Monday, December 1, 2014

review || ALL FOR YOU { spotlight blog tour }

I first discovered the series when my brother was graduating Marine Corps boot camp.I immediately fell in love with Shane and Jen, and then went to buy their novella. That too, made me fall in love with them all over again.

As the next years went by (and my brother went from grad, to mechanic student, to a Japan deployment, to now back stateside), I had every intention to reading Vic's and Trent's stories, however I never got to them. 

When this book popped up on my NetGalley feed, I just needed to have my hands on it. 

...and I'm so glad I had the chance to read the book and offer you a glimpse into this wonderfully written story. This story hits on so many aspects that our men and women who serve come to face.

All for You by Jessica Scott

Publisher: Forever  (11/25/2014)
Series: Coming Home, book 4
Genre: Military Romance
Source: NetGalley, InkSlinger
Buy It From  B&N | Amazon | iBooks | IndieBound

My Rating: ★★★★★

Can a battle-scarred warrior...Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood's newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She's also full of questions-about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza's body and soul. his heart to love?Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need-and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it's just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she's thrilled. Too bad it doesn't help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He's the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all...
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{ excerpt }
It was fate. It had to be. A slow warmth unfurled inside him as the doctor he could not get out of his head looked up at him, her cheeks flushing pink.

She was all buttoned up at work. Tonight, she looked different. Looser. Unbound.

Compelling. That’s what she was. Her fire at work. Her refusal to let him bully her. He’d admired her backbone before.

Tonight, he admired her in an entirely new light. Her hair framed her face in careless curls. He hadn’t expected to see her outside of work. He damn sure hadn’t expected to see her here. An old familiar need rose inside him. A need for touch, human and warm. A need to lose himself for an interlude in sweat and sex and stunning pleasure. He’d given up drinking but women had apparently fallen into that category as well.

It had been months since he’d felt a woman’s hands on his body.

This woman was not someone he needed to be talking to at the bar tonight but he found himself walking toward her anyway.

After the week of confrontation they’d had, he’d be lucky if she didn’t slap him the minute he approached her.

He could do this. He could talk to a woman without drinking. Right?

Emily met his gaze as he approached. He almost smiled.

“Not your usual scene?” he asked, leaning against the bar.

She shifted, putting a little space between them. That slight reclamation of power. He made a noise of approval in his throat. “I’m surprised you’re talking to me.”

“I’m surprised you’re here. Shouldn’t you be home reading medical journals or something?” Her cheeks flushed deep pink and he wondered how far down her body that color went.

She tipped her chin then and looked at him. “Have you been drinking?”

He looked down at the bottle in his hand. “I don’t drink anymore,” he said quietly. No reason to delve into his abusive history with alcohol. “You?”

“Glass of wine,” she said.

Reza shrugged and leaned on the bar, taking another pull off his water and being careful not to lean too close. She looked like she’d bolt if he pushed her. “That would explain why you’re talking to me. We haven’t exactly been friendly.”

Her hair reflected the fading sunlight that filled the room from the wide-open patio doors. He wanted to fist it between his fingers, watch her neck arch for his mouth.

She motioned toward his bottle with her glass. “‘Anymore’?”

He simply took another pull off his water. He was going to be damn good and hydrated after tonight. He wondered what she’d do if he leaned a little closer. “Long story.”

“One you’re not keen on sharing?” she asked. She leaned her cheek on one palm. The sun glinted across her cheek.

“Let’s just say alcohol and I aren’t on speaking terms. Bad things happen when I drink.” It was nothing to be ashamed of but there it was. Shame wound up his spine and squeezed the air from his lungs. He was just like his dad after all.

“You say that like giving up alcohol is a bad thing,” Emily said quietly.

Reza snorted softly. He should have guessed she wouldn’t let it alone. She had stubbornness that could last for days. “It’s not something I’m proud of.”

Her hand on his forearm startled him. Soft and strong, her fingers pressed into his skin. “But stopping is something to be proud of.”

