Wednesday, April 1, 2015


It's Always Been You by Jessica Scott

Publisher: Forever (paperback 3/31/2015)
Series: Coming Home, book 3
Genre: Military Romance
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Purchase links || amazon | bn | ibooks | kobo | googleplay

Rating: ★★

She plays by the rules . . . 
 Captain Ben Teague is many things: a tough soldier, a loyal friend, and a bona fide smart-ass. He doesn't have much tolerance for BS, which is why he's mad as hell when a trusted colleague and mentor is brought up on charges that can't possibly be true. He's even more frustrated with by-the-book lawyer Major Olivia Hale. But there's something simmering beneath her icy reserve--and Ben just can't resist turning up the heat . . .

. . . and he's determined to break them
 The only thing riskier than mixing business with pleasure is enjoying it . . . and Olivia can't resist locking horns--and lips--with Ben. He's got more compassion in his little finger than any commander she's ever met, a fact that makes him a better leader than he realizes. But when the case that brought them together awakens demons from Olivia's past, she will have to choose between following orders--or her heart . . .

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.

{ excerpt } .

Olivia looked away. The first packet was heavy in her hand. “The quick summary is that you have five drinking and driving, two assaults, three hot urinalysis tests and five soldiers caught with other intoxicating substances.”

“Define ‘other intoxicating substances’? What the hell does that mean?”

“Huffing, spice, bath salts.”

“Bath salts? What the hell are bath salts?”

Olivia pulled out her phone and pulled up a website explaining the drug. “They’re really new but we’re starting to see more of them. They’re meant to be a synthetic drug that mimics cocaine and ecstasy but they’re really bad stuff. Some of it is variants of plant food.”

Ben reached for her phone and angled it so he could see. His hand was big and rough against hers. Hot where their skin met. If he noticed, he didn’t give any indication. “Plant food?”

Olivia tried to ignore how his hand felt against hers. Because, oh yes, she’d noticed. Heat spread across her skin, sliding up her forearm and tingling down her spine. “Soldiers will smoke anything these days,” she said quietly.


“That’s a whole ’nother discussion,” she said, easing her hand out of his. “The short version is that intoxicating substances are prohibited by regulation and I advise you to do two things with these kids: send a strong message that this behavior won’t be tolerated but also enroll them into drug abuse counseling to send a message that you’ll help those who want it.”

Ben studied the paperwork in front of him. Tormented emotions flickered over his face and it was everything she could do not to ask him what was on his mind. She didn’t have time or reason to go crawling around Ben Teague’s head but that didn’t stop the want pulsing warmly over her skin.

“I know this kid,” Ben said quietly. “I served with him downrange last deployment but ever since he’s come home, he’s been nothing but trouble to the old commander. Zittoro has three previous drug charges,” he said.

“Private Zittoro is a different case. I recommend you separate him from the military under a chapter nine, rehab failure.”

She heard his quick intake of breath. Saw the conflict flicker over his sharp features.

He cleared his throat roughly in the awkward silence. “Zittoro… he’s got nowhere to go. He’s got a deadbeat dad and his mom is… well, she’s not winning any parent of the year awards.” His fist clenched on the table in front of her. “If I throw him out of the army, what happens to him? He’s an addict.”

She flinched at the pain in his words. Ben had only been a commander for a couple of hours but the strain was already obvious in his voice.

“You can’t save everyone,” she whispered. She waited until his eyes met hers.

“You know that, right?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

There was no comfort she could offer. This was the burden of command: to balance the needs of the army over the needs of the individual. A tightrope he had to walk alone.

All she could do was give him the facts and her opinion. But in that moment, she had the sudden urge to save him from this. “If you keep him, do you have the manpower to keep going to his room and making sure he hasn’t overdosed every night? Do you trust him enough to give him a weapon and believe he’ll do his job?”

Ben’s throat moved as he swallowed. “Guess not,” he said quietly. He leaned back and it was as if a wall of glass crystallized between them. “What other fun things do you have in there for me?”

