Keeping his men alive is all that matters to Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison. But meeting Jen St. James the night before his latest deployment makes Shane wonder if there’s more to life than war. He leaves for Iraq remembering a single kiss with a woman he’ll never see again- until a near fatal attack lands him back at home and in her care. Jen has survived her own brush with death and endured its scars. And yet there’s a fire in Shane that makes Jen forget all about her past. He may be her patient, but when this warrior looks her in the eyes, she feels – for the first time in a long time – like a woman. Shane is too proud to ask for help, but for Jen, caring for him is more than a duty -it’s a need. And as Jen guides Shane through the fires of healing, she finds something she never expected – her deepest desire.
This blurb came from Amazon.com. Because of You is the first in her Coming Home series if you want to learn more about that series please visit Ms Scott’s website here.
I don’t remember what made me start following Ms Scott on a particular social network but she was deployed at the time. I continued to have 140 or less character conversations with her while she finished her deployment, took command and received her first publishing contract to lead off the return of the Loveswept line. As her release date approached, Ms Scott posed a question on Twitter asking about how an author goes about setting up a blog tour. I was one of the bloggers who answered, offered advice and arranged dates here on The Book Pushers. Originally this was just going to be a guest post which posted earlier today, but we also decided to have Ms Scott as one of our Debut Author Features and to do this review.
I have to state before I actually begin talking about Because of You that I had extremely high expectations. I have read some of Ms Scott’s blog posts so I wasn’t worried about the quality of her writing; I was more concerned with how she was going to incorporate the military for two reasons. First, due to my day job, I am really familiar with the Army culture so things that weren’t quite right would certainly jar me out of the world Ms Scott created. The second is that I know exactly how familiar Ms Scott is with the Army’s culture so I wasn’t willing to give her the leeway I try to give to someone who had to depend on research. I am pleased to state that Ms Scott certainly met my expectations and then some!
I was first introduced to Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison as he was trying to deal with the end of his marriage. Unfortunately the end of a relationship is a common occurrence in the military so carrying the thread of struggling relationships throughout the story added to its realism. In those same early pages I was introduced to some personalities that would continue to resonate and play important roles in the lives of the main characters. A few of them I am hoping get to become main characters in the future. I was also able to get a real feel for the depth of responsibility towards his platoon that Sergeant First Class Garrison has.
Shane just didn’t want to watch them say good-bye to their wives and girlfriends, and it had nothing to do with his divorce. Shane hated the knowledge that he might not be bringing everyone home to their families.
This gathering is also where I was introduced to Jen St. James whose friend Laura happens to be Shane’s company commander’s wife. Since Laura convinced Jen to go out with them for the first time after undergoing a rather traumatic series of events Jen is able to meet Shane and several members of his platoon. Jen gets a taste of their personalities and also share a rather sweet moment with Shane at the end of the night.
As the story continued I noticed something rather impressive about Ms Scott’s writing style. Any character that she spent more then two lines bringing to my attention played a role as events progressed. Some acted to reinforce aspects of some of the primary characters while others demonstrated that Shane and his men were not in some idealized vacuum, but a group of people with all the inherent quirks and foibles that come with people. Even with the life-threatening action taking place in Iraq with Shane’s unit, Ms Scott did not neglect to develop the characters of the wives, girlfriends and support structure back at Fort Hood. She was able to use their very uncertainty and the lack of personal knowledge on the part of Jen, a civilian nurse, to explain to her audience some aspects of military culture without becoming infodumpy or condescending.
Ms Scott’s deft use of interpersonal relationships clearly illustrated how much the members of Shane’s platoon depended on each other and how an injury, an evacuated or a killed member of their platoon upset the balance. She was also able to show how much of a person’s identity is wrapped up in what they can do physically. This is especially true in a culture, for example that of the infantry that demands a high level of physical performance as a foundation. When members of that culture suddenly lose that ability they lose their foundation. The path to finding a new foundation and regaining their sense of worth plays a huge role in the lives of Shane, Jen and other members of his platoon.
I really liked how Ms Scott paired two people dealing with the loss of something they used as part of their identity together. They were able to help each other continue the healing process and neither one could throw at the other the excuse when things seemed insurmountable that the other person just didn’t understand. Some of you might have seen me mention on twitter a few occasions while I was reading that I had to come up to breath, well that pause was used to control the urge to grab my box of tissues and start bawling. I was at work and I MUST maintain my composure there.
I think the only thing I didn’t like was one of the stereotypes that Ms Scott used regarding a poor excuse of an officer. I didn’t like it because unfortunately it is one that is a common belief that is based on truth, and I have met people who fulfilled that stereotype, but not everyone who graduates from West Point is that way. I cannot fault the usage because again for some people it is true. Also the use of that stereotype helped reinforce the accuracy of the military culture.
As I stated near the beginning of this review Ms Scott surpassed my expectations regarding the inclusion of military culture and she provided me with a touching, entertaining read. I was fully invested in her characters and a certain sequence of events about broke my heart. When I reached the last page I kept trying to move to the next page because I wanted to see what happens next. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in her trilogy. I give Because of You an A.