Reza stared down at her hand, pale against the dark shadows of his own skin. A long silence hung between them.

He lifted his gaze to hers.

“It takes a lot of strength to break with the past,” she said softly.

“What are you doing?” Her eyes glittered in the setting sun and he thought he caught the sight of the tiniest edge of her lip curling.

Her fingers slipped from his skin. “Offering my professional support?”

His lips quirked. “Was that a joke?”

“Maybe,” she said. “I’m working on developing a biting sense of humor. Defense mechanism against raging asshole commanders.”

Reza barked out a laugh. “You look different out of uniform,” he said lightly, pressing his advantage at this unexpected truce.

“So do you.”

He angled his body toward hers. “You like my makeup?” he asked.

Her lips parting as she tried to figure out if he was kidding or not. Finally, she cracked the barest hint of a smile.

Something powerful woke inside him and he moved before he thought about it. He reached for her, brushing a strand of hair from her cheek. The simple gesture was crushing in its intimacy. Her lips froze in a partial gasp, as though her breath had caught in her throat.

“Sergeant Iaconelli,” she said quietly, her voice husky. But she didn’t move away. Didn’t flinch from his touch.

“Reza.” He swallowed the sharp bite of arousal in his blood, more powerful without the haze of alcohol that usually clouded his reactions. “My name is Reza.”


His breath was locked in his lungs, the sound of his name on her lips triggering something dark and powerful and overwhelming.

He wanted this woman. The woman who’d stood in opposition to him this week. The woman who lifted her chin and stood steadfast between him and his soldiers.

There was strength in this woman. Strength and courage.

“I’m Emily.” Her words a rushed breath.

He lowered his hand, unwilling to push any further than he’d already gone. This was new territory for him. Unfamiliar and strange and filled with potential and fear.

“It was nice talking to you tonight, Emily,” he said when he could speak.

He waited for her acknowledgment that she’d heard him. Some slight movement of her head or tip of her chin.

Instead her throat moved as she swallowed and she blinked quickly, shattering the spell between them.

He left her then because to push further would challenge the limits of his restraint. He wasn’t ready to fall into bed with someone. No matter how compelling Emily might be.

He waited and he watched for the rest of the evening. Watched her slip out with her friend, leaving an empty space at the bar.

Leaving him alone with the fear that included the empty loneliness as well as the cold silence of sobriety.

His thoughts raced as he made sure his troopers all got home that night, and Teague crashed on his couch.

He fell into bed later, need and desire twisted up, filling the cold dead space left inside him by the lack of alcohol. A dead space he usually filled with work while deployed. Tonight, though, unfamiliar pleasure hunted his thoughts, whispering that he could still love a woman, that he didn’t have to be drunk to climb into bed with someone.

But Emily wasn’t a random someone.

And she was so far out of his league, it wasn’t even funny. Even if there was some sexual attraction there, she wasn’t likely to go slumming with a burned-out infantryman like him.

He lay there in the darkness, waiting, clinging to the single, simple pleasure of her touch, hoping that maybe tonight he could sleep, avoiding the nightmares that reminded him of the monster he’d become.

A beast who had lost his compassion somewhere on the road to Baghdad.

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about Jessica Scott || 

USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs; wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she's a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon.  She's currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she's been featured as one of Esquire Magazine's Americans of the Year for 2012. 
She's written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.
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connect with Jessica || Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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{ review } .

It takes a very strong person to write some of the things that are in this story. 

Granted, I think that it helps that Jessica has her own point of view, having served herself. 

The book starts out immediately with Reza's drinking problem -- he is in the throws of detoxing while deployed. And as we, the reader, learn, he goes through this every. single. time.

Reza deals with the loss of his comrads, the wounds, the blood, the nightmares... by drinking. But let's be honest and not niave here -- this is an everyday occurance for many members of our military. And while I could very easily get up on my soapbox and talk about this... well, this here is supposed to be a book review. Regardless, said soapbox is not necessary, as Jessica writes about it pretty damn well.

