The first time I read one of Ms. Lane’s books, I decided to choose the one with the cheating hero. Surprisingly, things turned out well and I ended up enjoying the book. So for my second book I decided to once again step out of my comfort zone and go for the one with the widower.
Jessica and Ryan have been pen pals for over a year now. Both of them relied on those letters to survive; Ryan because he was in the middle of the war, and Jessica because she was battling cancer. They became best friends and confidents, especially Ryan, because he was able to confide in her and tell her about his wife dying, his son rejecting him and his feelings of inadequacy. Jessica wasn’t as forthcoming but still she became dependent on him. So when Ryan gets back for a short leave, the natural progression is that they meet in person. But things don’t go as smoothly, first because they are attracted to each other but neither of them feel is the right moment to do something about it, and second because Jess won’t come clean about her disease for fear of being rejected, even as a friend.
Therefore they have to figure out what they want and what’s best for them, both individually and as a possible couple. In the process, Jessica will help Ryan reconnect with his son, and Ryan will help her reconnect with herself.
I’ve said before that I like books where the conflict comes from within the characters, and this is one of those. Jessica and Ryan had serious issues. After a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, she felt incomplete and insecure. She was also dealing with the social consequences of having a disease that had previously killed her sister, meaning that everyone treated her differently and was overprotective. Ryan was recovering from a wound, but also from the death of his wife and the ensuing abandonment of their son. When she died he didn’t know what to do, so instead of dealing with it he went away and stayed away. And now his son doesn’t want anything to do with him. So these are serious situation that feel real without being extreme and filled with external conflict.
I liked both leads. Jessica was a bit shy and insecure, but she had a good reason for it. Ryan was also insecure, although his reasons were more selfish. But they were likeable characters and I was rooting for them to find their happy ending.
There were a couple of things that didn’t quite work for me. First -and this may be just plain ignorance on my part, so take it with a grain of salt- is the fact that when they finally have sex, he can’t tell that what she had done was more than a boob job. I was under the impression that after having reconstructive surgery the scars are different than those of a regular implant surgery, so that was a bit weird to me. Then there’s the fact that at one point Ryan almost dismisses the dead wife, saying that he wasn’t sure he was in love with her, that they married too young, etc. As much as I hate heroes obsessed with the dead wife, I think it’s terrible when they act as if the poor woman wasn’t the love of their lives. He had nine years to figure out that he loved her but wasn’t in love with her, so what? She had to die for the guilt to give him a clue to his true feelings? Is that why he couldn’t deal with the loss and grief? I wanted to yell at him to grow a pair. Actually, growing a pair is his journey, really, read the book and see how he goes from coward to great hero.
My favorite part of the book was the ending and how the big misunderstanding was resolved, if there was and actual misunderstanding. Ryan redeems himself at the end and you can see how his character changes and grows. I loved it.
This is a short story and if you like damaged characters you will enjoy it. It has some flaws but overall it was a good book and I’m glad I read it.
Review by Brie
A soldier's second chance…
As nervous as a teenager about to go on her first date, Jessica Mitchell waits for Special Forces Ranger Ryan McAdams—her best friend for the past year— whom she's never met! They've been pen pals while Ryan was away fighting for their country and Jessica was secretly fighting her own demons back home.
She knows widower Ryan's fears of returning to civilian life and his hopes of reconnecting with his son. Now she can't wait to meet him face–to–face—to hear his voice and see his smile…
Harlequin. August 2, 2011.