Friday, October 28, 2011

SEAL of My Dreams, an Anthology

Note - All proceeds from the sales of this anthology have been pledged to the Veterans Research Corporation, a non-profit foundation supporting veterans medical research.

I’m going to be honest here; SEAL of My Dreams is one of only two anthologies in which I’ve actually read every single story in the book, and certainly my favorite anthology of the two. With this collection I've discovered new authors, revisited favorites and enjoyed every minute of it! Some of the stories were a little emotional, while others were lighthearted and sweet, but they all had one thing in common – honorable, romantic, sexy SEALs who always do the right thing, regardless of the cost to themselves.

I want to start by talking about the Foreword by Robyn Carr – I seldom even bother to read the forewords in any book, but of course I had to do so this time because Robyn Carr is such a wonderful author and a truly great lady. I had tears in my eyes before I had even read the first story because of Ms. Carr’s words, her feelings echoing mine to the letter. Here, in part, is what she had to say:
I seem to be spending a lot of time in airports lately, and I use much of that time approaching military men and women traveling in battle dress uniform and wearing suspiciously dusty, beat up boots.

With mist clouding my vision and a lump in my throat, I thank them for their service and, when I do so, because I’m not intimate with unit insignias, I have no way of knowing if their job has been to take out the free world’s worst enemy or count paper clips. And in point of fact, what is important to all of us is that our faithful men and woman who serve are there for us, defending our freedom and liberty, in whatever capacity they are able. What matters is this—every single job in the Armed Forces is essential, is honorable, is worthy of the highest praise and deepest gratitude. Every raised voice is needed, every hand lent to the task and every heart committed.

Which brings me to this—while the volume you hold pays tribute to the Navy SEALs, the proceeds from these works of the heart will benefit all military men and women. No one involved in this project will profit except the Veteran’s Research Corporation, a non-profit foundation supporting medical research for veterans. The money this project earns will directly benefit our veterans from all branches, all units, all missions. God bless and keep them, one and all.
Something else I seldom do when reading anthologies is write a review for each story, but each story in this book deserves one, because while the names and places might be fictional, I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that these things have happened to someone, somewhere. Some of the quotes might make no sense to you, but for one reason or another, mean so much to me. If you want to skip this part, just scroll to the bottom.

Without further ado, I offer my thoughts, for what they’re worth, though nothing I say can do the real men and women who have lived these stories honor.

1. Coming Home by Jami Alden - This is a sweet, sometimes sad story about the importance of forgiving, forgetting, and letting yourself love.
It had taken ten years of heartbreak and shared tragedies to bring her back to his side, and no way was he ever letting her go.
2. Baby, I’m Back by Stephanie Bond - Okay, this one made me cry, both tears of joy and tears of gratitude. A great story about friendship, love, life in a small town and US Navy SEAL Dogs.

3. SEALed Fates by Kylie Brant - I enjoyed this story a lot, but I do think it would have worked better as a full length novel, or a novella because the subject matter was just too much to deal with in a story this short and have us be completely invested in the characters. That said, I have to share this quote, one that when read with the entire scene had me laughing.
“I can’t see . . . wait!” The girl’s next words were laced with disappointment. “That’s not a seal, Matt. It’s just a man.”

“Is too a seal.”

“Where’s his ball, huh? A seal can sit a ball on his nose, and . . . and clap his flipper things. Where’s his flippers?”

With a bit of maneuvering Cort went down on one knee and studied the thin tube of black plastic sticking out from the fence.

“Not that kind of seal, dummy. A seal is like a soldier. He can blow stuff up and jump out of helicopters.”

Maybe once, Cort thought. Not anymore. That part of his life was over. And he still didn’t know what the hell he was going to fill the emptiness with.
4. Going Dark by Helen Brenna - This story started off on a sour note for me, so I had a hard time connecting with this heroine who ditched our hero when she’d gotten what she wanted from him. Over time we learn that she had good reason for it, but I didn’t have enough time to forgive her for hurting him.

