Everything about this story works

The Way Home - Cindy Gerard
The set up
It's been over three years since Jess Albert was widowed when her husband J. R. was killed in action in Afghanistan. While she's moved on with her life, she hasn't done so romantically until Ty Brown suddenly showed up on her doorstep again. She hasn't seen him in the eighteen months since she helped him and his brother one night by supplying them with emergency weapons to take down a master criminal. He promised to come back and see her but never contacted her again. He's there on a leap of faith that there may be something for the two of them to explore. 

The issues
Meanwhile, as Jess and Ty move forward and deepen their relationship, a young Afghan woman, Rabia, finds an American soldier along the roadside who is severely injured. She spends the next months nursing him back to health as he also struggles to remember who he is and his past. It is extremely dangerous for Rabia and her family as they can be executed by the Taliban for harboring and aiding an American. 

What makes this story work REALLY well
The two situations unfold and are presented in parallel to each other. As Jess finally finds happiness after all this time, her husband is fighting to regain his health and memory and figure out a way home with Rabia's help. It is tragic and at the same time lovely to see them gather strength and deepen these relationships, knowing the heartaches destined ahead. Jess is an incredible woman, self sufficient and independent. Rabia has the same qualities and is even more courageous by being so in the midst of a war and the Taliban who consider women chattel. You want to root for all of them but a happy ending for all seems futile. 

There's a level of tension underlying the story, both romantic and dangerous as discovery by the Taliban is a constant threat and J. R.'s inevitable extraction will be problematic considering he's assumed dead by the Americans and still hunted by the Taliban. I had so many mixed emotions from start to end and I didn't want to ever walk away from the story. 

What was missing
Absolutely nothing. 

The bottom line
Loved the story, the characters and the writing. It's all here...love, pain, tragedy, honor, conflict, courage, humor...and perfectly woven into an extraordinary tale. There are no wasted words or imagery and I easily transitioned from the Afghan village to the Minnesota lakeside at will. I felt like I was witnessing the covert extraction operation, plugged into the action and communications. This is an exciting series and a must read.

(I received an ARC from Edelweiss)