Friday, October 26, 2012

Because of You/Until There Was You by Jessica Scott

When it was announced that the Loveswept line was being relaunched last year, they started with a number of rereleases, but there were a couple of debut authors too. One was Ruthie Knox (whose books I have loved so far) but the first was Jessica Scott with this book.

Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison is about to ship out to Iraq again. Shane has been Army for 13 years, a lot longer than he managed to stay married. Smarting from his recent divorce he is looking forward to getting back into the environment he is familiar with - leading from the front, ensuring that his men are looked after with one aim and one aim only - bringing all of his men home alive.

On the last night he is begrudgingly convinced to go out on the town, mainly to look out for his men and make sure they don't get into any trouble before they ship out. He meets Jen St George and they share a scorching kiss. Jen is a nurse in the army hospital and is mainly only involved in life on the base through her friend Laura who is married to Shane’s commanding office, Trent. Jen is also a breast cancer survivor, so she has had to fight her own battles in life but mostly she lives a quiet life. When she looks the other way during a medical examination and passes Shane fit to ship out, they both know that there is a glimmer of a bond between them and for Shane that is enough to provide some emotional sustenance during his time in the battle zones.

It is only when Shane is injured and shipped back to the hospital that the bond between them can grow, albeit in difficult circumstances. Shane is not the best patient to begin with, and that is even more true when he is concerned about the fate of the men under his command who were also repatriated back to the hospital. There is also a slimy lieutenant who is investigating the circumstances behind some missing weapons who seems to be looking to pin the blame on people in Shane’s company. Shane is also suffering from something of a loss of identity. If he is stuck in a hospital bed how can he be the person he knows himself to be – the leader of men, the one that they all look too.

Jen is able to reach slowly to reach Shane and show him that he still has something to give, but the road is a rocky one. Jen also has her own issues. For reasons that aren’t really explored in the book Jen has chosen not to have reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy and she struggles with issues relating to her femininity. They both work together in helping each other and this aspect worked for me, as long as you look away from the ethical issues of a nurse having a sexual relationship with a patient.

While it is not uncommon to have a hero who has returned from war as a hero of a contemporary romance, most of the time we only ever see the after effects of their service - usually in the form of a few scars and some bad dreams. Where this book differs is that we meet Shane just before he is deployed, we spend time with him whilst he is in the war zone and then, yes, we get to see the aftermath as he has to try and put himself back together again. The action feels authentic due in no small part to the fact that the author is a serving soldier herself.

Through the difficulties that Jen’s friend Laura is experiencing the author manages to not only show the perspective of an injured soldier returning home, but also how difficult it is for the families of those who are left behind - the spouses who have to be both parents over extended time while their significant other serves their countries. Whilst this aspect of the background story felt really well done, there were other aspects like the storyline about the missing weapons and fighting against the bureaucracy was just one of the subplots that didn't really feel resolved, or as in one strand resolved so quickly that I found myself having to go back and see what it said again as it was such a part of the story that was just explained away in a sentence or two . I also couldn’t believe that the Laura and Trent story was left where it was but I have heard that these two may get their own story. I really hope so as I definitely was left wondering what the heck was going on with Trent. I guess being left wanting more is a good thing though.

If I had to summarise my reaction to this book I would say that it was a strong debut from an interesting new voice, but the book definitely had some weaker parts.

Rating 4/5


From the war-torn streets of Baghdad to the bittersweet comforts of the home front, two wounded hearts navigate the battlefield of coming home from war in this explosive eBook original from newcomer Jessica Scott.

Keeping his men alive is all that matters to Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison. But meeting Jen St. James the night before his latest deployment makes Shane wonder if there’s more to life than war. He leaves for Iraq remembering a single kiss with a woman he’ll never see again—until a near fatal attack lands him back at home and in her care.

Jen has survived her own brush with death and endured its scars. And yet there’s a fire in Shane that makes Jen forget all about her past. He may be her patient, but when this warrior looks her in the eyes, she feels—for the first time in a long time—like a woman. Shane is too proud to ask for help, but for Jen, caring for him is more than a duty—it’s a need. And as Jen guides Shane through the fires of healing, she finds something she never expected—her deepest desire.

I possibly made a mistake when I started this book. I don’t generally read two books by an author one after another, and reading this one straight after Because of You reiterated why I normally have this rule. I think part of the reason why I was disappointed by this book is that I was expecting the two stories to be linked (especially seeing as they are both being mentioned as being part of the Coming Home series) and I was really hoping to find out more about Laura and Trent. I guess I will have to wait for the next book for that! Given that there really is no link between these two books (that I can see at least) it would appear I could have not worried about reading a series in order in this case.

Once again Jessica Scott gives us real soldiers as main characters. In this case both the hero and heroine are Captains in the Army. Apart from one night years ago when sparks flew between them, Captain Evan Loehr and Captain Claire Montoya have clashed every time that they have been forced to work together. He thinks that she is a little too reckless and she knows that Evan is far too rigid, too worried about ensuring that the rules are followed rather than evaluating what is going on and making decisions from there.

They are both assigned to a training camp where they have to get a bunch of raw recruits ready for combat in a very short time. They need to be prepared for the combat conditions where they are being sent, so they need to be able to recognise hidden dangers, conduct house searches, escort convoys and more. Unfortunately, the commander of the training session has very strong ideas of how the training should be run and he is not going to bend for anyone even if his way means that there is no way that the new soldiers will be prepared for what they are going to be faced with upon deployment.

Whilst Evan and Claire initially clash about training, it is when they begin to spend time together and relations begin to thaw that the emotional growth between them can start. We are given glimpses into both their pasts that help the reader and each other to see why they are the way they are. Evan is terrified of losing control and Claire’s emotional legacy stems from her childhood. The supporting characters, particularly Claire’s friend Reza are used to provide glimpses of the kind of issues that both new and career soldiers face on a regular basis.

The hardest thing about this book is the way that the characters constantly fight their attraction to each other. Of course, it was was inevitable that it would happen between them (this is a romance after all) but the constant stepping away from each other just as they started to get together got a little frustrating.

Once again the military details were a strength of this book and it was interesting to see a mission which was integral to military success but wasn't actually on the battlefield.

It’s funny really. I didn’t think this book worked as well as it could have done while I was reading it, but as I sit here thinking about what to write I find myself wondering if I had of given this book enough space it would have worked better for me or if my state of mind affected my enjoyment. Or maybe it was the book? Who knows.

Rating 3/5


He plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed army captains will prove that opposites attract . . .

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure—except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.

Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else—including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye.

He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other
Thanks to the author for the review copy.

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