Master Chief Rusty Kuzinsky has thrown his heart and his savings into preparing a warrior’s retreat. Never Forget is a special place for SEALs to find solace and to heal after grueling operations like those he endured his entire career. Just as his first guests are due to arrive, a military war dog suffering from PTSD lands in Rusty’s lap, requiring attention he simply can’t spare.
NCIS Special Agent Maya Schultz has her hands full raising a teenage son while investigating crimes taking place within the military. When Rusty offers her son a summer job caring for his new dog, practical Maya can’t tell what’s more dangerous—the crazy dog or her attraction to a man who witnessed her husband’s death ten years ago…and claims to see him, still.
But when danger threatens Maya’s remaining family, Rusty’s special gift and his unhinged dog become her only defense against a suspect who’ll do anything to avoid going to prison. With time running out and life or death at stake, Maya has to choose whether to follow her head as she has always done or to trust her heart this time.
Ever just need a character(s) to have his or her story told? That’s how I was when I listened to the scene in Hard Landing when Rusty and Maya meet. There were sparks, but she shut it all down to a smolder when she held Rusty responsible for her late husband’s death. I was more than thrilled when this long novella was released following up on Rusty and Maya’s story.
Never Forget is part of the Echo Platoon series and there is a gentle connection with an earlier story, but it also makes a decent standalone or intro the author and series.
Rusty Kuzinsky is retired from the SEALs and now is pursuing his plans full-throttle for a warrior retreat where SEALs can come and get some down time to adjust after coming off their missions. He’s always been a protector and caregiver to his men and this is another way he can take care of them. Busily readying for his first group of SEAL guests, his life is complicated by the arrival of a retired military dog he agreed to take if the dog’s handler didn’t make it and also he bumps into captivating Maya Schultz at the home store. Her difficulties with her teenage son tug at him and he offers to take on Curtis for the summer to help with the dog, Draco.
Maya has spent years pushing away emotions and holding to her grief and loss. Her job at NCIS keeps her occupied as does the care of her son, but now that he is getting older and showing frustration, anger, hanging with bad kids and some rebellion, she fears that she is enough. Once again, she wishes she could turn to her dead husband. She resents that Rusty Kuzinsky came back alive and lived on to retire when her husband and a father is gone. Her head knows that Rusty isn’t to blame, but she’s scared that if she lets go of the bitter resentment then other emotions will pour in. Only now that Rusty is helping with Curtis, she is forced to loosen her grip on the past and on her heart maybe even dream a little about an older warrior like Rusty.
I enjoyed seeing an Autumn romance between a retired SEAL and a widow, the antics of a struggling boy and an old war dog, and yes, it didn’t miss a dash of suspense to liven it up.
The pacing and development were just right for this type of story that couldn’t be rushed. It flipped back and forth between Rusty and Maya’s point of view with a few moments of Curtis and others taking a narrative lead.
Rusty is ready to take the plunge into the new segment of his life that allows him to take a chance on love, but the lady he chooses needs more patience and perception on his part than leading a group of baby SEALs. I really enjoyed Rusty because even if it is a hard thing, he does the right thing. Maya really struggled and it was hard to see and she kept one hand on the hand brake the whole time with Rusty, but I loved how his steadfastness really worked on her and she finally gave him a chance.
This isn’t a full-blown novel so the suspense is there and definitely a danger, but not really complex. It stayed to the background until it finally made things exciting there in the end.
Armen Taylor is not new to me as a narrator since I’ve listened to all the stories of the Echo Platoon series he has narrated. He’s a great match for the tone and writing of these books and I have no trouble sinking into the story as he narrates it.
All in all, this book was utterly satisfying and lived up to my expectation for Rusty and Maya’s story. I can easily recommend it to those who enjoy slight spicy military romantic suspense.
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