Review: Bring on the Dusk by M.L. Buchman

bring on the dusk by ml buchmanFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: military romance, romantic suspense
Series: Night Stalkers #6
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

As a five-nation war simmers in the Caspian Sea, Captain Claudia Jean “Cee-Cee’ Casperson of the Night Stalkers and Colonel Michael Gibson of Delta Force are called in to subdue the conflict. They’ll need all their combined ingenuity to stop a clash that could have catastrophic global repercussions. And they’ll need to do it while remaining under the radar. It’ll take all the strength they have—but it will take even more for the pair to breach the walls they’ve built around their hearts.

My Review:

night is mine by ml buchmanI have read and reviewed the entire Night Stalkers series, so I couldn’t miss this one. And if you love military romance, you shouldn’t miss this series either. Start with The Night is Mine (reviewed here) and be prepared to sign over a bunch of your nights.

It wasn’t until the book hit me over the head, but all the books in this series have time in the title, specifically some time between dusk and dawn – because that is when the Night Stalkers operate. The dark is their friend, because it hides their operations – many of which have to be denied in the light of day.

At the very beginning of this story, Captain Claudia Casperson has to adapt herself to the Night Stalkers upside-down schedule. It’s about the only thing she really needs to adapt to, because she was born to fly for SOAR.

Delta Force, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, is another group that relies on the dark of night to get their job done. If some SOAR operations are deniable, everything that the D-boys do is deniable to the point of sometimes denying they exist. They even give the credit for some of their operations to other Special Forces units, just to keep the terrorists they are countering in the dark.

I said D-boys not just because the Unit is still all male, unlike SOAR, but also because that’s the way they are referred to in the story. However, it is a unit where there certainly are no boys, only men who have taken on a hard and dangerous duty and expect to give their lives in the service of their country.

i own the dawn by ml buchmanThere are no boys or girls, no children or young recruits, anywhere within SOAR or Delta. Even Dilya, the adopted daughter of Archie and Kee (their story is in I Own the Dawn, reviewed here) is only a child chronologically, Her experiences have made her grown-up well beyond her teenage years.

I wonder (and hope) this series can go on long enough for us to see Dilya’s HEA. But I seriously digress.

Bring on the Dusk is the story of two very quiet people who are the best of the best at what they do. Colonel Michael Gibson is the highest ranking Delta officer still in the field. He’s the best of the best, and he’s also the best at keeping his own counsel. He’s not prepared for anyone to challenge the fortress he keeps his heart in. But Claudia Casperson is also the best of the best at what she does, which is fly helicopters. She’s also good at being quiet herself.

Both Gibson and Casperson raised themselves. Gibson vaulted himself into the high Titan redwoods of California, climbing beyond where anyone else has climbed. His parents were there, but distant, and couldn’t follow where his mind or his heart led.

Claudia was a child of the Sonoran Desert, learning to fly at a young age and also taking herself out into the desert for the quiet and peace of the open spaces. Her tiny town in Arizona had no school and little opportunity. She educated herself, and her parents were also present but uncaring and distant.

Two people who both love the peace of being away from everything and everyone, find their quiet place in the midst of war with each other. It just takes both of these very intelligent people longer than you might expect to figure out that as important as it is to serve a cause that you are willing to die for, it is just as important to find someone that you are willing to live for.

Escape Rating B+: Part of the fun of this series is watching new people get introduced to the Night Stalkers that series readers are already familiar with. It’s always a hoot to see old friends from new perspectives,as well as get an update on how everyone is doing.

Speaking of which, it was terrific to see Emily Beale as she continues to adjust to life outside SOAR. Claudia calling on her as a mentor was a terrific scene. Emily is the prototype, and now Claudia has to step into Emily’s shoes in ways that she didn’t expect.

Also two women discussing military strategy for operations that they have planned or will plan and relying on each other takes the Bechdel test to a whole new level.

The romance in this story is a slow-building one, as many of them have been in this series. Gibson and Casperson are never quite sure whether the anti-frat regs apply to them or not, as they are both officers and Delta force is in a separate command structure from SOAR. But that isn’t the real barrier. The issue is that both of these people have locked their hearts away for reasons that seem good and logical, but get thrown out the window when they meet.

And neither of them knows how to handle it. Their mutual confusion makes their relationship come alive for the reader long before they figure it out themselves.

