Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: 'The Lady Leathernecks' by Chiara Kelly

US born Chiara Kelly lives and writes in Seoul, South Korea. She earned a Bachelor's degree in social science form Campbell University in North Carolina and a Master's degree in criminal justice form Boston University. Chiara served in the United States Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005 as a tactical data network administrator with the 8th Communication Battalion in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which provided the background for her debut novel THE LADY LEATHERNECKS, a realistic portrayal on the unique plight of women Marines. She is now a freelance writer and editor in Seoul, South Korea, where she lives with her husband and three sons.

Chiara understands the secret of offering a Prologue that subtly sets in motion the story she is about to tell. In THE LADY LETAHERNECKS she opens with a scene about little girl dreams and disappointments that sheds some light onto what is to follow: `Aurora still liked the Princess; but she was no longer friends with a princess because her mother was no longer a queen. She wished she could be one of those "true friends" that helped in bad times; but felt powerless against what she had seen. Her own mom never crumpled and cried. She just sunned and shopped. Aurora's dad Kenneth Meadows had only World Markets to worry about-- and his heavily fortified income made sure of it. Home was her safe haven where she never suffered from fear or want. She did not know what to say to the Princess now. She had no idea how to share in this pain she neither knew nor wanted. All she could say was "I'm sorry;" and it crumpled her up inside. After that, the two barely spoke to one another. The only thing they had in common was their newfound disgust of tiaras. Crowns, yes. Tiaras, no.'

Stepping into the story, the author's summary serves it best: `When painfully shy Starbucks barista Allyn Kend joins the Marines, she capsizes those who thought they knew her best. The only thing that makes sense is that her fiancée Eliot was already a Lance Corporal. However, when she meets truckstop evangelist Jess Kellerman, Korean linguist Bibi Shim and Palm Beach hotel heiress Syth Sangiorgio in the bivouacs of boot camp on Parris Island, her whole concept of whom and what a Marine should be is broken down and rebuilt, along with her own humanity. Each sister has a secret; but also a thirst to prove herself in battle and in life. But despite caring and glaring differences, they realize they need one another to overcome the physical, mental and emotional obstacles that stand between them and the coveted title of Basic Marine or "Lady Leatherneck." And that is just the beginning! As each Lady Leatherneck serves with differing intentions, they find out more about themselves and one another through the unique challenges of soldier motherhood, duty, deployments, love and loss. As "Globe" reporter Allyn drafts a feature story on human trafficking, MP Jess makes an unlikely arrest that will follow her for life. Meanwhile, linguist Bibi settles cultural scores with her family while deployed to her native Korea. But nothing is final until ostentatious Syth gets her baby back. Only together could they learn that while the Marine Corps may not be for everyone; it is for more than just one type of person. Combat is Human.'

Since writing this novel Chiara has published another and her writing powers are growing. She obviously has found a successful avenue for her gifts and this novel tells us more about her and about women in combat than other books attempting to do the same. It is a very fine read. Grady Harp, July 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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