First Line: Agitated snow tumbles and whirls across the cockpit windshield.
Navy helicopter pilot Lt. Alison Malone is not happy. Instead of remaining on the fast track, her naval career is stalled in the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada near Fallon, Nevada. Her skills are being put to good use as part of a search and rescue team based at the Naval Air Station there, but this by-the-book pilot is being driven crazy by the men with whom she works. To men like Boomer Marks, the rule book is more like a guideline... a suggestion. Alison desperately wants to be transferred out of this backwater and back to her meticulously chosen life and fiancé in San Diego.
When Alison meets mountain guide Will Cavanaugh on a particularly risky mission, she is introduced to a world of adventure she's never known before, and those almighty defenses of hers begin to slip. It's not long until Alison is questioning everything she's ever known about herself. She's definitely got some tough life decisions ahead of her.
If this book sounds more like women's fiction, if it sounds more like romance, than the books I usually read, you'd be right. However, I read and enjoyed Wilson's first book, Hover, so much that I definitely wanted to give this one a try. I am very glad that I did. The one thing that annoyed me in that first book was the romantic element, but here in Clear to Lift, Wilson has pulled back on the stick just enough to make Alison and Will's budding relationship perfect. In fact, if most men were honest, they'd admit that this is a book they could enjoy, too. After all, Wilson flew nine years as a navy helicopter pilot. She knows what she's talking about.
The characterization of Alison Malone comes close to perfection. This is a young woman who-- due to her father abandoning the family when she was a child-- has learned to always hedge her bets, to always make the safe choice, to always follow the rules. Being assigned to Fallon's search and rescue team is the one thing she needs to start pulling herself out of that veritable cocoon of security blankets. Watching this sometimes painful process (and getting to know the rest of a fine cast of characters) makes for engrossing reading, but Wilson does not stop there. Oh no....
This author is one of the best writers of action sequences I've ever read. Wilson puts the reader in control of a helicopter during the delicate operation of saving a person's life. Then-- when the reader is still glancing nervously at the fuel gauge and altimeter-- Alison's own life is in danger when she's caught in the mountains during a blizzard. Another entire sequence concerning a flood is also wonderfully written. Wilson knows exactly how to place readers right in the middle of the action, and I for one found my heart in my throat or tears in my eyes on multiple occasions. It reminds me of how few writers lately can get me that invested-- mind and heart-- in a story. Anne A. Wilson has that gift, and you'd better believe I'm eagerly awaiting book number three.
Clear to Lift by Anne A. Wilson
Forge Books © 2016
Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: the author