Into the middle of the romance is thrown a top secret military operation that requires both of their skills. The scene with the President, who is often referred to as just ‘Peter’ is fantastic as we see Michael and Claudia plan in front of their commander-in-chief by speaking almost without words, and the President deciding on the fly that Claudia is the best person to run the show, even though she has never commanded a black-in-black operation before.

The op itself is a nail biter, not just because of the stakes, but Claudia is almost literally biting her nails as she plans and controls at a higher level than she ever imagined, or ever expected to operate. She grows.

And afterwards Michael gets an attack of stupid and nearly wrecks any future they might have. His epiphany, and accompanying groveling (well sort of) makes for a heartwarming ending to the non-stop adventure.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Interview with Author Jessica Scott + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome back Jessica Scott, who recently published Back to You (reviewed here). If you enjoy military romance, or simply love contemporary romance with marvelous characters, Jessica’s Coming Home series is absolutely awesome. 


Marlene: Welcome back, Jessica! Can you please tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since we last talked (in October 2012)?

Jessica: Wow, so much has changed since then. Let’s see, I’ve finished my first year of grad school and am still sane. We’re settled now in North Carolina for another year. I’m working on new books in the Coming Home series as well as getting ready to start an new series and I’m still working on my master’s thesis. So I guess a lot has changed and then again, not much has?

Marlene: Which came first, the fiction or the non-fiction? And why both?

Jessica: Fiction came first and the non fiction rose out of my journey both to Iraq as well as to become a published author.

Marlene: Of all the books in the series, which couple has generated the most fan comments? Were you surprised?

back to you by jessica scottJessica: I think Back to You has generated the most chatter. It took so long for me to find the right way to tell Laura & Trent’s story, I think a lot of people had expectations. For the most part, the folks who have contacted me have loved the way we managed to get their story beaten into shape, lol!

Marlene: And who is your personal favorite?

Jessica: It’s a toss up between Carponti (I’ll Be Home For Christmas) and Reza (All For You). Carponti is just instant stress relief but there really is something about Reza that touches something for me.

Will there be more books in Coming Home series? What is next on your schedule?

Jessica: So far, I’ve got two more books in the Coming Home series written and I’m hard at work on a third new one. There will be more news coming closer to the end of the year (hint hint: my newsletter will be the first to hear so go on ahead and sign up!)

Marlene: As busy as you are, what is your favorite thing about the writing experience and why?

Jessica: You know there are two things I really love: falling into the page as Stephen King would say and just losing yourself in the story. The other thing (and I may get kicked off the writer’s island for this one) is revisions. I absolutely love getting notes from my editor and diving in to make the changes because there’s little better than seeing the rough draft you’ve just pounded out take form into something that will really resonate with readers. My editor is critical to helping make my books better.

Marlene: What words of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Jessica: Learn what right feels like for you. If someone gives you feedback that doesn’t resonate, figure out why and stick to your guns. At the same time, you need to learn how to hear what people think about your story and learn to listen to honest feedback that’s trying to help you improve.

Marlene: What is the book you most want to read again for the first time?

Dragonflight by Ann McAffreyJessica: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. I first discovered her books almost twenty-five years ago and I didn’t realize when I first read it how much those books would influence my life as a writer. She had a truly special gift and I was deeply saddened when she passed a couple of years ago.

Marlene: Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn’t know to ask.

Jessica: Hmmm, let’s see. I’m addicted to ice cream much to my pant’s chagrin. I was just in Maine and one of the awesome things about being at home is that there are ice cream shops everywhere. Course this means I may not fit into my RITA dress this week, lol!

Marlene: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Jessica: Lately I’m more of a night owl. There’s just something about being awake after the whole house is asleep. I manage to get a lot done between about 10 pm and 2 am-ish.

Jessica ScottAbout Jessica Scott

USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, She’s written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas. She’s pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.To learn more about Jessica, visit her website or follow her on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.


Jessica is giving away copies of Back to You (U.S. and Canada only)! For a chance to win, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Review: It’s Always Been You by Jessica Scott + Giveaway

its always been you by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance
Series: Coming Home #5
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Forever
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 . . .

My Review:

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.

all for you by jessica scottWhile 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.



