Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Review: Wounded Heroes Boxed Set: They're Hard to Handle and Hard to Love

Favorite Romance Themes™: WOUNDED HEROES is a boxed set of five complete novels from some of today’s most exciting authors -- at an irresistible price!

He’s a loner and a lost soul, the man who keeps to the shadows. He may have believed in love once, but not anymore. Whether his scars are physical or emotional, he’s hurting and vulnerable and in need of redemption—but to get it, he’ll need a Beauty with enough courage to tame the Beast. This boxed set features five full-length romance novels with wounded heroes.

I recently found this boxed set on one of the romance ebook sites at a sale price and couldn't resist--fine full-length novels at a nothing price:  what's not to like?   But these novels are not for the faint of heart.  Each one is about a man who has old wounds of heart or emotions or body and spirit, all tangled up in hopes for the future and disappointments from the past.  These are tough stories and there were times I almost felt overwhelmed by the depth of despair as well as the sense that there was no hope for any of these guys to find some peace in a loving relationship.  Yet all five stories have HEA endings and though it is difficult to get to that place, somehow the patience of genuine caring people and a loving significant other makes the ultimate difference.

Twenty-two years after coming home from Vietnam, Paul Tremaine is determined to erect a memorial to the comrades he left behind. Bonnie Hudson, the widow of a famous antiwar activist, doesn’t want to see that war glorified. Both Bonnie and Paul are survivors of a painful past. Can love heal their scars so they can make peace with that past and face the future together?

Both main characters in this story are struggling with difficulties from the past.  For Paul there is the memory of trauma in Viet Nam and the determination to keep his promise to fallen comrades.  For Bonnie it is the memory of her anti-war activist husband who died while continuing his public struggle against a war he hated.  Now she is almost tied to a shrine set up in her living room but that haloed place takes a beating when some unhappy truths begin to surface.  These two have a tough time finding common ground--a Viet Nam vet up against a woman who is absolutely anti-war.  It makes for good reading and some very tense encounters that are often made even worse by the presence of Bonnie's teen son.   The context is the late 80's so readers will have to adjust their historical memories on this one.

Waiting For You
In Waiting For You, tough cop Joe Moretti meets the love of his life, Dana Devlin, on his brother’s dating website. Little does he know she’s harboring a very big secret, one that almost destroys their relationship. Joe must find a way to prevent that secret, and his own personal ghosts, from ruining their chance together.

This is a poignant love story that links two people with a heap of emotional baggage.  JoeyD, as he is known on his brother's dating site, meets Dana and when finally meeting her face-to-face, learns that she is wheel chair bound for the rest of her life.  Her stellar ballet career was cut prematurely short by a crush injury which has crippled her from the knees down.  What she doesn't know is that Joe's dad died from ALS when Joe was 10 years old, and the memories of his dad's time in a wheel chair, the helplessness of both his dad as well as his own feelings of anger and helplessness have never been addressed.  Now these two people are trying to find common ground, a way to trust one another after keeping facts from each other, and deciding if the stresses of being together are really worth it.  It's a very emotional story with lots of ups and downs.  I felt for both of them and this writer really addressed the difficulties of disabilities in a very forthright way.  I really appreciated this story a lot.

Silken Threads
Graeham Fox comes to London to rescue his overlord’s daughter from her abusive husband, in return for which he is promised her sister’s hand in marriage and a vast estate—quite a prize for a landless soldier who’s never had a home of his own. Attacked and disabled by a broken leg, he rents a room in the humble home of Joanna Chapman, a silk merchant’s widow. Joanna, having learned not to trust handsome, charming devils like Graeham, lets him think her husband is still alive in order to keep him at a distance. Mindful of his mission—and the promised reward—Graeham struggles to resist his feelings for Joanna, but the white-hot desire simmering between them cannot be denied. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Silken Threads was honored with Romance Writers of America’s RITA® Award for Best Long Historical Romance.

This was perhaps the most difficult story of the five for me.  It was a full-length historical novel set in the 11th century when the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings in 1066 was not far past.  It is a look at the difficulties of women in that time, their presence in society but without any value of their own.  It is a story about trust and about the ties that bind human to human, lover to lover, friend to friend.  It is about loyalty and being faithful to one's commitments.  I found there were some passages that went long on discussions I didn't think added substantively to the story, but the fact that it won a RWA RITA award shows how much I know about those things.  The main characters were delightful--Joanna was a woman whose marriage at age 15 turned out to be an emotional hoax while for Graeham, the possibility of becoming something more than a bastard and a military servant made his attraction to Joanna a great difficulty.  Lots going on in this novel and even with the action taking place nearly a millenium past, loving someone and the problems between lovers never get old.

Texas Refuge
Seeking peace after nearly dying in a failed attempt to save his sister, the last thing former Houston detective Quinn Marshall wants is another woman to watch over, but his rugged Texas ranch is the ideal hiding place for soap opera star Lorie Chandler, who has already lost her husband to an obsessed fan. When the madman finds them, Quinn's sole focus is on keeping Lorie safe, even though his success will mean that he will have to give her up to a life where he cannot belong.

He's a retired Houston, Texas cop with psychic abilities he refused to acknowledge, and she's an Emmy winning daytime drama actress with a five-year-old son and a stalker who  may have already killed her husband.    The tensions that surround any stalker story are here but they are amplified by the inner struggle Quinn endures because his logical cop brain can't own up to his heritage  as an empath.  Their time spent at Quinn's ranch in Texas provides a setting where their love can grow and Quinn's relationship with Lorie's young son blossoms.  The exchanges between this young boy and the adult characters in the story are delightful.  Quinn's great-aunt, Tia Consuela, is also one of the background characters but her presence is far more important than the amount of dialogue given her would indicate.  It's really about two people who manage to find themselves and each other under very difficult circumstances and while having to wade through Quinn's guilt over the death of his sister.  The tension never lets up in this one.

The More I See
Cutting horse trainer Cody Gentry was riding high until he lost his eyesight in a freak accident. He hopes eye surgery will repair the damage to his eyesight. But just in case, his father hires guide dog trainer, Lyssa McElhannon, to help pull him out of depression. Lyssa didn't expect to fall in love or have Cody open her eyes to see there was a whole lot of living she’d been missing out on.

It's no secret that I like cowboy stories and found this one to be a very intense read.  It is a little on the short side, but the main characters are gritty and intense.  It is always difficult when a person as active as Cody--cutting horse trainer extraordinaire and championship holder--loses his eyesight while saving another young and foolish ranch hand who was unwisely mixing chemicals.  Cody's descent into depression, his refusal to accept help, his determination to be stubborn in his isolation are the backdrop against which this story plays out.  Lyssa is a woman who experienced blindness for twenty years of her life but was given a second chance because of modern surgical procedures.  Now she trains seeing-eye dogs and has brought one for Cody.  He patience is quite bountiful but even Lyssa gets fed up.  It's a story that will tug at the reader's heartstrings when Cody takes his first horseback ride, remembering the trail so well and trusting in his steady and trustworthy mount who has taken him the cutting horse championships in the past.   The story is very emotional and there are times when the reader will wonder if these two are going to manage to have their own HEA.

This Boxed Set is one of a number of collections that were recently made available on Amazon and other ebook sellers online for one 99 cents.  Such a deal.  I found all the stories to be really good reads and while I had my favorites (I think the story about the cop and the ballet primadonna was my number 1), all of them were very good reads.  I gave the set a rating of 4 stars on Goodreads and I think a rating of 4 out of 5 is where I am going to stay.

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