5. Finding Home by HelenKay Dimon - I enjoyed Hal and Megan's story. It was action packed, romantic and left me wanting to know more about their relationship.

6. SEALed With A Kiss (A Black Ops., Inc. story) by Cindy Gerard - I am a huge Cindy Gerard fan, and so this revisit to the BOIs was a real treat. It was heartwarming, romantic and just what I need to tie me over until the next book. I sure do love me some “Doc.”
“And put some swim trunks on, would you?” she added when he still hesitated. “I don’t want any curious fishies mistaking my favorite dangly parts for dinner.”

He laughed and pushed to his feet. “Since they’re my favorite dangly parts, too, I’m happy to oblige. Be right back.”
7. Panama Jack by Tara Janzen - Okay, this story didn’t grab me, and I actually found myself skimming. Remember when I said that some of the quotes would mean nothing to you, but would mean something to me? This is one of them:
“Powell,” she said, obviously coming to a decision about him. “Alanna Powell, but you can call me Lani.” She stuck out her hand.

“Lani.” He took her hand in his and gave it a firm shake, grinning. “Corday. Squidbreath Corday, but you can call me Flipper.”
8. Wrapped and SEALed by Leslie Kelly - This was a great little story! So sweet, romantic and funny! I always swoon for these big, bad SEALs when we watch them brought to their knees.
Tanner Boudreau wasn’t intimidated by much.

He’d endured the seven months of grueling torment that the U.S. Navy called BUD/S training, capped off by a hell week to rival Dante’s. He’d swum waters frigid enough to stop a man’s heart. He’d seen battle. He’d leapt out of planes and dangled from helicopters and crawled through caves as dark as a demon’s soul. And while all of those experiences could—and had—caused a twinge of anxiety here or a moment of concern there, none had ever really scared him.

But this? This intimidated the hell out of him. “Gram, I just don’t—”

“Oh, Tanner, it would mean so much to me,” his elderly grandmother said, casting him one of those melting, I’m-just-a-weak-old-lady looks. “I’ll be so disappointed if you say no.” And that was it. He was done for. Because she’d dragged out the “d” word.
And I’m not going to tell you exactly what his assignment was, suffice it to say, Tanner would probably have chosen the hell of battle to what his grandmother was asking of him!

9. Worth the Risk by Elle Kennedy - I really enjoyed this story, and it’s because of Jason, a man devoted, a man so in love, that he was willing to spend years waiting for the woman he knew was ‘the one’ to figure out that he was her ‘one,’ too.

10. Twenty-One Hours by Alison Kent - There are quite a few romantic suspense authors that I haven’t read before, and this anthology introduced me to many of them. Alison Kent is one of those who is new to me, but I’ll definitely be reading more of her writing. I enjoyed this story, another one about loving someone so much, you’re willing to wait years and years if that’s what it take to be with them.
“I’ll be here a few more days. We’ll talk. Make a plan. We’ve got time.”

He shook his head. “I wasted sixteen years. I’m not wasting a minute more. You know that, right?”

“I do,” she said.

It hit him, then, like a shot to the center of his chest, that he wanted to hear her say that while their friends and families, and hell, even his team, looked on, while she wore a long white dress, flowers in her hands and in her hair.

He brought her to him, kissed her hard, fierce and possessive. “I love you, Teri. All these years. I kept you with me.”

“Oh, Shane. I love you, too. I never forgot you. Not for a minute.”

“I’m going to make sure you never do.”
11. Not Waving But Drowning by Jo Leigh - This story was okay, not one of my favorites, though I do love me some tormented and tortured heroes. In this one, though, the heroine, Renee, made the hero, Dan, seem weak to me.