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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: All for You by Jessica Scott

all for you by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance, contemporary romance
Series: Coming Home #4
Length: 307 pages
Publisher: Forever Romance
Date Released: February 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Can a battle-scarred warrior . . .

Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood’s newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She’s also full of questions—about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza’s body and soul.

. . . open his heart to love?

Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need—and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it’s just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she’s thrilled. Too bad it doesn’t help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He’s the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .

My Review:

Like the previous entry in this series, Back to You, this is also a story that has been hovering in the background of the Coming Home series, at least since Until There Was You, because that’s where we really get to know Sgt. Reza Iaconelli.

until there was you scottIt’s not a good introduction, because when we first meet him, Reza is a mostly-functioning alcoholic, and a fully-functioning man-whore. In Until There Was You, Reza’s alcoholism causes a major screwup at a training exercise that his friends take the heat for, but Reza is given one last chance to sober up for good, or get discharged.

The military is the only home Reza has ever known. But staying sober is more difficult than facing enemy fire. He fights his cravings every single day, and temptation is always within reach.

He’s positive that Fort Hood’s new shrink doesn’t have a clue what makes any soldier tick. Her theories can’t be any match for the realities of facing combat.

But she fascinates him all the same. Especially because Emily Lindberg is willing to put herself in harm’s way so she can figure out how to help.

From the first moment that they meet, Emily can’t get Reza out of her mind. Not just because he starts out challenging everything she says, but because he’s everything she’s convinced herself she shouldn’t want.

But she can’t resist the adventure that he represents. And the more time they spend together, the more she realizes that he needs her to help him wrestle his demons every bit as much as she needs him to help her find the adventurous side of herself that she lost.

They try to convince themselves that it’s just a fling–but whatever they have is too explosive to be that simple.

Escape Rating A: All for You is not an easy story, but it is a marvelous one.

Reza does not start out exactly as romantic hero material; he fits the bill physically but emotionally he’s incredibly damaged. Not just because of his alcoholism, but as a result of everything else that’s wrong in his life. That he has a well-deserved reputation for chasing (and catching) every willing female doesn’t make him a good candidate for a relationship. Especially since he doesn’t believe in anything more than a fling.

Emily is a freshly-commissioned Captain–the rank seems to be an automatic result of her status as a psychiatrist. She doesn’t have combat experience, and she has an incredibly hard task to get any respect for her ideas of how to stem the tide of suicides running through the Base and the service. It’s her desire to help, her need to get the soldiers on her side, that drives her into the Army and into Reza’s path.

Emily’s desire to save lives is so strong that she has broken with her upper-crust family in order to serve. She never wanted to be a society wife, but she also joins the Army to get away from a bad breakup and a family where she has never quite fit. While she isn’t hurting to the degree that Reza is, she certainly needs some healing.

They need each other, even if initially it doesn’t seem to be for the same things. But what they both need is someone who will believe in them, no matter what.

Figuring that out is a hard and bumpy road, but the story of how they finally manage it is so worth reading.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Back to You by Jessica Scott

back to you by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: Military Romance, Contemporary Romance
Series: Coming Home #3
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Forever
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

He’s in for the fight of his life . . .

Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn’t explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family-so he deployed again. And again. And again…until his marriage reached its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs …if she’ll have him

. . . to win back his only love.

Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she’s just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together. But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried-and a love that won’t be denied. But can she trust that this time he’s back to stay?

My Review:

Back to You is the story that everyone who has read Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series has been waiting for. And I’ll say that it was definitely worth the wait.

because of you by jessica scottTrent and Laura Davila have been part of the series from its very beginning, in the marvelous Because of You. As each of the men in Trent’s command have found their happily ever after, readers have been watching as Trent screwed up his own marriage. It’s been heartbreaking to watch, especially since it was so clear that there was much more going on than we saw in glimpses.

For one thing, Laura still loves her husband. She just doesn’t believe in him anymore. It’s not just what he’s done, it’s also what he hasn’t done, and hasn’t said.

She had no idea that Trent was volunteering for back-to-back deployments in combat zones. He let her believe that they were assignments he couldn’t refuse. Finding out the truth is Laura’s last straw; or maybe the next to the last.

The accusation of sexual misconduct is absolutely the last.

