Wednesday, April 03, 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Flight Path LESS Traveled by Leigh Dreyer ~ Review, Excerpt and Giveaway

Today I'm welcoming on the blog a new to me author Leigh Dryer with her newest novel The Flight Path LESS Traveled.

Book Blurb: In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight. Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?

My Review: This book is a continuation of The Best LAID Flight Plans. I absolutely adored that book when I read it recently. I have heard some people say that you can read this book on its own but I don't think that's true. It's literally a sequel so you need to read The Best LAID Flight Plans first.

I felt for poor Elizabeth in this book so badly. I couldn't imagine going through what she had too. Darcy was so patient with her and his love for her just makes me have hope about men in general. I really enjoyed the Austen characters that made it into the series from her other novels. I didn't know I could enjoy a series set within the Air Force so much. The only thing I have a problem within this book is that it takes longer than 24 hours to get a marriage license. You have to go to Vegas to pull that off.

Rating: 4½ stars out of 5

Author Bio: Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (‘Goose, you big stud!’), where Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who will one day be old enough to watch romantic movies with her, and another little one expected in September 2019.

Excerpt
Chapter One
Rain. She shuttered with a sudden chill as a raindrop slid down the back of her shirt. The dark, heavy clouds settled around her, prickling her skin. Her eyes searched for shelter from the storm and spotted the familiar stone house in the distance. Running toward it, her shoes heavy in the mud, she felt herself pick up speed. Soon she found herself on a winding, paved driveway.

To her left was a small stream that emptied into a quaint pond. Raindrops rippled at the banks. It’s a great day if you’re a duck. She smiled as a single drake waddled from the bank then glided effortlessly into the pool.

The house loomed in front of her and she soon found herself at the door. She knocked loudly and waited, rubbing her arms in an attempt to stay warm.

There was no answer.

She knocked again, much louder this time and looked around the entrance for a doorbell of some kind. She shuffled anxiously from one foot to the other, shivering and hoping that someone would answer the door.

No answer.

She pounded against the door then walked back a few steps looking at the windows in the home trying to ascertain if anyone was there.

Finally, she saw him. He was as handsome as she had ever seen him. Dressed in a sweater and jeans with his hair perfectly in place, he looked out at her through the window and smiled. Warmth immediately flooded her chest and she felt alive. She needed him.

She stretched out her hands and he came to her with a thought. She looked into his dark eyes and her stomach turned in anticipation of his touch. He brushed her cheeks with his thumbs, pulling her face gently to him, touching his lips to hers. As he kissed her, his fingers combed through her wet hair and ran down her back. Every part of her touched by him was on fire, electric somehow, and every sensation was heightened by the contrast with the cold rain around them.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss that seemed to touch her very soul. The raindrops ran down their faces and she sighed. Warm, content, happy, and in love. She closed her eyes gently, letting her body take over. He moaned in response, a deep vibration against her chest and suddenly―

Second Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet shook her head, clearing her thoughts. She felt the world around her vibrate when the propeller sprung into motion. She stretched her legs to move the rudders and turned onto the runway. The number one plane was thirty feet diagonally ahead of her and, as the lead nodded to roll forward, she pushed the throttle full. Gravity pushed her body into the seat as she took off. The sun beat on the cockpit glass and sweat dripped down the neck of her flight suit.

Elizabeth loved flying, soaring from cloud to cloud. Sometimes she imagined she was in one of the old biplanes and could let the wind whip her scarf and long dark hair behind her. She would dance the foxtrot through the skies. When she was younger, she read a book about the wing walkers of the 1920s and since then she had wanted to stand on the wings of a plane and feel the rush of the sky around her. She sighed as she took one long look out of the cockpit and watched the powerful clouds eddy as she rocketed through.

This check ride was important. It was the last bastion to conquer before she could track to the shiny, fast, sexy T-38s. She had wanted to fly the jet since she started pilot training and then move on to fighter jets in the real world. Maybe the F-22? Maybe even the F-35 if it was not still grounded by the time she graduated in six months.

She took a deep breath. Her oxygen mask pressed on the bridge of her nose uncomfortably. She repositioned it and remembered where she was and what she needed to accomplish.

The number one plane in front of her rocked its wings and Elizabeth pushed the stick firmly to the left, completed a roll, and watched the world spin through the glass cockpit. Over the intercom, she heard a familiar instructor pilot: “Nice job, Bennet. Keep it a little tighter in the formation and watch your altimeter. Straight and level.”

Elizabeth felt unexpectedly nervous. Her pulse quickened and roared in her ears. Ignoring her emotions, she trained her mind back to the task at hand. She watched the number one, moved her wing a little closer to maintain tight formation mere feet from the wing of the other plane, and waited anxiously for the next signal.