12. Her Secret Pirate by Gennita Low - This quote had me laughing because no matter how hard I try, when I think “Pirate,” I think Captain Jack Sparrow.
The first order of the day was to follow instructions, go with his team to get the pirates before they turned on the news and found out Rebecca Powers was the Ambassador’s daughter. That was what initiated the “imminent danger” decision; the media was naming names and in this day and age, it seemed that even pirates checked their Twitter accounts while terrorizing the seas.
13. SEALed By Fate by Marliss Melton -
Operation “Dumb Broad” was underway.
Marliss Melton is one of my favorites when it comes to Romantic Suspense. She can write a story like nobody’s business, one that leaves you wanting for more, and this one did exactly that. If Sam and Madison don’t get a full story, I’ll be one unhappy camper!
If not for her, he’d be headed for Malaysia now as part of the team tasked to take out an infamous Malaysian arms smuggler. Instead, he was playing nursemaid to a humanitarian aid worker who didn’t have any sense of self-preservation. This mission had “Complete Waste of Time” stamped all over it, damn it. Sam hadn’t fought to become a SEAL so he could waste his time. He’d done it to be part of something meaningful. And this was so not it.

What annoyed him most was if Miss Scott were anyone other than the daughter of the President’s golfing buddy, Sam and his squad would be well on their way to Malaysia right now. He’d renamed this mission “Operation Dumb Broad” in honor of her idiocy.
14. Signed, SEAL’d, Delivered…I’m Yours by Christie Ridgway - This story had some funny, sweet scenes written by another ‘new to me’ author. After reading this story, though, I checked out Ms. Ridgway’s backlist and will definitely be reading more of her books!
“I think my dad is eating all the stuff you baked for me.”

She had the cutest dimple in her right cheek.

“There’s more where that came from.”

“There’s more everything,” Josh promised. “I love you.”

Mandy nodded, and reached into her pocket to pull out a fat, loopy gift bow that she balanced on the top her head. “I love you, too. Merry Christmas, Josh. I’m yours.”

The words sounded like music to him, and then he realized they were. Holding her close again, he whispered into her ear. “Right back at you, sweetheart. Signed, SEALed, and delivered.”
15. Dog Heart by Barbara Samuel - This story was another one about US Navy SEAL Dogs, and such a heartbreaking one. I wonder why it is that we never hear about the canine soldiers who are so devoted to their handlers that they’d never balk at giving their lives to protect those who need protecting. I found this to be a beautiful story of healing bodies and hearts.

16. Whirlwind by Roxanne St. Claire - Roxanne St. Clair is another author whose writing I love, and this story was no different. It's got to be hard to pack so much story into a so few pages, and while I enjoyed this one, I would have loved it more had it been a full length novel.

17. Holding On by Stephanie Tyler - This was a funny, heartwarming revisit with the heroes of her Hold series, taking place six months after the end of Hold On Tight.
“Rough trip home?”

“Not so bad,” he said.

“Why are there chicken feathers coming out of your pocket?”

“Just be grateful the walk home in the storm washed away the smell.”

“Most of it,” she teased.
18. Letters To Ellie by Loreth Anne White - What a way to end the book. This one had me sobbing with its heartbreaking story of a hero who was so wounded he was almost beyond help, and another hero who didn't make it home. These are the stories that break my heart, because I know they’re true, and like Max, I hope that the men who have lived through what he has, have someone like Ellie to come home to.

I want to thank all of the authors who contributed to this book. Your stories touched me, made me laugh, made me cry, and made me sigh. But most of all, they've given me a chance to publicly thank the men and women who serve:

You risk your lives on a daily basis for people you might never meet, and people who may not even appreciate your sacrifices. The things you do may go unnoticed or unwanted now, but generations to come to will remember you and thank you, the men and women who they never met. God Bless and keep you all.

I'm going to close with some words from Ellie, the incredibly strong, devoted and loving heroine from the final story in this anthology, Letters to Ellie.
“While the goal is to leave no man behind, the reality of war is that sometimes our heroes don’t come home. Sometimes our soldiers go Missing in Action, become Prisoners of War. Their fate unknown. But we dare not forget them.” She paused, struggling to keep the huskiness of out of her voice. “We dare not stop trying to bring them home...”
 My sincerest 'thank you' to Netgalley and Bell Bridge Books for providing me with an ecopy of this amazing book. 

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