Unraveled by Jen Frederick
Series: Woodlands #3
Also in this series: Undeclared, Unspoken, Unraveled, Unrequited
Publication Date: January 20th 2014
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From the USA Today Bestselling Author Jen Frederick comes another sexy romance in the Woodlands series.
Twenty-five-year-old Sgt. Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his life: stay in the Marine Corps or get out and learn to be a civilian? He’s got forty-five days of leave to make up his mind but the people in his life aren’t making the decision any easier. His dad wants him to get out; his grandfather wants him to stay in. And his growing feelings for Sam Anderson are wreaking havoc with his heart…and his mind. He believes relationships get ruined when a Marine goes on deployment. So now he’s got an even harder decision to make: take a chance on Sam or leave love behind and give his all to the Marines.
Twenty-two year old Samantha Anderson lost her husband to an IED in Afghanistan just two months after their vows. Two years later, Sam is full of regrets—that she didn’t move with her husband to Alaska; that she allowed her friends to drift away; that she hasn’t taken many chances in life. Now, she’s met Gray and taking a risk on this Marine could be her one opportunity to feel alive and in love again. But how can she risk her heart on another military man who could share the same tragic fate as her husband?
Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his career with the Marines. It’s time to either re-up or get out and he isn’t sure which way to go. His father is encouraging him to get out and get a degree, but his grandfather is pushing him to stay in (both are career Marines). His father finagles 45 days leave for him and he decides to spend it with two of his buddies that are already out, Noah and Bo.
Gray isn’t interested in any kind of relationship. Since his girlfriend of 4 years cheated on him while deployed he’s all about casual – but safe – sex. He doesn’t really plan to hookup while he’s on leave but he feels an instant connection to bartender Sam Anderson and ends up basically dry humping her in the hallway at the bar the first time they meet. He’s interested in finding a private place to take things further until he notices her wedding ring. Disgusted, Gray gives her a piece of mind and storms off.
Sam Anderson is a war widow. Her childhood best friend and husband of two months, Will, was killed in Afghanistan. For 2 years, as she’s been mourning him, she’s been nothing but Will’s Widow. She’s trapped in the role of his dead wife by her grief and the expectations of his family, their mutual friends and, in fact, the whole town.
Until Grayson Phillips backs her against a wall and brings her to orgasm in no time flat, she’s been completely numb to life. Now Sam is slowly waking up and realizing her life didn’t end when Will’s did. And she wants Gray to be the one who shows her what she’s been missing. Who better for a rebound than a temporary Marine?
As things heat up between the sheets, Sam feels her heart beginning to warm as well. Can her rebound turn into something long lasting? Will Gray let her close enough to find out?
I come from a family of military members. My husband is a former Marine, as are several members of my extended family and I have a lot of friends still in the Corps. We have National Guard, Army and Air Force connections as well. As a result, I really connected with the story.
Gray’s confusion over whether to stay in the Corps or get out is a familiar one. I felt Frederick did an excellent job of showcasing his internal debate without bogging the story down. His new promotion and his concerns about the responsibilities it comes with made him a more likable character. His was silly and kind of immature at times, but that wasn’t all there was to him. His need to protect those under him balanced his need to live life.
I also felt Sam’s struggle to move on from her grief was realistic. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when everyone expects you to be in it. That Gray woke her up made perfect sense because he was someone new – someone who didn’t know her as Will’s Widow. She’s been in a holding pattern since her husband died – she quit school and kind of withdrew from life. It was good to see her coming back to life.
“Mom says I’m an old soul.” No, Bitsy, I thought, you’re so bright, shiny and new my heart aches at your beauty. I wished I still had that look. Instead, I felt dull and used and, after last night, rejected.
Some parts of the story were problematic. Specifically Sam’s behavior. Her thoughts and actions were contradictory at times. I didn’t doubt that she loved her husband, but I didn’t necessarily feel the connection she felt to him. We were told the connection existed rather than getting to experience it ourselves.
She was really wishy-washy in her thoughts and feelings, too. Gray humiliated her and upset her, but still she was stuck on the idea of being with him. I understand that, since he was the first person she felt anything for since her husband’s death, it might be hard for her to separate her emotions. But I would think she’d shy away from him, not seek his company. Especially since he humiliated her on more than one occasion.
I did love her loyalty and her willingness to put herself out there. It isn’t easy to give of yourself when the possibility of rejection is so huge, or when the risks of it being short term are so high. She, better than anyone, knows a relationship with a military man is a bad bet, but she didn’t let that stop her from opening her heart or embracing her feelings.
I loved the interactions between Gray and his Marines, both past and present. There were several times I laughed out loud at their antics. Like when Gray’s ex spreads it around that he’s gay.
Ruiz looked upset and near bursting with something to say.
“What is it, Ruiz?”
“Why not me instead of Hamilton? Don’t you think I’m attractive? Fun to be with?”
We both stared open mouthed at Ruiz. Hamilton recovered first. “Dude, what?”
Ruiz looked offended. “Just wondering why Hamilton?”
“Oh Jesus H., Ruiz really?” I ran my hand over my recently shorn head.
“Yeah, I mean he’s not better looking than me.”
“That’s not what your mom said last night, Ruiz,” Hamilton shot back, offended that Ruiz thought that he was better looking.
Anyone who has spent time with Marines (or members of any branch of the military for that matter) would recognize the behavior as authentic. As a matter of fact, I read portions of it to my husband and he said “so chick has spent some time with Marines then?”.
Though the subject matter was dark, there was humor in the novel, too, even outside of Gray and his friends. He has a somewhat bawdy sense of humor, and that made for some hilarious commentary.
“I’m sorry,” I told my dick. “But hang in there, someday we’re raw dogging her until we both can’t see straight.”
“Are you talking to your penis?” Sam called from the bed. She didn’t sound near breathless enough. I hurried back and flopped down beside her, my erection hitting her on the hip.
“Yup, I’m consoling it and telling it to stay inside the condom.”
The beginning moved slow, but as the story progressed I found myself drawn in. Despite some small annoyances, this was an emotionally compelling book. The ending really sealed the deal for me and made those small frustrations worth the read.
4 out of 5