Abruptly, the stick was pushed forward. She started, her heart pumping rapidly. She grabbed the stick with both hands, planted her feet to the floor, and strained against the metal to pull it back into neutral position.

“Straight and level. Straight and level.” The haunting echo began to repeat in her headset. She pulled the stick back again and again. She pushed her legs down on the rudders forcing the muscles in her thighs to contract. Her boots slipped on the metal surfaces as she desperately tugged. Her heart pounded in terror as she watched the ground zoom closer.

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! MOA 6. Nuke 62. Going down,” Elizabeth shouted into the radio. The harness pushed painfully against her breast while she changed from correcting the plane to saving herself from her horrifying dive toward the ground. She saw the trees growing bigger and bigger in her view and prayed hysterically for a miracle.

Oh God—don’t let me die. His handsome features and serious mien sprang unbidden to her mind. Darcy.

Nausea hit and she vomited into her mask. It was crushed to her face with the G-forces and she dug her nails into her cheeks to peel it off. She could not breathe. She needed to breathe. Through tears, she searched her panel for the altimeter and finally ripped off the mask. Two thousand feet. She could only see blackness.

She was blind. Her stomach churned, warning her the plane was still falling. Opening her eyes, she saw the ground screaming toward her. It was close enough to touch. She reached out her hand, fingers stretched. She blinked and the ground was far away and she had time to think.

I have to get out of this plane! She did not want to die. She was running through Longbourn’s backyard and pushing Jane on the swing. Mary playing the piano. Her crying mother receiving a triangular folded flag. Her father reading to Elizabeth while seated on his lap in the comfy chair of his office. A uniformed soldier playing “Taps” on a trumpet. Her sisters weeping over a casket that contained nothing but the charred and blackened bits of the former Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet.

“Straight and level! Straight and level!” Who was shouting at her? Did they not see her trying? Pull up, damn it! Pull up!

She felt between her thighs for the yellow ejection handle. She had to get out of this careening metal coffin. Where was the handle? She was blind and no amount of blinking would bring the ground back into her view. She searched furiously for the spot between her knees where she had been trained to pull. Her helmet was filled with vomit. She tried to open her eyes and search for the distinct looped handle. One hand continued to pull at the stick in a weak, desperate attempt to right the plane while the other roved under the seat in an attempt to locate her only chance of survival.

“Straight and level! Straight and level” repeated the scratchy voice in her helmet.

The ground was coming up fast again. Every movement of her body was strangely slow and halted like she was moving through mud. Her thoughts seemed alien as she searched through her emergency procedures checklist to find the correct protocols for “hurtling to demise.” In desperation, she grasped at the stick and made another weak attempt to pull up. Her arms exhausted from the strain, she screamed. She looked once more at the ground through the sweat and vomit and closed her eyes, bracing for impact.

“Lizzy!”

The plane shook Elizabeth violently as they continued to shoot through the sky. Elizabeth pondered the movement of time and was surprised that it took so long for her to hit. It felt like she had been falling forever. Turbulence would not kill her. Turbulence did not kill anybody. All it ever did was frighten passengers on 747s. She was not a flight attendant walking through the aisle serving Diet Cokes and pretzels. She was a pilot. She had studied for this. She had to find that ejection handle.

“Lizzy!”

Elizabeth screamed again. The stick would not budge. She could not find the ejection handle. She felt the plane rock, and her mind jolted back to her vision of the dirt below. It was close. No more than ten seconds. She reached out a hand to touch it.

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

Darkness.

“Elizabeth! Please wake up!”

Elizabeth shook. She must have hit. She waited for the scent of exploding fuel and burning flesh she knew would come and the sharp metallic taste of blood that would likely accompany it. She expected the crash to be painful, instead she was shaking. She felt the shoulder straps of her harness push against her as she continued to struggle. Suddenly, she was smothered by her helmet, her face crushed inside her mask, her nose pinched.

She took a gasping breath.

Her eyes blinked open to see a man’s chest hovering above her. Her eyes fluttered and her breath continued to come in gulps, burning in her throat as she pushed away, ready to claw the man holding her down.

Her hands grappled with something beside her head and next to her body strangling her movement; she had expected grass but found only soft fabric. After another moment, her brain registered the sheets and pillow of her bed.

“Lizzy?” Darcy looked down at her; his dark eyes creased in concern.

“I was crashing,” Elizabeth said, her voice rough, eyes darting around her bedroom at Netherfield. The green curtains. The dark dresser. The potted plant she had received in the hospital was dying; she had liked to look at it in the rehab facility. Darcy loomed above her.

“How did I get here?” She still felt the sickening lurch in her stomach of the plane dropping. She swallowed hard.

“You’re at Netherfield. Jane’s just in the other room.” Elizabeth’s skin prickled as Darcy’s deep voice vibrated in his chest when he spoke. Her head was cloudy with the sensations of her flight, and she found it difficult to reason. “Elizabeth, breathe and think. What felt real?”

