Today I'm bringing to you a book that touched me on many levels and has me still thinking about it long after I turned the final page. Reckless Endangerment by Amber Lea Easton is an emotionally and mentally intense read dealing with war's aftermath and how atrocities happen not only in faraway lands but right outside the front door too. Keep reading as Ms. Easton discusses tortured heroes along with seeing my impressions of this book as well. To learn even more about this book visit the other blogs hosting this tour and for your chance to win a bookstore GC fill out the form below.
Thanks for having me today during my virtual book tour for Reckless Endangerment. As an author, I'm often asked what makes a great character. With that in mind, I'd like to explore what goes into making a great leading man of romance.
Tortured heroes. We love 'em, hate em', sometimes want to smack them, but those brooding romantic leading men have something we absolutely adore. Am I right or am I right?
This goes beyond the bad boy who just wants to get laid and oozes sex appeal. A tortured hero is a man who is haunted by something, who has a vulnerability he masks with indifference, and who usually has a broken heart that he's unwilling to risk again.
Speaking from a personal point of view, I like a man who knows what it's like to hurt. I find them to be compassionate confidantes whose strength transcends whatever wounds they've endured. It's refreshing to be with a man who's been deepened by life rather than someone who's only dwelt in the shallows.
Perhaps that's why I enjoy writing about tortured heroes. In Kiss Me Slowly, Jonathan Alexander was a man without connection, who'd lost his mother and who didn't trust anyone around him (for very good reasons). In Riptide, Noah Reynolds has been isolated by success, endured the death of his fiancee, and feels people only want him in their lives because of his money and connections. In Reckless Endangerment, Michael Cedars, a war veteran, has lost many friends, has been partially paralyzed in a war zone, doubts his abilities with his 'new normal', and isn't quite sure how to transition into civilian life. Yeah...they're complicated.
But complications and vulnerabilities make a character interesting. When a hero knows his imperfections and deliberately hides them, we know he's scared no matter what his outward appearance suggests. That's the beauty of a good story--peeking behind the curtain to see who the Wizard really is.
Vulnerability is difficult for most people in real life, but it's essential to show it in fiction. If we're all honest with each other, we know what our vulnerabilities are and we also know when we're masking them. Perhaps that's why fictional characters who are flawed impact us so significantly. We relate. Maybe that's why women read about a tortured hero and fall in love with him a little bit while immersed in the story.
Who's my favorite tortured hero that I've written about so far? I'll never tell. I love them all for various reasons. (see how I wimped out of answering that one?) What about you? What makes you fall for a guy after the initial physical reaction? For me, it's all about him opening his heart, showing me his hurt and trusting me enough to accept him fully.
Heroes come in many forms--soldiers who fall and rise, ordinary people doing extraordinary things, women who battle for their marriage, reporters who fight for truth and justice, and men who put it all on the line for the women they love.
Sometimes heroes fall.
Colonel Michael Cedars is a decorated war hero returning home from Afghanistan. Wounded, unsure if he’ll walk again, he’s not sure how he fits in civilian life, and he definitely questions if he wants to remain married to the feisty redhead he married a world away.
Hope Shane’s never been one to play it safe. She met the Colonel while working as a war correspondent, fell in love with the man in uniform, watched him get blown up, and isn’t willing to give up on him now.
Back in Denver, Colorado, she’s working as an investigative reporter who becomes entangled in a human trafficking story. As the danger of her story intensifies, Michael is tested more than he ever imagined. Will he be able to see beyond what he’s lost to embrace what remains? Is he still the man she married or has he become a liability that could get her killed? Is he still the hero she claims him to be? Will her reckless pursuit of justice endanger the life they’ve pieced together?
“I’m sick of not having a say in what I do or don’t do. You can’t do this. Just because I’m trapped in this chair doesn’t mean I don’t have a say about my life and I want you out of it. Get the hell out and leave me alone. I don’t want to be married to you and, unless something’s changed in the good ol’ USA, you can’t stop me from divorcing you. Listen closely, babe. I. Don’t. Want. You.”Rage consumed him. Rage for what could have been, what should have been, for a life lost. Rage for everyone acting like he had no rights anymore, like he couldn’t make his own decisions. He tossed the wedding ring and pictures across the room.
Looking horrified, she covered her mouth with her hands and walked to where the frames smashed against the floor. As she bent, her bag spilled, contents ranging from liquid soap to a flashlight scattered across the tile. She fell to her knees, hands shaking as she scooped up the items. Broken glass crunched beneath her. Hair shielded her face from view, but he knew she cried.
He remembered another time with her on her knees when that bag had saved his sanity. Bombs had rocked the walls. Blood had dripped into his eyes. Dizziness weakened his legs. From that bag, she’d retrieved bandages, protein bars, and bottles of water. He had thanked God for her and that oversized bag.
“I’ll make sure I call next time,” she said in rushed, quiet voice, “wouldn’t want to inconvenience you.”
