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PTSD

REVIEW:  The Only One Who Matters by Cat Grant and L.A.Witt

REVIEW: The Only One Who Matters by Cat Grant and...

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No man—and no heart—left behind.

The Only One, Book 2

Months after a bullet ended his SEAL career, Senior Chief David Flint doesn’t know which is worse: struggling to adjust to life as a civilian, or watching his lover, Lieutenant Commander Josh Walker, leave for one deployment after another.

Missing the career he loved—and knowing all too well the danger Josh faces—doesn’t help. And as Josh walks out the door for another assignment, David can feel their relationship cracking under the strain.
With so little time between assignments, Josh has no idea how to fix things with David. One thing he’s sure of, though…if they don’t find a way to resolve the rising tension between them, there’s a storm coming they might not be able to weather. But he plans to give it his best shot—when he gets home.
Assuming he makes it home alive…

Warning: Contains plenty of smoking-hot sex between two dudes who just wanted to be SEALs, not deal with all this romance crap. They went and fell in love anyway, and now have to figure out how to make it work while saving the world and teaching their puppy not to beg.

WARNING FROM SIRIUS – THERE IS MENTION OF TORTURE. NO GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF TORTURE ITSELF, WE ONLY SEE THE CONSEQUENCES, BUT IF ANY MENTION OF TORTURE IS TOO MUCH FOR YOU, BEWARE.

Review:

Dear Cat Grant and L.A.Witt,

I reviewed the first book in this series (hopefully this is the last one) and I liked it pretty well overall, but I think I enjoyed this book even more.

As the blurb tells you, we meet David and Josh several months after a difficult injury ended David’s career as a SEAL. He is still recovering and even though he still needs care, David has made vast improvements. David and Josh moved in together at the end of the first book and now they are attempting to build a life together. The main issue these guys face, besides David trying to adjust to civilian life, is that Josh is still being an active SEAL and , a team leader, and David having to worry about Josh coming back in one piece from his the deployment missions.

My heart went out to both of them – I am obviously only speaking as a civilian, but I would think it is hard for any military spouse/partner to wait and worry, knowing every time your loved one leaves that they may not come back alive. I would imagine it is ten times harder for somebody who used to be doing those same missions because he knows exactly what *can* happen and knows many more details than the average civilian spouse, with whom those in the military may share as few details as possible. I also felt for Josh, who was going on so many missions that it felt strange for him to come home.

“Closing his eyes, Josh kissed the back of David’s shoulder. This felt so weird. The dog was new, of course, but even sleeping in his own bed with his arm around David was…strange. Warm skin against warm skin made him feel vulnerable. Much like the seat belt against his thin shirt, David’s body against his reminded him he no longer wore that protective shell of Kevlar and trauma plates. The blackout curtains over the window behind his back didn’t make him feel any less like a pair of eyes or a sniper scope might peer through it. The air tasted strange without the coppery tinge of the blood or the sour bite or sweat.

Sleep was a very real possibility here. No dreamless catnaps whenever he could get them. He could fall asleep. He could dream. Pressed against David, he shuddered.
He was home, damn it. Home and safe.
Why the fuck did he feel like he’d landed on another planet?”

But of course people deal with it because they have to – some people deal better, some people deal worse, and I totally understood Josh’s comment about his new understanding of why so many guys on his team stayed single. Again, maybe somebody who knows more about the military than I do will find problematic portrayals, but I could not feel any false notes in this book. Both Josh and David try so very hard to deal with the strain of Josh’s work, and of David trying to find work in a world that is pretty much new to him after being military for years, because they do love each other. But sometimes love is just not enough, and when they questioned themselves about whether they could deal with all of it, it just rang so very true to me. I loved that work was so important to Josh – there are few things that annoy me in m/m romances as much as a grown man being defined only by what kind of lover he is looking for. I also loved, however, that while Josh was hoping never to have to make such a choice, it was made clear in the text that his lover was more important to him than even his beloved work.