It’s pretty clear to followers of the series (and if you’re not, start!) that Trent isn’t guilty of that crime, or the embezzlement and theft charges that are also laid at his door. There is a rotten apple in Trent’s command, but he isn’t it.

But Trent withdraws from every friend he has during the investigation, and Laura decides she’s lost her faith, and her trust. She doesn’t know what to believe, since Trent isn’t talking to her.

She believes that she deserves more, even if it’s apart.

But Laura’s request for a divorce finally slams home the idea that Trent has a partner he still wants to come home to–if he can win her back.

It will be the hardest battle he’s ever been in.

ill be home for christmas by jessica scottEscape Rating A+: Back to You is a story that lives up to the anticipation that precedes it. Reading the previous stories in the series (Because of You, Anything for You, Until There Was You and I’ll Be Home for Christmas) we’ve known that this story was waiting to be told.

Like every story in this series, Back to You tugs at your heartstrings, and makes you reach for tissue. But there’s more to it than that.

This is a powerful and moving second-chance at love story, between two people who almost lost each other. The reason that Laura files for divorce resonates; she needs to know that she’s waiting for someone who wants to come back. She expected that Trent would be deployed, but she has the right to the truth about why it keeps happening. He keeps breaking her heart, but she doesn’t get to heal. So she finally decides to walk away.

While the court martial hangs over the story, it serves more as a catalyst than an actual threat. It forces Trent to make decisions about what is really important to him; his pride, his grief and his silence, or his wife and children.

It’s a hard journey. The grief and the feelings of responsibility, PTSD and survivors’ guilt, that Trent has to work through make the reader feel for his struggle. His re-entry into his family’s life is incredibly difficult. He wants to be there again, but he doesn’t know how.

The need to present a united family front in the face of his court martial bring all the simmering issues to a boil.

The romance in this love story is about whether they can find a way back to each other. They’ve never stopped loving each other. Their journey back is something special.

If you enjoy military romance, read this series.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Jessica Scott

ill be home for christmas by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance, Holiday romance
Series: Coming Home #2.6
Length: 126 pages
Publisher: Forever Yours / Grand Central Publishing
Date Released: November 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

There’s nothing in the world Army Sergeant Vic Carponti loves more than his wife and his country. Smart-mouthed and easy tempered, he takes everything as a joke…except his promise to come home to his wife, Nicole, for Christmas. As he prepares to leave for his latest deployment into Iraq, Vic will do everything he can to shield his beautiful, supportive wife from the realities of war…and from his own darkest fears.

As a career army wife, Nicole Carponti knows just what to expect from her husband’s tour of duty: loneliness, relentless worry, and a seemingly endless countdown until the moment Vic walks through the door again. But when the unthinkable happens, Nicole and Vic’s bond is tested like never before and changes everything they believe to be true about the power of love and the simple beauty of being home for the holidays.

My Review:

In this story the author finally takes one of the most interesting (and funny!) characters in her marvelous Coming Home series and lets us get inside of his more than slightly off-kilter head for his version of the events that take place during the story so far.

And it’s fantastic seeing Sergeant Vic Carponti’s extremely askew version of the world from inside his head.

While Vic sees his purpose in life as making people laugh in order to distract them from the often truly bad shit that is going on around them, such as serving in Iraq during “The Surge” of 2007, he is also part of the one stable and happy marriage that readers see during the course of the series.

because of you by jessica scottBut it’s Vic dealing with his career-ending injuries in Because of You, the first book in the series, that helps to make Shane Garrison finally get his head out of his own ass about his. Vic is often the catalyst for the action of others. He makes things happen, sometimes by making them laugh, sometimes by irritating the crap out of them.

Vic’s wife Nicole loves him to pieces. I’ll Be Home for Christmas is their love story, even though they’ve already met, fallen in love, and gotten married. Their marriage, unlike another marriage in the series, is not on the rocks. The Carpontis are quite happily married, and enthusiastic about it into the bargain.

The love story here is about the toll that deployments take on a marriage, and how difficult it is for the spouse that remains behind. How much the worrying weighs on Nikki when Vic is at war, and how difficult it is to keep from thinking that each phone call is going to be the last time they talk.

They try to be strong for each other, because they are each doing the thing they are made to do. It’s not as if Nikki’s job is easy either. She’s an officer in the Army Criminal Investigative Division. But being a cop is not as dangerous as going to war.

