SEAL of My Dreams

SEAL of My Dreams is a terrific anthology with a timely theme. Every story in this book features Navy SEALs as protective alpha males who are also tender romantic heroes. Each and every one is rewarded with their own, extra-special happy ever after, just in time for Veterans’ Day.

There are 18 stories in this collection. Some are short. Some are novella-length. Some of the stories stand completely on their own, and some are part of the author’s ongoing series about men in uniform. Of course, I have my favorites.

The two I enjoyed most are about wounded warriors, the women they left behind, and the brave soldier dogs who served with them. And, like so many of the stories in this collection, both mix a little bitter in with the sweet. And one story just gave me the chills.

Baby I’m Back by Stephanie Bond is about a wounded SEAL’s return to his old hometown of Sweetness, Georgia. Seaman Barry Ballantine returns after a long absence to find that the ugly-duckling that he and his high school friends teased has turned into a beautiful swan–and that she is the best physical therapist he has ever met. Which is an excellent thing, because he needs her to help him adjust to the prosthetic lower leg he acquired while on his last assignment. He’s only planning to be in town long enough to perform one last service for a comrade, then leave. But his attraction to that therapist, plus the connivance of his old friends, mean that fate has another plan for him. Did I mention there was a dog?

Dog Heart by Barbara Samuel is one of the short stories in the collection. Marcus Stone brings Staff Sgt. Thor to the best vet and animal therapist that he knows. Sgt. Thor had been a combat dog, attached to a SEAL unit on a top secret mission in Afghanistan that had gone very, very wrong. Thor was one of five SEALs badly injured on that mission, and Marcus was another. Thor’s handler was killed. But the best animal therapist that Marcus knows is also the only woman he ever really loved. The woman who turned away from him when he enlisted in the Navy after college graduation. Can healing Sgt. Thor heal all of their hearts?

Letters to Ellie, by Loreth Anne White, simply haunted me. The story starts with Ellie Winters, a radio host, conducting a call-in show on National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The callers normally remember their loved ones, but the last caller stuns her. Ellie has been waiting for 15 years for word of the man she loved. Max and Flynn were prisoners together, but only Max made it all the way back home. Max brings Ellie closure, and grief. But Flynn and Max spent 15 years as POWs, and the only thing keeping both of them alive was the thought and memory of Ellie. Now that only one of them has come home, can Ellie make a future with a man who remembers loving her, even if he’s not the man she once loved?

Letters to Ellie reminded me a lot of the poem from the Vietnam War. The one by that famous poet Anonymous. It ends like this:

There were lots of things I wanted to make up to you
when you returned from Vietnam.
But you didn’t.

Escape Rating B+: The stories I enjoyed, I liked a lot. The stories that were part of ongoing series were not as much fun because I just wasn’t into those series. But all in all, this is a collection that is well worth reading.

This book was clearly a labor of love. To quote from the foreword: “No one involved in this project will profit except the Veteran’s Research Corporation, a non-profit foundation supporting medical research for veterans.” The design work for the cover was donated, the copyeditor donated her time, even the licensing fee for the cover image was discounted.

I received my review copy of this book, as I do many of my review copies, from NetGalley. But on this particular occasion I’d like to give a special recognition to Bell Bridge Books for making this a “Read Now” title on NetGalley. This made SEAL of My Dreams immediately available to every single reviewer who requested. Thank you!