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Beyond Valor
by Lindsay Mckenna
(HRS #1739, $4.50, PG) ISBN 978-0-37327809-1
Beyond Valor  is set in a village in a very remote areas of Afghanistan where the U.S. military is vying with the Taliban for the support and cooperation of the village. Luke Collier is a Marine combat medic stationed at a base nearby.

As the novel opens Luke is waiting for the arrival of his new corpsmen, Meagan Trayhern. She is in the forefront of the women being assigned to combat zones. Meaghan’s rich and powerful family  has a long standing tradition of each member serving six years in the military. Meagan spent four years in nursing school and joined the military as an enlisted medic, ignoring the opportunity to come in as an officer.

Meaghan is beautiful, compassionate and bright. Even with being burnt before in a work related romance, Luke does fall for her quickly. The man Megan had been in love with was killed in Iraq, so both are predisposed to being gun-shy.

The village nearby straddles the fence between the U.S. and the Taliban, knowing full well the gravity of the reprisals for cooperation with the US. Weekly at least, the Taliban also shells the military base. In spite of this, Megan with the aid of the head villager's wife Mina starts a clinic to enable the women of the village to have medical care. Custom forbids the male corpsmen from touching them.

Through this connection Meaghan learns and is able to assess the identity of the key players in the village and the Taliban. The wife of the Taliban leader is someone Mina knows and likes, and Megan starts hoping that she can find a way to initiate a peaceful resolution to the village's conflicts.

Lindsey McKenna clearly has done her research. In addition to creating a real feeling for military life in Afghanistan, she gives the story a plethora of customs and attitudes of the Afghan people which bring into focus the incredible difficulties our service personnel face there.

The physical area, the background and the people in it are interesting and skillfully developed adding much to the story. Megan and Luke move forward with their relationship as incidents in the village build to a climatic endpoint. Well described likeable characters, who dwell and function within a landscape the writer has made all too real, make this a compelling read.

--Thea Davis

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