Whatever it Takes – a review of “The Woman Left Behind” by Linda Howard

Jina Modell is a nerdy computer whiz who likes all things girlie and hates getting dirty or anything so strenuous that it makes her sweat. But it’s her computer skills that bring her to the attention of an off-the-books paramilitary group. They need her skill set and she kinda sorta gets shanghaied into accepting it. Nobody told her up front that she’d be training as if she’d signed up to be a Navy SEAL. But Jina isn’t a quitter. It’s just not encoded in her DNA. Her boss, Levi “Ace” Butcher doesn’t want her on his team and he sets out to ride her hard and make things so tough for her that she’ll drop out. He’s also lusting after her but knows that acting on that would destroy the cohesiveness of his team. He lets her know she’s the least important member of his team. Despite the odds, Jina makes it through and passes all the tests. She’s now a full-fledged team member and they’re “her” team.

The team’s first deployment is to Syria and wouldn’t you know, that blasted Murphy tagged along and everything went sideways from the get go. The building Jina was working in was the site of an explosion and her team assumed she’d been killed in the blast and resulting fire. They were preoccupied with a hellacious firefight with two team members seriously wounded as they fought their way to the ex-fil LZ. But Jina had survived and against all odds trekked across the desert and made it in time to get on the chopper. But she was angry and heartsick to know they had left her behind. She really was expendable to them.

Linda Howard is not only a successful author but more importantly, a talented writer and “The Woman Left Behind” really showcases her talent. So why the four and a half stars? The mess with the crooked Congresswoman wasn’t fully explored or explained so I never quite figured out what she was all about. (I have not read the first book so maybe that’s where the background lies.) So four and a half stars it is.

Jina is a fascinating character. Her dogged determination to never be a quitter gets her through the rigorous training and gives her the skills to save herself when she thought she’d been abandoned by her team. The transformation from nerdy computer desk jockey to a highly skilled operative is inspiring. Her character reminded me somewhat of Demi Moore’s role in “G.I.Jane” and even some of Meg Ryan’s in “Saving Private Ryan”. But Jina was her own “man”. And the long lasting ramifications of her ordeal change her life in multiple ways.

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