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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-16-14

Sunday Post

We’re moving in less than three weeks. The panic has not yet set in, but it will. This chapter of the travels (and perils) of Marlene is moving back to the Atlanta area, pretty close to where we lived two years ago. We went back to look for a place to live, and it felt like deja vu all over again – everything seemed awfully familiar. But in a good way. It was just weird that we returned to a hotel room instead of going back home. But we will soon. My mom is just thrilled that we’ll be somewhat closer again. Atlanta isn’t actually close to Cincinnati, but it is way closer than Seattle. Or Anchorage.

I got a LOT of books read on the plane to and from Atlanta in the last couple of weeks. Which helped considerably in figuring out what this week’s reviews would be.

But speaking of reviews, last Thursday Cass and I did a joint rant about a book. I don’t normally trash books (although Cass often does) but this particular book was such a disappointment. The upcoming week’s books were loads more fun!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Gratitude Giveaways Hop
$25 Gift card plus a copy of The Garden Plot by Marty Wingate

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The French Executioner by CC Humphreys is Carol L.

gratitude-2013Blog Recap:

B+ Review: The Red Book of Primrose House by Marty Wingate + Giveaway
A Review: Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe
A- Review: Dirty Laundry by Rhys Ford
C-/D Joint Rant: Til Dragons Do Us Part by Lorenda Christensen
B Review: In the Company of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
Gratitude Giveaways Hop

phoenix rising by ballantine and morrisComing Next Week:

Temporal Shift (Blood Hunter/Dark Desires #4) by Nina Croft (review)
The Legend of the Highland Dragon (Highland Dragon #1) by Isabel Cooper (review)
Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1) by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris (review)
Slow Hand (Hot Cowboy Nights #1) by Victoria Vane (blog tour review)
The Mark of the Tala (Twelve Kingdoms #1) by Jeffe Kennedy (review)

Review: Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe

soldier girls by helen thorpeFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: nonfiction
Length: 417 pages
Publisher: Scribner
Date Released: August 5, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

America has been continuously at war since the fall of 2001. This has been a matter of bitter political debate, of course, but what is uncontestable is that a sizeable percentage of American soldiers sent overseas in this era have been women. The experience in the American military is, it’s safe to say, quite different from that of men. Surrounded and far outnumbered by men, imbedded in a male culture, looked upon as both alien and desirable, women have experiences of special interest.

In Soldier Girls, Helen Thorpe follows the lives of three women over twelve years on their paths to the military, overseas to combat, and back home…and then overseas again for two of them. These women, who are quite different in every way, become friends, and we watch their interaction and also what happens when they are separated. We see their families, their lovers, their spouses, their children. We see them work extremely hard, deal with the attentions of men on base and in war zones, and struggle to stay connected to their families back home. We see some of them drink too much, have illicit affairs, and react to the deaths of fellow soldiers. And we see what happens to one of them when the truck she is driving hits an explosive in the road, blowing it up. She survives, but her life may never be the same again.

My Review:

I picked Soldier Girls as my book to review for Veterans Day because it was incredibly appropriate to the theme of the day. And I heard it was good, which it is. It also surprised me by how much it reminded me of a cross between Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, and one of Jessica Scott’s military-themed romances that highlight the difficulties of returning home after deployment.

Not that Soldier Girls is either a romance or a book about socio-economic class stratification. But as the story of three women who entered or stayed in the National Guard out of mostly economic or job stratification reasons, and whose service has effects on their civilian relationships, the parallels seem to fit.

The three women in Soldier Girls, Michelle, Desma and Debbie, are all from southern Indiana. They are all part of the same unit, and they all joined before 9/11, which is crucial. Before 9/11, National Guard units did not get deployed into overseas war zones. During the Vietnam Era, the Guard was a lucky and cushy way to sit out the war. None of these women expected to deploy overseas, because that wasn’t the way it worked until the Towers fell. And by then, it was too late for them to get out, even if they wanted to.

Michelle was a college freshman at a tiny branch college campus in a dead-end town. The only jobs available were minimum wage, and it seemed like the only way out was either the military or jail. She already had too many family and friends who had fallen down the slippery slope to drug abuse and alcoholism. Michelle joined the Guard for the college tuition.

Desma was a single-mother who joined on a dare, while drunk. As a single mother in a small town not much better off than Michelle, she stayed for the supplemental income, and the camaraderie.

