I’m addicted to it. It’s how I feel alive. It’s the only thing that’s real any more.
And now I have to sit around and discuss it like it’s physics or calculus.
I can’t do it. I can’t pretend that it’s some sterile academic topic.
Violence isn’t sterile. It isn’t calm. It’s pulsing. It’s alive.
It’s my drug.
Until I met Abby, I never wanted anything beyond the next fight. Never considered that I might finally find a way back to the land of the living.
Now? Now I find myself dreaming of a woman with golden eyes.
But I can never be with her. Because I am not whole. And I never will be again.
But I cannot stay away. And loving her might finally be what breaks me.
The lack of psychological care for returning veterans takes center stage in this emotionally intense romance that also touches on prejudices towards those who are biracial as well as issues surrounding domestic abuse. It all adds up to a heartwrenching tale of opposites attracting that leaves you misty-eyed as well as cheering by the final turn of the page. It's ultimately a hard to forget story that touches on a group of wounded warriors trying to find peace amidst minds full of chaos and haunted by the past.
Josh has returned home but it's not the kind of homecoming he was led to believe it would be. He's returned to a world where he feels lost and judged by those who don't understand the harshness of war. He may be bruised but he's not yet broken, though he gets closer to the edge everyday as rage and alcohol course through his veins. Meeting the equally bruised Abby gives him a ray of hope, a chance to be accepted wholeheartedly if he's just brave enough to let her see the scars he carries inside and out. Josh is bitter when readers first meet him, hiding behind the numbing affect of alcohol and his blinding rage needing an outlet. He's clearly on edge though and capable of exploding at any minute just so he can feel alive which takes him and Abby down a rocky road to HEA. His frustration with his body betraying him has him pushing her away just when they get their closest. Despite the pain he inflicts on himself through his actions I still found him charming and protective where Abby was concerned. His careful handling of her had me holding out hope that he could work through his demons as other returning vets started falling apart around him.
Abby has her own demons to contend with because of her mother's duplicitous boyfriend and her own ex who never made her feel worthy. The scars from her childhood along with the blow to her self-esteem are a struggle within her that she works hard to put in the past as she aids a friend in need as well as in her dealings with Josh. Abby feels like an outsider at times because of her not falling into a perfectly defined category due to her being biracial. Being an outsider fuels her connection to Josh and has her accepting him as is and in so doing it gives him the strength to work through his issues. Abby's a kindhearted person who can see past the facade that Josh tries to enact to try to tame the beast lurking inside. She doesn't judge or push him beyond what he's willing to give, she just supports him. She's not always successful in helping him but she never gives up on him, which had me admiring her all the more for it. She's ultimately a strong-willed young woman loyal to those she calls friends and I found her immensely likable.
There are no easy answers in this story as Josh is still on shaky ground by the final page. There's a sense of hope though, a sense that with Abby by his side he'll be able to find some peace in his homecoming. Ms. Scott doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the issues these men are going through. Their pain is palpable, with nowhere for them to turn to except each other, and it had me aching for them. Josh isn't the only one suffering amongst returning vets in this story as the usually stalwart Eli has his own past returning to haunt him along with the arrogant Caleb hitting rock bottom but forming a bond with Josh over their emotional battles. Caleb especially is still in my thoughts and I hope to see his story told and he's a complex character who isn't all that he seems. Though this book is part of the Falling series it can be read on its own, but the outcomes of these men's struggles will be richer seeing their stories evolve through each book in the series. From start to finish this was a gritty read that debates the meaning of war and brutally depicts the loneliness returning vets feel which tugged at my heart. Ultimately these men are still at war in their hearts and minds and each small victory of theirs should be applauded as readers eagerly await Eli's story.
My rating for this is an A-
*I got this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion