For military wife, Kennedy Flanagan, letting go had not been easy. Learning to let go after the tragic death of her Navy SEAL husband in the Afghan War has proven to be "mission impossible." But after five long years and countless hours of tears and healing, Kennedy has moved on.
"Killed in Action?" No! Liam Flanagan is alive! A special ops team uncovers the location where he had been held prisoner and Liam has a second chance at life. However, five years is a long time. Soon life deals another blow. His wife has remarried and his daughter calls another man he hates "daddy."
Caught between the past and the realities of the present, Liam and Kennedy fight for the love they've had and forgiveness for all they have lost. "Before Sunrise" promises to make you a believer in the "happily ever after" we all deserve.
This is one of those novels that deals with circumstances and situations that are very much a part of American life, that tells a story with characters and contexts that are real and robust, weighty with authentic emotion and the hurts of a reality that few of us can ever know and for which we are beyond thankful that we don't.
It is the story of two people who shared a love that is one of those rare "forever" kinds of connections, an intimacy that connects souls and not just bodies. It is a love that began under a set of circumstances that few parents would condone, and yet these two people knew instinctively that their love was real and that no one or nothing could prevail against it. And then comes the Middle East conflict on the heels of September 11, 2001, and Liam and Kennedy are caught in the vise of politics and terror. They had weathered family disdain and disapproval; they had been true to their plans and goals and Kennedy had completed her college education as Liam had promised her father. Now she was three months pregnant and Liam is ordered on a top-secret mission. That is the last Kennedy heard from her husband and just weeks later is told he has died.
There's so much going on in this novel that is could truly be called a saga. The flashbacks throughout give the reader a glimpse of Liam and Kennedy's beginnings, the growth of their love and the tensile strength of their relationship. Even in the misery and messiness of Liam's homecoming, the reader is aware that there are bonds holding these two together that are mind-boggling in their strength, in their reality. The reader is also gifted with insights that tell of the depth of Liam's loyalty to Kennedy, his willingness to open his heart to their daughter who refers to him as her "daddy from heaven." He is loyal to a fault to his SEAL buddies, bound to them with ties that have stood the test of overwhelming human challenges and which will stand the test when pushed and pulled with politics and those greedy for power.
This novel is so powerfully written that the reader finds one's brain and consciousness seared with the images of past loving and present pain. It is so beautifully written that one is ever aware of hope that is diluted with pain and joy that is buffeted with anxiety and anger. The author never backs away from the realities of PTSD, from the anger and disappointment Liam feels when he realizes that he might lose his family, the anger he feels that his wife has given herself to another, that his daughter has formed a father/daughter relationship with one of the men he dislikes most. Yet the reader is equally aware that even in the darkest moments of Kennedy's grief and pain over the situation that confronts them all, she never waivers in her determination to re-establish her marriage with Liam and prove to him that he is indeed her "one and only love."
You will seldom read a story of love that will be this powerful, nor encounter characters that will reach into your insides and squeeze your heart with such abandon. There were moments when I just had to put the book down so that I could get a handle on my emotional responses. I found myself pulling so for Liam and Kennedy and still having to watch them stumble and fumble through attempts to reconnect, to re-establish that firm footing that had preserved their marriage through some very difficult challenges. It was hard to watch them deal with Liam's anger, and to see him wrestle with denial over his PTSD issues--his unwillingness to seek help, his fear that to do so would make him weak, his need to do whatever it took to keep Kennedy and his daughter in his life, knowing that his anger alone would eventually drive them away.
Lastly, in all of this there was that overriding awareness of Liam and Kennedy's deep humility and gratitude for having one another again, in spite of all there was that was keeping them at odds. There was anger at those who would misuse their relationship, who would make Liam a "sacrificial lamb" on the altar of political expediency, and watch another person in Liam's military circle seek to destroy his love for Kennedy and even his life as cannon fodder for her obsession with power.
This is not a contemporary romance any of you should miss. Newly published in December, 2011, it is new and at the fore of what is going on in our world. It is also a very raw look at the challenges our warriors face, before they deploy and the realities of what they become as they serve our country and its foreign objectives. I proudly give it a rating of 5 out of 5.