My God, Tonya Burrows simply doesn’t know how to write a book that doesn’t blow my socks off.
I adored the first book in the HORNET series, SEAL of Honor, as it carried Burrows’ brand of steamy, emotional romance featuring spunky heroines and super hot military men, but with Honor Reclaimed I’m in awe of just how far the very damaged Seth Harlan has clawed his way into my heart.
Our ragtag group of misfit mercenaries are once again off on another mission and former Marine sniper Seth Harlan is slightly astonished to be included. His severe PTSD has him botching training missions right and left, to the point where he isn’t exactly part of the group, no matter how stern the orders from their commander are to integrate him. That this mission is to find a POW taken while on a black op no military branch will claim, and that said captive is in Afghanistan, dredges up the horrifying nightmare that was Seth’s own torture for over a year.
Despite time having passed, the damage was so extensive – physically and psychologically – that Seth doesn’t even consider himself human anymore. The fact he lost his team as well, and that some particularly torrid branches of the media spun the story as one in which Seth caused their deaths, just made the healing that much harder. He doesn’t speak to his family, doesn’t reach out to his friends and hasn’t been able to talk to the families of his fallen team members. The instinct to look over his shoulder only gets worse when they land in Kandahar, particularly when one woman in a blue chadori starts acting suspicious. Grabbing her for questioning reveals a pretty, copper haired American and what’s worse, she’s a journalist who clearly recognizes Seth.
Phoebe Leighton should recognize Seth since she was the one responsible for ruining his life. Her pictures of him sold to a particularly heinous tabloid were what allowed them to spin that ridiculous tale about him being responsible for his team’s demise. She was so disgusted with herself and her willingness to whore her ethics for her so-called career that she changed her name, divorced her unhappy husband, and resolved to do nothing but good with her life. Taking back her maiden name and using her middle name gave her a kind of rebirth, but it’s nothing like the good she’s been able to do with her photojournalism. When her current assignment on child brides brings her to a women’s shelter and a particularly brave 16 year old running from her husband, Phoebe’s assignment brings her right into Seth’s path.
Realizing she can help him with his mission and maybe also help him heal has her withholding the revelation of her role in his vilification. Yet as the two of them are drawn together and as Seth begins to trust her enough to tell her about his captivity and torture, Phoebe realizes that there is never going to be a time when telling Seth what she did doesn’t seem like the ultimate betrayal.
For his part, Seth can’t believe that Phoebe has the ability to get under his very scarred skin. No matter how many times he pushes her away or is cruel to her, she just calls him on his behavior and makes him live up to her expectations. Her courage and openness shines a light into his inner darkness and Seth finds himself not only beginning to feel happy but also experiencing sexual desire, both previously dormant emotions. However when he discovers her betrayal, it’s up to Seth to decide if he will let that same numbness reclaim him or if he can work through his past and reclaim both his honor and the woman he loves.
Oh, wow. While there is an abundance of sexual tension throughout the book, this volume is understandably less heated than the fan-yourself previous novel, SEAL of Honor, and that is exactly as it should be. I had my doubts in the beginning of the book how Burrows was going to pull off getting Seth into a place where he could actually have anything resembling a relationship, but her skill as a storyteller is so profound that she pulls it off in the most believable way. Phoebe is a woman embracing the present and working to correct her past and even when you are cringing at every missed opportunity to tell Seth who she is (or in her case, was), you understand that she is reacting to the fragility he projects into their burgeoning relationship. I usually have zero patience for a hero who blows hot and cold but Seth received an unending supply based on what he endured. I appreciated that his PTSD was never sugar coated, and the other physical and emotional issues on the team were also boldly confronted.
Not only was this book amazingly heart-wrenching (in the best possible way) but I continue to be impressed that Burrows has given us further insight into the team members who will undoubtedly be starring in the future books of the series. She has brilliantly laid the foundation for their romances and I am salivating over the potential (Quinn! Jean-Luc!!).
Honor Reclaimed is another brilliant addition to Burrows (and Entangled’s) body of work as well as military romance as a genre. Don’t forget to check out the Giveaway Info (for a blanket with the her four covers on it + swag) at this link for a Rafflecopter giveaway.