In addition to Reza's thoughts, he also has extremely.... strong... opinions on the base shrinks. He, and many others his rank and above, just want the 'dirt' gone -- he's sick of the kids who don't want to deploy, and he's tired of the psych guys allowing these kids into rehab. These wastes-of-space are taking up valuable space for the soldiers who have scene war, who actually need the things the R&R center can give.

And then there's Olivia.

Olivia is one of those 'psych guys' allowing the scared-shitless kids to hide away in a room and not have to see the real world.

Au contraire, my dear friend, Reza.

Emily sees the system as flawed. She knows it is flawed. And she, partially at least, blames the commanders who are telling these kids that they are worthless wastes of space. 

Every single day, Emily's faith in the system she'd wanted to help weakened. When officers like Jenkowski were threatening kids who just needed to take a break and pull themselves together to find some way of dealing with the trauma in their lives, it crushed a part of her spirit.
When Reza encounters Emily for the first time, it doesn't exactly go well.
"How can I call myself a leader? Honey, until you've bled in combat, don't talk to me about leadership. But go ahead. Keep protecting this shitbird and tie up all the counselors so that warriors who genuinely need help can't get it. He doesn't belong in the army." He swept his gaze down her body deliberately. Trying to provoke her. Her face flushed as he met her eyes coldly. "Neither do you."
Can you not hear his hostility? Wowza, Reza... I can even see his condescending once over of her.

One thing about Reza that you learn, is that he holds himself to a very high standard. He pushes himself to be better, but when he fails, he beats himself up ten times over. While he does begin this story sober, you learn through his thoughts and interactions that he's never sobered correctly. Understandably, getting help is the hardest part of the cycle. He can be pulled into offices left and right, be told he needs to sober up or he'll lose his rank, his stripes, his career, and therefore, his life, but all those words do is taunt him.

You want him to sober up? By damn, then, he will. He'll detox to hell and back while literally in the hell war has created. And he'll come home, sober as the day he was born.

...and he'll hold the filled flask. He'll open up the glove box where it's kept. He'll hold on to a filled beer.

He taunts himself with the alcohol to convince himself he'll get through it.

And for the most part, he does.

But like any alcoholic, something happens in which his sobriety breaks.

I felt that this story spoke greatly of the problem of soldiers (Marines, airmen, frogs, SEALs, etc etc -- because as a Marine brat, I know how each one hates to hear themselves being called the wrong title) when it comes to finding a way to deal with the realities of war. This book talks about alcoholism. It talks about suicide. It talks about hazing and distrust.

Not everyone has someone like Emily in their corner... and thank goodness for Emily. She joined the army to find her niche. Her family was against it; she found her former best friend with her mouth around her (Emily's...) fiance's... mmmhm. She has no one to prove anything to -- she's doing this for herself.

And she's learning that not only is she pushing against her family, she's chosen a path in which she will need to continually push along the way.