She took one shaky breath. “The crash. I couldn’t find the ejection handle. It wasn’t there.” Her voice cracked and she felt hot, wet tears spill down her cheeks, and she became furious at her inability to control herself. “It wasn’t there! Who the hell doesn’t put an ejection handle in a plane? What kind of idiot was on maintenance? How on earth do they expect someone to survive without an ejection handle?”

“Honey,” Darcy began, pulling Elizabeth to his chest. She pushed him away.

“Don’t ‘honey’ me. I couldn’t get out! I could have been killed! The stick was stuck forward—I couldn’t lift it…”

She could feel the hysteria begin to take over once more, and she took a gulping breath, letting it out slowly.

Darcy leaned down to look directly into Elizabeth’s eyes. They looked wild and vulnerable. He reached down to rub her arms, then slowly pressed her petite frame to his chest.

Darcy whispered into her ear. “You got out. You’re here. I’ve got you. You’re all right. We’re here at Netherfield. The crash was weeks ago; do you remember? You didn’t want to go home for fear your mother’s nerves would smother you. Jane and Bingley are married and are sleeping in the other room. You were screaming, so I came.”

“Oh god.” Elizabeth looked around. Find two things you can see. The window. The dresser. Find one thing you can feel. The sheets. Find one thing you can smell. Sandalwood and pine…Darcy—he always smells fresh. She started over. She was in pajamas, sitting in her bed; she could feel the cotton. Darcy was shirtless but wearing sweatpants. She suddenly felt a warmth in her stomach before she remembered their precarious arrangement. She loved him, and he knew she loved him. He had loved her much longer. After one incredible kiss in the hospital just after the crash, they had barely touched each other. They were both too anxious to give the other space to figure things out. Now on the third night home from hospital and rehab, she had to embarrass herself by freaking out. What must he think of me?

She was humiliated and tired—exhausted—if she was honest with herself. She also realized with a sudden blush that perhaps this ugly old shirt from high school and yoga pants with a hole in the knee should be retired as her nightwear of choice. She was frightened but, as she relaxed into Darcy, the feeling of her body against his was the only bearable thing in her existence, so she concentrated on that.

She slowly shook off the remnants of her nightmare, and her thoughts began to clear like a fuzzy TV channel coming in tune. Netherfield. She was at Netherfield. It was too stressful to go home to Longbourn Inn with her mother checking on her every ten minutes and her father shutting himself in his office to avoid her mother. As Mary, Kitty, and Lydia were equal parts annoying and dreadful, plus the constant hum of guests, Jane offered her new home. Elizabeth had taken up residence directly upon release from the rehabilitation center. Her therapist had said to expect nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of the dream brought feelings of shame for being so weak, and she felt a slow blush creep up her cheeks and into her hairline.

“I’m completely embarrassed. Of course—none of it is real. I can’t believe I made you get up.” She let out a long, exasperated sigh and looked around the room, pushing away from him, much gentler this time, and combing through her matted curls with her fingers. “Go back to sleep. You have to fly tomorrow.”

“Elizabeth, it’s no big deal.”

“It is a big deal. You have to fly. You can’t show tired after dealing with me being a baby all night.”

Darcy shrugged and sat next to her in the bed. “It’s a less demanding sortie. Besides, I don’t show till ten. I’ve got plenty of time.” He reached out and gently smoothed the frizz and tangles that had overtaken her hair from her thrashing. “Want me to stay with you a little while?” He offered his arms. She hesitated, then tentatively moved into them.

Elizabeth’s mind was calm as she inhaled his scent and felt the warm, calming pressure of his arms enfolding her. She released a breath she did not know she had been holding, relishing the quiet and the steady beat of his heartbeat. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. She matched her breath to his, breathing deeper and slower than normal. Her eyelids drooped, and she relaxed into his arms.

***

“Elizabeth?”

“Hmm?”

“Want me to stay?”

“Hmm…”

“Nod or shake your head?”

Elizabeth did neither as she nestled closer to his chest. Darcy felt her body relax against him and he smiled. He pulled her close and leaned against the headboard where he was found moments later by Jane. Darcy opened his eyes slowly and looked at Elizabeth’s sister as she walked clumsily into the dark room.

Darcy pressed his finger to his lips and Jane nodded at him.

“Is she back asleep?” she whispered.

Darcy nodded.

“Go ahead and lay her down. I’ll stay with her.”

He moved Elizabeth’s sleeping form onto the pillow and maneuvered himself out of her embrace. They needed to figure out their relationship soon because he hated leaving her like this. He was sure the Air Force would have a reprimand for living in the same house, regardless of their intimate relationship or lack thereof. It was why he had proposed in the first place at Rosings during the hearing for the Base Closure Committee without so much as a first date! He did not want to tempt a court-martial for either of them. She sighed and snuggled into her pillow, her hair tumbled over her shoulders. Darcy looked at her again before leaving the room as quietly as Jane had entered.

