Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: military romance, romantic suspense
Series: Delta Force #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on December 1st 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Kyle Reeves was trained by his father to do one thing: be the very best. So he isn't daunted by the Delta Force selection process—the toughest military training on earth—or when the very best woman falls into his arms.
Carla Anderson buried her heart in Arlington when she lost her mother and brother to combat. She wants nothing more than to give her all in the line of duty until she too is laid down beside them, and Delta training might just be the challenge she's looking for. Little did she know, the true challenge was coming in the shape of a sexy, alpha-male military operative.
Surviving brutal training is just the beginning of the merciless path to Delta, but it's also the dawn of the hottest passion Kyle and Carla have ever known…
As I was reading this book, the U.S. Secretary of Defense announced on December 3, 2015 that starting in early 2016 all U.S. combat military positions will be open to women, including the Rangers, the SEALs, SOAR and Delta. So, while this book is certainly fiction, it looked forward at something that could happen in the near future.
Three women have already passed Army Ranger training, so that day may be much sooner than anyone thought just a few years ago.
Back to the present day, and the book…
Target Engaged is the first book in the author’s Delta Force series, which is spin-off of his awesome Night Stalkers series. Colonel Michael Gibson of Delta Force was the hero of Bring on the Dusk (reviewed here) in the Night Stalkers series, and he serves as the main bridge between the two units. Not that there aren’t occasional appearances by other members of the Night Stalkers, but Gibson is the most obvious link.
He’s the one who makes the final judgment on whether these candidates for “the Unit” actually pass one of their more important final exams, even if that exam is only partially concealed within an interview. They are all training for Delta, they are supposed to see the wheel within the wheel within the wheel.
In this first book in the series, we’re introduced to a small group of Delta candidates who become a tight-knit force within their class. Although the focus is on Carla Anderson, who plans to be the first woman to make Delta, and Kyle Reeves, the natural leader of their contingent, the other guys come in for enough pages to make them interesting possible leads for future books in the series.
This is a story with two threads to one. One is the training of Delta. For those out there who love books where the hero or heroine goes through intensive training, there’s a lot here to love. All the members of “the Unit” are in training from the moment they arrive at the ass-end of Ft. Bragg until the day the survivors graduate – or flunk out at the last hurdle. Just over 100 start, only seven finish, and only five survive their final training. By survive I don’t mean some die, although many of the ones that fail the test wish they had. But out of the original cadre, only five go the distance. A few are sent back to their units with recommendations that they come back after either some additional training, or just after they heal their injuries, but most just fail.
Carla starts out as the only woman in the Delta recruiting class, and she’s the first woman to finish. The story is very real when it talks about how she makes it – not just that she goes through the exact same grueling training as the men, having to succeed or fail under the exact same standards, but they way that she also has to handle being the only woman, and the way that she has learned to cope with being one of the few women in what is still a man’s world.
But when they graduate, and the group is ready to set out on their first mission, Carla finally gives in to the steaming attraction that she feels for fellow Delta operator Kyle Reeves, and it is here that she breaks pattern. From this point on in the story we have some kick-ass military romance, as Carla and Kyle explore what they can be to each other, as well as how they and their relationship fit into the team that Kyle has built and Delta has honed.
When their first missions put them each in danger of losing their lives, they both have to face what it means to be in love with someone who risks their life every single day, and who you might have to deliberately send in harm’s way for the greater good.
Escape Rating B+: I loved both halves of this story – the training half and the mission half, but they are completely different.
During the entire training component, both Kyle and Carla are extremely aware of the heat they generate together, and they do absolutely nothing about it. A relationship between them while they are in the initial training/weeding out process will send them both back to their previous units, and probably scuttle Carla’s entire career. Also any relationship would be a distraction that they have neither the time, the energy or the privacy for until the initial phase of training is over.
