WIND RIVER RANCHER, Book 2, Wind River Valley series, is an emotional story that will suck every reader in. I’m known for gritty, visceral and emotional writing, and this book is no exception. It just happened to catch the eye of Publisher’s Weekly and it received a ‘starred’ review (like winning an Oscar) on 12.3.16.
This series I’m writing is about military vets returning home from combat from all over the world, mostly focused on the Middle East. Having been in the US Navy during the Vietnam War era (I served stateside as a weather forecaster at USNAS Moffett Field (now known as Silicon Valley) near San Francisco, California.
I know PTSD because I’ve lived with it all my life. I came out a dysfunctional family where when I went to bed at night wondering if I’d wake up the next morning to see the dawn or not. When you live in that kind of violent, unstable environment for the first 18 years of your life, you are branded with such constant threat of death and physical violence, for the rest of your life.
I didn’t even know I had PTSD until it surfaced and was defined with a specific set of symptoms during the 1980’s. Most people don’t realize PTSD occurs because of life-and-death threat, either abusing a person mentally, emotionally or physically—or a combo of all three, will create it. You have wars in the world, and then you have wars in families where the children are forever stamped with it, just as the combat soldier is branded with it for the rest of their life, too.
Then, living becomes a daily, sometimes hourly challenge to SURVIVE through that day. And every day after that. I created the military romance in 1983 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special Edition, because I wrote what I knew. And having come out of the Vietnam War generation of military vets who were blamed for the war (instead Secretary of Defense, McNamara was the architect that framed the Vietnam War and should have been blamed instead), we carried a country’s heavy baggage as a consequence. The USA bought McNamara’s “fake news” that it was the military men fighting in that country, and it was their fault the war came into being. The fake news stuck and my Baby Boomer generation ‘bought’ it lock, stock and barrel. From then on, our military was seen as evil, baby killers and murderers.
I wanted to do something to reverse how American’s saw and regarded our men and women in uniform, who sacrificed so much for our country, and sometimes were wounded or died, doing it. I created the military romance to turn people’s minds around as to how they perceive our brave heroes and that they were not ‘baby killers,’ as they were constantly called during the Vietnam war era and afterward.
Later, I created Morgan’s Mercenaries saga-series, about military vets. It became a world wide bestselling series—45 books strong from 1999 to 2015. The vets I wrote about had a heart and I was able to show civilians through my stories, that they were truly heroic patriots.
That’s the backstory on the Wind River Valley series for Kensington Books. I have never written a book where my intent wasn’t to educate my readers in some way about some thing. Having been in the military, I write what I know. And I know it well, even the PTSD issue that plagues so many returning from combat.
Book 1, WIND RIVER WRANGLER, the hero is an ex-Army Special Forces operator, Roan Taggart. He has left the Army with PTSD, no longer able to function at that high level any longer in black ops duties. He gets a job as a wrangler at the Wind River Ranch, where it’s quieter, it’s out in Nature and he is slowly healing from his internal PTSD wounds. Only, as life usually slaps us in the face, one way or another, he’s thrown back into a threat/life-and-death situation with Shiloh Gallagher, a writer from New York City. She’s escaped to the ranch to hide from a stalker who has torn her life apart. Figuring if she lives in Wyoming to write, her stalker won’t find her and she can breath once more, not look over her shoulder 24/7/365. Roan’s peaceful, back water life explodes when the stalker locates Shiloh. Once again, he’s thrust back into a combat situation. And for Shiloh, the nightmare begins anew when she thought she’d found safety at the ranch.
Book 2, WIND RIVER RANCHER, the hero is an ex-Marine Corps captain who commanded a company of Marines over in Afghanistan for years. The deployments, the combat, eventually took a toll on him, too. Reese Lockhart was a twenty-year man, his only dream was to become a Marine officer and protect his people, guide them and support them. Only the Afghanistan war gradually wore him down and sucked the life out of him, as it did so many others. He was given an honorable medical discharge, against his wishes. His whole life-dream has been shattered. He’s fractured internally by the PTSD, and you will meet him two years later as his story unfolds. He’s degraded to being like so many other vets we see on the streets of every city in the USA: shamed, hopeless, depressed and he cannot hold a job. In this book, I took “the gloves off,” as we say, and delved into the hero’s state of mind, his distorted emotions, his thinking he was a failure in every possible way.
EXCERPT: the opening to Chapter 1 of WIND RIVER RANCHER by Lindsay McKenna
Reese Lockhart’s stomach was tight with hunger as he stood at the outskirts of a small Wyoming town called Wind River. The sign indicated a population of two thousand. He’d gone a month without decent food. Six inches of snow stood on the sides of the road where he’d walked the last ten miles on 89A north. It headed toward Jackson Hole, where he was hoping to find work.