Vic fears every time he deploys, that Nikki will come to her senses and realize that she can do better than him. Nikki just fears that he’ll come back in a coffin.

Neither of them has quite prepared for him to mostly come back.

Anything for You book coverEscape Rating A: If you love military romance, I can’t recommend Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series highly enough. Every single book in this series is simply awesome, which is why I picked I’ll Be Home for Christmas to review for Veterans Day. I knew it would be perfect, and it is.

The story takes place in parallel with events in Because of You (review) and Anything for You (review), and it probably works better if you’ve read those first. But read the whole series, they are absolutely made of win.

Part of what makes I’ll Be Home for Christmas special is that we don’t read a lot of love stories where the couple in the story starts out happily married. There’s no breakup drama or misunderstandammit. Vic and Nikki have stress because of his deployment, and they are both concerned because in 2007 the information about The Surge was that there was going to be a lot of pushback. He was absolutely going into harm’s way.

There is tons of stress on military families, and it takes a huge toll. That’s where the drama in this story is. As readers, we know they are going to be okay together, because it’s already happened, but this is the first time we get to see things from Vic’s and Nikki’s points of view.

And since they are fantastic people (and in Vic’s case, sometimes hilariously funny), it’s terrific to have them finally tell their own story.

Be prepared; you’ll need kleenex for this one. And maybe not to be too far from a bathroom. You’ll also laugh very hard!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Along the Watchtower by David Litwack

Along the Watchtower by David LitwackFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, large print paperback
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 214 pages
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Date Released: June 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse–and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.

In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission–a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory–and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.

My Review:

An uncertain young man who has lost his way, escapes into dreams of a magic kingdom. Normally the story would be that he finds himself a knight in shining armor, performing deeds of derring do. Or something like that.

Instead, in his dreams, Lieutenant Frederick Williams turns himself into a different young man, equally uncertain, but instead of having lost his way, Prince Frederick of Stormwind has just lost his father the King and has to earn his own kingship through a series of unfathomable trials.

In Freddie’s dreams he carries the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. In real life, he has to fight his way through rehab after an IED explosion in Iraq shattered his leg and fragmented his memories.

Freddie’s real life, rehab, the hospital, figuring out what happened and what he’s forgotten, shouldn’t blend so seamlessly with the fantasy of Prince Frederick, but it does. The Prince’s trials mirror the Lieutenant’s.

In both realities, Freddie tries to fight with a weapon something that can only be battled by looking within himself. He needs to mourn his losses, not just the men he lost in the IED explosion, but his parents and his brother. He needs to learn to take responsibility only for what he is truly is responsible for, and not bear the burden of guilt that is not his.

Only when he heals from within can he bear to remember the fallen and move on with his life. As Prince Freddie, the lesson is that not all battles are fought with a blade, some are fought by the spirit and the will.

In both worlds, he has a guide. In real life, she is Becky, his physical therapist. In Stormwind, she is Rebecca, the gardener. Recognizing her for who she can be is part of his test.

If he passes, his life will be better than it ever has been. If he fails, there is only darkness. And Stormwind falls. If Stormwind falls, does Freddie?

Escape Rating B+: The blending of the fantasy with the reality works much better than I expected when I first started it. The tests in the dream life reflect Freddie’s struggles in his real one, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he failed in the dream.

But the story is about Freddie healing, not just physically, but also emotionally, enough to know what he is and isn’t responsible for. It’s a hard journey. The dream quest worked as symbol and story.

The song “Along the Watchtower” made me think of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica when all the Cylon sleeper agents discovered who they were. This story, too, was about Freddie discovering what he was really made of. Well done.

Along the Watchtower banner

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Anything For You by Jessica Scott

Anything but You book cover Jessica ScottFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance, Contemporary romance
Series: Coming Home #2.5
Length: 42 pages
Publisher: Tormia Creatives
Date Released: February 1, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison has spent a year recovering from his combat injuries. A year spent in the arms of the woman of his dreams. But loving Jen comes with a price: every time he touches her, he faces the uncertain fear that loving her might mean losing her forever.

Jen is a breast cancer survivor and with Shane, she’s found a man who loves her despite her scars. But her scars may be too much for their love to survive.

As their love grows, so does the risk to Jen’s life. And Shane must make the toughest decision any man can make to save the woman he loves.

