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Her Perfect Life

Clean Read, Military Romantic Suspense, Women's Fiction

April 2014
Magnolia Leaf Press

Clean Read edition written/published in 2014.
First General Market edition published in 2006.

Everyone thinks she’s dead.

While flying a routine border patrol mission over Iraq, Air Force Captain Katie Slater’s plane is blown from the sky and hurtles deep into enemy territory.  Katie awakens to life as a POW in a tribal prison.  Six long years later she comes home.  But her perfect life has vanished.  Her husband is remarried, her two children–who barely remember her–have another mother.  And Katie’s former copilot, C.D. Quade, her rock and confidant, can’t let go of his guilt over leaving her behind.

The thought of getting home had kept her strong, determined to survive.  But now that she’s here, nothing is the same.  She’s lost everything.  She’d survived being a prisoner.  Will she survive coming home?

Starting over means coming to terms with an imperfect past, putting the military behind her and taking a chance on herself.  A self who isn’t sure if her nightmares and flashbacks are real or imagined.  Does she have enough left inside her to start over?  To rebuild from nothing, and does she dare to dream that she can ever recreate her perfect life?


“Katie Slater’s whole life is a war story, literally and figuratively, and her only weapons have been ripped from her soul.  To fight her way to freedom, she dons an emotional armor that only love can pierce.”     –Joyce Holland, Northwest Florida Daily News

“Her Perfect Life is the perfect read.  From the very first sentence, I was hooked by this engaging and heartfelt story of a woman’s journey through danger, adventure and romance.”     –Susan Wiggs, best-selling author

  • RITA® Award Finalist, Best Novel with a Romantic Element
  • RT Career Achievement Award Nomination for Series Romantic Adventure
  • Winner of the 2006 Single Title Reviewers’ Choice Award
  • Harlequin Readers’ Choice Award Finalist, Best Book of the Year
  • Holt Medallion Award Finalist, Best Mainstream Novel of the Year

“Katie Slater’s whole life is a war story, literally and figuratively, and her only weapons have been ripped from her soul.  To fight her way to freedom, she dons an emotional armor that only love can pierce.”     –Joyce Holland, Northwest Florida Daily News


“Her Perfect Life is the perfect read.  From the very first sentence, I was hooked by this engaging and heartfelt story of a woman’s journey through danger, adventure and romance.”     –Susan Wiggs, best-selling author


Her Perfect Life by Vicki Hinze absolutely tore my heart out.  I can’t imagine being in Katie’s shoes and the fact that story is so realistic made Her Perfect Life dearer to me.  I wanted to choke her husband Sam but then couldn’t fault him for decisions he made.  As much as I couldn’t stand Sam, I loved C.D.  Patient, kind, and extremely supportive, I thought him the perfect love for Katie.  As for Katie, if she were a real person, I would honor her bravery and service.  Her character was that well written.  Her Perfect Life was emotional, romantic, and just an all around poignant read.  It made me angry, laugh, cry, and then smile for a job well done.  I feel Ms. Hinze honors the bravest of the brave with Her Perfect Life and I am proud to have read it.          –JoyfullyReviewed.com


“Occasionally a book is written which profoundly touches anyone who reads it, and the story penned by Vicki Hinze is constantly thought-provoking and engaging.  From the first page until the last compelling word is read, this story captures a reader’s thoughts and brings forth a myriad of feelings.  Her Perfect Life keeps one emotionally connected to each vividly portrayed moment in the life of one extraordinary woman.  Regardless of the subject which Vicki Hinze chooses to explore, she always creates a story with convincing realistic scenes and lifelike characters.  Her Perfect Life is an unforgettable story which will stay with readers long after the book is closed.”       –Cataromance


“This is a well written book about a horrendous time in our country’s history.  There is a sensitivity conveyed that only a real writer can produce.  Congratulations, Ms. Hinze, you are an excellent author.”      –Rendezvous


“An incredibly emotional read.  Have Kleenex handy–you’ll need it.  C.D. and Katie are wonderful protagonists and their story is the reason why one picks up a romance novel.”  TOP PICK AWARD     –Kristi Ablers, RT Book Club


“Her Perfect Life is a tense character study that grips readers.”  FIVE STARS!   –Harriet Klausner


“During our recent ordeal of Hurricane Ike, when we had no electric power for eleven days and the temperatures were in the 90s most of the time, I read Vicki Hinze’s Her Perfect Life. I had bought it some time ago but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. I picked it up, hoping for some distraction from the heat, and I got it in spades.

This is a quite wonderful book … not sentimental, but genuinely moving. The premise is that the heroine, a military pilot shot down in the Mid-East six years previously and imprisoned in a “tribal” prison where she is tortured and humiliated, is rescued and returned home. She finds that her husband, who was told she was dead, has remarried, and her two children, who were very young when she was shot down, are older and don’t know if they want to know her. Everyone has mourned her and moved on with their lives.

