A Demand too dear and a cost too high…it is war and what comes after. I don’t know what to make of this story. I loved it and it broke my heart. Decisions were made, sacrifices were made and there was so much loss as a result. Was it worth it? These two think it was. Oh the costs that some folk pay…
There is love and there is happiness, but it is tempered after the hard road it took to get there. This was not easy and the rose-colored glasses are no where in sight for the reader to view this story. I do not think this story will be for everyone. Don’t grab it if you want light and easy and definitely not if you don’t want to be challenged in the mind about what you would give up to be who and what you really want or need to be to be you.
If you can’t tell already, I reacted to this story. Strongly. I also couldn’t read it in my usual way which leaves me at a loss for how to share my review thoughts with other readers. I can’t imagine anyone being indifferent once they engage this book.
I felt compelled to read on and get Sarah’s story- or I should say, Sarah and Sean’s story. I love this author’s work and I trusted her to take care of this special and delicate-type plot she wove into a story about a woman who was driven to have her career as a soldier and the personal heartache she experienced along the way and the story of a man who must live with nightmares because in war there is loss and life-long shadows.
Captain Sarah Anders basically got fired from her previous job because of an incident that was beyond her control and little more than an opportunity for her boss to get rid of an unwanted employee. Her unit had just arrived in Afghanistan, but now she has been yanked out and moved to headquarters at Ft. Hood. Her new assignment is working for a hard woman major who has it in for someone like Sarah- widowed, single mom. Sarah is given the task to investigate what should have been an open-shut situation of an officer and one of his men getting in a bar brawl over a woman. Her past stands before her suddenly when she learns both men are under the command of none other than Captain Sean Nichols, her ex-fiancé and the man who couldn’t handle her choice to be a soldier and wanted her to change. She left him and found a man who accepted and made no demands, but she lost him a few years back during his deployment. She thought she had buried all that and now knows that she never really dealt with the feelings she thought were all hate and pain.
Sean can’t believe it. First he is dealing with the mess in his company and trying to keep doing what he can for guys he owes so much, but they can’t seem to stay out of trouble and an investigation is started. And the investigating officer? The woman he loved and who rejected him. After all these years, he is faced with Sarah Anders, the woman who said she couldn’t marry him, walked out of his life without looking back, and goes on to do with another man what she refused him- marriage and a child. To complicate it further, her dead husband was one of his best friends that he had to helplessly watch die and couldn’t save. He wants to hate her, but instead he hates himself and the guilt he feels for surviving and coming home when her man and the father of her child didn’t come back. This is another chance when they are older and different people, but he doesn’t know if it is right.
The story is told in alternating perspectives by Sarah and Sean. This is a second chance romance, but man, it felt like no second chance romance I had read before. The surrounding plot offered a strong conflict and swirling emotions as the truth behind the incident at the bar come out. I liked how the romance wove into this situation so well as it forces Sean and Sarah to really see the new people they have become and realize that the trouble before was that they were so young and inexperienced compared to the world-weary people they are now. The added stress of his work to shape up his command team and for her to deal with a hard woman boss who is looking for her to screw up made for constant pressure and start to deal with the possibility that she may never see combat and how she feels about that now that she’s the sole surviving parent of her little girl.
As is this author’s forte, she lightens things up with humor between friends and co-workers that have your back no matter what and the fun sweet moment’s that Sarah’s little girl brings to it all. I loved the inclusion of Claire and Evan along with even a Reza sighting with this story’s tie-in to the characters of Until You from the original Coming Home series. The scene of little Anna and Sean in his office as she draws over his organizational thoughts on the whiteboard telling him about the paratrooper hamsters, the bad rats, the strawberry mission and the HIC (Hamster in Charge) cracked me up and gave me a warm fuzzy moment.
The romance itself was heartwarming. They circled each other warily and still felt that old attraction. They communicated. They were mature in how they faced their issues and demons. The sensual side of the relationship felt organic when it came. I loved them together and loved seeing it happen along the way. That epilogue was the perfect touch.
In summary, it was brilliant, tough on the feels and yet full of warmth and hope. This is part of a series, but can be read out of order in a pinch. I would recommend these for those who enjoy hard fought for and emotional spicy military romances.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.