He’s always loved her…
First Sergeant Gale Sorren waited a war and half a lifetime for a chance to get stationed near the ex-wife who left him years ago. When he finally musters the courage to see her, the life he imagined she was living was nothing close to the reality.
She’s never stopped loving him…
Melanie never stopped worrying about Gale each time he headed off to war. But he’s never been there when she needed him and she’s had fifteen years to steel her heart against him.
But when Gale moves to Fort Hood, he finally has a chance to make things right with Melanie and the daughter she raised without him.
Can Mel trust her heart to a man who has always let her down?
*Blurb taken from Goodreads
I picked up Homefront because I absolutely adore Jessica Scott’s work. Her Coming Home series is the best military romance I have ever read, because it doesn’t glorify war. Her soldiers all see what they do as necessary and important, but none of them are glory seekers. Or even glory finders. In her stories, the glory seekers are usually so busy aiming for a spotlight that they sacrifice either their honor or the soldiers under their command to get it.
The soldiers in Jessica Scott’s series get the job done, no matter what the cost to themselves, and quite often, their families.
In Homefront her hero is First Sergeant Gale Sorren, and he has finally managed to get himself stationed at Fort Hood, because his ex-wife and their daughter live in nearby Killeen, Texas. It’s not that Melanie wants Gale nearby, it’s that after ten years, Gale hasn’t gotten over Melanie, and he wants one last chance to be a father to their teenaged daughter Jamie before she is grown and gone.
He doesn’t expect Melanie to give him a second chance, or even the time of day, but he hopes he can make a real relationship with his daughter before it’s too late.
What we have in this story is two adults who have a ton of regrets. Gale and Melanie were teenage sweethearts, but when she got pregnant, they were both much too young for the responsibilities of parenthood, especially since Gale had already enlisted in the Army. They expected to help each other, but they just weren’t ready for the reality of Gale always being deployed and Melanie left alone to care for a fractious baby and angry toddler.
She decided she would be better off without Gale officially, since he was never around in the first place. Her pain, her decision, her divorce. Gale loved her too much to try to convince her to stay, because she was right. He was never there. The Army came first. And being a soldier was a job he was good at. Being a husband and father, not so much.
Fast forward ten years, and Gale is back for one last chance that at first Melanie is too heart-sore to give him. But she really does need his help with their daughter. Not because she is weak or terrible, but because Jamie is a teenager with some serious issues, and she and Melanie have reached a point where they push each other’s buttons just by breathing. They both need Gale as a buffer, a go-between, a new perspective. And Melanie needs someone to stand beside her when Jamie tears through every boundary that she sets.
Gale is not having the easiest time of it. He is First Sergeant in a command that was completely gutted and reassembled. Ben Teague, the hero of It’s Always Been You (reviewed at Reading Reality) is his reluctant commander. One of the other First Sergeants is Reza Iaconelli, the hero of All for You (also reviewed at Reading Reality). The gutting and reassembly is the result of the investigation conducted in Back to You (yes, also reviewed at Reading Reality).
While it isn’t necessary to read the Coming Home series to enjoy Homefront, knowing the back stories of some of the continuing characters adds some depth. And they are just plain awesome. So start with Because of You. And yes, I reviewed that one too.
But the story in Homefront focuses on Gale, Melanie and Jamie. Both Gale and Melanie have terrible tempers, which they seem to have passed on to Jamie in full measure. There is a lot of accumulated pain and heartbreak between them. At the same time, Melanie feels a ton of regret at having bailed on their marriage before they had a chance to grow up and work on it. She really likes (and wants) the man that Gale has turned into in the intervening years. She’s sorry she didn’t stick around to see it happen. It still takes her a while to trust that Gale is really around to help her, and that she can trust him to stick with her. At first, as she sees him with Jamie and Jamie’s willingness to listen to him, she is jealous that after all the time and effort she has put in, because she has HAD to be the disciplinary parent Gale gets to swoop in and be the fun parent.
It takes her a bit of time and soul-searching to get past that initial, human reaction. The more that Gale is around for Jamie, the more that Melanie sees that he is also there for her.
Gale wants to be there to watch his daughter grow up. The situation he walks into is both worse and better than he imagined. While he was deployed, Jamie was hospitalized when her repeated incidents of self-harm nearly resulted in her death. He couldn’t be there then, but he’s there to help now. And he feels horribly guilty for not having been able to come home without going AWOL.
He is also dealing with issues of his own. He’s lucky the anger-management classes have helped, because when his commander refused to let him come home, he beat up his superior officer and then suffered a blackout. Those blackouts make him feel like he might be a danger to himself and others. He’s not sure he deserves to be happy, or especially to have a second chance with his wife and daughter.
And in the middle of this mess Gale and Melanie discover a boy hiding in Jamie’s closet and condoms in her her purse. Gale is just barely getting the fatherhood thing back together and now he and Melanie have to start worrying that Jamie will make the same mistakes they did.
It’s almost enough to give a man a heart attack. Actually, it IS enough to give a man a heart attack.
The story in Homefront is a marvelous second-chance at love story. And it isn’t just about Gale and Melanie’s second chance at a marriage, but also their chance to repair their relationship with their daughter. It is also about Gale’s willingness to give a second chance to a young man who needs Gale to make the system work, instead of letting the Army protect a soldier who is beating his son. Gale’s unit, which used to be rife with corruption, has another chance to do the right thing.
All the characters in this story feel “real” and human. You can’t help but root for the good ones, and pray for the damaged ones. The happy ending in this one feels earned, and it’s marvelous.
I give Homefront an A.