Sometimes even a hero needs someone to save him.
Mark Connor doesn’t feel like a hero even though he served two tours in Vietnam and survived a vicious ambush that took the lives of all but a handful of men. But he lost his best friend and lover, and now he refuses to be close to anyone. That makes his instant attraction to Josh a real problem.
Josh Myers hires on with Mark to help him with a remodeling job. A survivor himself of a Beirut bombing, he embraces life with open arms. But he can’t get his new flame to take an interest in love, in life, or in himself.
Alone in the northern Outer Banks in January, Mark clings desperately to his past, even as Josh offers him a future he doesn’t think he deserves.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Val’s review convinced me to get this book a try (as her reviews often do) and wow, I’m so happy it did. This well written novel is stunning and it tackles some very interesting questions. Often in fiction readers, and authors, struggle with the idea of authenticity and whether a character or action is “realistic.” Even though it’s fiction, readers want a story that’s believable. Here the author offers characters that are completely believable and infused with such honesty you can’t help but know these types of people exist. Yet the main character is extremely difficult to like due in part to his authenticity. Interesting catch 22 and one that makes for an absorbing story in my opinion.
Mark Connor is a Vietnam vet still suffering flashbacks and nightmares 40 years later. He’s never really recovered from his time in the war and has become a shelter, isolated individual. When a remodeling job on the remote coast of North Carolina becomes too big to handle on his own, outgoing Josh enters the mix. Sparks fly immediately between the two men but Mark’s bitter, alcoholic personality may drive easy going, light hearted Josh away for good.
The story is well written and mostly character driven. This is the story of Mark’s redemption, such as it is, and how two men affected by battle come together. The two men are very different and bring an opposites attract theme to the story. Mark is clinging to the past, mourning his best friend and lover that died in Vietnam. Mark still has nightmares and flashbacks and chooses to deal with his trauma by drinking heavily. Mark also has remained celibate all these years. Put together, these facts while authentic for many reasons, also paint a picture of a deeply unhappy man that is unlikely to change at this point in his life. While Mark is a sympathetic character and well crafted, I didn’t ever really believe he could change. Not at this late stage in his life when he’s clung to his pain and despair for so long.
On the other hand there is Josh, a former marine who also saw his share of heart ache and pain in Beirut. Whereas Mark let his life slip away with his PTSD, Josh decides to live life to the fullest in celebration of his fallen friends and brothers in arms. The opposite approach gives Josh a fun loving, easy going personality that blends with touches of a hippie flower child within. Josh and Mark create sparks right off the bat and there is some interesting banter and dialogue. Mark takes to calling Josh insulting names immediately but Josh takes it in stride and remains a mischievous character. This is a tough sell since Mark is embittered and angry right from the beginning. The story does a very commendable job in selling why Josh would be interested regardless but Mark’s behavior isn’t going to win many fans either.
However the hot chemistry and solid writing deliver a story that is engaging and fascinating, even through the few falters. Whenever the story becomes questionable or difficult to buy into, the prose and character development carry the reader along. The sex scenes are incredibly hot, especially given that they are mostly fantasies the men have about each other. I thought this was a clever way to keep the tension between the men going while introducing a nicely heated erotic element. Also the desolate and chilly North Carolina coast is beautifully described. The vivid descriptions bring the setting to life from the sleet and rain to warmth of a late night fire and high definition porno. The contrasts inherent in the story are compelling and add another layer of depth to the already complex characters.
Really I think Val’s review says it the best but if there is anything to take away from this, it’s simply a great, compelling story. I may not believe Mark can change but he’s so honest and real in a heart breaking way that I can’t help but root for him. I want him and Josh to make it in their simple, low key life and can’t wait to read the sequel. In a sea of great beachy reads, this weightier offering is well worth your few dollars and time.
Get it HERE!