“I’m sorry.” He dropped his hands to the arms of the chair and stared at her bent head. “I don’t know how to handle any of this anymore, Hope, especially you.”
She froze at his words. “Especially me, huh? I’m the one constant in your life, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Despite all the bullshit, here I am. Me, stupid me, still needing you as much today as I did a year ago.”
His chest caved in at the sight of her eyes glistening with tears. He wanted to take it back, every word.
“I don’t know how to do this, how to be married, how to be back in the States, how to be a civilian again, how not to walk,” he admitted.
“You break my heart,” she whispered.
“How could I possibly break your heart?”
“By not seeing how strong you are, how much you mean to everyone in your life, how worthy you are to be alive, how heroic you’ve been, how much I love you.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Maybe I need to stop trying to hold on. Maybe you’re right.” Sighing, her shoulders slumped. “We were this close,” she held her fingers an inch apart, “to having a life together when everything blew up in our faces. Literally. What else do I have to lose, right? I already lost my dignity when I begged those damn bureaucrats to let me see you in Germany. And when I say begged, I mean I begged, pleaded, bartered, whatever I could possibly say or do to get in and they told me that you,” she pointed at him, “said no, you told them I lied about being married to you. McGee backed you up. I looked like a fool and a liar.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Now you’re doing it again, denying me. You’d rather sit in this place alone than admit to the world that I’m your wife. It’s true.” She nodded, gaze gluing him in place. “I gave up my everything for you, soldier boy. My life. My pride. My dignity. I gave it all up for you.”
“Why?” he choked out the question. “I did everything to get you to let me go. I don’t want you to give up anything for me; can’t you see that? You were born to be in the spotlight, dodging bullets, charming your way into and out of trouble. I’m an anchor to you now; you know it but refuse to admit it. I want you to forget me. Why won’t you let me go?”
She closed her eyes, face tilted toward the ceiling. “Because maybe I went crazy over there. Maybe we weren’t this close,” again with the fingers, “to having a life together. Maybe we were already there. Maybe it wasn’t conventional, but it was real, it was us. Maybe I misunderstood sex for more. Maybe I thought that our wedding meant as much to you as it did to me. Maybe I’m the biggest fool to walk planet earth.”
“But now I’m broken so...”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Nodding, she looked away and brushed the back of her hand over her eyes. “And I’m too shallow to be the person you need, right? Too superficial? I know the truth. I know that you should be capable of limited mobility, that you are not trapped in that chair, that you have sensations in your right leg and have even managed to stand for a brief period of time here and there. Didn’t you think I’d do some research on your injuries? I may have kept my distance, but I have a knack for getting people to talk to me, remember? Yes, you’re in a wheelchair, but your situation isn’t hopeless. You’re the one who gave up, but for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s not like you. You’re a goddamn colonel in the Marine Corps. You don’t surrender, so what’s going on with you?”
Her words stung. He had heard them for months now and he didn’t know the answer. He couldn’t explain anything to anyone, not even himself.
“You need to be in New York or in the middle of the action. You’re the It Girl, isn’t that what they called you? Headed for a network anchor job one day, right? Your own show? Watch out Manhattan, here comes Shane. You’ll have them eating out of your hand within months.”
“Maybe you don’t know me as well as I thought,” she said with a bitter twist of her mouth. “I’ve been waiting...don’t you see? I could care less about a network job and you know it.” She finished stuffing the contents into her bag before standing. “I love you. I thought you loved me, too. Until you can look me in the eye and tell me you don’t, that you never did, I’ll keep coming back.”
He grabbed the picture frames from the sofa cushion where she’d tossed them and looked at the broken glass. Guilt and confusion ate away at his brain.
“Do you have any idea what it’s like for me not to know what to do? I’m a decorated officer. I made decisions minute by minute that affected the lives of my unit, yet I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know what to do about this,” he smacked the arms of his chair, “I don’t know what to do about you and I definitely don’t know what to do about Dalton. I’m fucked up. I hate not knowing what to do. You’re right...it’s not like me. Don’t you think I know that?”
With a muttered curse, she sat on the edge of the sofa and blinked at the ceiling. He noticed her hands trembling as they gripped the strap of her bag. The room seemed abnormally quiet without her storming around and threatening him. He didn’t like her docile and reflective...it threw him off.
“I’m sure it’s hell. You were always in command. For months now, you’ve had one surgery after another, been under constant care with zero privacy, me pestering you with my endless notes and your family hauling you across the country without anyone asking what you want. No one is respecting the officer in the room.”
He squinted at her. “Exactly. People talk about me rather than to me.”
“Yet expect you to snap out of your funk and get on with your life.”
“But I don’t know what that means.” Her understanding shook his resolve, weakened his resistance.
“And you haven’t tried because you’ve been mourning your old life and don’t know what the new life is yet.
“Everyone thinks I’m a rotten, self-pitying bastard.”
