Commander Berkley Levine (code name Cletus) is enjoying blue skies from her F-18 combat jet and as a Top Gun instructor in Fallon, Nevada. Berkley loves her life but still pines for her ex-lover and even the F-18 twin-engine supersonic combat jet cannot help her outrun her feelings.
Captain Aidan Sullivan is assigned the Navy’s newest and baddest carrier, the USS Jefferson. Even though Aidan has worked hard for this rank – including giving up the love of her life, the opportunity to captain her own carrier comes with its own challenges. Aiden’s love for the military is slowly dwindling. All she wants now is to get back together with her only love, Berkley.
Somewhere in North Korea, nuclear weapons are being created and Captain Sullivan’s orders are to destroy two of the sites housing the nuclear program. Aidan’s, first mission could have serious international consequences if she fails and she can only think of one person she trusts implicitly to help her get the job done. Is all truly fair in love and war?
Berkley is recruited to head the elite group of Top Gun pilots as they attempt to complete their mission in the Sea of Japan over enemy territory. This adventure takes us to the Seas of Japan on board the USS Jefferson, North Korea and a world where Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the policy. Relationships between a commanding officer and their subordinate are frowned upon and could result in a dishonorable discharge. Is it worth the risk? Will our two heroes rediscover the love they once shared? How will their mission fair? How many forces are against them? Who is an ally and who is your enemy?
We meet Berkley and Aidan 4 years after their breakup, and we try to puzzle out what happened that made them go their separate ways. What I found interesting about this second chance couple was I didn’t need the back story of what happened to separate them. I just wanted them to be together and take on the world.
Commander Berkley Levine (code name Cletus) is the kind of friend we all want to have. She is loyal, driven, fun, astute, funny, and easy going. All of these characteristics make her a remarkable pilot. Berkley comes from a military family, her father was a navy pilot commander and that is who she takes after. Her close relationship with her family- especially her father gives us an insight to who she is and makes you love her more. Berkley’s father commander Corbin Levine is the perfect girl dad. Cletus has 3 sisters, and she was the only one to take after her father. She has his looks, his height, his adventure-seeking spirit, and she followed his footsteps in joining the military as a naval pilot.
Captain Aidan Sullivan also grew up with the military, her father is retired navy Admiral Preston “Triton” Sullivan. Aidan is an only child and very much a daddy’s girl. Part of the reason she left Berkley was she did not want to ruin her father’s reputation in the navy due to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Getting promoted to the best ship the navy has is a lifetime career achievement but for Aidan, the military has taken a lot from her. She just wants to serve her time and leave with the love of her life.
They are many side characters in this book that add to the story. One such character is Captain Jin Umeko. Jin is also a military child who has no choice but to follow her fathers directives. General Pak Kwang Lee enlists his daughter for a mission that will take her away from regular society. He wishes to isolate her and keep her underfoot. Her mission is to protect the coast where the nuclear weapons are being housed.
Both Aidan and Berkley need to get their heads in the game. A mission that was supposed to be simple, is now fraught with complications, treachery, and treason. They do not know whom to trust, they do not seem to understand what is going on, and every turn they take they are a step behind. With the mission hanging in the balance, romance is the last distraction either of them needs. Their country needs them to step up to the plate and bat a home run as a failure to do so could have catastrophic international consequences.
The Writing Style
This book starts out with a slow pace because it is building the characters, but once the mission is a go, the story takes off. It is full of adventure, action, suspense, and mystery. We are trying to solve one puzzle when another one comes up. So many moving pieces. It was a great game of chess.
I loved the side characters of this book and really hope to reunite with them in the next book. This book starts out as a second chance romance and that is still there, but the romance takes a back seat to adventure and action while still maintaining it. I love how the author did that.
The story is told from many perspectives. The main voices are Aidan and Berkley. It was important that the author add the other voices, such as the president and his staffers, as well as the Jin Umeko and the others. This story goes all over, it flowed like watching a movie. It had aspects of mission impossible and top gun.
The ending is abrupt, while it’s not exactly a cliff hanger you still want to run and get the next book. The story just cuts off. I was very happy I waited until both books were out. It flowed so well. For those who waited, I recommend re-reading this book before starting the second because it takes off right where we left.
