Twenty-five-year-old Sgt. Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his life: stay in the Marine Corps or get out and learn to be a civilian? He’s got forty-five days of leave to make up his mind but the people in his life aren’t making the decision any easier. His dad wants him to get out; his grandfather wants him to stay in. And his growing feelings for Sam Anderson are wreaking havoc with his heart…and his mind. He believes relationships get ruined when a Marine goes on deployment. So now he’s got an even harder decision to make: take a chance on Sam or leave love behind and give his all to the Marines.
Twenty-two year old Samantha Anderson lost her husband to an IED in Afghanistan just two months after their vows. Two years later, Sam is full of regrets—that she didn’t move with her husband to Alaska; that she allowed her friends to drift away; that she hasn’t taken many chances in life. Now, she’s met Gray and taking a risk on this Marine could be her one opportunity to feel alive and in love again. But how can she risk her heart on another military man who could share the same tragic fate as her husband?
*Blurb from Goodreads*
I have to be honest, when Frederick offered me the next book in the Woodlands series, I didn’t even read the blurb before saying YES! But a small part of me was a little nervous to start reading once I read the blurb because I’ve read books in the past with the war hero dead hubby and the widow that absolutely DID NOT work for me. I’m so pleased to report that Frederick knocked this one out of the park!
Sam has been a widow now for over two years, and the thought of moving on scares her more than she ever expected. Working at the bar and making plans to go back to school makes her feel like she might be starting to move on, but Sam doesn’t even want to think about a relationship. That is until she meets Gray.
Gray has the time of his leave to decided if he wants to stay in the Marines or not. With his father pushing him in one direction, and his grandfather in the other, Gray heads off to visit his Marine buddies to get away from it all. Running into Sam isn’t what Gray had in mind for his leave, but getting to know her is more than Gray expected. But when his leave time is up and he has to make a decision, will he and Sam be able to move on from their pasts to start a future?
Some of the other books I’ve read with a heroine who was a war hero widow were not handled in a way that I was okay with. More often than not, the dead husband is made out to look like a bad guy. He was a cheater, he had wanted out of the marriage, he had a secret child somewhere… Whatever the case may be, it always came across as cheap and a bit of a cop-out. However, Frederick did an AMAZING job of showing that there is a way for a couple to honor a fallen soldier and family member, and move past it. I loved the fact that Gray asked Sam questions about Will, how he died, what he was like, what they did together. It showed me that Gray was mature enough to acknowledge that Sam was married to a soldier, and that Gray was confident enough in their relationship to help keep the memory of Will alive, and be able to move past the jealousy. It was so beautiful and so well done.
I almost instantly fell in love with both Sam and Gray as individuals. Gray was cocky and funny and although you could tell he took his job in the Marines seriously, it was obvious he still wanted to be a young and carefree guy at times. I enjoyed his struggle with staying in the Marines or not, especially since his promotion would require him to be in charge of people. It showed just how much he cared about his fellow Marine. However, Gray’s hangup with relationships with a little too much at times. Although he had a definite reason to be jaded, I think he also had some really good examples of relationships he could have looked to as well. Instead, he chose to ignore those influences, and that didn’t seem to jive with his character.
Sam is so sweet, so caring, and so supportive of everyone around her. But at the same time, she is also stuck with her grief over Will, and she is unable to move forward or back. She hates that she didn’t move to Alaska with him, she feels guilty they were married for such a short time, and she is almost crushed under the weight of her own grief as well as the pain and loss of her mother-in-law. The fact that she wanted and is able to move on a huge feat in and of itself.
I thought the romance between Gray and Sam was absolutely perfect. Sam still struggled with her attraction to Gray, and he struggled with jealousy over a dead man. They each had to work through their own issues, and find ways to help one another move forward. I thought the romance moved at a pace that was perfect for each of them, and I absolutely loved them together.
Getting to see the other Woodlands guys and gals is always a treat. I think this cast of characters is one of my favorites in the new adult genre, and I am always anxious and excited to read about who will be getting their HEA next. I’m anxious to read more about Finn, and hope that Frederick writes faster. 🙂
All in all I think this book is my favorite in the Woodlands series so far. Although the story touches on some really sensitive topics, Frederick does an incredible job dealing with each and every aspect of the romance, the character development, and the story overall. I loved the way Sam and Gray were able to find ways to honor Will together and move on with their lives. It was a beautiful story!
I give Unraveled an A-