Debbie was probably the best off economically, but she felt trapped in her pink-collar job as manager of a beauty salon. She wanted to do something with more meaning, and her family had a tradition of military service. So she joined to add purpose to her life. She was the oldest of the group, having joined at age 34, and having served in the Guard for 15 or more years by the time she went to Afghanistan with Michelle and Desma.

From the beginning, their experience of service is different because they are women. Combat positions were not open to women, so there were a limited number of positions available to them. They were also attached and detached to different units, because the specialties they trained in were support positions that were moved around.

Debbie spent a lot of years managing the hot dog wagon at morale events. Desma didn’t receive the proper training that she needed before her second deployment, because the training officer refused to admit she existed or allow any of the men in her unit to even speak with her.

There’s a lot of sexism, and some actual harassment. There is also an extensive use of the buddy system and the whisper network to assist all of them in preventing ever being alone with the worst offenders.

All of them use coping mechanisms for the stress of being deployed that cause major problems when they return home. Michelle and Desma both get into short-term relationships where the other party is married. Debbie copes with lots of booze, but her most emotionally sustaining relationship is with a stray dog. And they all bond with each other and the other women in their unit as a way of sharing this sometimes horrible and yet ultimately life-changing year.

What struck me in their stories was how they each came to the Guard with totally different expectations, and yet only Debbie did it out of love of the military or any actual desire to be a soldier. For all of them, the Guard was a means to an end. But they all found meaning in their friendship, even if (possibly especially if) they didn’t find meaning in the service itself.

Reality Rating A: I was riveted by these stories. The author does a terrific job of showing where each of these women came from, both physically and emotionally, and lets us see why they made the choices they did, and how this one year (or two years for Desma and Debbie) impacts the rest of their lives.

There may also be a lesson in here for recruiters or for whoever is responsible for putting together units for deployment. All the women in this unit created a tight bond that helped sustain them in Afghanistan. They all made it through relatively unscathed. However, breaking the unit up in Iraq had negative consequences both for their preparedness while deployed and for their subsequent re-adjustment back to civilian life.

At the opening, I compared this book to two completely different works, one of fiction and one of non-fiction. Jessica Scott’s series, Coming Home, reflects on the difficulties that soldiers face in returning stateside after deployment in a forward base, the toll that their deployment takes on their families and the good and often bad ways in which they cope. Everything that happens to the women in Soldier Girls was reflected in her fictionalized version. These women experienced so many relationships that foundered or succeeded based on their partners’ ability to deal with what had happened to them. They all make questionable personal choices as they attempt to handle those changes. Debbie’s first grandchild is born, and she can’t be there. Desma, a single-mother, has to deal with making childcare arrangements for her three kids while she is deployed, and then attempting to fix things long distance when her first (and second) attempts fall apart. There are negative consequences of her deployment for all three of her kids that will last throughout their lives, in addition to the disability that Desma brings home from her second deployment.

There is an underlying issue in this book about the nature of the all-volunteer military that is fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that’s where the reference to Nickel and Dimed comes in. The military offers financial inducements, like supplementary pay and especially college tuition, that are designed to appeal to people, both men and women, in Michelle’s and Desma’s situations; those who want to get out of a dead-end or need a financial boost to make ends wave at each other. This dovetails with Barbara Ehrenreich’s discovery (whatever you think of the way she did it) that it isn’t possible to live on a minimum wage job and still cover your rent, utilities, food and expenses. If she had performed her experiment in southern Indiana instead of Minneapolis, she could have heard Michelle or Desma discussing their reasons for joining the Guard, especially the financial incentives. It’s a sobering thought.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-9-14

Sunday Post

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is almost upon us, but it is barreling towards us at breakneck speed. Unless you are in Canada and it’s already been and gone.

But starting this coming Saturday I’ll be participating in the 5th Annual Gratitude Giveaways Hop. And I’m very grateful that we found a house in Atlanta on the first day of the search. I’m not looking forward to moving, but I am looking forward to being back. Once it’s all done, that is.

This Thursday, Cass and I are doing a joint review, or possibly joint rant, about a dragon book. (because, Cass). There will be snark. Tune in to see what we thought. Or felt. Or puked over.