I really appreciated how this book dealt with PTSD. I mean, I usually detest magic cures of mental illnesses including PTSD, and there is no magical cure or any other type of cure here, really. In previous a romances I’ve read, where I liked how the stories dealt with the similar issues, the characters were getting treated – with therapy, and hopefully with some medications if needed. This book, while acknowledging the need for therapy if PTSD gets so severe that the ability to do the job is impaired also tells us that PTSD eventually becomes a part of their job for many SEALS. Josh at some point thinks about several guys from his team having triggers of different kinds. One man could not handle fireworks, another something else. Obviously those symptoms do not impair them in a significant way, but I kind of liked the idea that the men who have some kind of small or not so small issues do not necessarily have to be portrayed as broken, if that makes sense.

I thought that this book made the men deal with their issues in a grown- up way even when they argued – and when they would have a quarrel which lingered a little longer because the stress just got to them and some stuff just needed to be out in the open, it still made sense to me. Of course, even their last quarrel (last in the book, I doubt they won’t find stuff to argue about after the book ends and their relationship will continue in my imagination) did not last for longer than a few days, and that helped me to not be annoyed either.

Now that I am thinking about it, I reacted to this book in a really strange way – most of the time the tension between the guys does not go away, so even in their happy moments they always have those unresolved issues between them that they have to deal with. At the same time I personally was not annoyed because all their issues just made so much sense and they still mostly acted like adults to me.
There are some exciting action scenes in this book as well, but it does not last as long as it lasted in the first book (or it seemed that way to me). I thought it made sense because the story came back to David and Josh faster. I was very pleased and satisfied with their happy ending; I thought the guys completely earned it.

Grade: B/B+

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REVIEW:  Homecoming (Southern Honor, book 1) by Meredith Daniels

REVIEW: Homecoming (Southern Honor, book 1) by Meredith Daniels

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Home is where his heart is…once he recognizes what’s in his heart.

Southern Honor, Book 1
Broken in body, mind and spirit after a botched mission in Kuwait, elite Special Forces operative Jack Dresden returns to Devotion, Georgia, both dreading and longing to face his past. He left town on the receiving end of a wicked right hook thrown by the only person who ever made him feel he was right where he belonged.

Dillon Bluff was never good at pretending. Coming out right after high school, it hasn’t been easy dealing with the stigma of being gay in a small, Southern town. When he stumbles across Jack in the throes of a panic attack, one touch reignites the smoldering, hidden torch he’s always carried for his former best friend.

Jack knows he’s messed up, and the last thing he wants to do is hurt Dillon again. But Dillon is determined to take control and show Jack’s heart the way back home.

Product Warnings
Contains a sexy, scarred Delta Force hero with the hots for his tattooed photojournalist prone-to-skinny-dipping ex-best friend. Threats of creative rope use and plenty of manly loving may leave the reader craving a cigarette—and a man in uniform.

Dear Ms. Daniels.

REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS.

I think I can imagine what story you wanted to write in this book. I think it was supposed to be a touching story about a badly wounded warrior coming back to his home town and reconnecting with his first love. If written convincingly I can eat up the stories about wounded soldiers coming back, trying to adjust to peaceful life and of course finding love, with a spoon. I want to see as many of them as possible coming back alive – both in fiction and reality and I am always seeking to read a story which deals with it. Unfortunately I cannot say that your story was written convincingly for me. I can see of course that the blurb indicates that this is book 1, and it is possible that the second book will address at least some of the issues that bothered me so much. However I can only review the book which is in front of me now and I cannot even be sure that the second book will have the same characters, because this one ends in the way a stand- alone story could end. Although since Jack’s relationship with his father is not quite resolved at the end of the story, I can at least see that there is some potential for a second book.

Jack left his home town ten years ago and never looked back. He know that he is gay and he broke up with the girl he was dating (who was also a sister of his best friend and that best friend was apparently his real love – as Jack eventually recognized). Jack was also afraid that his parents, especially his father, would not accept him if he came out. So he went and became part of the Delta team (not sure whether he made all these life changes too fast, but that question bothered me the least in light of some other things).