Now I know that this sounds incredibly depressing. But it wasn’t, because of Hinze’s writing skills. What it is, is touching, satisfying because of the way the heroine keeps fighting for “her perfect life” as she imagined it long ago in her girlhood, and ultimately optimistic and moving because of the way she, and her hero, who is her co-pilot, not her husband, find their way to happiness and a new “perfect life.”

What is outstanding is that there are no black and white characters. Her husband, who is pretty much of a superficial control freak, has his actions modified and moderated by his fine, kind second wife. Her children are far more flexible and optimistic than some I have known, and they want to give her a chance to know them. And the HEA is a believable one, achieved by her own courage and determination. And the compassion of her co-pilot hero.

If you want to read a book which will leave you happier about life when you finish it, try this one.”                                                                                              –MarianneM, All About Romance

Her Perfect Life


Vicki Hinze

Copyrighted Material @2014


Life should come with warning labels.

Warning!  At fifteen, you’re going to be tempted to give your virginity to Donald Simoneaux at Mel Ott Park behind the baseball bleachers.  Don’t.  He’s an arrogant idiot with a big mouth and, if you do it, you’ll never hear from him again.  You won’t anyway—it’ll be a one-date train wreck—but if you sleep with him, you’ll feel you wasted your first, be down on lovemaking for the next decade, and be ticked off about it forever.  If you don’t, you’ll be grateful you’ve been spared from a second date with the jerk and you’ll meet and marry a great guy with finesse.  The first time you two twist the sheets, you’ll be glad you waited and you’ll totally understand all the fuss about sex.

Warning!  At seventeen, avoid the Pink Daisy.  It’s a cute club with cool people, but when the place is raided, Marianne Demsey will stuff her dope in your purse and you’ll get busted because she won’t admit that it’s hers.  You don’t smoke anything, including pot, but you’ll never convince your dad of it, or the police.  On the up side, you’ll test clean, get community service, and your mom will know the truth.  She’s psychic where you’re concerned, remember?  She knows everything.  But she won’t be able to convince your dad she’s not covering for you, and he’ll choke you nearly to death trying to keep you on a tight leash until you’re twenty-one.  You will not be a happy leashee.

And oh, while we’re talking about twenty-one, skip the Mardi Gras frat party at the LSU campus in New Orleans.  You’ll save yourself an ex-husband.  That’s where you’ll meet Wonder Man, the guy with finesse that makes sheet-twisting an art form.  Unfortunately, he also considers fidelity a rule just for women.  Definitely best to not go there.

Warning!  At twenty-four, you’ll be a pilot, just as you’ve always dreamed.  Air Force all the way, baby.  And right after pilot training, you’ll meet a jock that makes you weak in the knees.  You’ll marry him three years later, have two great kids—a girl and a boy—and you’ll love your life.

Okay, so in a few years you’ll get a little wistful now and then because your relationship could be better.  Jock—a.k.a. Dr. Sam Slater, leading gynecologist in Willow Creek, Florida—isn’t perfect, but unlike Wonder Man, he’s worth keeping.  He’s a faithful husband, a decent if uninspiring lover, a good dad so into having the perfect image he still hides all possible flaws from his parents (which you find endearing and annoying), and if at times he’s a bit selfish and seemingly unconscious about what’s really important, well, you’re not perfect either.

Actually, his faults are relatively minor compared to those of the spouses of many of your friends.  If you looked at vaginas and dealt with truly hormonal women all day, you probably wouldn’t get overly enthused on nights at home, either.  Just saying.  In the realm of male behavior, facts are facts, whether or not they are politically correct.

Life, however, has a way of balancing things.  As compensation, you’ll have the coolest co-pilot in the Air Force, C.D. Quade, who is a walking violation to the libidos of women everywhere.  He’s totally irresistible:  gorgeous, sharp, funny, sensitive and straight.  You two will be nuts about each other, and on occasion you’ll wonder what it would be like to be with him instead of the jock, but loyalty and vows keep your wedding band on your finger and your panties up around your hips.  C.D. Quade isn’t the kind to trespass on another man’s turf anyway, so it’s just as well you keep your blood cooled to a simmer around him.  It takes you a while to get that your relationship is deeper than anything physical, but your outlook on marriage in general works in your favor.  What is it?  Nobody says you have to marry, but if you do, then honor your vows.  Do it out of respect for yourself and your spouseIf you can’t or won’t, then just stay single and spare everyone involved agony and heartbreak.  Betrayal and breached trust doesn’t discriminate based on whether you do it or it’s done to you.  No one escapes unscathed.  Bottom line in all this is, with the jock, the kids and your beloved garden at home and C.D. at work, you’ll be reasonably content.  That’s not bad for real life.

Now for the grand slam, “kick your backside and pad your knees because you’re going to be on them for the duration” Warning!

Love your family so fiercely that it almost hurts, and do all those things you keep saying you’ll get around to someday—like finding a way to make a living with your gardening, taking that Alaskan cruise you’ve dreamed about since your eighteenth birthday, and making that pilgrimage to Scotland you promised your grandmother you’d make to see where your dad’s ancestors lived.  Don’t wait.  Do it all now.  Absolutely all of it.

