Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison takes his job as an infantry platoon sergeant very seriously. It's his job that his men are ready for, and survive, combat. His marriage now a bad memory, he's got nothing left other than a job he loves and his men. Then, on the eve of his latest deployment back to Iraq, he meets pretty nurse, Jennifer St. James. One shared kiss later and suddenly he's thinking about more than just his men.
Jen is a survivor, now down one breast thanks to a battle with cancer. She was dragged out to the bar by her well-meaning BFF and all she can think about is how uncomfortable she is, and can anyone notice that one of her boobs is a silicone falsie? Then she meets Shane, and while she's still uncomfortable, he's the first man in Lord knows how long that makes her feel something other than sorry for herself. Dare she say it? Could it be that this man makes her feel desirable?
What follows is Shane getting deployed, bad things happening, and him returning home to the very military base hospital where Jen works. Naturally Shane in a hospital bed with pins in his legs while his men are still fighting in a sandbox thousands of miles away doesn't exactly sit well with him. Will Shane ask for, and accept, help? Will Jen be strong enough to be the person that Shane, although he won't admit it, needs?
I've never been what one would call an overzealous fan of military romances. I realize now the issue may be the sheer over-reliance on Navy SEALs. If we're to believe Romance Novel Land conventions there are currently 2 million retired SEALs and about 1 million active ones. So it was really refreshing to read about a Sergeant. A Sergeant in charge of an infantry unit no less. Given that Scott is in the military herself, the added touches and details added a nice authenticity to the story. But it's not what stuck with me. Nope. Not at all. It was the "nurse stuff."
I spent the first 18 years of my life, sitting around the dinner table every night, listening to my mother talk shop. Mom has been an RN for over 30 years. My older sister is also an RN. And while neither of them have necessarily worked the kind of cases that military hospital nurses would see? I really appreciated that Jen behaves like a nurse. A very good patient-care nurse. She's one part compassionate and two parts no-nonsense, no-bullshit.
He massaged his temples with his thumb and index finger. "I don't want any more damn drugs and I want this fucking tube out of my dick."And...
"We can't take the catheter out because you've got seventeen stitches holding your guts inside of you. So unless you feel like picking your spleen up off the floor because you want to be stupid, the quote fucking tube stays."
"Don't tell me I don't understand. Don't tell me it's not the same. No one understands life and death like soldiers do. Just like no one understands life and death like doctors do."Hand to God, I could practically hear my mother and sister saying those lines out-loud as I read those passages.
Where this story stumbles a bit for me is in execution. Shane and Jen are separated for chunks of the story, normally a major rule violation for me in the category format, but not the end of the world here. Scott does introduce a lot of secondary characters to fill the void, and they're all generally interesting people. The problem is that the reader is now getting less of the main romance and more invested in the secondary characters. Which would also be fine, depending on the reader, except two of the secondary characters are left seriously twisting in the breeze at the close of this book. It smacks dangerously close to a cliff-hanger for me, which I generally dislike outside of the suspense genre and I am really not a fan of in category romance. One hopes that the author will revisit this story line, although the back cover blurb of her upcoming book doesn't provide a lot of insight on that score.
But this is still a very solid debut, and an interesting one. If you're a fan of military-themed romances, I personally think this one is a must read. Granted I don't read a lot of them, but this one felt very fresh to me in a lot of ways. I liked Shane, even when he was behaving like a butthead, and I liked that Jen, while vulnerable over her cancer fight, was still a capable women with a life and a career, outside of landing a hunky wounded warrior.
Final Grade = B