After two years as a POW presumed dead, SAS soldier Lee Davis is finally going home. Back to his family, friends and…fiancée? He doesn’t have a fiancée…the night before his last deployment, Juliet Browne rejected his proposal. That makes the sight of her playing the grieving almost-wife beyond infuriating. Feigning amnesia, Lee decides to put Juliet’s “commitment” to the test.
Yet tormenting her conscience isn’t as easy as Lee thought it would be. Juliet’s still the woman whose memory got him through the worst of his captivity and her actions now prove she cares—a lot. And despite her betrayal, he needs her more than ever. Because Lee is beginning to realize that for him, Juliet is home.
Karina Bliss is one of those authors for me, like Kristan Higgins and Sarah Mayberry, that regardless of how much I have on the go reading-wise, I will always find time for. Ever since I read Like Father, Like Son a few years ago, I’ve devoured everything she has written.
I’ve really enjoyed the other books in this series, and when I learned that she was planning to bring Lee back from the dead, I was intrigued by how she would manage to do this without it looking comical.
I’ve heard a few people say that A Prior Engagement can happily be read as a stand-alone title. If you have read any of my reviews before, you’ll know I’m big on reading a series in order. I think it’s particularly important in the case of this series to read them in order – a lot of background and information that is relevant to Lee’s story can be found in the first three.
Bringing a character back from the dead is a very difficult proposition. You just don’t want it ending up like Stefano returning from the other side on Days of Our Lives. Ms Bliss has managed to maintain the dramatic nature of such an event (let’s face it, resurrection from the dead is pretty dramatic) and also has made it realistic enough for readers to believe this could actually happen.
Lee’s spent close to two years in captivity, a prisoner of the Taliban. He’s spent the time thinking that all his mates died in the action that saw him become a prisoner, and working out how he can win Jules back. He proposed to her within six weeks of meeting her, and when she turned him down, he took the ring back and stormed off. That just happened to be the night before he was deployed on that fateful mission.
When he is released and ready to return home, Lee discovers that Jules has been given the ring by his mates that survived, because they thought that’s what he would have wanted. To drive the knife deeper (at least in his eyes), Jules has become an integral part of his family and friends’ lives. He still holds a lot of anger over her “rejection” and decides that he’s going to make her sorry for lying to them – after letting her twist in the wind a bit first.
Jules has spent the time grieving and dealing with the guilt she felt over how things have played out since that night she turned Lee down. She had a very valid reason for refusing his proposal. Having grown up with a mother who constantly flitted between men on a seemingly endless search for short-term gratification, Jules had a hard time believing in the whole love-at-first-sight thing and just wanted some more time to explore the relationship with Lee before they dove into commitment. This still hasn’t stopped her from carrying around guilt for playing the part she has, even more so now that his mates have become such a big part of her life.
You can see why each of them have made the decisions that they have. Lee has been in a state of suspended animation for nearly two years, while his friends and family have moved on with their lives, and his ex has taken over his (or so he sees). Having been through what he has, it’s understandable that the anger he feels would manifest itself the way he did. Jules didn’t want those Lee loved (and who she’s grown to love) suffer any more heartbreak than they had, so she’s kept the truth from them. She could have come across as a manipulator, using the situation to make herself look better, but her motives were so much purer than that.
The attraction that brought them together in the first place is still there, and when they do come together again, it feels right and not just set up as a plot mover.
You can feel a sense of relief from both Lee and Jules once their actions are uncovered. The intensity lifts a little after this, but at its heart, this book is packed with emotion.
Another thing I really liked about this was how the issue of Lee’s PTSD is addressed. All the books in the series have dealt with hefty issues such as this and Jo’s cancer in book 1 – and never slid into maudlin victim-victim land. There is no magical fix for PTSD, and I am so glad that Ms Bliss hasn’t made it as if there is, because that would have just sunk the ship for me.
This could have easily descended into dark territory, such was the intensity in parts (particularly the first half). So the comic relief lent by Ross planning his wedding to Viv was fantastic, especially after reading about him from the previous books in the series.
This was a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series. The characters and the situations portrayed within it was realistic, flawed and wonderful all in equal measure. There are moments where your heart will break just a little, and there are moments where you will celebrate – all hallmarks of a Karina Bliss book.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Release Date: 7 May 2013
Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book by Harlequin via NetGalley in return for an honest review.