I think there is just something about a military romance that continues to draw me to them – maybe it’s the whole hot guy in uniform thing, maybe it’s an interest in seeing what it is like for the families left behind. The Gifts of Honor anthology gives us two stories about returning soldiers and the effect that their service has had on them and their loved ones. While they are romances at heart, the stories delve into the difficulties in readjusting, coping with injury and dealing with the psychological impact of deployment. They aren’t all dark and horrible (there is a sense of hope that is woven through each story), but they do hold a light to the less discussed side of things.
What is Gifts of Honor about?
I’ll be home for Christmas…
A batch of special Christmas cookies helps a wounded ex-Ranger remember the love of his life. A surprise phone call reunites a woman with the soldier who once broke her heart. There’s no place like home for the holidays, and there’s no better way to spend them than with the one you love.
Starting from Scratch by Stacy Gail
Lieutenant Sully Jax saved his unit during an IED attack, but he couldn’t save his marriage. He can’t even remember it. Recovered from his injuries, he’s come home to the family and friends he knows–and an ex-wife who’s a stranger to him.
Lucy Crabtree was heartbroken last Christmas when Sully announced his plan to go on one last tour of duty, and devastated when he asked for a divorce after he awoke in the hospital with no memory of her. She’s finally moving on from her hurt and from losing the man she loved more than anything, and her cookie-baking business is taking off just in time for the holidays. But now Sully’s back, and she can’t deny she still loves him. But how can she trust her heart to someone who breaks it every time she sees him?
Sully might not remember Lucy, but something inside won’t let her go. With every bite of her cookies, he finds a new love for Lucy, and he soon realizes he wants to rebuild his life…with her by his side.
Hero’s Homecoming by Rebecca Crowley
Six months ago, being snowed in at Christmas with the amazing woman he met on R & R at Fort Riley would have been a dream come true, yet now, as a blizzard swirls outside Beth Tate’s house, Captain Chris Walker knows he shouldn’t be there. Blinded in combat and emotionally scarred, he never wanted Beth to know the man he’s become–but stranded by the storm, he had no one else to call.
Hurt and bewildered when Chris abruptly ended his faithful contact from Afghanistan, Beth tried to put him and their whirlwind romance out of her mind and prepared for a quiet holiday alone–until the phone rang. Now that he’s here, she’s more confused than ever, torn between love for the man she once knew and anger at the one who broke her heart.
A life with Beth was everything Chris wanted, but the wounds of battle are nothing compared to the agony of heartbreak. It will take more than mistletoe, but perhaps this holiday season Chris will find his way home.
So, here’s what I thought of the stories in Gifts of Honor!
Starting from Scratch by Stacy Gail was probably my favourite of the two stories in this anthology. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be confronted with the man you love and him not being able to recognise you. This is what happens to Lucy when her husband Sully is injured in combat. His filing for divorce is another blow to her, but she tries to pick up the pieces and rebuild a life for herself. When Sully reappears, still unable to remember, it begins to reopen old wounds. You can see just how much Lucy loves Sully, despite what has passed between them, and despite her reluctance to get her heart broken again, I love that she doesn’t dismiss him and his struggles. They are such a suited pair, and without giving too much away, you may just need some tissues while reading this.
I give Starting from Scratch 4 out of 5.
While I enjoyed Hero’s Homecoming, it didn’t have the same impact on me as the first story. Beth and Chris had only a short time together before he deployed, and shortly afterwards, he broke things off. He calls on her for help, when he arrives home to discover snow had him stranded. Chris has suffered traumatic injuries, including the loss of his sight, so I can understand why he does some of the things he does, but Beth’s seeming fixation on why did he dump her had me thinking I knew the reason why.
I’ve never been in the position of having a spouse or partner deploy, so I can’t really pass judgement. However, knowing what she does, I think Beth could have sucked it up a bit and paid more heed to Chris’s issues. The writing was great and this premise was one that definitely interested me. This tainted the story for me a little, however I do know that there are people out there who will love this story.
I give Hero’s Homecoming 3 out of 5.
Release Date: 21 November 2013
Note: I was provided with an advance reader copy by Carina Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.