It was a chance for a fresh start. And in her new job as a helicopter pilot at a skiing lodge in the Canadian Rockies, Charlie felt she could put the past behind her. Too bad, though, that her employer, Gallagher Cole, didn't seem to share her view. "I'm not quitting before I've started," Charlie told him stubbornly. "If you don't want me here, you should have the guts to fire me!" Nevertheless, Charlie gradually found herself drawn to this complex man. Only what hope could there be for her when they each had commitments to somebody else...?
Charlie James gets hired on as a helicopter pilot for the High Heaven Heli-Ski Company, a flight transport service for the local ski resort in the small town of Revelstoke, just outside Calgary, Canada. Her boss, Gallagher Cole, signs her on sight unseen after numerous rave recommendations from friends and colleagues, not knowing Charlie is a female. In retrospect, he realizes that in all his conversations regarding Charlie's skill, somehow pronouns got left off.
Cole is not a pilot himself, he just owns the helicopter and the business. When he meets her in person, he's not too comfortable having a woman on staff holding a position that carries so much inherent risk. But Charlie, though still young, is all too familiar with facing challenges head on and conquering them. Not only does she brave flights through the Canadian Rockies, when not in the air she is the guardian / caretaker for her 22 year old mentally handicapped cousin, Kenny.
When Charlie asks Gallagher to sit in on one of her flights and see her skill for himself, he can't deny it --- she is undoubtedly qualified for the position. Still, it takes time for Charlie to break Gallagher of his inherent sexist thinking. But once she does, she finds there is actually a kind, solidly good guy who feels compelled to keep her safe.
"What else does my face tell you?"
"That you carry bitter burdens, and that you often question the path of your life. You see the lives of others unfolding without the tragedy and the troubles you have seen, and it angers you that life is so easy for some, but not for you. And life has made you incredibly strong. Strong enough that one day you will quit complaining that life's lessons are too hard, and instead you will ask, 'What am I to learn from this?' And you will find that all along you learned. That you grew stronger. By stronger, I mean you learned to love, to be gentle, accepting, compassionate. When you are old, and you will grow very old, you will have that look in your eyes --- that wondrous look of laughter and wisdom. That look that means you have seen the worst of life, and reckoned with it, allowed it to teach instead of destroy. You think your suffering has been without reason? No, Charlie, no. You were chosen because you are one of the few. The very few."
"The very few who what?"
"One of the very few who will know heaven on this earth."
The plot here has a nice, breezy entertainment value to it, even when the writing structure itself suffers in places (ex. there's a few jerky scene transitions where mid-paragraph a scene can switch from office to car with little to no indication that characters have moved). If you're intrigued by the helicopter pilot premise, let me just warn you now, Charlie doesn't actually get a lot of flight time in this short story. Most of her work hours seem to be spent in the hangar bickering with Gallagher. It would've been nice if more of the resort scene element could have been incorporated.
The romance is fun and light, nothing amazing, but the friendship that builds between Charlie and Gallagher is charming, particularly when Gallagher goes the extra mile to bond with Kenny. There's also the topic of sexual discrimination that comes up quite a bit. While the early scenes with Gallagher can be grating to read (with his chauvinism in full force), Charlie does slowly soften him and the discussions his behavior stirs up are actually more thought provoking than one might expect from a book like this, not to mention some of the comedy it inspires when things slam back in Gallagher's face!