By Eddie Cleveland
June 23, 2016
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I lost my men. I lost my leg. I lost my career. And all I could think of was Lauren.
I left for West Point with two things: a broken heart and a promise to never let it happen again.
Now I’m back in Colorado as a war hero. F*ck that, I’m a celebrity.
And every woman wants to open her legs for Captain America.
So why do I only want her?
Even with one leg, Mack Forrester hasn’t lost his swagger.
It’s been a decade since he left. But under his tattoos, I still see the guy who broke my heart when he chose his country instead of me.
I told myself I was over it.
One glimpse in his crystal blue eyes and I knew it was a lie.
Now he wants me back, but ten years is a long time. There’s so much he doesn’t know.
Like, that I had his child.
For a first-time novel, author Eddie Cleveland has made a statement with this well-written, reality-driven read. The story completes a full circle in the lives of Lauren and Mack. These two have been in love since they were six years old, but their fairy tale prom night starts a downhill spiral for the pair when Mack announces that he’s not going to college with Lauren, but instead has been accepted into West Point where he plans to serve his country in memory of his brother who was killed in the 9/11 attacks. The two part ways and it’s not until a decade later that their paths cross again.
The story is wonderfully written, the characters are compelling, and his research and/or firsthand knowledge allows him to powerfully convey the impact of PTSD on returning members of the armed forces and those around them. The element of incorporating the news reporter both in Afghanistan (critically injured while filming a documentary) and then conducting a live interview with Mack, who had saved his life while in the desert, was another example of coming full circle and it was brilliantly done.
The alternating points of view helped establish the personalities of both main characters, piece together their past and present, and segue into the future, starting with a redo of their prom night.
Reading a romance penned by a male author was somewhat refreshing, if nothing else, it gave me hope that, “hey, maybe some guys are actually like Mack and can really truly love one woman and not just be interested in landing as many women as possible.”
My only disappointments? First, I wish the scene had been included when Chris learns that Mack is his biological father. Secondly, I didn’t pick up immediately on the interracial element – it actually didn’t dawn on me until I read the statement she made about the color of her son’s skin when she picked him up at the police station.
I was provided with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Lauren is right, she does know me. The real me. And I know her. She still has feelings for me. I know that’s why she just smoke-bombed me. But, that’s ok, because I still have feelings for her, too.
And by feelings, I mean I love her.
I watch as his shoulders slump back down and he looks at his hands. “I messed up again, didn’t I?” He sneaks a look up at me sideways.
“Nah, you did what you had to do. I’ll explain it to her. I get it.” I answer honestly. It’s not a lie. When I decided to go visit Corporal Thompson’s gravesite, I pulled a U-turn in the middle of rush hour traffic to do it. Sometimes things can’t wait until morning, or for traffic lights. When your soul tells you that it’s ready to heal, you listen.
“The weekend was a nice test drive,” he drops his shirt to the floor behind him, “but now I’m gonna’ ride ya’ like I stole ya’.” His blue eyes glint under the low light and my heart whooshes in my ears.
Once you’ve been with a woman like Lauren, all you can see is how every other girl comes up short. Once you’ve had an exquisite work of art, paint by numbers just don’t cut it anymore.
The “huh?” part?
It would also have been nice to witness the actual scene between Mack and Lauren when they reunited before he left for his two months of therapy.
I have to admit it was a fairy tale (the prom theme!) how Mack loved Lauren. I also liked the continuity of the story, from the dance with Joel at the prom to the earache and how the antibiotic played into the equation and the promise of the next storyline with Cameron and Lauren’s sister Chelsea.
In addition, I’d have to say that it was extremely emotional and humbling when Mack admits to fellow soldiers at the counseling camp how the war affected him after he returned home.
Yes, it’s a very well written book, interesting and realistic.