Shadows of Something Real by Sophia Kell Hagin is Book 2 in the Jamie Gwynmorgan series. Just as in Book 1, it is a dystopian story set in the very near future and is following Jamie on her personal journey. (Side note: It may seem hard to believe that Jamie is still not twenty-one with all that has happened in her life.)
The story starts with Lt. Jamie Gwynmorgan now living with Senator Lynn Hillinger and her family. She isn’t sure she wants to go back into the Marines, or indeed if she can cope with it, but she knows she has time still to do. And, what could she do instead? Jamie may have left the war zone, but the events of Book 1 have now caught up with her. She is physically injured and hurting as a result of both the final days she spent escaping from being held hostage in the Palawan and, also, her torture over a long period in the prisoner of war camp. But, rather than her physical recovery, this story is more about her dealing with the mental anguish that her war service has caused her. She is suffering severe psychological trauma with PTSD, and is struggling to make sense of what is real, and what is a flashback. We re-live some of the traumatic events with her. In addition, we live through some very dark moments for the first time because she had removed them from her consciousness, and with the series being a personal narrative, they were thus fade to black in Book 1.
While the story does have dark moments, it is doing it a disservice to imply it is a dark story. Oh! It is so much more! There is a romance. Jamie finds the safety she has been searching for, in a woman’s arms, and finally, love. There is also a thriller element as Jamie believes the safety of both her lover and adopted family are at risk. She puts herself on the line, as usual, to solve the problem.
Jamie continues her emotional journey, with us in her head, and we find that she is so broken, both physically and mentally. She has always been so fit, and with her sniper training, able to stand alone. Jamie is now struggling to walk, she cannot sleep, and she doesn’t believe that she is worthy of the love being given her by Lynn Hillinger and her family. She cannot discuss what has happened to her with anyone. We see her growing up in the pages as she tries to come to terms with all that has happened to her, and has to work out how to deal with it. She is greeted with compassion after a particularly stressful episode by a woman who is bright, clever and has a similarly unusual past. With the warmth and safety on offer, she finally recognizes someone to help her deal with her emotional problems. I will say no more about the woman for fear of spoiling!
Lynn, the Senator, is having similar problems dealing with the events in the Palawan. She feels that what happened there, is as much her fault as anyone’s. That she was even there, in the first place, was her arrogance as to what could be achieved, and she put so many lives at risk. However, a loving wife, children and a successful family business help to keep her level. Her particular bond with Jamie is complex, and the reasons behind its depth come out as the story progresses.
There are numerous members of Lynn’s family, all women, including her wife Rebecca, who is a doctor and their two daughters who feature in the story at different points. However, special mention must be made of Rebecca’s mother, Mary. She finds lots of different ways to get Jamie’s attention and to provide her with extra care, and love. Hagin has written her character so cleverly, and we get to know her just as Jamie would have, starting with her playing the piano, and including bringing her favourite food and drinks, while she is injured and in bed.
The Writing Style
Hagin has taken command of the words on the page and shown such a richness of language. I have always been told that personal narrative, for a writer is something that is difficult to maintain through a whole story. Hagin demonstrates that she is the master of this approach, by giving us the thoughts and events only as Jamie thinks of them, or they affect her. She is able to lead you by the hand into Jamie’s world and her, almost stream of consciousness, thoughts. She draws you into Jamie’s nightmares, her hopes and her dreams with such deft moves that you find yourself turning pages swept up in whatever is happening. Should your wife/significant other speak to you while you read this, it will take some effort to work out which is Jamie’s world, and which is the real world.
The richness of the language and using it to draw you along by the hand, to make you feel what Jamie Gwynmorgan is feeling, has got to be one of the best things about this book.
I loved it; however, some readers may struggle with the violence that is in some aspects of the story. There are also some dark events from Book 1 that are covered here in more detail, which include torture, both physical and mental. Some of it has sexual overtones.
After Book 1, I wondered where Hagin would go next with Jamie. The book was just soooo good, and I thought it would be difficult to follow. But, she has managed to continue the excellence in this book. Jamie is growing up, has found love and safety, but yet again having to deal with both physical and mental extremes. It was another brilliant read, and I am waiting to see where her wonderful imagination will take us next. I find myself wondering, where is she going next with Jamie? Will I be saying, ‘Oh God! NO!’
Excerpt from Shadows of Something Real by Sophia Kell Hagin
“Can’t get away from it, right?” Stacy turned to squint at Jamie. “Nightmares about all of your finer moments over there, like some auto-replay you can’t click off. Flashbacks that slam you as soon as you let yourself relax. Something always sneaking up on you—” Stacy extended her arm, snapped her fingers sharply just beyond the edge of Jamie’s peripheral vision—and it worked. Jamie jumped. “Yeah, like that, Lieutenant—a bogeyman. All in your head.” Stacy shrugged and turned back to her beer. “Let that itch get infected and you end up with a real nasty wound. The kind that never heals.”
Jamie shook her head. “No way am I taking that pharma the shrink gave me. No way.”
“Pharma? Who said anything about pharma?” Stacy laughed. “Hell, that shit’ll turn you into a sixty-four dollar zombie. With a wound that never heals.”
“So I’m supposed to talk to him? How the hell will that help? He’s a bobble head, for chrissake.”
“I said slap the itch, not whine about it to a pretentious dweeb.”
“And what exactly does slapping do?”
“It purges the shit outta you, that’s what. Cleans out the germs—all the guilt, the fear, the haunts.” Stacy stretched her shoulders casually, as if she was mildly bored.
“Release,” said Jamie.
“Yeah, okay—release. Won’t work if you can’t handle the sting, though. Disinfecting a wound stings plenty, so you need discipline to see it through. Marine Corps discipline and commitment and perseverance. ’Cuz the mission fails and your infection gets a whole lot worse if you can’t obey orders.”
“Orders? What orders?” “Whaddaya think—it just happens? You gotta do whatever you’re damn well told by whoever helps you get your release.” Stacy snorted as she looked Jamie up and down. “’Course, you can always head on back to your bobble head shrink and obey his orders.” She glanced at her wristcom. “Shit, it’s late,” she said—and dismounted the barstool. “I gotta go. Need a ride anywhere?”
“I—” Jamie grabbed a breath and stood, too; she couldn’t let Stacy leave yet. “How’d you do it?”
“Release. Find release.”
Stacy grinned. “With the help of a good woman. She taught me a lot before she moved on.”
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Shadows of Something Real
Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781602829282
- Publisher: Bold Stroke Books Inc
Sophia Kell Hagin Online
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Note: I received a free review copy of Shadows of Something Real by Sophia Kell Hagin. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.