All Major Patrick MacLean wanted was Christmas with the woman and child who were his family in everything but name. But Captain Samantha Egan has come back from the war a different woman than the one who left – and she doesn’t know if she can love him anymore.
But neither of them counted on the determination of a little girl they both call daughter and if Natalie has her wish, her parents may have no idea what’s coming for them. It’s going to take Christmas miracle to bring these two wounded warriors back from the edge of a broken heart.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
Jessica Scott needs to patent these. Or something. Her entire Coming Home series is consistently awesome. It also focuses on a part of the military experience that is universal but not part of the adventure tales that fiction normally spins.
Instead, she sets her stories in that rough period of re-entry, where soldiers have physically come back from their deployment, but mentally they are experiencing a fairly rough re-entry that can be difficult for the people around them to understand. Even those who are (or were) in the service themselves.
All I Want for Christmas is You is a bit different in that the soldier who comes back from the fight different than they went is female, and the partner trying their best to help her is male. Captain Samantha “Sam” Egan returns from her one year deployment to face a world that feels strange and distant. She still hears the bombs, she still fears crowds, and she has become unfamiliar with the overabundance of choices available back home.
And she seems to have left her heart behind back in Afghanistan, along with the body of her best friend. For the past year, Sam left her daughter Natalie in the care of her domestic partner, Major Patrick MacLean. The year before, Sam took care of Natalie while Patrick was deployed. As a couple, they’ve spent two years growing apart. But Natalie sees Patrick as the only father she’s ever known, and wants her parents to stay together. She doesn’t care that Patrick wasn’t her biological father.
But Sam comes back uncertain of too many things, including whether she can ever give Patrick the love he deserves. Where two years ago she felt that love, now she just feels nothing, but can’t bring herself to get help. Instead, she pushes Patrick away and lets the blackness of depression rule her life.
Natalie isn’t willing to let her happy family fall apart, so she schemes to get Patrick back into their lives by dragging him to Sam’s small-town family home in Maine. And Patrick goes along with it. He wants his partner back, and he’s willing to put himself through hell to make that happen.
All it takes, is a lot of snow, and more than a bit of little girl schemng.
I love Scott’s books, to the point where I placed the 2014 entries in the series on my Library Journal Best Ebook Romances of 2014 list. Her experience as a serving officer allows her to portray the heroism of the sacrifices made without romanticizing the life and its downsides. Her characters always feel real.
Samantha is suffering from PTSD, along with a big dose of depression. It’s not just that war changes its participants, but also that she lost her best friend. She comes back feeling empty and bleak. She knows she has a problem, but she’s afraid to admit it out of the fear that she’s broken beyond repair and can’t be fixed.
One of the heart-rending parts of her story is that every former soldier she meets, including her best friend’s grandfather who served in Vietnam, is that every single one of them went through something like what she is experiencing, and they all got help sooner or later. The later they got that help, the more difficult the experience. Patrick feels guilty that he too had a difficult re-entry the previous year, but that he hid both his problems and his search for help from Sam. His attempt to protect her backfires spectacularly, because she ends up believing that the problem is all her. A belief which she is prone to based on her early life experiences. She expects to be the broken one, she expects to be left, she expects to be on her own. So she sets out to make those bad experiences come true, again.
Patrick doesn’t give up. He gets frustrated and occasionally impatient, but he knows what she is going through and is determined to not prove her worst fears true.
Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., coinciding with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other parts of the world. I wanted to review something with a military theme (but also a marvelous story) in honor of the day. Jessica Scott always delivers.
I give All I Want for Christmas is You an A.