How to heal a hero…
Zoe Hamilton is the kind of woman who seems to gravitate toward needy people. Her recent divorce from a grasping and financially needy golf pro wannabe is a case in point, and she just wants to put some distance between her past and her present. Her solution is to buy the summer home where she remembers fun times while growing up and where she hopes to recoup the good times in her lives. What she doesn’t plan on is the state in which she finds the house, the lack of maintenance given the property, and the need to do some repairs almost immediately in order to even be able to live in the house. When inquiring at the local hardware store–only one in miles in a community that is quite small when the summer vacationers are missing–and she finds out that her unfriendly, hermit-like neighbor is the only person who has the skills to do home repairs. So whether Zoe wants it or not, she is thrown together with her neighbor Jake, a veteran of the Middle East conflict, and one who has not intention of even carrying on a conversation with her, much less allowing her to penetrate his walls of silence.
Jake, on the other hand, is a deeply troubled veteran who has become convinced that he has lost his chance for happiness. With the failure to bring his soldiers home safely, Jake believes he doesn’t deserve to be happy and has enclosed himself in a prison of silence. He resents Zoe’s attempt to break through and works very diligently to drive her away. He needs the money he earns as a handyman, but he doesn’t appreciate her efforts to get friendly. He is dreading the coming of the summer residents–they just make noise and steal his silence from him. He also rejects any efforts by the local veterans’ organization to involve him in any activities. He is indeed the quintessential “leave me alone” guy.
This is a wonderful novel that highlights the damage that war does to good men and women and the wreckage of their inner spirits that they must live with when they return to their civilian lives. Obviously it is worse for some than for others, but for those in a command position seem to bear an even greater burden of sorrow over those under their care and whose lives were lost. The whole issue of “survivor’s guilt” is only in the past several decades being understood as the powerful force which has defeated so many good people. So Jake had a considerable load of trouble on his heart and spirit and Zoe’s efforts to break into his prison of silence only seemed to him to be another invasion he had to fight. I found it interesting that she approached the difficulty as one who just extended caring and friendship. While it appeared that Jake was successfully rejecting her efforts and her, the reader is aware that Jake’s castle of silence was slowly coming apart–not very fast, to be sure, but it was buckling under the assault of Zoe’s sweet spirit and openness to him, however he projected himself.
This is a romance novel, pure and simple. But the themes of deep neediness, Zoe’s wounds and her disappointment with herself, her anger over being used by her ex, and her hope that Jake could become a more settled person permeate the narrative. Jake’s recalcitrant nature, his growling and closed off demeanor stand in sharp contrast to Zoe’s open and giving spirit. She is even willing to brave his deepest displeasure if she could involve some of the other veterans in Jake’s life, knowing that they have had to battle the same demons and have found a way out of the shadows. Ms Wallace is a new writer for me but I found that she did a masterful job in telling Jake and Zoe’s story and in making the reader not only a part of their tender love story as well as making all of aware of the wounds that soldiers carry around long after the shooting is past.
This is a Harlequin romance that is quite good and one that is in touch with our times and the people who must live in our world. Readers who love a good love story will like this book a lot. A good story, interesting characters, themes that are contemporary and which relate to the world’s current situations, and a writing style that is readable and which flows seamlessly from chapter to chapter and scene to scene. Don’t miss this one; you will be glad you didn’t.
I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.