Publication Date: April 26, 2018
Length: 951 pages
Reviewed by Jenn
The truth is complicated.
On September 11th, 2001, Kris Caldera was a junior member of the CIA’s Alec Station, the unit dedicated to finding and stopping Osama Bin Laden.
Ten days later, he was on the ground in Afghanistan with a Special Forces team, driven to avenge the ghosts that haunted him and the nation he’d let down. On the battlefield, he meets Special Forces Sergeant David Haddad. David – Arab American, Muslim, and gay – becomes the man Kris loves, the man he lives for, and the man he kills for, through the long years of the raging wars.
David Haddad thought he’d be an outsider his whole life. Too American for the Middle East, too Arab for America, and too gay to be Muslim. It took Kris to bring the parts of himself together, to make him the man he’d always wanted to be. But the War on Terror wreaks havoc on David’s soul, threatening to shatter the fragile peace he’s finally found with Kris.
When a botched mission rips David from Kris’s life, Kris’s world falls into ruin and ash. A shell of the man who once loved with the strength to shake both the CIA and the world, he marks time on the edges of his life. The days bleed together, meaningless after losing the love of his life.
After being captured, tortured to the edge of his life, and left for dead by his comrades, David doesn’t know how much of himself is left. He vanished one day in the tribal belt of Pakistan, and the man who walks out almost a decade later is someone new: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.
But strange rumblings are whispering through the CIA. Intelligence from multiple sources overseas points to something new. Something deadly, and moving to strike the United States. Intercepts say an army from Khorasan, the land of the dead where the Apocalypse of Islam will rise, is coming.
And, at the head of this army, a shadowy figure the US hasn’t seen before: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.
David is coming home.
I’m not quite sure what to say about this book other than it truly is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I could tell you how much research the author did, how incredibly detailed the story is or even how much I learned about the events leading up to and following 9/11. There is much to say about all of those things, but instead, I want to tell you how this book made me feel.
We first met Kris Caldera in Tal Bauer’s book Hush as a secondary character. Henfun, he’s flirty, he’s sassy, and he’s sexy. What we don’t know is how much pain he carries and how much of the world’s ugliness he has seen. Kris was a junior CIA agent assigned to the Alec Station, the unit dedicated to finding and stopping Osama Bin Laden. They failed and 10 days later he’s on the ground in Afghanistan. He’s just a kid really, but knows the language, the culture, and the country more than anyone else on the team. While there, Kris meets Special Forces Sergeant David Haddad-he’s an Arab American, he Muslim and he’s gay. The two form a partnership from day one with David making a stand at Kris’s back. He’s his friend, his comfort, his confidant and his protector. Soon he will be his lover, the man he’ll do anything for, his everything. Seeing these two fall in love on the battlefield during the worst time in their lives is utterly beautiful. They each see and appreciate the beauty of the country of Afghanistan, they find these moments to hold on to each other and on to their humanity.
As the war rages and the years pass, the couple remain steadfast in their mission and in their love. When a mission goes terribly wrong, David is torn from Kris’s arms, from his life. Kris loses purpose, he grieves so deeply for so long. Losing David is a pain he seems unable to bear.
David is captured, tortured, and believed to be dead. He is left by his captors in a remote area in the tribal belt of Pakistan. David believes Kris to be dead, he’s badly wounded and he must find a way to survive. Almost 10 years go by before he emerges and when he does, he is no longer David, but Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani. This new man is causing rumblings of something deadly and coming for the United States. That something is David and he’s coming home.
This book, this author manages to take you back to those days and those feelings stirred by 9/11. We’re given a what feels like a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of our government and our military. We don’t see the nameless people on the news, but the real story of the men and women who helped change our world, both good and bad. The love between Kris and David is a thing of true beauty. Their love lives in the moon, it’s strong and true, a love worth dying for. More importantly though, it’s a love worth living for. These men fall in love in a time and a place where they are surrounded by hare and death. While everything and nearly everyone is against them, love wins. I was completely gutted at times reading this book, there is so much going on that you sometimes don’t know the bad guys from the good guys. One thing I knew for certain the entire time I was reading was that I was reading something special and something important. The story being told about war, loss and love is a story that needed to be told. We cannot forget those who have sacrificed all to try and give others a better life. Whether that sacrifice takes place on a battlefield or proudly living your truth in the middle of a world that considers you less than. 5 Stars is not enough for this book, but it’s all I’m able to give it. If you’ve not read Tal Bauer before, now is a perfect time to start.
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