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Jessica Scott

GUEST REVIEW:  Back to You by Jessica Scott

GUEST REVIEW: Back to You by Jessica Scott

Dear Ms. Scott,

In the acknowledgments, you wrote that you have been working on this book since 2008. I can certainly see how this would be a challenging story to get right and while it’s not perfect, I am glad that you persevered. Before I go further, I have to admit that the US military is an organization and culture that is completely unfamiliar to me. When I read military romances, I sometimes wonder about the authenticity and accuracy, but because you are a career officer, I know I can trust you to get it right. That is definitely a plus.

Back to You by Jessica ScottLaura and Trent Davila have been married for more than a decade and have two children, but Trent has been absent for much of the marriage: as an army captain, he has been deployed several times, and although he told Laura that there was no choice about it, she eventually found out that this was not true, and that Trent had actually volunteered to go several times. Feeling that Trent has bailed out on their marriage and unable to trust him, Laura files for divorce.

Around the same time that Laura filed for divorce, an investigation revealed that an officer under Trent’s command had been stealing and selling sensitive items, and the officer implicates Trent in these activities. As a result, Trent is fired from his command and returns to the US to await the conclusion of the investigation and a possible court martial. On top of that, a female soldier has accused Trent of improper advances, which is both damaging to his case and very hurtful for Laura.

Back to You is set about a year after these events, in 2008. Trent has not signed the divorce papers, and realizes that his choices have wrecked his marriage. He returns to Fort Hood, where a hearing is scheduled to take place soon and decide whether his case will go to a court martial. Laura, who works on base as a family readiness liaison for the brigade, still loves Trent, but feels that their marriage is over and wants to move on. Nonetheless, when his lawyer suggests that the two pretend that their marriage is going well as a way to undermine some of the charges, Laura agrees to go along with it, although she makes it clear that she does not believe that they can salvage their marriage. I didn’t really think that the pretend-marriage was needed for the story to work (or a particularly effective legal strategy), but I went along with it.

Laura had been willing to make a lot of sacrifices as an army wife, but finding out about the voluntary deployments and the allegations against Trent crushed her, and she’s afraid of letting him back into her life. Trent is scared because he doesn’t know how to cope with civilian life, including his family, and his way of dealing with it has been to stay away – physically while on deployment and emotionally while home. But this time, he knows that if he wants to fix his relationship with Laura and be a father to his children, he will have to face his problems and somehow find a new normal.

In many romance novels, when heroes carry the sort of emotional baggage that Trent has, it’s resolved with a quick conversation or a cathartic confession. I liked that you chose otherwise and showed Trent’s incremental progress in this regard: learning to ask for help, to share his experiences with others and to rely on them doesn’t come naturally for him and there is no miraculous fix – it’s something he has to work on with Laura, with his psychiatrist and with himself. He has to learn how to be a father and how to really be there in his relationship with Laura.

What didn’t work as well for me was the way Laura and Trent’s reconciliation was portrayed. They both spend a lot of time thinking about their past, what had gone wrong, and their worries about the future – but not a lot happens between them in the present. It was past the 10% point when they saw each other again for the first time, and even after that, there would be long stretches in which there wasn’t much interaction between them. When they did get together, there would often be some major development in terms of their relationship or Trent’s relationship with the kids. Sometimes it just seemed like it was too much and too fast. I wish there had been more Laura and Trent together, rather than Laura or Trent thinking about being together, and I think that might have helped with the pacing and the emotional impact of the story.

The case against Trent isn’t very strong, but the lieutenant who implicated him has a high-ranking and well-connected father so it isn’t something that can just be dismissed. It’s probably for the best that the lieutenant doesn’t make too many appearances, since he’s pretty much a one-note villain with no redeeming characteristics. But the outcome of the investigation and Trent’s consequent choices about his life were believable, and I felt that by the end, Laura and Trent were headed in the right direction. B-.

Best regards,
Rose

Rose lives in a country where romance readers are few and far between, so discovering romance websites was a welcome development. When not busy with reading and graduate school, she can often be found online discussing romance novels or sports –occasionally both at the same time. She has no TBR pile and is forever looking to change this unfortunate fact; recommendations for historicals, romantic suspense and contemporaries (preferably of the non-small town variety) are welcome.