***

Jane lay down by her sister, grateful that she had the next day off from work. She and Charles had only been home from their honeymoon for two weeks and, while Charles understood Jane’s need to care for Lizzy, it was difficult on their new relationship. Lizzy had come straight to Netherfield, not even stopping at home for clothes. Darcy had been insistent, and Jane knew Longbourn would drive Lizzy crazy within forty-eight hours.

Jane closed her eyes and tried to relax by reviewing her list for the next day. Clean. As Caroline had refused to keep up with any task she thought below her. Sort out trimming the trees on the road to the house. Because Caroline had neglected them the fall before. Take Lizzy to the doctor. Get groceries… Caroline had not cooked a meal since the wedding! Jane added “speak to Charles about his sister—again” to her list.

Lizzy must be in serious pain. Jane had never so much as broken a bone, but Lizzy had broken half of her body. Now with the nightmares, Jane had no idea how to comfort her sister. While Lizzy had been in the hospital and then rehab, Jane had been able to get things done for her job and around the house, but now she feared that Lizzy’s care would come with a list she could never accomplish. Her sister’s pain was not a line item she could simply cross off, and it was not something she could take away.

Lizzy kicked Jane, and Jane grunted and rolled over. She had forgotten Lizzy kicked in her sleep, and the cast slamming into her shin was painful. Thank goodness, Charles slept like the dead. Jane did not miss this particular aspect of her sister’s many charms, but soon, Jane drifted off.

***

The morning arrived soft and new. Elizabeth sighed deeply as she looked out the window at the bashful rays shooting through her curtains. Despite several casts and slings, she was able to sit up and, with assistance, move around the house. They were all to be removed in the next week and she was anxiously awaiting further independence. The doctors had told her it was good that she had been healthy and active before the crash otherwise she would have had a very different outcome. She would like to lie in bed for a few more hours reading a book but she desperately needed to go to the bathroom.

Elizabeth turned her head and found Jane’s blonde hair sticking out from under the sheet covering her sister’s face. She looks like an especially comfortable pineapple. How anyone could sleep like that without being suffocated, Elizabeth would never know. She nudged Jane gently and startled when Jane sprang into action.

“Lizzy! Are you okay? Do you need a drink? Should I get Will or Charles?”

“Shh…” Elizabeth held her finger to her lips. Jane’s eyes were wide . “I’m fine. I just need to use the bathroom.”

Jane relaxed and rolled off the bed, yawning and stretching. “I’m going to go back to Charles for a bit before he has to go to work.”

“Okay. I’m up. Tell Charles thanks for letting me borrow you last night.”

Jane scratched her head and stumbled sleepily out of the room, mumbling. “Sure thing.”

Elizabeth got herself to and from the bathroom with the aid of her old lady cane and the handicapped bars in the hallways that Darcy had installed before she came home. After what seemed a painful eternity, she made her way to the living room where she reclined on the couch and read.

Within the hour, Jane bustled in the kitchen; Charles joined her soon after, laughing and talking about his plans for the day. Caroline stalked into the room, shot darts at the happy couple (and Elizabeth), retrieved her coffee cup, and slinked back up the stairs away from the felicity flowing about downstairs. Elizabeth watched all from a spot on the couch, grateful she was not at Longbourn listening to the screeches of her sisters. She closed her eyes and soon fell asleep, lulled by the sounds of utensils on plates and conversation humming from the kitchen.

~~~~~~~

Giveaway: Leigh Dreyer is being generous by giving away 2 ebook copies of this novel. Just comment on this blog post. Also, post your email address so your ebook can be sent to you. The giveaway will end on April 10th 11:59 PM EST.  Winners will be chosen by randomizer on April 12th. Winners will be announced on my Facebook page which you can find here.

Buy Links

The Best LAID Flight Plans

The Flight Plan LESS Traveled

8 comments:

  1. What an exciting excerpt! I probably shouldn't have read it, as I just recently bought book one and haven't yet had a chance to read it. But oh well, couldn't help myself! Looking forward to reading the first and second book in the near future. Congrats to Leigh on her release, and thanks, Tina, for the review and post!

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    1. There's plenty left in book 1! (and book 2...) Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Thank you for the excerpt. I have read the first book, and am now very much looking forward to reading this one. Thanks also for the awesome giveaway!
    Ginna Say What at gmail dot com

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  3. Enjoyed the excerpt. They seem to have such a great relationship, looks forward to reading more. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. jadseah(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the novel, Tina. It seems like the kind of book that I would like since I love heroic stories and people serving in military. Thank you for the giveaway, Leigh.

    evangelineace2020(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  5. Congrats on the second book in your series. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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