My Review:

because of you book cover Jessica ScottIf you’ve read Jessica Scott’s Because of You (review here), then you absolutely have to read Anything for You. If you love romance with military heroes, then click over and get Because of You right this minute. (If you don’t have an ereader or iPad, just read it on your computer!)

If you have a remotely romantic bone in your body, you will love Because of You. And then you’ll have to read Anything for You.

Anything for You is a short story. And the length is just right. We’ve already seen Shane and Jen’s happily ever after. Or at least that’s what we thought.

But “ever after” is always going to be a question for these two. Their love for each other is never in doubt. Not for a single, solitary moment. But both of them are all too aware that they might not have forever.

Shane is Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison, and he fell in love with Jen while recovering from severe combat injuries. His year of strenuous physical therapy has brought him a world of pain, and hundreds of nights in Jen’s arms, but the purpose of it all has been to get him ready to go back to his men. Back to the sandbox of war.

Jen knows that one of these times he might not come back. She’s a nurse at the base hospital.

But Shane fears just as much that he might lose Jen. Before he met her, Jen survived a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. Yes, she survived, but she’ll always have the scars. She lost a breast to the disease. It could easily have been her life.

Women who have survived her form of breast cancer are particularly susceptible to having their cancer reappear during pregnancy. As much as Shane would love to have a child with Jen, and as much as she would love to have a child with him, Shane can’t bear the thought that if she got pregnant, he might have to make a choice between Jen’s life and their child’s life.

If she ever got pregnant, Jen wouldn’t be able to have chemotherapy because of the risk to that possible child. Shane doesn’t like those odds. The cancer might not recur. This might not happen. But this kind of cancer has too high a chance of recurring if Jen gets pregnant. Too high a chance that Shane might lose the love of his life.

Shane, soldier that he is, can’t fight the cancer for her. But he also can’t face losing Jen over something he can prevent.

However, most birth control methods have failure rates. There’s one that doesn’t, and it’s one that he can take care of, all by himself.

It takes an incredible amount of love for a man to be willing to let anyone near his family jewels with a knife. But if he doesn’t discuss it with Jen first, she may get to his balls with that cutting implement ahead of the surgeon.

Escape Rating A+: For fans of Scott’s Coming Home series, Anything For You is the perfect treat to tide us over until Back to You arrives later this year.

But on its own, this story is also a fantastic coda to Shane and Jen’s love story. There is just the right touch of bitter with the sweet. They have found each other, but they both have real fears that they have to face up to. They do so with the author’s trademark emotional intensity and off-beat humor.

Wipe the tear from the corner of your eye. Laugh. And pass the frozen peas.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Ebook Review Central, Multi-publisher, August 2012

Welcome to the Ebook Review Central multi-publisher wrap-up post for the titles published in August 2012. This week’s edition covers the output from Amber Quill Press, Astraea Press, Curiosity Quills, Liquid Silver and Riptide for the month of August. Red Sage didn’t publish anything new this month.

This is also my multi-conundrum post. Out of six possible publishers, not all of whom have output in any given month, there are entirely too many months, like this one, where Riptide publishes three titles and absolutely sweeps the featured titles. No other publisher has titles that received more than four reviews, and there were way too many ones and zeroes, all over.

Why am I bringing this up right now? I’m moving to Seattle in November, and starting a full-time job in early December. Some things will have to re-arranged. I will continue Ebook Review Central, but for publishers where there are regularly no reviews, or very few reviews, to report, I’m going to have to make some decisions about priorities.

Multiple reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, even when they exist, do not count on Ebook Review Central. Why? Because many reviewers cross-post their reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When we receive review copies from publishers, the publishers generally make that request specifically.

All of this week’s featured titles were from Riptide. While I would have liked to have spread the featured titles out a bit, Riptide absolutely ran so far ahead of the pack, it wasn’t remotely possible. And good on them and their publicity department/review coordinators as well as the authors for getting their books out there.