Emily shifted her notes and grasped a pen in her right hand, flicking the cap on and off. It was a nervous habit that had driven her father insane but today of all days, she was allowed. The blatant hostility from the room full of men was... well, "disconcerting" was too light a word.
She was nervous. Nervous but not afraid. There was a difference. And after her weekend of pulling double shifts in the ER, hers was a no-fail mission. 
Something was drastically wrong at Fort Hood and these men were key to helping figure it out. They were the ones who knew their soldiers the best. They were the ones who could identify the soldiers on edge before she could.
They could save lives. But they had to trust that the system would work, and if her previous conversations with Reza were an indicator, there wasn’t a lot of love lost between the men in the ranks and the docs in her office.
Having so many eyes on her at once was unsettling at best. And when you considered what she was there to talk to them about— yeah, she couldn’t really count on a warm reception and an invitation to drinks afterward. She figured it was close to what a rabbit must feel like when facing a pack of wolves. She glanced around the room, seeing that every single right shoulder sported the giant combat patch of the First Cavalry Division, a patch that covered the entire space reserved to tell the world they’d been to war. Her own right shoulder felt conspicuously naked. She was a slick sleeve. She’d learned that term recently and it was not a term of endearment.
But she wasn’t a rabbit and damn it, she was not going to back down from doing her job.
The war was far from over. She’d get her turn to deploy. She knew that but standing there, in front of a room full of combat veterans, her carefully prepared speech escaped her. The notes on her slides, which had been vetted by the hospital commander, seemed somehow… empty. Futile.
“I’m here…” She cleared her throat as her voice broke. “I’m here today to talk to you about behavioral health.” Someone coughed in the back of the room and she didn’t dare look up. She was afraid she would see Reza watching her again. Afraid she would look in his eyes and see something there that she wasn’t ready to deal with.
There were demons hiding in the shadows of his eyes. She didn’t have to be a psych doc to see it. There was something deeper, though, beneath the shadows and the sadness etched into the lines beneath his eyes. Something that called to her. That urged her out of her tight, protected box. Something that made her want to reach out and seize the risk.
To touch him. The truest part of him, not the harsh exterior he presented to the world.
Refusing to be cowed, she lifted her gaze to scan the room once more. A mistake. The hostility was not in her head. Arms were folded across chests. Jaws ground furiously at being cooped into a hot classroom. Several cheeks were packed with chewing tobacco, their owners’ spit bottles close by.
She was not going to reach anyone here. It dawned on her in that moment that the hospital commanders had no idea what the attitudes were down here in a line unit. How was she ever going to reach these men when they didn’t want to hear one word she had to say?
The interpersonal conflict in her office seemed somehow so trivial. So distant, despite recognizing at least two commanders she’d gone toe-to-toe with.
Swallowing, she set down her papers and folded her arms over her chest. She glanced in Reza’s direction, wishing she had a translator to help her figure these rough men out.
An echo of the first argument she’d had with Reza danced at the edge of her memory. She was not going to reach anyone with carefully prepared PowerPoint sides.
She swallowed and took a deep breath, speaking before her common sense took over and talked her out of it.
“So how many of you think that behavioral health is for pussies?” 
And with that, she manages to break a bit of the tension. Not a lot, but some. Unfortunately, it doesn't continue to go her way.

I have to say, though, while this scene is a favorite, because you see Emily's struggle in trying to figure out the best way to get through to these guys...

... ...

... ... ... WE SEE SHANE AND VIC!

Oh, that really made my day. I miss those men. Not that I've managed to read Carponti's book, but man, I still love that man. And when he jokes about his accidental overdose..? So yeah, he calls out everyone else, stating only he can joke about it, but it makes me happy to see he can joke about it, because while I've yet to read his book, it means his finally in a good place. And that makes me happy...

But back to Emily and Reza. 

Because she wants to be accepted, she asks Reza (once they're on somewhat civil terms, of course) to take her into a training mission. I, for one, was surprised when he agreed. He does not hide his thoughts about the fact she doesn't wear a patch on her shoulder stating she's seen war. But where he gives the non-war-soldiers feel like shit... he accepts Emily's willingness to see.

...and then his emotions knock him on his ass when she gets hit by a play bullet but hey, the guy's human and, surprise, has emotion, too.
I teared up a number of times towards end of this book. I really enjoyed this book, and am so, so, SO glad I was able to review it. It made me want to revisit Shane and Jen (and I did, and I did again with their novella), and it made me want to go back and finally read Vic's and Trent's stories, because those men most definitely deserved their happily-ever-afters.

I say it often, and I always mean it, but I could go on and on with this book. There were points where I lost my focus, sure, but all together, I loved Reza and Emily, and their semi-unconventional story. And as much as Reza swears he can't be a family man, or even a married man, I would be interested to see what the future holds for these two.

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