The Longest Night
Sourcebooks / July 1, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital
Years ago, former Marine Captain Cecily Knight fled her dark past and the nightmares forever haunting her nights. Alone in the remote Canadian wilderness, she survives day to day...until Ian Fairchild comes storming into her life and shatters her protective seclusion.
Aloof but intriguing, defensive but undeniable, Ian is everything Cecily shouldn't want but can't ignore. He watches her with shrewd blue eyes, as if determined to decipher her secrets...and for the first time in years, she finds herself coming alive beneath the hands of a man with too many scars to count.
Here in North Carolina, we have our fair share of deployed soldiers. Between Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point, we represent all branches of the service and are proud to be one of the sources of the Army’s Special Forces (the Green Berets). In the last ten years, troops from North Carolina (active duty and reserves) have refreshed the battle arenas of the Middle East at a high rate. It’s been interesting to follow along with the news and witness the changes occurring in the military—most notably, female soldiers who continue to be closer to the front lines. These women are often categorized differently than their male counterparts, but experience many of the same traumas while deployed.
That trauma is one of the issues dealt with in Kara Braden’s The Longest Night. There could be no more current military romance reflective of the state of our Union than one with a female soldier struggling with PTSD and her debilitating battle to regain her balance. The Longest Night is not sugar-coated; Marine Captain Cecily Knight is not a prissy, hysterical woman struggling against her place in nature (her chosen exile) … she was a prisoner of war, who has fought her way back to defeat blackouts and panic attacks, to live off the land and hunt for her food in the quiet of the remote Canadian wilderness, where over-populous towns can’t send her reeling.
So real was the story, at times, that it brought back my own nightmares from witnessing my father’s post-Vietnam War mental anguish and struggle with PTSD, and my cousin Caryn’s death last year in Afghanistan. She survived an IED explosion when the bomb-detecting truck she was driving triggered the charge, but died in the violent firefight that followed.
Counter to Cecily’s inner war demons is Ian Fairchild, an attorney fighting his own way back to normal after a long, arduous recovery from a car accident, multiple surgeries and a wicked addiction to pain killers. His demons are so bad that his brother, who owns a company called Samaritan (that rescued Cecily from her captors), calls in a favor from Cecily to allow Ian to stay with her while he dries out. Ian’s a bona fide city boy, relishing both the city and his life in Manhattan. Confinement in the plane on his way from the hospital to the airport where he meets up with Cecily is nearly more than he can stand, but he forces himself to stay on his track to recovery.
“His spine felt like it was on fire. He washed down two more ibuprofen with a Coke, wishing he dared order something stronger. Every time he closed his eyes, though, he remembered the hell of getting off Percocet. While he’d never had problems with after-dinner drinks or going to the bar on weekends, he was terrified of replacing one addiction with another.”
Ian’s discomfort is palpable when he realizes Cecily intends to fly them to her house since there are no roads leading up to her property. You can practically hear his gulp. But that same bare-nerve fear is evident in Cecily, too. Even though she feels safest within the confines of her small cabin, she forces herself to walk her property every night, ensuring everything is locked up safely and her supplies are easily available. It’s all part of her emergency plan, which keeps her steady—because aside from Ian, everything in her life is planned.
Growing up, she’d rarely seen more than a handful of stars at a time, thanks to a childhood spent in light-polluted cities. In the desert, she’d fallen in love with the infinite night sky, but that love had shattered just outside a blacked-out city. Now, she felt safer in the dark and shadows, as though the light of the Milky Way somehow stripped away her defenses, leaving her exposed and vulnerable.
Even after everything Cecily had experienced, she tried to be a good, fair person. She minimized her interactions with others because of the anger and pain lurking just beneath the calm surface of her mind. She could barely remember the young woman she’d been in her school days, when she never had trouble finding dates and had lived surrounded by friends and acquaintances.”
Over the course of a few months, Ian and Cecily find their groove, as individuals forging a new path, and as a couple, working toward the potential of a future together. But it’s hard, for both of them, even though the story is peppered with parallel attitudes like a shared comfort with silence rather than meaningless conversation.
Cecily wasn’t a recluse by nature, but by circumstance … Isolation protected her from the past. Living as she did forced her to concentrate on the present and on planning for the future.
Forced isolation or not, Cecily and Ian live in completely different worlds. Both are struggling with very real obstacles. Ian’s accident and grueling recovery have occupied his life for roughly a year and a half; Cecily has been struggling to surface seven years after her captivity and release. The crux of their whole potential, the whole underlying possibility of love they might find with one another, comes down to this: “You’re not going to hurt me, and I’m not going to hurt you.”
In most scenarios in life, that could be a throwaway concept. But The Longest Night is a metaphor through and through. Pain and suffering isn’t always evident from the marks (or lack thereof) on your skin; fragility isn’t defined by your gender. One of the greatest concepts of the romance genre is that love finds a way. It always does.
Cecily was resilient. That was how she’d survived for this long, even if she hadn’t healed from the trauma of her experience. And that deep, solid foundation of inner strength was all Ian needed to help her recover.
“I want you strong and in control, but you will never, ever be normal.”
“How is that possibly a compliment?” she asked, trying for indignant, though she ruined it with another smile.
“I already told you. Normal is boring.”
I like how he states it as a scientific fact: normal is boring. You know another scientific fact? Nighttime only lasts until the first ray of sunlight breaks along the horizon. For some people, just getting through another day is the most important thing they’ll do all day. And then the next, and then the next. I like thinking that Cecily’s daily battle back to herself, back to the strong woman she will be in the future, is fortified with the breaking of each new day.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of the Longest Night by Kara Braden, available July 1, 2014:
Dolly Sickles is a Southerner with a lifelong penchant for storytelling. Her Secret Squirrel identity is Dolly Sickles, but she also writes romance as Becky Moore, and this year her first children’s book will be published as Dolly Dozier. She’s an avid reader of all literature, but she takes refuge in the romance genre, where despite the most grandiose, exhilarating, strange, and unlikely plot that’s out there, every story has a happy ending.