Review: The SEAL’s Secret Lover and The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian by Anne Calhoun

seals secret lover by anne calhounFormat read: eARC from Netgalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: contemporary romance, military romance
Series: Alpha Ops #1
Length: 118 pages
Publisher: Swerve
Date Released: February 2nd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

The first in the Alpha Ops novella series that features an alpha Navy SEAL who meets his match in a buttoned-up firecracker who is hiding a passionate side.

Logistics director Rose Powell agreed to chaperone her grandmother on a guided tour of Roman ruins on one condition: her brother Jack would come with her. But when Jack backs out, his best friend and fellow SEAL Keenan Parker takes his place. Without a working cell phone, Rose’s orderly world drifts into dreamy days and hot, secret nights in Keenan’s bed. Keenan left the Navy but never made it any farther than Istanbul, much less to a viable future. Until he does, he’ll show Rose things she didn’t know about herself. Can he give his heart and his future to the woman he promised his best friend he’d never touch?


seals rebel librarian by anne calhounFormat read: eARC from Netgalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: contemporary romance, military romance
Series: Alpha Ops #2
Length: 124 pages
Publisher: Swerve
Date Released: March 1st 2016
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

The second in the Alpha Ops novella series that features an alpha Navy SEAL and the librarian who brings him to his knees.

Jack Powell never planned on leaving the Navy, but his final mission as a SEAL left him with a tremor and a bad case of nerves. He’s home, taking some college classes and trying to figure out what comes next when he meets Erin Kent, a divorced college librarian with an adventurous bucket list and a mission to get her ex-husband’s voice out of her head. Jack guides Erin through skydiving and buying the motorcycle of her dreams, blithely accepting Erin’s promise that their relationship is purely temporary. But when Jack gets the chance to go back into the shadowy world of security contracting, can he convince Erin to break her word and join him on the adventure of a lifetime?

My Review:

I’m reviewing these two books together because I read them back to back. And as they are part of the same series, in the overarching story they end up bookending each other, and I mean that in a good way.

Also, honestly, I read The SEAL’s Secret Lover because I really, really wanted to read The SEAL’s Rebel Librarian, being a librarian myself. I wanted to see if the author went to stereotype city, or if she created a realistic character I might either want to know or want to have been. Being a completist, I just couldn’t read book 2 in the series without reading book 1 first, and I’m glad I did.

The two books together are the story of two ex-SEAL’s who are trying to figure out what’s next in their lives. On their last mission, the third member of their team was killed, and although we never learn the details, it’s clear that his death created a breaking point for both Keenan and Jack. Keenan musters out and goes into private security work in Istanbul, while Jack is so shaken up that he is literally shaking – his nerves are shot and his hands tremble. He goes home to heal, to recover, and to figure out what his next step might be now that the one he had planned on – going into the private security business with Keenan – is out of the picture.

These two stories together are also the story of a brother and sister, Jack and Rose, who survived their childhood with an alcoholic mother and an absent father, but still take care of each other and the Grandmother who provided the stability in their lives. But while Jack managed to have a childhood in the midst of chaos, Rose sacrificed hers in order to raise Jack and provide a steady home life for her much younger brother. Now in her early 30s, Rose’s life is proscribed by duty as she is still trying to care for Jack and their Grannie.

The two stories are also both sex-into-love stories. In both of the relationships that begin in this series, Keenan and Rose, and then Jack and Erin, fall into bed first, thinking that what is happening between them, can only be a fling. Until it isn’t.

As I said at the beginning, the stories are mirror images. In Secret Lover, Rose is shepherding her Grannie and Grannie’s two best friends on a whirlwind tour of Turkey. Grannie is a big fan of Rumi’s poetry, and she wants to visit his birthplace and shrine, while seeing all the other sites. Grannie and her friends are working through their “bucket lists”, and Turkey seems to have been at the top.

Jack was supposed to have come with them, to be tour guide. But he begged off and convinced his buddy Keenan to take his place on the tour. Keenan is charmed by the old ladies, and falls head over heels for Rose, even though he can’t admit it at first, even to himself. Rose falls just as hard for Keenan, but her life is back in Lancaster, while Keenan is based in Istanbul. For them to have a chance, Keenan needs to decide that it’s time to come home, and that Rose is who and where he wants to come home to.

On the flip side, when Keenan comes to Lancaster to take a job as head of security for the energy company that Rose works for, he leaves his job in Istanbul, and his apartment, vacant.

Jack meets Erin, a librarian at the local college who is freshly divorced and has a list of her own. She wants to do all the things that her ex-husband smothered out of her, like buy a motorcycle, jump out of an airplane, and travel to Europe. It’s not that she wants to take a walk on the wild side, it’s that Erin has a wild side that she wants to let out, but isn’t quite sure how. The suffocating voice of her ex in her head second guesses her every move. So when Jack, taking a few classes and researching a term paper, sees her hunting for a motorcycle on the internet, he can’t resist offering the sexy librarian some advice about makes and models.

In helping to foster Erin’s first forays into adrenaline junkie-hood, Jack finds himself again. When he’s seeing Erin’s thrill at riding a motorcycle for the first time, or skydiving for the first time, her adrenaline and her sheer joy brings him all the way back to life. In re-experiencing her thrills and chills, he finds the balance he needs and the steadiness in his hands and head to go back to the work he loves. He’s ready to pick up that job and apartment in Istanbul that Keenan left behind.

The only question left for Jack is whether he can convince Erin to take her wild self with him.

Escape Rating (for both books) B: As sex-into-love stories, the sizzle in both books is turned way, way up. These are couples who both have immediate chemistry, and decide that acting on it in a way that supposedly won’t affect their regular lives is the best thing they could do in their circumstances.

Rose thinks what she has with Keenan is just a vacation fling. Erin promised Jack that their relationship would be “no strings attached” and she has vowed that she won’t break any more promises, not to anyone else, and not to herself, because that’s what her ex accused her of. (She really needs to stop listening to that bastard’s voice in her head!)

Rose knows that when she leaves Istanbul, she wants a future with Keenan. But until he decides to come home for his own reasons, he isn’t ready. When Erin figures out that she has fallen for Jack, she won’t break her promise to him, not until he asks her to.

Another way in which these stories are parallel is that in both cases the heroine is slightly older than the hero. It’s a complete non-issue in Rose and Keenan’s relationship, because their relationship begins in circumstances that are outside of both of their “normal” lives. For Erin and Jack, it does matter, because the question is whether Jack is just part of Erin’s post-divorce freedom, or whether they are building something real.

I liked that Rose doesn’t turn her life over to be with Keenan, because that’s not the best thing for either of them. And that Erin, on the other hand, does turn her life upside down, but it’s with Jack and not for Jack. He just gives her the opportunity to do what she’s wanted all along.

Both of these stories are fun, and a great way to while away an afternoon or evening. The titles are cute, and the stories both come to terrific HEAs. And yes, that Rebel Librarian feels like a real librarian who must have some great stories to tell.

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