REVIEW: Forever a Soldier by Genevieve Turner
A wounded soldier searching for healing…
Hank Moreno returned home from combat not quite broken but definitely battered. His job now is to recover from his tour of duty and to keep a hundred-year-old house from falling down around his ears. No one calls, no one visits—just as he likes. But then one irrepressible woman invades his sanctuary, hunting the secrets hidden within.
A determined scholar searching for a legend…
Graduate student Lale Pehlivan is investigating a century-old mystery. Unraveling it will guarantee she becomes a star history professor. But one surly former soldier is guarding the family archives—and standing between her and the information she needs.
There’s no escape from the person destined to break your heart…
Lale launches a charm attack Hank can’t resist, and the sterling honor Lale finds beneath Hank’s surliness tunnels under her own defenses. But when Lale threatens to unearth Hank’s secrets along with those in the archive, their hearts might not survive the upheaval.
Dear Ms. Turner,
While I’ve read all the “Fly Me to the Moon” series, I’ve only managed to read one novella from your late 19th century Spanish California series despite my best intentions. This contemporary story set among the descendants of those characters seemed like a good place to start catching up.
This book is very much a character driven novel with two people who aren’t looking for any relationship though for different reasons. Hank is a vet but not one with PTSD. He did suffer injuries during his tours but he’s always had the anxiety to go along with his introversion. Living alone in a family house, caring for his animals and avoiding most everyone suits him fine. Reluctantly he agrees to help a history graduate student search through the family archives for material to round out her research and finish her dissertation. Hank might appear brusk in his initial interactions with Lale but as an introvert myself, I can attest that this is how we often are – taking our time before entering into a new relationship.
Lale expects an elderly caretaker when she arrives but instead finds a hot and extremely surly younger man. She needs what she thinks she’ll find among the letters left by his ancestors to finally finish her graduate work and get her advisor as well as her mother off her back. As a survivor of two failed long term relationships, Lale isn’t about to saunter into a casual one. She’s done those as well as an engagement and doesn’t have the time or energy for it again. If she’s going to get started with someone, she wants it to be someone she can see taking home to meet her Turkish parents and marrying.
From her first meeting with Hank, Lale senses she needs to be careful, to not rush him as he obviously isn’t thrilled about potential family legends being messed with or secrets revealed. Her arguments that the letters and other items weren’t intentionally destroyed and thus someone wanted them to be known doesn’t cut much ice with him. Her own immigrant family’s lack of historical items to care for, cherish and pass down to the next generation makes her doubly grateful for the chance to view these.
As she gets to know him though, Lale finds Hank is the type of man to care for the animals no one wants as well as the man who shrinks from human contact not because he’s mean but because it overwhelms him. He also takes his duties seriously including watching over his ancestors’ lives and reputations but Lale’s gift of needing him to help her with her research is something no one has offered him in years. They’ve tolerated him, humored him but no one has needed him for a long time.
The attraction they feel might be quick but it’s definitely three steps forward and two steps back as far as anything between them. When Hank and Lale say they’re not looking for a relationship, they mean it. Progress comes in fits and starts and almost against their will. I do like that although Hank’s family and Lale’s mother might hope for something more between them, there aren’t any silly manipulations to try and engineer this. It’s up to these two to make their decisions – sure with some advice but no pressure.
Lale needs to discover the final piece for her paper and of course it’s going to bring on the last conflict as well. Personally I was as taken aback as Lale at Hank’s reaction to it as that seemed over the top even for his guardianship of the family stuff. But I also figured that it would all come down to something like this. Hank does make the decision to go after Lale and also to make some more changes in his life. Hank acknowledges that he’s never going to be “cured” of his anxiety but he can work towards being better able to handle it. The story ends with a nice HFN. It’s very introspective characterization centered and I was glad to see that love doesn’t cure Hank. B