Also, it’s not just that neither of them has much experience at real relationships, but that Carla specifically has no plans to ever be in a real relationship. A lot of the later tension between Carla and Kyle is that she had no plans to ever love anyone again, and is completely unwilling to admit that she loves Kyle and isn’t ready to go on without him.
One of the things I found slightly jarring about this story is that I couldn’t realistically see how a woman who is portrayed the way that Carla is would fall into a relationship with someone in her unit. While it isn’t against regulations – they are both the same rank and not officially in a reporting relationship – there is always a danger that the woman in any such relationship will be considered less capable simply because of the relationship. And if it fails, she’s the one who will lose rank or status, not him.
On that other hand, once I let go of my disbelief, the missions they went on were page-turning gut twisters from beginning to end. They go after bad guys who really need to be brought down, and they finish them off with style. Their second mission had me on the edge of my seat, and I loved watching them figure out how to save themselves and each other with not much more than grit, determination and a little help from some friends in the CIA and Mossad.
In the end, Target Engaged reminded me a bit of The Night is Mine (reviewed here), the first book in the Night Stalkers series. Night reads more than a bit like Stargate fanfiction, and Target Engaged has the undercover agent vibe of some NCIS fanfic. I love them all.
~~~~~~ EXCERPT ~~~~~~
If you have been appropriately intrigued by my review, Sourcebooks has a treat for you. The first six chapters of Target Engaged are available as a free sampler. To get started with Delta Force, just click on the link at the end:
Welcome to my newest series: the first women of Delta Force. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun this was to write.
Most of us know little more about Delta Force than the Chuck Norris movies (which leave a lot to be desired) or perhaps we only know the name. In researching my Night Stalkers series, I kept running into these guys. They are the elite of Special Operations Forces. They are at a level of SEAL Team 6, and most would argue they were even beyond that. They are the ghost and shadow warriors who helped take down drug lord Pablo Escobar, capture Noriega, were undoubtedly behind the locating of Saddam Hussein, and are the main reason that Al-Qaeda abruptly stopped being a topic in the Iraq War when over three thousand of their leaders were swept off the board.
Yet the Pentagon states that they don’t exist. Fascinating.
And while they often work with undercover female operatives, no woman has yet managed to kick in the front door on one of the most arduous selection programs in the military.
I decided to change that.
Carla Anderson stepped forward to take the challenge. She is a not a woman out to prove she can match any man, she’s out to prove that she can beat them at their own game. And that was the first thing that I loved about writing this series.
In the Night Stalkers, the women were strong, excellent, and determined.
To be a Delta Force woman, Carla had to add enough attitude and drive to plow through all obstacles which just made her so much fun. Nothing was off the table when it came to her attitude or her actions.
And that was the second thing I came to love about this series launcher, Target Engaged. Being Delta Force, they really do operate outside so many bounds. They are sent to do the tasks that no one else can. To that I added the additional challenge that Robert Ludlum gave to Jason Bourne (though I’m quoting the movie): “I don’t send you to kill. I send you to be invisible. I send you because you don’t exist.” I’m pretty convinced that this is part of Delta’s mission.
It is occasionally said by retired Delta Force operators (as the on-duty ones never speak): “If we’d been sent in to take down bin Laden, you still wouldn’t know how it was done.” To bring that to life gave me a permission as a writer to run my characters into hard and strange places and be just a little gonzo doing it.
But writing is a give and take, and I can’t begin to tell you how much the characters I created shaped my telling of this story. I like to think that they had as much fun as I did bringing this story to life.
I hope that you enjoy the reading even half as much as I enjoyed the writing!
M.L. Buchman (the Oregon Coast, November 2015)
Get to know the Carla, and the entire Delta Force team by reading the first SIX chapters of TARGET ENGAGED for free! Just click here to download them! To get you started, we’ve included the first few pages below:
~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
The treats never end with any of M.L. Buchman’s books. Sourcebooks is giving away an M.L. Buchman book bundle to one lucky entrant on this tour!