Apr 29 2011
Dear Ms. Brewer:
Mitzi’s Marine is about a solder who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost his best friend, his brother, and his leg. I like these stories because I really want to believe that these soldiers can come home and live happy lives. Maybe it is romanticism of the worst kind but I think we all have loved ones that are fighting or have fought and you don’t want them to just live, but actually prosper and while the Marine in this story gets his HEA, I found the romance to be bittersweet and a bit incomplete.
Mitzi Zahn and Bruce Calhoun grew up next door to each other. They were each other’s firsts and meant to be the other’s last. Bruce signed up for the Marines and became a part of Marine Recon and Mitzi went into the Navy and became an AIRR, an aviation rescue swimmer. She is part of the team that goes in and rescues the Navy SEALS and Marine Recon. Bruce and Mitzi fell in love but their respective enlistments kept them apart more than they were together but Bruce felt like Mitzi was slipping away from him and proposed, to her and her family’s utter delight. Freddie Zahn, Jr., Mitzi’s older brother, was Bruce’s best friend.
When an RPG rips apart an Army truck containing Bruce, his brother, Luke, and Freddie, only Bruce walks away but with a left leg that has to be amputated. Torn up with grief at his losses, Bruce drives Mitzi away. Eighteen months later, he walks back into his hometown where Mitzi is stationed as a recruiter and realizes he misses Mitzi more than he misses his left leg. The problem is that Bruce still wants to reenlist. More and more amputees are making it back to the front lines. Mitzi, however, wants to settle down. She always has and Mitzi has moved on. She’s dating a new guy, a former Army soldier and current high school basketball coach.
The best parts of this book were when Mitzi and Bruce were both grappling with missing Freddie. There were some great scenes such as Mitzi affixing Freddie’s watch on Bruce’s wrist and the times that they spent together at night trying not to think about the past, but not being able to help themselves. It seemed apparent that you knew a ton about the Armed Forces and I actually felt like I learned something. I did have a problem with how the two sides of the recruiting process weren’t well addressed. Bruce didn’t want his youngest brother to sign up but he was a recruiter and had no compunctions about guiding a young woman on how to get around the rules so she could sign up. The failure to address his hypocrisy bothered me.
There were a number of issues raised in the book that were never resolved. The story seemed like it couldn’t decide what the emotional conflict was for either character. There was another vet in Bruce’s town that had an amputated right leg and was currently homeless. Was this supposed to represent what would happen to Bruce if he didn’t get back into the field? Was this what was keeping him away from committing to Mitzi again or from pursuing her again? Was it because he truly belonged in the field? Was it because he felt guilty he was alive? None of these questions were well matched by the ending. Perhaps the story was mean to address all of these things but none of them were well articulated. Mitzi seemed to be more understandable. She wanted to marry and settle down. Or did she? She thought about reenlisting which would take her back out into the field and into combat. It’s not that I don’t think that characters can be conflicted, but it seemed like the emotional conflicts changed to suit the story rather than naturally evolving.
Some appeared to be setups for books far down the road such as Bruce’s 18 year old brother’s entry into the army and a love triangle of his own. I felt, though, that the stories weren’t well integrated into the overarching plot in this one. There were too many characters introduced in this story and not enough time spent with each of them. One reason that all these people were difficult to keep track of was that you used both the first name to the last name to refer to the characters (I.e., Bruce or Calhoun) and it became confusing and it wasn’t consistent, nor was it dependent on which character’s POV we were seeing.
There is also an interesting love triangle and I really vacillated between who would be better for Mitzi. Again, the issues involved here didn’t seem to be worked through but rather the denouement was presented in a summary fashion. How did Bruce arrive at the conclusion that he did? Or Mitzi? Was it just the sex that drove them back together?
The subtle and not so subtle maneuvering and competition between Bruce and the guy Mitzi was dating (Dan) provided a nice bit of levity. But the triangle became uncomfortable for me because I felt that Mitzi acted without honor toward Dan when he was nothing but sweetness and kindness with her. SPOILER
For all my complaints though, I really liked the voice and the style of writing. I liked how you imparted a lot of information without boring me or making me feel like you were being didactic. If only I had believed in the romance more. C.