Series: Tallgrass #5
Published by Forever
Publication Date: December 22nd 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Buy Online: Amazon ♥ Barnes & Noble ♥ Kobo
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Sometimes love finds you when you least expect it…
To Benita Ford, Tallgrass, Oklahoma, will always be home. It’s where her beloved grandmother raised her and where she rode bikes with her two best friends—the man who became her husband and Calvin. And Tallgrass is where she stayed, even after her husband died while serving his country. Now Calvin is home from that same war, and the sensitive, mischievous boy she once knew is today a man scarred by wounds no one else can see. Falling in love with him is something Bennie never imagined.
Tallgrass still haunts Captain Calvin Sweet. Yet it’s where he must go to see Bennie—the one woman he always loved but could never have. Calvin regrets so much about what happened years ago. Still he can’t deny being with Bennie makes his future feel bright, like anything is possible. But the demons of his past won’t be quieted that easily. As old hurts linger, threatening to pull them apart, Calvin and Bennie must take the ultimate risk for the love of a lifetime.
Warning: If you are looking for a lighthearted and fun romance, this is not the book for you. However, if having your heart squeezed just a little bit as you experience a bundle of heavy emotions is something you’re up for, then by all means read this book.
Captain Calvin Sweet never thought that he would return to Tallgrass, at least not alive, but he’s back where the memories of a happy childhood and childhood friendships haunt him on every corner and where the regrets of those lost friendships as well as demons from the war front threaten to pull him under. But Tallgrass has something else: the woman he’s loved most of his life and whom he didn’t ever expect to have a chance with.
Benita Ford grew up in Tallgrass with her two best friends, a trio whose bond seemed unbreakable, until both went away to war and things changed. A marriage to one of them, a gradual drifting apart, death, the loss of that tight bond and all that’s left is questions and regrets from the two living friends. What can Bennie expect now that Calvin is back home?
The synopsis of this book does not really do the story justice because it’s way more than a story of former best friends salvaging their friendship and finding that they want more from each other than friendship. It’s about choices and regrets, loss, grief and healing, family and bonds of friendships but above all, it puts a face on PTSD in a whole new way. Previous stories in the series have mentioned soldiers that lost a limb and most times, that’s the picture in everyone’s mind when thinking about PTSD and war veterans, but what about the warriors who seem whole on the outside but are just as damaged on the inside? Very few really understand them and can empathize with the hopelessness and despair that can pile up and lead to live-changing decisions such as Calvin made or the guilt and shame that come with such decisions. Thankfully, Calvin has a support system to fall back on in the form of his family and community and even his estranged friend, and a new lease on life.
Calvin has loved Bennie forever but never expected to have those feelings reciprocated and before he can look forward to a future with her, he must come clean with her about what happened to tear their friendship apart and the struggles he lives with, to give her the chance to decide if she would willingly take them on.
Bennie has also lost a lot in her young life too, from her mother’s abandonment, to the deaths of her father and husband and has her own support group, The Margarita Club, a group of women who have lost a lot to the war too but have banded together to see each other through their struggles in a heartwarming sisterhood. I have to say that I have a new appreciation for military families and what they go through. On a light note, Bennie was a very lucky woman to have had the love of her best friends, two very different men for different seasons in her life.
That said, while it was a lighthearted and enjoyable addition to the story, I found the secondary romance between Lucy and Joe distracting and wish they’d gotten their own book.
The tires crunched a few acorns that had fallen onto the pavement, then Calvin was turning into her driveway. Mama had left two porch lights on, plus the lamp beside her recliner in the living room and probably the light over the kitchen sink. She wasn’t scared of the dark, but she sure didn’t want her granddaughter walking into an unwelcoming house.
“Want to come in? Mama has an amazing collection of gourmet coffees from around the world.”
Calvin shifted into park, the dash lights casting shadows across his face.
“Mama, who couldn’t start her day without two cups of Maxwell House coffee?”
“What can I say? The Internet has expanded her horizons.” Bennie waited, her breath caught just a little in her chest. She wasn’t quite ready to say goodnight to him. She didn’t even know why. He wasn’t home on leave. This wasn’t a quick visit on his way to someplace else. The Army had assigned him here, and he would be here tomorrow and next week and next year. She could thank him for dinner tonight and spend more time with him tomorrow.
Or lure him inside tonight. Or both.
“Does she still sleep like a rock?”
“It’s like all switches are off. She doesn’t hear anything, see anything, feel anything.”
“Then coffee sounds good.”
Whew. Relief. Bennie climbed out and closed the door as carefully as she had at the restaurant. She half expected parts to fall of it the moment she exerted any real force on it, and Calvin would never let her forget that she’d damaged his ride.
Just like she would never let him forget that it was a public health nuisance and should be put out of its misery immediately.
They went inside quietly. She kicked off her shoes and went barefooted into the kitchen, flipping on the overhead light and taking three large metal baskets from the countertop. “They’re divided by continent,” she said quietly. “Central and South America are what we typically associate with coffee, the African beans are a little more exotic, and the Asian beans are the most complex flavors.”
“I’ll try something Asian.” Calvin stepped back to glance around the room.
“Nothing’s changed in here.”
Bennie selected an African blend for herself, then measured water from a bottle in the fridge to pour into the machine. “Uh, yeah, one thing has. She traded her black dishwasher for a stainless one.”
His brow wrinkled. “I don’t remember her having a black dishwasher—” At the appearance of her grin, he rolled his eyes. “Yeah, that old model used to whine a lot.”
After a moment, a heavenly rich flavor began rising from the coffeemaker.
“‘The best part of waking up,'” Calvin sang off-tune.
“That’s Gran’s Folgers. And Maxwell House was always—”
“‘Good to the last drop,'” they said in unison before laughing, then abruptly shushing themselves.
Bennie didn’t know what prompted her. Maybe it was all the memories she and Calvin shared. Maybe it was something about the complications between them that wanted to be made simple. Maybe it was nothing more than the fact that it was Friday and she was on a date and the hunger in her belly had been satisfied and she was feeling more like her old self than she had in a very long while.
Whatever the reason, when she turned to get the sugar and found herself standing only a few tiny inches from Calvin, she just naturally closed that distance and lifted her mouth to his.
She kissed him. Oh, God, she was kissing him, and he was kissing her back. Never in her whole life had she even imagined locking lips with her best old bud. Never in her whole life could she have imagined it would feel so incredibly right. Perfect. As if nothing stood between them—no past, no disagreements, no J’Myel. As if they existed, had always existed, only for this moment.
I’m giving away a print copy of A CHANCE OF A LIFETIME, courtesy of the publisher to US and Canada residents only. To enter, leave a message in the comments and tell me what your favorite thing about military romances is. This giveaway is open until December 29th and the winner will be announced on the 30th. Good luck!