Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance
Series: Coming Home #5
Length: 304 pages
Date Released: March 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
She plays by the rules . . .
Captain Ben Teague is many things: a tough soldier, a loyal friend, and a bona fide smart-ass. He doesn’t have much tolerance for BS, which is why he’s mad as hell when a trusted colleague and mentor is brought up on charges that can’t possibly be true. He’s even more frustrated with by-the-book lawyer Major Olivia Hale. But there’s something simmering beneath her icy reserve–and Ben just can’t resist turning up the heat . . .
. . . and he’s determined to break them
The only thing riskier than mixing business with pleasure is enjoying it . . . and Olivia can’t resist locking horns–and lips–with Ben. He’s got more compassion in his little finger than any commander she’s ever met, a fact that makes him a better leader than he realizes. But when the case that brought them together awakens demons from Olivia’s past, she will have to choose between following orders–or her heart . . .
I think that what makes Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series so marvelous is that it doesn’t artificially glorify the practice of war. Her soldiers are doing what they all feel is the absolutely necessary job of defending their country, but she doesn’t turn the firefights into gun-porn.
Her stories are about the emotional costs to the men and women who fight. It’s about the demons they face both on and off the battlefield. She also takes care to tell the story of just how difficult it is to be the one waiting at home.
It’s Always Been You is the story of two people who are fighting their own personal demons as they struggle to do their jobs. It’s a job that Major Olivia Hale, an army lawyer, believes in a little too much, and that Captain Ben Teague isn’t sure he still believes in at all.
Because of a shake-up, an entire battalion command has been reassigned and Ben Teague finds himself in command of a unit instead of pushing a desk. Because that shake-up is due to charges of all sorts of malfeasance, there are a lot of bad apples that need to be weeded out of the entire command. People who are not fit to go back to war, whether due to disciplinary issues or drug addictions.
Olivia Hale is attached to the battalion to expedite all the separations from service as the units begin intensive training for a deployment in eight months.
Ben Teague feels like he is punishing men that he used to fight beside; men who used to be good soldiers before too many deployments and too many drugs screwed them up. He wants to do right by his men, whether or not he’s doing right by the army.
Ben and Olivia butt heads from day one. Her duty is to process some of his soldiers out. He feels that his duty is to take care of his men.
Their conflict is embodied by two cases. One is of a soldier who just needs one more month to qualify for his G.I. Bill benefits. He’s a meth addict who may never rehab enough to take advantage of those benefits, but Ben wants to give him hope.
The other case is that of Ben’s First Sergeant. The evidence all points to the man having beaten his teenaged daughter. Ben is certain that the evidence isn’t the entire story. He can’t believe a man he served with could ever have hurt the daughter he loves.
But Olivia is haunted by one case, just like this one, where Ben’s unwillingness to investigate his fellow soldier resulted in a devastating family tragedy. She can’t let this case go.
The more that Olivia and Ben argue about the fate of his men, the more that they realize they need each other to help them through the intense responsibility involved in both their positions. Even though it’s a bad idea, they can’t resist each other. Then the tragedy strikes that Olivia feared all along.
Escape Rating A-: The contrast in their beliefs makes Olivia and Ben an explosive combination. He has pretty much stopped believing in the Army, and she is burning herself out because she believes that she can make a difference.
I wish we knew more about Ben’s relationship with his mother-the-Colonel. Her influence, and her lack of warmth toward Ben (or seemingly much of anyone after the death of Ben’s father) appears to be part of his lack of faith in the Army as a whole. Ben fears becoming just like her, and that is part of what makes him not want to take a command. He has seen too many commanders who either become too distanced from their soldiers, or who enjoy being “the man in charge” but don’t understand how responsible they are, how much they need to take care of, the soldiers in their unit.
Ben is as overwhelmed by that responsibility as Olivia is by her need to fix everything.
While the reader is aware of the case that haunts Olivia, I would love to know more about where she came from. She reminds me of Emily Lindberg in All for You, she’s not career military but she’s on a mission to make a difference.
The love story starts slowly in this one. Ben and Olivia start out at opposite sides of every case. At first, they get together as stress relief, and they both absolutely need one. As the story progresses, it takes them awhile to figure out that they belong together. She helps him settle into his responsibility and he helps her let go when she needs it.
Just as in all the stories in this series, they are marvelous together, after they get past the rough patches. If you love military romance, start this series with Because of You. Because all the stories are so damn terrific, you’ll be glad you did.