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REVIEW: Because of You by Jessica Scott

REVIEW: Because of You by Jessica Scott

Dear Ms. Scott:

This is the first original Loveswept title from the new and revived Loveswept line. I’ve been hearing good things about this book from it’s original purchase by Sue Grimshaw earlier this year. Knowing that you are an Iraq war vet, I knew that the authenticity of this book would not be an issue and that’s a good thing because there were a lot of eyebrow raising events in the story.

Because of You Jessica ScottShane Garrison is a Sergeant First Class in the Army.  At thirteen years of service, Shane is getting ready for action in the Iraq Surge and dealing with the failure of his marriage.  As a Sergeant First Class, Shane is in charge of his group of men.  He feels responsible for their well being, ensuring that every one is properly trained and equipped.  The weight of his responsibility is well conveyed and the future conflict involving his sense of responsibility is signalled clearly.  However, I wondered at the point of the Prologue.  The prologue actually just introduces Shane and given that chapter one doesn’t begin a uninterrupted timeline, I felt a bit confused.

Jen St. James, a recent breast cancer survivor, and Shane enjoy a smoldering kiss after a night out with mutual friends before Shane is deployed.  I was surprised at how emotional Shane was over their interaction.  He went from a divorce five months ago to thinking that Jen would be the reason for him to come home:

He’d hold the memory of that kiss with him even as he walked-willing and able-into a war. He’d volunteered to serve, but tonight, for the first time, he was walking away from something precious. Because of Jen, he had a reason for coming home.

The strong and devastating emotions of those in the military was well conveyed. I really felt for the women at home who missed their husbands and the soldiers abroad who weren’t provided adequate equipment to fight.  Jen’s poignant post cancer attempts to reconnect with her friends was touching as well.  I liked that Jen and Shane’s romance developed over time.  The book is very dramatic and angsty and for some it might be overly so.

Shane is beset, not just by the horrors of battle, but by incompetent officers, lack of equipment, emotional breakdowns of the soldiers around him, and his own personal pain. There was a scene with a newbie officer that reminded me a bit of Battle Los Angeles. In fact, Shane reminded me a little of the Aaron Eckhart character in that movie in that they both were Sergeants looking out for a number of soldiers whose well being and safety weighed heavily on their hearts and minds. I wished that the pacing had been more even. The book started out slowly and then had non stop drama until nearly the end.

The opposite side we have Jen who suffered breast cancer at a young age and who had a left sided mascectomy. The decision not to have reconstructive surgery was never addressed in the text of the book, although there is a lot of attention paid to the emotional trauma that Jen endures from being physically imperfect.

On top of Shane’s emotional problems suffering injuries in the war and seeing his men injured or killed, is his own lack of self esteem. His self worth was wrapped up in his soldiering and when his men came back in pieces, he was devastated. He felt guilty he was alive.  He didn’t think that he was a nice man (because as Sargeant he wasn’t supposed to be, problematically, he never see Shane being a jerk so the “he doth protest too much” entered here) and that he wasn’t good enough for Jen.  Jen spent much of her time telling Shane that he wasn’t god and that he has to let go and open up.

I was also surprised at how little attention was paid to the issue of Jen, the nurse, having a relationship with Shane, one of her patients.  In some ways, this conflict was used to humorous and touching effect such as when Jen has to remove Shane’s catheter but I did wonder at the ethics of the situation.  I understood that the point of the four chapter lead up was to make the readers believe that Shane’s feelings for Jen developed far before she nursed him back to health, but those four chapters involved so little real interaction between the two that I found it to be a shaky foundation.

There are two developing storylines in this book, both of which remain unresolved at the end.  The dual cliffhangers are meant to keep us coming back for me, but it also made the book feel a bit unfinished for me.  Given how much of the book was spent on Jen and Shane’s emotional agnst, their emotional healing seemed too quick.  The ending felt abrupt, as if I had looked away and missed something important.

The two wounded souls seeking comfort and peace will be appealing to many readers and the fast paced non stop drama adds a different flavor to this military romance.  The war scenes were highly charged and I appreciate the unflinching look at how awful it must be over in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wouldn’t have minded a few emotional respites and a less truncated ending.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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