Thursday, May 8, 2014

Last Salute by Tracey Richardson




Book: Last Salute
Author: Tracey Richardson
Publisher: Bella Books

Viet Nam Soldiers Returning Home
by Larry Burrows
Sometimes you read a book that is set in the present but it throws you back into your past. Tracey Richardson’s Last Salute, a story that is centered on the death of a doctor in Afghanistan, made me return to the day I learned a co-worker had lost her fiancé in the Viet Nam war. It also brought back memories of the burial of a friend, a recipient of the Silver Star during the Viet Nam War, in Arlington a few years ago.

Most striking about Last Salute is the way that both communities and the military treat the combatants of today, as opposed to the way combatants of that war some forty years ago were treated. The interactions of Army personnel and civilians in this book would not have happened quite the same way four decades ago, and the actions of the community that mourned and paid respect to their military dead would not have happened either. As hard as any death at any time is to comprehend and accept, in many ways Ms. Richardson has shown those of us who remember times past that things do indeed get better.

In Last Salute, Tracey Richardson shows us the devastation that the loss of Laura Wright, a doctor with the rank of Major serving in Afghanistan, has upon her younger sister and the girl she left behind when she went off to medical school and then joined the Army.

Dr. Pamela Wright is the younger sister who is left without her hero and her only family when Laura is killed. Already questioning her specialty in emergency medicine, and her place in a Chicago ER, Pamela is left adrift by the news of her siblings’s death. Pamela does manage to make one very important decision when she chooses to have services for Laura in their hometown of Ann Arbor. It is a decision that will alter her own future.

Trish Tomlinson, a teacher who never left her hometown of Ann Arbor, hears of Laura’s death and is shaken to her core as well. Laura was her first love, the girl she never quite got over. When Laura chose the Army over a life they could have shared, Trish was terribly hurt and was left in an emotional limbo. She had long since given up on the hope of Laura returning to her, but Laura’s death brings a finality that she has she was wholly unprepared for.

Reunited at the funeral parlor, Trish and Pamela cling to each other. They provide emotional support for each other, as well as that literal shoulder to cry on. Pam is reminded that Trish is the first big crush of her life, as well as the woman her sister was too foolish to stay with. Trish comes to see that Pam is more than Laura’s little sister, and has grown into a smart, talented, and attractive woman.

In the process of burying their shared loved one, the two women come to grips with the past and begin to search for a future where Laura exists only in the past as memory. That path is not an easy one, and leads the two women to take a trip into the war zone where Laura died. What they see and learn there gives each woman the closure needed to move forward.

Tracey Richardson has done a wonderful job of depicting the emotional turmoil of unfair loss, as well as the survivor guilt these two women struggle with as they gather the threads of their lives, and move on to a future without the woman who meant so much to both of them. While not all of us have felt the firsthand loss that war inflicts, we have all suffered the loss of someone we hold dear.  The emotions and events depicted in the book ring true, and make the reader stop and revisit old feelings of loss, anger, and sorrow.

Last Salute is a marvelous story that gives readers an insight into so many of the men and women who serve in our all volunteer armed forces, as well as a view into the emotions of family and friends when a loved one is wounded or killed in action.  As a reader, I liked the way the story provided a glimpse into how the comrades of the fallen are given a chance to honor and mourn, and I was even happier to see how the military has become solicitous of the families of those who are lost. 

For those of us who remember Viet Nam, it is affirming to know that those who serve our country today are treated with greater respect and dignity than their parents and grandparents were years ago.

Tracey Richardson
The romance in the story works so well because the author takes the time to let it grow. These women are dealing with both personal and professional issues when they come together to mourn. They come to terms with not only their loss, but their burgeoning feelings towards each other a bit reluctantly, yet in a way that is natural and believable. One of the things I liked most about this book was the way Ms. Richardson allowed the feelings and the emotions between Trish and Pamela to build organically.   
If you’re looking for a romance that takes its time, allows you to get to know the women involved, and gives you a chance to understand the emotions and the events that drive them, then I highly recommend Last Salute. Tracey Richardson has done a wonderful job telling this story, and showing us that once in a while our past may hold a path to our future.  Last Salute is a finalist in the Lesbian Romance category for the Lambda Literary Foundation’s 26th annual awards.


  1. Nice job, Mary Anne. I've always enjoyed Tracey's work and talent. This sounds like a good story!


    1. Thank you Barrett, much appreciated. And thank you Mary Anne for the lovely review!