Navy Seal culture is at heart of local woman’s novel

Author Tasha Donahue
Book cover
The cover of "Toward the Sun" Courtesy

Tasha Donahue’s novel “Toward the Sun” is unequivocally a romance.

Yet, the Del Mar-area author’s book could just as easily land on shelves earmarked for military and action adventure themes.

The work does not slide easily into the commercial market’s obsession with comparatively short works geared toward niche audiences.

Publishing representatives, Donahue said, “wanted a book for women or a book for men, and I didn’t want to take the book apart.”

For that reason, rather than slice up her story to meet publishers’ whims, she chose to do what many writers do these days. She self-published it: all 430-plus pages.

Using an Amazon program, CreateSpace, Donahue made “Toward the Sun” available on the website earlier this year. The paperback can be located on

“Toward the Sun” picks up on the life of main character Kathleen Burke when a bus the 20-year-old is riding to Seville, Spain, breaks down on the Atlantic coast town of Rota, near a U.S. Navy base.

She wanders into a bar that is a Navy Seal hangout and quickly becomes the life of the party. She attracts the attention of a group of Seals, whom she calls the “Boston Four” because of their ties to the northeastern city.

She is drawn to Mike McDaniels. An unfortunate circumstance, one of several Kathleen will undergo, leads her to remain in Rota under McDaniels’ care, leading to their romantic involvement. Early on, the reader learns Burke is trying to get over the loss of her mother in an accident, an incident the daughter blames on herself.

The McDaniels character, Donahue said, sparked from a chance meeting she had with a Navy Seal named Mike in the early 1970s when she was in Malaga, Spain.

Though she was on a date with someone else and the contact was just in passing, she was intrigued.

“You wouldn’t leave a date, but I’ll never forget that guy,” she said. “His name was Mike and he’s Mike in the book. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if I would have stayed.”

A Chicago native, Donahue has self-published two previous books, a romance titled “Meet Me Under the Eiffel Tower,” and “More Than Words Can Express.” The latter is based on Donahue’s experiences guiding her son through a “life-threatening diagnosis, fraternal estrangement, school bullying and several brain surgeries.”

Her venture into writing began in composing articles about food and wine, followed later by children’s literature.

“I was writing out of the pure joy of writing,” Donahue said. “There was no conscious intention of growing that career. I was a stay-at-home mom.”

Yet, her passion for prose blossomed: “Like most writers, you always want to write a book..”

In cultivating the background for “Toward the Sun,” Donahue’s contact with Seals was reinforced when she lived in Coronado, where the vaunted, but sometimes controversial special force trains.

Her knowledge and experiences enabled her to incorporate that understanding of the Seal culture and their missions into “Toward the Sun.”

She also traveled to various locales to study the story’s various settings. She stresses, however, the book’s episodes are fiction, though some are based on actual incidents.

“I didn’t want to just write a love story,” she said. “I wanted to write a love story with a historical background, and that’s why I did my research.”

The story is told through an omniscient narrator, though Kathleen remains the principal character. Aside from occasional descriptions of settings, most of the narrative germinates from the thoughts, observations, reactions and dialogue of the characters.

Donahue advances the story with clear, crisp prose devoid of flowery ornamentation. The dialogue strives to capture the colloquial banter between Navy pals, and in male and female friendships and partnerships.

“What I have in my book, which most men (oriented books) don’t have is personal relationships,” Donahue said. “I’m working from the perspective of a young, unprepared woman suffering from a loss.”

Most of all, Donahue said, she aspired to paint a word picture of the Seal culture and lifestyle, their camaraderie and hardships, and the difficulties that their families — and especially women and mothers — endure.

“Navy people say this is exactly what would have happened,” Donahue said of her main character’s journey. “She would have fallen through the cracks. (The story) shows the sacrifice of the families and their dedication.”

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