Being a SEAL means everything to Petty Officer First Class John Roaker. So when a head injury coupled with a bout of amnesia makes him undeployable, he has to find a way to heal from his wounds and recover his lost memories. Enlisting the help of beautiful psychoanalyst Laurie Smith, he discovers his unlocked memories hold a dangerous secret about his last mission that threatens his life, his country, and the woman he’s starting to fall in love with.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
When John Roaker came home from his last mission, he came home with some pretty serious injuries and a whole lot of holes in his memory. The doctors assure him that given enough time and therapy, his memory will return but John just isn’t feeling the whole share his feelings and hug it out vibe. In fact, John is pretty sure his head is going to explode if he has to sit through one more forced therapy session. Unfortunately, if John doesn’t attend therapy and get his memory back, he isn’t going to be sent back into active duty and that is even more unacceptable than hugging and sharing.
Laurie Smith doesn’t date military men, especially not SEALs. She grew up in the SEAL community, was raised by two separate SEALs and now, she spends her days working as a physical therapist and avoiding dating anything and anyone that even comes close to being a SEAL. Laurie’s first encounter with John didn’t go spectacularly well (mostly!) but as she gets to know him she figures out that he is a decent guy that just wants to understand what went wrong with his last mission. As it turns out, Laurie’s particular brand of therapy both in the office and out is quite effective and within a very short amount of time, John begins to recall bits and pieces of the clusterf*&k that was his last mission.
As the bits and pieces continue to come back to John he is even more confused and has no idea who he can trust. His best friend and swim buddy died in the fracas, two of his teammates have been ordered not to talk to him, and the other two, well, they’re sketchy as hell and John’s sure they’re somehow involved in the awful that went down. With Laurie’s help and some late night mission reconstruction (and some awesome naughty bits!) John is finally able to pull all the pieces together and what he discovers will bring down a lot of wretched folks.
The Bottom Line: This is my first Anne Elizabeth read and I rather enjoyed her brand of military man romance. Laurie is feisty as hell, her adoptive dad cracked me up on several occasions, the naughty bits are quite good, the mystery is just enough for this genre, and John Roaker is a super-sexy leading man. My only complaint about this read is the incessant reminders of SEAL code and honor. That’s pretty much a given and once the point is made, there isn’t a whole lot of point in the characters beating a dead horse. Overall, A SEAL at Heart is a good read with only a few minor flaws that certainly won’t keep me from moving on to book two, Once a SEAL.
What woman hasn’t dreamed of what it would be like to marry a Navy SEAL? Dan McCullum is everything Aria has ever imagined—sweet, strong, and sexy as hell. She just never expected how tough the SEAL life would be. Dan could be gone at a moment’s notice and not allowed to tell herwhere he’s going or when he’ll be back. Dan has never backed down from a challenge in his life. But this one is his hardest yet. How does he balance his duty to his country with a soul-deep love for Aria? It’s going to require patience, ingenuity, and some of the hottest homecomings he can dream up. Because for him, this isn’t a fling: this is forever…
My Rating: 2½/5 stars
Once a SEAL, round two of Anne Elizabeth’s West Coast Navy SEALs series definitely fell into the sophomore slump category for me. Here’s the skinny:Plot: Dan and Aria are a love-at-first-sight couple who are marrying after just a month of dating. Aria’s life has been turned ass over tea kettle many, many times and marriage to a SEAL team member isn’t going to be easy but she loves Dan intensely. Until Aria, Dan has only ever been focused on his career and team members but Aria is a game-changer and he is so looking forward to married life. Married life is hard even under the best of circumstances but SEAL life isn’t the best of circumstances and Aria finds out quickly exactly how often she will be left to fend for herself.
The Drama: Oh, this read is packed full of drama from the moment the book opens to the damn-near the very end. Dan’s nearly late for the wedding, Aria is almost constantly struggling to fit into the SEAL community, Aria’s uncle dies unexpectedly leaving her younger brother in her care, there’s that way creepy friend, and Dan and his team are chasing down some very dangerous demons from the past. The feels in this one go from hot and steamy to anger to pure joy to fear to silliness and happiness to pure sadness. This one is a roller coaster ride.
The characters: This is where this book takes a real tumble for me. I am a big fan of character-driven reads and I absolutely and without reservation disliked Aria from the moment the book began right up to the very last page. I tried on so many occasions to like Aria and constantly reminded myself of all the things she has endured in her life but nothing worked. Dan is a moderately better character but I found him to be a bit too soft for my liking. Oh sure, he’s an honorable man and physically tough but not quite the hero I expected.
The Bottom Line: Despite what the above looks like, there is one significant part of this read that I really enjoyed and thoroughly appreciated. Elizabeth spends a considerable amount of time delving into the SEAL community and the family that really is created within that community. Nearly every time Aria has a crisis she is helped by either the community as a whole or a few individual members. The sense of family and community is really the highlight of this read. Onward and upward . . .
Special Operator Declan Smith was a dedicated U.S. Navy SEAL, a known player, and daredevil who loved pushing the limits. But on his last mission, an IED leaves him injured and angry as hell—and it changes everything. When a loud crash disturbs his neighbor, Maura Maxwell, she assumes the sailor next door is up to his usual bad behavior. But the man she finds covered in glass is far from the cocky ladies’ man she’d grown to tolerate. Lying before her is a man fighting to rediscover his place in the world—and he can’t do it alone.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
Talk about a bounce back book!! A SEAL Forever brings the West Coast Navy SEALs series out of the dreaded sophomore slump and roaring back into life with Declan and Maura’s story!