The town, for a Monday afternoon, was pretty slow. A couple of pickup trucks came and went, a few people walked along the sidewalks on either side of the highway that ran through the center of town. He halted outside Becker’s Hay and Feed Store, an aged redbrick building standing two stories high. The red tin roof was steep and sunlight reflected off it, making Reese squint. Bright lights now hurt his eyes.
Taking a deep breath, feeling the fear of rejection once again, he pushed open the door to the store. Would he get yelled at by the owner? Told to get out? It was early May and snow had fallen the night before. The sleepy town of Wind River still had slush on its streets midday.
The place was quiet, smelled of leather, and he saw a man in his sixties, tall, lean, and with silver hair, behind the counter. He was sitting on a wooden stool that was probably the same age as he was, an ancient-looking calculator in his work-worn hands as he methodically punched the buttons.
Girding himself, ignoring the fact he hadn’t eaten in two days, Reese’s gaze automatically swung around the huge establishment. A hay and feed store was something he was familiar with. Maybe the owner wanted some part-time help. He needed to make enough money to buy a decent meal.
Shoving away the shame he felt over his situation, he saw the man lift his head, wire-rim spectacles halfway down his large nose, his blue eyes squinting at Reese as he approached the long wooden counter.
“Howdy, stranger. Can I help you?” the man asked.
“Maybe,” Reese said. “I’m looking for work. I saw you have several big barns out back, and a granary. Do you have any openings?” Automatically, Reese tensed. He knew he looked rough with a month’s worth of beard on his face, and his clothes were dirty and shabby. At one time, he’d been a Marine Corps captain commanding a company of 120 Marines. And he’d been damn good at it until—
“I’m Charlie Becker, the owner,” the man said, shifting and thrusting his hand across the desk toward him. “Welcome to Wind River. Who might you be?”
“Reese Lockhart,” he said, and he gripped the man’s strong hand. He liked Charlie’s large, watery eyes because he saw kindness in them. Reese was very good at assessing people. He’d kept his Marines safe and helped them through their professional and personal ups and downs over the years he commanded Mike Company in Afghanistan. Charlie was close to six feet tall, lean like a rail, and wore a white cowboy shirt and blue jeans. Reese sensed this older gentleman wouldn’t throw him out of here with a curse— or even worse, call law enforcement and accuse him of trespassing.
The last place where he’d tried to find some work, they’d called him a druggie and told him to get the hell out; he smelled. While walking the last ten miles to Wind River, Reese had stopped when he discovered a stream on the flat, snow-covered land, and tried to clean up the best he could. The temperature was near freezing as he’d gone into the bushes, away from the busy highway, and stripped to his waist. He’d taken handfuls of snow and scrubbed his body, shivering, but hell, that was a small price to pay to try to not smell so bad. He hadn’t had a real shower in a month, either.
“You a vet, by any chance?” Charlie asked, his eyes narrowing speculatively upon Reese.
“Yes, sir. Marine Corps.” He said it with pride.
The new novel from the bestselling author of Wind River Rancher
An unexpected reunion . . .
Kira Duval was part of a Special Forces team that got caught in an ambush—leaving only two wounded survivors: herself and Weapons Sergeant Garret Fleming. Losing her team was traumatic, and in the chaotic aftermath, as the Army moved them from hospital to hospital, she lost Garret too. But she never lost her secret yearning for him.
Finally, she gave up trying to track him down back in the States. But as she settles in at the Bar C cattle ranch in Wyoming, a place where veterans can find a home and a place to heal, she’s introduced to her sandy-haired, hazel-eyed housemate: none other than Garret Fleming.
They’re a long way from Afghanistan—and a long way from the people they used to be before tragedy changed their lives. But as Kira earns her keep by caregiving for the ranch owner’s bedridden, alcoholic father—a task that sometimes feels more challenging than any black ops mission—she finds that even in peacetime Garret still has her back, and that in this warm, welcoming place, the passion she resisted in the heat of battle may finally have a chance to flouish . . .
Romance Western [Zebra, On Sale: March 28, 2017, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781420141788 / eISBN: 9781420141795]
About Lindsay McKenna
The “Top Gun of Women’s Military Fiction,” Linsday McKenna has had 145 books published under the McKenna name since 1981, most dealing with military or mercenary subjects, for several publishers: Simon and Schuster, Warner, Avon and Berkley, Harlequin/Silhouette. She is the originator of the Military Romance genre, with “Captive of Fate,” Silhouette Special Edition, 1983. She has sold 23 million books worldwide and in 33 foreign languages. She proudly served in the US Navy and was a meteorologist.