Because if you don’t, when you’re thirty-four, on June 23rd, you’re going to be assigned to fly a mission in Iraq and your plane is going to get shot down.  You’ll be with your devoted sidekick co-pilot, C.D., who will still be incredibly gorgeous and single, but . . . well . . .  There’s just no easy way to say this.  Prepare yourself.  The bottom line is he’s going to be rescued, and you’re going to be dead.

At least, that’s the way it’s going to seem to you for a long, long time.  And repeatedly during this dark period of your life, you’ll remember the little list you made when you were eight:  the one that detailed all the things you wanted when you grew up.  Remember?  You wrote it shortly after you completed the magical leap from the fat pencils you conquered in first grade to the brand new Number 2 slim-and-sleek writing machine.

This list was the most important document of your life, and to mark the rite of passage in creating it, you pulled out your most prized possession:  the black ink, clear barrel, comfort-grip, Bic pen—medium point—you’d been saving to first use on something really, really special.  This was that life-defining moment.  That momentous occasion you would forever recall as the one moment in time when you knew exactly what you wanted and needed to be content.

You felt it the instant the tip of the pen touched the page and you printed in bold, broad letters:




I’m sorry to say that many times during these trials you’ll have to fight hard to not lose hope and heart and let your spirit be broken.  It won’t be easy.  You’ll believe you’re in hell. You’ll curse that list and your life, and you’ll wish you were dead.  Faith in anything—God, human beings, even in yourself will be sorely tested.  So sorely tested.

Oh, yeah.  Life definitely should come with warning labels.

But it doesn’t.

And that, Captain Katie Cole Slater, is the most important Warning! of all.

Readers’ Group Guide

Questions for your reading group…

1.  There have been women prisoners of war in every American conflict.  However, before the late 20th century, women were not deliberately put into combat situations.  Major Rhonda Cornum’s stalwart conduct as a POW in the first Gulf War in 1992 helped reshape the debate on women in the military. The 1994 repeal of the “risk rule” barring women from combat launched a national debate over a woman’s fitness to serve and the danger her perceived weaknesses posed to male co-combatants. Presently, one in seven military personnel in Iraq is a female. After reading Captain Katie Cole Slater’s story, do you have a stronger position on women in combat?  Have your feelings about this issue changed?

2.  If you had created a list at the age of fifteen, eighteen, twenty-five or thirty-five, what items would you have included to create your “perfect life?”  If you should have to suddenly start over and build yourself a new life, what would you change?  Relationships, money, prestige, possessions?)   Do you believe that, as we accumulate life experience, our priorities broaden and grow more meaningful and our goals turn less materialistic?

3.  If you created a perfect life list right now, what five goals or qualities would you include?

4.  During captivity, Katie’s mantra was:  “That which is endured is conquered.”  Do you feel this is true? How can a strongly held belief such as this one keep hope alive?  Many of us have a saying, motto, Bible verse or a phrase that captures our personal philosophy and serves as our talisman during times of trouble. Do you have one?

5.  Katie and C.D. have a strong bond from working closely together in a difficult environment. Through mutual respect and trust, they come to love each other. But at first they are not “in love” with each other.  In your life, have you loved and not been in love?  Been in love and not loved?  Does the added element of a sexual relationship add to or cloud this issue?  Given a choice, would you rather “be in love” or “love” someone?

6.  As one would expect, given her circumstances, Katie suffers many of the challenging symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or Syndrome). One of the most disturbing is repeated nightmares involving her captivity. Reportedly, the best treatment for these nightmares isn’t medication but a mental technique where the sufferer changes the ending of the nightmare while awake so that the ending ceases being upsetting.  Do you think this kind of healing takes a great deal of personal determination and concentration?  Does a person’s self esteem impact this kind of challenge?

7.  Could Katie have defeated her dream demons any earlier?  How?  Did defeating those demons take becoming involved in a stable, loving relationship with C.J.? Did Katie have to first determine her children were safe before she could allow herself to heal?

8.  Katie is angry with the doctors trying to help her.  Anger and blame—unreasonable and unearned—is normal in these situations.  The person often feels betrayed—in Katie’s case, for her military peers leaving her behind.  Have you ever experienced these emotions in this way?

Katie refuses to talk about her experiences as a prisoner, including being raped.  Because rape is a crime not of sex but of violence and control, it’s very common reaction for rape victims to refuse to discuss the rape.  For many, each time they do discuss it, they relive it, and that makes it impossible to go on and live a “normal” life.  Yet it’s equally important that they deal with the issue and not slide into denial, which is emotionally unhealthy.  Katie refuses to give her captors another second of her life by dwelling on that which cannot be changed.  In her position, would you feel compelled to talk about the experience, or not?  Why?

Historical Information.

General Market version:

April 2006
ISBN:  0-373-83692-9
Silhouette Signature Select

Her Perfect Life

Clean Read, Military Romantic Suspense, Women's Fiction