Soldier Alex Dane promised his dying comrade he’d make sure his wife and daughter were okay, and so he finds himself on a doorstep with his heart in his mouth.
Lisa Kennedy loved her husband, but she must focus on her daughter, Lilly, who hasn’t spoken since her daddy’s death. Still, the least she can do is offer this battle-weary hero a place to rest.
When Lilly’s little hand reaches for Alex’s big, strong one, for the first time Lisa feels her buried emotions begin to stir.…
This Harlequin novel is one that reaches out to our current consciousness of how the world is working right now, and especially America’s involvement in the Middle East conflicts that continue. While there are now numerous novels and short stories about veterans and their families, this is rather unique in that it is highlighting the experience and anxieties of a man who must try to bring comfort to the family of one of his fallen buddies. Yet he himself is wounded in so many ways and on so many levels, and doing this for his friend is probably one of the most difficult tasks he has ever undertaken.
The characters in this story are not flamboyant and this is not a romance that is filled with erotic love scenes. Rather, it is the pathos and hurt of love lost as a loving husband and father is now dead and his wife and child must find their way forward without him. Alex’s discomfort and uneasy demeanor is apparent right from the start and while his friend’s wife seeks to comfort him with food and attempted conversation, it is the young Lilley whose open acceptance and immediate friendship which begins the long healing process in Alex’s heart and soul.
This is a kind and gentle story that does not back away from the realities of what war can do to our service personnel nor does it fail to deal honestly with the fact that so many come home without external wounds but who carry deep fissures of the spirit within. Alex is doubly screwed in that he has no family or home to which he is returning. Yes, he is home from the war, but now where does he go? Who is waiting for him? It is Lilley’s unwillingness to speak at all that begins to grab Alex and convinces him that he is needed. And in the weeks he stays with Lilley and her mother, he begins the long journey toward wholeness he so desperately needs.
With the decade-long involvement of the United States in the Middle East, fiction writers are most certainly going to find stories to write set within the military genre. Most of the novels and novellas I have read on this subject so far have been quite good, and I would have not difficulty adding this one to the list of really good novels that tell the stories of those who have returned from war and who need to rebuild their lives. This is a story of love and loss, of hope and disappointment, of reaching out in a way that brings healing not only to those who are the object of the caring, but to the caregivers themselves. It is the story also of a little girl whose open heart and curious mind wiggle under the defenses of a man who would always be alone if it were not for her kindness and genuine regard for this warrior. It is also the story of a war widow who is not really ready to be a war widow and who is given the courage to move past those who would bind her in her grief and find a new start for herself that will bring love and renewal into her heart and that of her daughter.
This is a very substantive story and one that will be very uplifting. It is entertaining, yes, but it is also one of those books that makes me glad that I took the time and made the effort to read it. It is definitely one that I highly recommend.
I give this novel a 4.25 out of 5 rating.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.