Maura Maxwell isn’t exactly shy but she is somewhat reserved especially when it comes to her hotter than hell neighbor, Declan Smith. Declan is a walking, talking wet dream but Maura has no interest in being a part of the hook-up parade that seems to pass through Declan’s door on a regular basis. Maura has every intention of keeping her lust in check and private until the night she goes out for a quick swim and gets caught in a storm. Declan not only rescues Maura but he also dumps her into a hot tub and kisses the crap out of her. So much for remaining somewhat shy and reserved.
Declan Smith has spent his life either preparing for or performing for the SEALs. There has never been anything other than the SEALs, staying totally fit and active, and women that have interested Declan. Saving Maura from drowning not only brought her into his life but for the first time in his life has made him think about something more than just a hook-up. Maura shares his love of the outdoors and activities, she is adventurous, and once the initial awkwardness was over, she is quit uninhibited, sexually speaking. In short, Maura is the perfect woman for Declan and he has no plans to move on. Maura is the something better!
For weeks Maura and Declan spend every available moment together and with the exception of a few bumps in the road, everything is golden. Maura understands that when Declan leaves he is knowingly walking into danger and he may not return and these are things she is willing to accept about the man she is sure she is falling in love with. Declan’s latest mission is more dangerous than ever before and when things go sideways, he doesn’t return to Maura all in one piece as he expected. In fact, it is more than a month before he returns and when he does, he isn’t sure she is going to be willing to stay with a man who isn’t whole.
The Bottom Line: Woosh!! Declan Smith is some kind of hot and with Maura by his side, he is just about the perfect man. While I am generally a character-drive reader, the plot of this one and the way it unfolds is the real winner of this read. Uncharacteristically, there is no slow build-up leading to the eventual relationship. The relationship begins quickly and it is only later that Declan and Maura have to deal with real issues that will test their strength and relationship. Their road to a HEA is not at all easy and I really liked the change in their relationship as they each deal with Declan’s injury and road to recovery. This is a tightly written read with good characters and a plot that is both entertaining and different enough from the other two in the series to keep the series feeling fresh.
Excerpt from A SEAL Forever (Book #3: West Coast Navy SEALs Series):
Master Chief Declan Swifton of SEAL Team Five rolled over the side of the Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat and slid soundlessly into the Pacific Ocean. The RIB took off without even a comment from the operator, leaving Declan to sink farther into the drink.
The temperature cooled as he swam away from the surface. Fish skirted the edges of his thighs, small shimmers of movement against his skin. He scissor-kicked his way forward. The ocean currents caught him, dragging him in the direction they wanted to go, toward shore. He lay with his arms at his sides, frog-kicking only. Above him, he could see the afternoon sunlight glistening and frothy foam chasing away the glassy surface. Down here things were different…calmer. Peaceful, in a way few souls would understand, and yet he knew that even he would have to surface soon.
His lungs would start to ache and burn, his gut would begin to feel as if it would cave in, and that would force him to either head topside or drink in the salt water. But there was still time. This was the water in front of Imperial Beach and the apartment he lived in. He knew it very well.
Scanning the ocean floor, he gauged it would be about thirty seconds until he reached one of the many rocky sandbars out here. He’d have to pull up before then, or the force of the current would smack him against the side.
As his body began to complain, he used both arms and legs to draw himself upward. Breaking the surface, he opened his mouth and drew in air like a thirsty man would gulp water.
The waves bounced him like a buoy. The tide was coming in and the wind was picking up momentum. Looking at the sky to the east, he could see that there would most likely be a storm today. Over his should, to the west, he spied a wave coming his way large enough to take him to shore. It would reach him in about thirty seconds.
Dec took a long, slow breath and appreciated the sun dropping into the horizon. The colors were extraordinary; orange and gold dappled the horizon as the blazing ball of light attempted to sink before the moon lifted higher in the sky.
His hands flexed, cupping the water. It had been a hot day, and the sun’s rays had heated the top of the ocean, making the surface feel like a warm bath, loosening his muscles. Three months ago, he’d been in waters so frigid, with actual ice caps—the memory still made him cold. But here, the Pacific Ocean off California’s Imperial Beach, was a slice of heaven.
Coming in from the east were some nasty-looking cumulonimbus clouds. Seeing the lightning arc way off toward the distant desert, he decided it was time to go in, and right on cue, here came a perfect wave.
Swimming at top speed, Declan pushed his way through another changing current, one that sought to drag him into faster-moving waters. He went over a higher sandbar, having no intention of going to Mexico today, and increased the reach of his stroke. With single-mindedness he worked his way into the more placid surf as he homed in on a large stretch of beach.
The SEAL felt a few sea lions swimming around him, and one nosed him in the gut and another in his back a few times, assessing whether or not he’d play. Not this time, my friends. He continued swimming without engaging. If he stopped to play, he’d be out there for hours.
Switching to the breaststroke, his arms protested. His platoon had switched their training this month to desert-warfare techniques, and he’d been sweating his balls off in the heat. He managed to learn a thing or two, even now, after all of his years in the Teams. But it felt good to be back in the ocean, his element. He’d live in the deep blue like a Jules Verne character if he could.
About the author and where to find her:
New York Times bestselling author Anne Elizabeth is an award-winning romance author and comic creator. With a BS in business and MS in communications from Boston University, she is a regular presenter at conventions as well as a member of The Author’s Guild and Romance Writers of America. Anne lives with her husband, a retired Navy SEAL, in the mountains above San Diego.