiser Brook Cottage Books, I’m delighted to offer the chance to win a signed copy (open internationally). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
About the author
I am a wife, mother of two boys, perpetual student, avid reader and writer of words. I sometimes sleep, always have eye bags and dream of retiring to a big white house in Cornwall, with 2 shaggy dogs, drinking wine on my seafront balcony whilst creating works of romantic fiction. All done with immaculate make up and floaty dresses. In the meantime I nearly always remember to brush my hair, seldom have time to look in a mirror and write many, many to-do lists.
My first solo novel, Crossing Life Lines is out now in Kindle and paperback format. Look out for my horror shorts, published through Bayou Brew Publishing: The House of Sugar Blood, August 2013 and Uni Assassin, out now, and my short story, Mallow Girl, out now. In July 2015, I won the Prima magazine and Mills & Boon Flirty Fiction Competition, with my entry, The Chic Boutique on Baker Street, out now in ebook and paperback: the follow up novel in the series, The Flower Shop on Foxley Street is also available.