Current Giveaways:

The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys (print, U.S. only)
$50 Gift Card, 2 Gift Baskets, print copy of Not Quite Forever by Catherine Bybee and swag

Winner Announcements:

ancillary sword by ann leckieBlog Recap:

A Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
B+ Review: Core Punch by Pauline Baird Jones
B+ Review: The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys
Guest Post by Author C.C. Humphreys + Giveaway
A Guest Review by Cryselle: Manipulation by Eden Winters
B+ Review: Not Quite Forever by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (111)

gratitude-2013Coming Next Week:

The Red Book of Primrose House by Marty Wingate (blog tour review)
Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe (review)
Dirty Laundry by Rhys Ford (review)
Til Dragons Do Us Part by Lorenda Christensen (joint review with Cass)
In the Company of Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S. Klinger (review)
Gratitude Giveaways Hop

Stacking the Shelves (110)

Stacking the Shelves

This was a pretty quiet week in the shelves; I think it’s still the winter lull. The big push for new titles is in the Spring (March, April, May) and in the Fall (September, October). Winter and Summer are generally pretty quiet.

Since NetGalley and Edelweiss are mostly working into the January/February 2015 timeframe at this point, there just isn’t any there there. So to speak. Which gives me a chance to get to work on my “Best of the Year” lists.

For Review:
Branded (Aspen Valley #3) by Colette Auclair
The Fourth Rule of Ten (Tenzing Norbu #4) by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
Rough Rider (Hot Cowboy Nights #2) by Victoria Vane
Temporal Shift (Dark Desires/Blood Hunter #4) by Nina Croft
The Wrong Man (Ted Stratton #3) by Laura Wilson

Purchased from Amazon:
Dirty Deeds (Cole McGinnis #4) by Rhys Ford

Borrowed from the Library:
Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie
Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe

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.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

***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.

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!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Until There Was You by Jessica Scott

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: military romance, contemporary romance
Series: Coming Home #2
Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Loveswept (Random House)
Date Released: October 8, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

Though he plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed military leaders will prove that opposites attract . . . even under fire.

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, 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. Since that brief lapse in judgment, Evan has been at odds with her. But when he is asked to train a combat team alongside Claire, battle-hardened Evan is in for the fight of his life.

Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to achieve her high military rank. In Evan Loehr, Claire sees a spoiled commander who puts the rules before everything else—including his people. Army orders force them together and Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He too has dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Not all scars are visible. And no one can be changed unless they want to change. Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series isn’t so much military romance per se as it is romance featuring men and women in the military or attached to the military and the struggles they face at re-integrating into civilian life.

The absolutely fantastic Because of You (see my review for full scope of fantastic) looked at the difficulties an ultra-responsible First Sergeant faced when he was forced away from his men due to a severe, and probably career-ending, physical injury. It highlighted the struggles that soldiers face when they return home with shattered or missing limbs.

The story of Until There Was You turns to a different aspect of coming home. The couple in this story,  Captains Claire Montoya and Evan Loehr, are both still in the fight, but currently are not deployed. Hence the problem. They’d both rather be downrange instead of training others to go. Even worse, the commander who drew up the training plan is more interested in making sure his lieutenants know how to conduct a flawless power-point briefing than escort a supply convoy with a minimum number of casualties.

Also, Claire and Evan has been verbally sniping at each other for three years, ever since one ill-advised but oh-so-delicious kiss at the end of a “hail and farewell” that Evan almost didn’t attend.

Evan’s approach is totally by the book, and Claire’s is completely by the seat of her pants. She came up through the ranks and OCS, in other words, a mustang. Evan graduated from West Point. He’s never been anything but an officer. Their approaches never match.

But they do. They’re even the same rank. The non-frat rules don’t apply. It’s just a horribly bad idea. Evan doesn’t date within the military. And Claire tries to pretend she’s just one of the guys.

But when they are thrown back together as part of an insane training operation at a ski lodge, in the snow, training unprepared troops for Iraq, in the desert, it makes both of them re-think a whole lot of things.

Both Evan and Claire have dark demons in their pasts that make them push each other’s buttons, and push each other away. They’ve both learned that losing control, not having control, causes nothing but pain.

But they need each other a lot more than they need to hang onto the old scars. The question is whether they will realize it in time to save anything; their soldiers, their careers, or each other.