Paige McKinney does a great job with this narration. I was constantly engaged, I found myself wanting more of the story so I kept finding things to do a round the house to keep my hands busy for easy listening. As a result, I completed my fall cleaning in 2 days.
The were many characters to keep up with and that did get confusing there is only so many different ways you can switch up 10 different male character voices. The only two voices I could easily tell apart were out two MCs. But the story flows so well that you really do not get hung up on which male character is speaking. I could tell them apart well enough to keep up with the story.
My Favourite Parts
The action and the fact it was not a slow burn. The romance is the undertone, and the action and adventure are the main course. And boy, I devoured it!
If you are a military enthusiast and /or were serving or grew up in the military, the military parts or story may not be accurate. I am also not sure exactly what Aidan did to deserve the captaincy of this carrier because she seems like the weakest link. Though I love her and her character.
The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy might irk some with how it was treated in this book, especially those who served under this policy. I don’t think the author was calloused to it, I think she handled it well and as best she could. It was not the focus of the story.
Excerpt from Blue Skies by Ali Vali
“Just make sure you follow the advice I gave my daughter. You get back here in one piece. You owe me a dinner in New Orleans.”
“What is it with owed meals and your family?” Berkley asked Aidan with a laugh. “Maybe it has to do with loving to spend time with you,” Aidan said in a whisper, not wanting any of the crew to overhear her.
“I’m sure that has to be it.” Berkley smiled as she leaned back against the plane. “When we get back we’ll try our best to get together with my folks. I’m sure my dad will like getting to know you, Admiral.”She pointed to the stairs that would take them back to the deck and led the way up. When Aidan headed for the bridge Berkley put her hand on Triton’s shoulder to stop him. “I wanted to ask you a favor if I could.”
“Once we sail there won’t be any communications allowed. You might not have met my parents yet, but they know this drill, and I’d like you and your wife, if you’re inclined, to call them and keep in touch. I think my mother especially would appreciate hearing from your wife.”
“I’d be glad to do that for you, Cletus. It’s what families do when things are tough.”
“Thank you, sir.” She smiled and didn’t contradict him, and he smiled back as he put another unlit cigar in his mouth. “Now let me deliver you back to Aidan so you and Mrs. Sullivan can spend some time together. We have an hour before they clear the ship of visitors and another hour before we get going.”
“You just remember to take care of Aidan and get back safe.” From the pocket of his jacket he pulled out something and kept it hidden in his fist. “Like your dad, I served, and my father gave me this before I left on my first tour. The pictures have changed over the years depending on which Sullivan was carrying it, and I thought it was time to put it back in service. For a long time it had a picture of my family in it, then I replaced it with one of Mary Beth, but this one has been my all-time favorite.” He opened his hand and in it sat what appeared to be an old watch.
“Sir, I couldn’t let you part with that, especially if it’s a family heirloom. Aidan and I aren’t at that point yet.”
With a press of the release on the side he opened it and Berkley saw it wasn’t a watch but a compass with a place on the other side for a picture. She hadn’t seen many of Aidan’s baby pictures, but the toddler in the picture with her hands on her hips and her head cocked to the side had to be her. “Damn if she couldn’t stop you in your tracks even when she was four. Always quick to steer me in the right direction, even if that was really my job.”
“I’ve had that pose and that face directed at me on more than one occasion, and you’re right, it’ll stop you cold.”
With one last look he closed the compass and pressed it into Berkley’s hand. “How about you keep it for a while? I’m positive you’ll take care of it and be proud to hand it off to the next generation. No matter where you think you are in this relationship, I’m betting on you. I see how you look at my daughter, and that means your heart realizes something that your head isn’t ready for.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m as sure as Aidan. Use it to find your way home.” He opened it again and pointed to the picture. “The compass will point you in the right direction and the picture will remind you of the destination.”
“Thank you so much, sir. I’ll take good care of it.”
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Blue Skies Series
Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781602820777
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
- Audiobook Publisher: Bold Strokes Books Inc
- Narrator: Paige McKinney
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