This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Comedy Romance, Military Romance
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Released on February 4, 2014
Some stories stay with you long after you read them and this will be one of them. Not because this is an incredible romance, though in ways it is that, but because it is more than a romance- so much more. I love this series very much and in part it is because the characters and their situations resonate as the real deal with me. This is fictional, but the circumstances are true in some situations. I grew up military and I listened to my parents talk so I know. In my mom’s command, she dealt with counseling at least two people about suicide, but there were GIs with many other issues like anger, substance abuse, family issues, gambling etc. that she had to watch for and try to get them help. That was decades ago and it sounds like the I&A vets and enlisteds have it even worse. I am so glad that the author didn’t shy away from telling this story that delves into some serious stuff, but yet it is also a story of hope and love too.
And that segues me into saying that if you have a sensitivity to substance abuse/suicide stories then you might wish to approach this book cautiously.
Okay…so this is Reza’s story. Reza Iaconnelli got my attention when he was introduced in Until There Was You and kept popping up in subsequent books. I am thrilled that he took center stage and I was finally able to get into his head and find out why he has been this big hot mess since the beginning.
Sar’nt Ike is a career man who is on his last chance when it comes to his alcoholism and snarling issues with his commander, but the pressure he is under and the guilt that weighs him down has him near the breaking point. He has little patience for those men under him who can’t get with the program and seem to be milking the system. He really has no patience for the docs who enable these guys to stay in when they aren’t cut out to be in the army.
Who does this big, gruff, angry hurting man get paired with? Captain Emily Lindberg late of Boston and wetter behind the ears than any new recruit when it comes to the Army and dealing with combat veterans. Emily is light and hope. She wants to make a difference, but she learns that she is woefully unprepared for what delivering mental health treatment in the army can be like. Just one more place that she’s the outsider and doesn’t fit in when she thought she left all that behind. That being said, she juts out her chin and won’t let the huge man filling her door frame intimidate her- much.
Sparks fly when Reza and Emily meet as a result of him tracking down one of his men to the treatment center. She insists the guy has issues and Reza just thinks the guy needs his boot up his butt. Each new encounter brings more understanding between them. The pressures of work and shadows of the past slip away when they are together. Reza has never felt this way before and he’s terrified of screwing it up. Emily knows there are dark deep waters running through Reza and she should run away fast, but she can’t because he makes her feel wanted and secure when she’s in his arms. They go through the daily pressures of their jobs and then the unthinkable happens which may be the breaking point for Reza.
I’m sorry to say that my first reaction when I learned who the love interests for this story was to laugh my butt off. Talk about opposites. For that alone, I would have grabbed this up and read it intently. There was also a part of me that was really rooting for Iaconelli to beat the alcohol and find a way to make peace with his demons. Battered and beaten down, he still shone brightly as a true hero. He owned his mistakes and supported his guys. When he got up and spoke at that Memorial service, I was gulping back tears. He had Claire, but he needed a lover too. For that, he needed a strong, understanding and wise woman who knew when to shower him with peace and when to look him in the eye and speak. I loved being along for the progression of Reza and Emily’s romantic development. It was the beautiful center stone in this story with its stormy passion and tender calm moments. My favorite scene was when they were out at the dam with Emily settled quietly in the shelter of Reza’s arms. I have nothing but praise for the characters or their connectedness in this story. Only niggle, I thought the end came fast and left me wondering about a few things like the changes in command or Reza’s future or a bit more about their future together. Hopefully that will come out in the next book.
There are brief appearances by Shane and Carponti, but of all the books and recurring characters in the series this one is most connected to Until There Was You which was Evan and Claire’s story with Reza as the strong secondary. They make the most appearances aside from new characters. This is almost like a sequel to it which yes, that is a hint that this book does not make a good standalone.
To wrap it up, I can only say good things about this book and the series to which it belongs. Well plotted, nice pacing, strong character development and worldbuilding. In my opinion, this is one of the best military romance series out there and I recommend it highly to those who love this sub-genre of romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this story in exchange for my honest thoughts.