Escape Rating A-: The commander who creates the cluster-snafu training exercise that forms the backdrop to this terrific romance doesn’t ever make much sense. He may be all too real, but he doesn’t become enough of a real character to be more than just a paper tiger.

The romance between Claire and Evan is hot, sweet and threaded with pain. Once you see into Claire’s background, you also get an understanding of what brought her to this point in her life, and where the third character in this story fits in. Claire has an enlisted friend, Reza, who she is protecting from rehab. Protecting him not just because he’s her friend and he’s a terrific soldier, but because she’s repeating a childhood pattern that she can’t break, but must break out of to heal. Claire’s father was an alcoholic, and not all of Claire’s scars are physical. The Army gives her control because she had none growing up.

Evan lost control once in his life, and he’s paid for it ever since. That’s why he needs the control the Army gives him. But to make a relationship together, both of them have to give up some control. Watching them battle their demons is the hard part of the story.

Going in, you think the issue is going to be PTSD. It’s not. That might have been less painful. Ms. Scott does an excellent job at making the readers feel her characters’ pain and grief, so this one almost hurts to read. But it is so worth it.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-21-12

What’s the difference between wicked and naughty? Why is this question relevant to my Sunday Post?

The Wicked Romances Blog Hop (hosted by Reading Romances) started yesterday at Reading Reality (and LOTS of other places) and that is the question you need to answer in the comments to throw your hat in the ring for a chance at a $15 Amazon Gift Card. But the answers, oooh the answers are utterly fascinating.

And, tomorrow starts the Romance at Random Naughty & Nice Blog Hop. Of course, I couldn’t resist being a hop stop for that hop. Which totally brought up the question, what is the difference between wicked and naughty?

Two days is not one of the answers. Except maybe in this case.

So what wickedness occurred last week at Reading Reality?

Ebook Review Central Featured Titles from Dreamspinner Press for August 2012: #1 Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy, #2 Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C., #3 Strengthened by Fire by Andrew Grey.
B Review: Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1) by Courtney Cole
A- Review: Down for the Count (Dare Me #1) by Christine Bell
B+ Review: A Date with Death (1Night Stand) by Louisa Bacio + Interview
B- Review: The Naughty Angel (1Night Stand) by Shiela Stewart + Interview and Giveaway!
Wicked Romances Blog Hop (still plenty of time to enter!!!)

Whew, what a week! But that’s done and dusted. Except for the wicked, wicked hopping, of course.

What about this coming week, you might ask? I hope you’re asking. I’ve already told you about tomorrow’s Naughty & Nice Hop brought to you by the very lovely Romance at Random.

In addition, tomorrow’s Ebook Review Central will feature the Samhain titles from August 2012. Samhain can always be counted on to provide lots of options for featured titles, and this month was no exception. I’m still furiously tallying.

Tuesday, my guest will be Jessica Scott. She’ll be here to talk about her military romance series, Coming Home, and particularly the latest book in that series, Until There Was You. I’ll also have a review of the book.  (The first book in the series, Because of You, was excellent!) And Jessica has agreed to giveaway copies of both books.

Wednesday is my day to interview Nikki Logan, the author of Wild Encounter. Nikki’s romances feature both a romance between two people, and her romance with nature. In conjunction with the interview, Nikki will be giving away a copy of Wild Encounter. I’ll be reviewing Wild Encounter on Friday this week.

And on Thursday, my feature will be a review of Jillian Stone’s The Moonstone and Miss Jones. This is the second book in her Phaeton Black series. The first book, The Seduction of Phaeton Black, was an incredibly cool mix of decadent Victorian low places and bad boys with steampunk and, really surprising, Egyptian gods and magic powers. With a side-dish of Scotland Yard for spice. I had a lot of fun (see review) with the first book and have definitely been looking forward to the second!

And speaking of looking forward, I have a couple of guests that I’m looking forward to the week of October 29 (and who would have thought that the month was ending so soon!)

Lisa Kessler will be back on October 30 to talk about the latest book in her Night series,  Night Thief. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Night Walker (review here), so this will be a treat.

And on November 1, my guest will be Cindy Spencer Pape, the author of not one but two of my favorite series, the paranormal/urban fantasy series Urban Arcana, and the one she’ll be talking about, her Gaslight Chronicles. The latest book in the series, Moonlight & Mechanicals, will have just come out, so I’ll also have a review.

It seems like I’ve always got something good to look forward to. How about you?