Featured title number one is Anne Tenino’s Love, Hypothetically. I’ll say up front that the reviews weren’t universally good, but there were simply a ton of them. When this many people are talking (and writing), the book is worth looking at just to get in on the conversation! Love, Hypothetically is the sequel to Frat Boy and Toppy, and is a story of reunited lovers. Paul and Trevor were high school boyfriends who veered way off track. Trevor chose a major league baseball career instead of coming out, but threw Paul pretty much under the bus on his way. Now the big career is over and Trevor is back in town and he wants a second chance with his first love. See Under the Covers for the wow review and Avon Romance for the meh vote.

Almost all of the 16 reviews for the number two feature were raves. I’m talking about Aleksandr Voinov’s look back at two German flyers during World War II, Skybound. Even though this is a time and/or a side that many people avoid like the plague (as my fellow Book Lover Caro put it) every one who read this one fell in love with the characters and saw it as a beautiful story of love and courage, set in dark and desperate times.

Coming in at number three was the book I expected to be number one, which says something about the strength of the competition this week. Anything that could beat out the latest entry in the Cut & Run series has to have been pretty damn good. Because the number three title for this week is Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux, the 6th book in the Cut & Run series. Everyone who reviewed this one absolutely loved it, but that’s not a surprise. By six books in, everyone reviewing is deeply invested in the series. The series started as a mystery/suspense series about two FBI agents, Ty Grady and Zane Garrett, who have absolutely opposite working styles and one hell of a lot of sexual tension. During a significant part of the series, it’s a question whether they’re going to fall into bed or get each other killed, or both. The series is meant to be read in order, starting with Cut & Run, and highly recommended by pretty much everyone who has ever reviewed it.

We’ll be back! Next week! Carina Press, September 2012. The Frankenstorm will not bring me down.

Interview with Author Jessica Scott + Giveaway!

I’d like to welcome today’s special guest, Jessica Scott, to Reading Reality. Jessica is the author of two incredibly marvelous, and I do mean marvelous, contemporary romances with military heroes, Because of You and Until There Was You. (I absolutely loved both books, see my reviews for Because and Until to get the details of just how much and why)

In addition to being a romance writer, Jessica is also a career soldier.  She really took that advice about “write what you know” to heart. And it shows in her work.

Let’s hear what she has to say about it.

Marlene: Hello Jessica! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Jessica: Um, I’m a generally crazy person who has a mouth that has been getting her in trouble for 17 years (aka her entire adult life).

Marlene: What are the extra-special work/life/writing balance issues of being a serving soldier? (And wow and thank you for your service!)

Jessica: There is no balance. I challenge the assumption that balance is something we can achieve. Something always ends up short. During the duty day, I’m focused on work. At home, I try to focus on the kids. When I’m on deadline, I have to make that a priority. So there is no balance, it’s a matter of which way the scales tip today.

Marlene: How did you come up with your blog post on “Things that Happen During Sex You Won’t Read in Romance Novels“? Why haven’t more people seen the comic possibilities of a novel based on this?

Jessica: I honestly don’t remember how I came up with that post but I remember giggling my tail off when I wrote it. It got a lot of traffic, too! Some contemp authors like Victoria Dahl have me laughing my tail off so it’s out there. 🙂

Marlene: You talk about some of your “trunk novels” on your blog. They sound like they are near and dear to your heart. Do you have any plans to publish any of them?

Jessica: Not right now. They would need to be a complete and total rewrite and right now, I have to focus on the stories that my publisher is paying me to write. 🙂

Marlene: Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

Jessica: I’d love to be one of those gifted writers that can just write and let the story come but whenever I do that, I end up stuck at about 25K words. At that point, if the story won’t let me go, I sit down and figure out the major plot points, characters etc., before going forward. It helps me tremendously.

Marlene: Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

Jessica: All the time, that’s why there’s a delete button. 🙂

Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why?

Jessica: The Hunger Games. It’s such an important commentary on our time.

Marlene: Will there be more books in the Coming Home series? What is next on your schedule?

Jessica: I certainly hope so! Right now I’m finishing up Laura & Trent’s book for Back to You and after that, Reza’s story is coming along nicely. Beyond that, I can’t say 🙂

Marlene: Coffee or Tea?

Jessica: Oh coffee all day long!

Jessica Scott is a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.
You can find Jessica on her website | blog | Goodreads | twitter


Jessica Scott is giving away one ebook copy of Because of You and Until There was You to one lucky commenter.

All you have to do is answer the question in the Rafflecopter.

Because these are ebook copies, this giveaway is open to all!

Good luck!
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