“Because that’s what you want us to think so we leave you alone.” She shoved both hands through her hair and sighed. “You’re exhausting.”
“I know.” He smiled for the first time in months. “I exhaust myself, too. I’m really sick of my crap.”
“Well, that’s something.” She grinned, eyes dark with defeat. “I haven’t respected the officer in the room, have I?” She skimmed her thumb across the scar on his forehead. “I love you, if that means anything to you at all.”
“It means something to me.” He snagged her hand, but she yanked it away and stood.
“My business card is on the table near the sofa if you need me, want to talk or whatever. My cell phone number’s on the back.” She hesitated at the door before looking over her shoulder. “I want my husband back.”
BOOK TRAILER here.
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MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:
By the end of Reckless Endangerment I can sum it up by saying it's Triple-H......heartbreaking, heartwarming, and heartpounding. It's full of likable and fully fleshed-out characters, realistically depicted issues related to the aftermath of war, and it presented a fast-paced mystery surrounding human trafficking that kept me on the edge of my seat. It shows that atrocities not only occur in faraway lands but outside our front door as well. As two people deal both mentally and physically with the hand war dealt them it's only through love and acceptance that true healing can begin and a HEA can be fully achieved.
Hope Shane gives the impression of being a total badass who can handle any situation. She loves being in the thick of things and is totally dedicated to the causes and few people she cares about. Some might call her cold but she's actually intensely devoted and focused on doing what's right to the exclusion of all else, including her own safety. Her work is the most important thing to her until she met, and secretly married, Colonel Michael Cedars in the middle of the war in Afghanistan. It's in a dark room where they plan for the future and enjoy quiet moments of happiness keeping the war at bay. Their dreams come crashing down as he's severely injured and tries to push her away and deny her existance out of fear. She's a strong-willed woman though who has no intention of giving him up and forces her way back into his life. Her strong outer shell hides her inner turmoil and flashes of PTSD from all the death she's witnessed. I ached to see her moments of weakness as they were so contradictory to how she presents herself. Her latest story puts her right in the thick of a battle at home involving human trafficking that puts her life in jeopardy as well as those around her. Once again Michael's in danger but thankfully they have each other to turn to as the danger is closer than they ever expected. Even though she struggles with survivor's guilt throughout the story she never lets things beat her. No matter how often she's knocked down, she gets right back up to stand by her man and her convictions.
Michael Cedars has always been a man in control, so his paralysis is especially frustrating as he now has little control of anything. As a quadriplegic myself I found his feelings believable and the cycle of emotions he goes through towards acceptance realistic. His own body has betrayed him through its weakness that mentally makes him feel like less than a man. He's used to taking care of others but now must be taken care of. At first he pushes Hope away as he wants her to have someone better than him. Through her support and presence though he realizes he's still the man he was, just a slightly different one, that she needs no matter what. He too can admit that he needs her and wants to fulfill those dreams they once made. He accepts her as she is even as others call her reckless. As they reunite in the home she planned for long ago their connection deepens and the hurts they've buried deep inside slowly heal. Love is a healing balm and leads to an immensely satisfying conclusion.
Hope and Michael are both flawed characters who sometimes hurt each other in their verbal battles. They love each other wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Their love was vital to them both and as the story progressed they realized how much they'd give up to be together. Their journey towards a HEA was heartbreaking at times but ultimately cheer-inducing. The life of a wheelchair user was presented vividly and accurately and pulled no punches in dealing with the physical, mental, and emotional issues of having a body that's no longer yours to control. The sexual aspects were also dealt with sensitively yet believably. The mystery Hope gets caught up in went on a bit too long but definitely kept me on the edge of my seat guessing whodunit due to its numerous twists and turns. The secondary characters were larger than life with each leaving a lasting impression. This story drew me in completely from page one and kept me immersed in its grittiness until the very satisfying end and I wholeheartedly recommend it to others. This was my first time reading a book from this author but her impressive storytelling has me wanting to come back for more and I look forward to her future releases.
My rating for this is an A.
*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.AUTHOR INFO:
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published cross genre author of romantic suspense, action adventure, mystery thrillers and new adult (coming in summer 2013). Her current releases cross all boundaries and appeal to a wide audience. If you love a clever plot, action that will leave you breathless, riveting characters and sexy love scenes, her books will appeal to you. "Smart is sexy," Easton says, which is why she focuses on smart heroines who always have a lot to lose yet find the courage to face their fears to overcome adversity. She's an avid reader of all genres or "whatever turns her on in the moment".
Easton grew up in Hartford, South Dakota, where she spent her time daydreaming of big adventures over the horizon under a giant blue South Dakota sky. Now living in Colorado, she's an avid traveler who incorporates her real life travels into her novels as much as possible (minus the illegal activities her characters become immersed in--she swears). To her, setting is another character in the novel and often serves as an inspiration. Love is her motivation for all things--whether it be writing, traveling, playing with her dogs or hanging with her two teenagers--if it's not done with love, then what's the point?
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