One of his assignments ended very badly (he was tortured for months till he was freed), and he now has a severe case of PTSD. And his father is very ill, so he finally comes home on leave to see his parents and probably patch things up with his best friend. They had had a fight before Jack left town because Dillon was not happy that Jack broke up with Stacie.

I want to talk about Jack’s PTSD before anything else. He was hurt *badly*, and he has plenty of physical scars to show for it as well as a lot of emotional ones. He has nightmares, panic attacks, at some point he tells himself that he should be grateful that he does not have flashbacks. However I am not sure whether I believe Jack when he says it. I mean maybe he does not have the flashbacks in the technical sense (meaning that he does not relieve the specific moments of his torture), but at the same time he sure thinks about it, so I wonder if he is an unreliable narrator in that sense, or he just thinking about his torture in a bit more detached sense. And here comes the best part – apparently after spending some time in the hospital healing his physical damage, Jack has his psych evaluation cleared. I guess that means that after he is back from his leave he can just go back to his regular duties in team Delta whatever those duties would mean – back to the missions, etc? And how did Jack manage to have his psych evaluation cleared with his nightmares and panic attacks going on? Apparently he just “did not tell them everything” – I assume that by them he meant psychologists and/or psychiatrists whom he had to talk to.

I am sorry, what? Now I know nothing about the military, and I am willing to assume that maybe a regular soldier who has go through psych evaluation for whatever reason can fake some things. Because in my mind during the regular evaluation it might be possible that the doctor fails to catch anything out of the ordinary that the soldier is experiencing, since the doctor may have no specific reason to worry and may just let it go if the soldier’s answers are not in depth (or maybe not). But Jack is in the hospital recovering after *months* of horrific torture and I am supposed to believe that a military shrink worth their while would not take extra care to go through things with him in depth? Like maybe a psychiatrist would assume that Jack has a severe case of PTSD and just see whether evaluation would prove him wrong? There are several specific psychological tests which are specifically designed to evaluate people who may have PTSD. Such tests have many questions – often you have to write the answers and while Jack may be able to fake some answers, surely he would slip somewhere? In any event, no matter what takes place I did not buy the scenario of Jack faking psych evaluation at all and it was already a huge problem for me, but unfortunately my problems have not ended with that.

Back to the plot. Jake meets with Dillon and Stacie when he comes home, and eventually he and Dillon acknowledge their feelings and have a passionate reunion. Although maybe passionate reunion is the wrong word since they never acknowledged to each other how they felt ten years ago – so I am not sure what to call it? Jack coming out to Dillon I suppose. And this was my next issue, although this one was more of my issues rather than the book’s issue. Of course it is a common theme in romances to have lovers (or potential lovers) reunited after many years apart, I get that. However for me as a reader it is always a problem, when they spend that many years apart, that they have only had each other on their minds. I guess it is just a matter of degree – I can see how you can remember your high school crush for years, but I do not see how the boy with whom you never even slept would be on your mind when you are having sex with other people. Of course it is on a case by case basis, but I know in this story I could not buy them being ten years apart and not being able to ever move on to other people for real – like being able to fall in love with somebody else. I would say that two – three years is the maximum amount of time I can tolerate before I can start rolling my eyes. I can see how other readers can find it romantic, but I just could not.

After a scene where Jack and Dillon have passionate sex, Jack decides that Dillon is better off without him and sneaks out in the middle of the night. I wanted to ask whether he thought about whether Dillon was better off without him before he decided to have sex with him, because I just do not see a real person acting that way. I do suspect that the writer wanted me to see that this was Jack’s PTSD that made him behave in such erratic, bizarre manner, but then can somebody please tell me why it is never mentioned *not once* mind you that Jack needs a lot of therapy and fast before he is ready to start any relationship? Why does Dillon never suggest it since he is the one who saw the most of Jack’s pain? He needs therapy, maybe years of it and the word is absent from the book?
There is a happy reunion.
I cannot recommend it.
Grade D.

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