Olivia wasn’t convinced by the sudden shift in Ben’s mood but now wasn’t the time or the place for digging any deeper. She reviewed the rest of the drug packets, watching him tense more with each one. She stopped after the last driving under the influence.

“Why is this bothering you so much?”

He offered a half-assed cocky grimace that failed to mimic the smile he was going for. A pretty shitty attempt to cover the darkness twisting beneath the surface. He took a deep breath. “I’m a big boy. I’ll do what has to be done.”

“I didn’t imply that you wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s not bothering you.”

He drummed his fingers on the table. “Let’s finish this up. I’ve got to get down to my company and start digging out from the mountain of crap that my predecessor left me.”

He brushed her off. The action was as insignificant as a paper cut.

She leaned back and picked up the next packet and wished it didn’t sting like it did. Then she made the mistake of meeting his gaze. There was such a dark lack of hope in his eyes. A bleak resignation to the things he was forced to confront. She almost reached for his hand. It would have been a simple gesture of support. But he looked at her as though a single touch might have shattered him.

He was not her problem. She didn’t do damaged and introspective.

Because there were people counting on her not to get distracted.

But looking at him now, she wondered about the glimpse of the tired warrior she saw behind those tormented brown eyes.

{ review } .
If this is the first review of mine that you've read that deals with Jessica Scott, let me just tell you --

I love how she writes and I love how she writes these military men and women.

As I stated in my ALL FOR YOU review, I was first introduced to her when reading the story (and later novella) of Shane and Jen. While I didn't forget about her and her series, she took a back burner because I had other authors and stories that made themselves more... available, I suppose.

But she's back on my radar and she's pretty much there to stay.

We met Teague in the beginning, but we saw him fall in ALL FOR YOU as he's good friends with Reza. That said, we get glimpses of Reza and his Emily in this book, so that, of course, makes my heart happy.

IT'S ALWAYS BEEN YOU opens up in a war scene. We have a young, carefree Ben -- he's a kid who loves life and seems to enjoy his job in the Army. He's close to his "Sarn't" -- the man was like a father to him, and Ben knew him and his family well. But when things go BOOM, Ben's life changes.

The book moves to four years later, and friendships that Ben had in the prologue are no longer. In his time of healing, Ben has become bitter and angry. 
And to think, once upon a time, he'd thought he could make a difference.
What a miserable joke. 
Now, the base is doing major cleaning and as such, Ben is given a leadership position (a position, mind you, in which he could make a difference) that he does not want.

Similarly to Reza and Emily's story, Ben and Olivia's starts with fireworks and distrust. Ben doesn't want to like the Major/lawyer. But when he's pushed into close confines with her and needs to learn how to share and play nice, he's tested a bit.

Olivia's first reaction to Ben is that he's guarded and haunted. She tries to make him see that in his new role, he can't protect friends. But his haunted eyes are truly what draws her to him. 

Equally, though, Ben starts noticing little things with Olivia, such as brushing things off and quick subject changes. He wants to know what happened that made her so distrustful. Like she sees in his, he sees sadness in the depths if her eyes.

She wants to know his secrets. The thing with Olivia, though, is she has her own secrets, her own reasons for wanting the place cleaned up. She knows how things get covered up and others get hurt because of it.

Olivia has seen firsthand what happens when soldiers don't get the help they need, the consequences they should be dealt. She's witnessed families murdered and soldiers' suicides. When Hailey Escoberra's pictures are on her desk, as much as she wants to believe in Ben and what he believes of Escoberra, she's seen this situation go bad too many other times. She sees herself in the beaten Hailey; she sees the family she failed to save in Hailey.

Ben doesn't want to get along with Olivia. She's all rules and regulations, and therefore gives uptight a whole new meaning in his book. Yet there's just something about her that fights to draw her near.
[...]He had the strange and sudden urge to know if she ever laughed. Something dark simmered in his belly. Something deeply inappropriate at work[...]There was no way he could be attracted to someone as...driven as Olivia was.
While they both feel that their fighting different sides in the same battle, they listen to the other. Both ask the important 'whys'.

These two have a slow, quiet love. I can't really say that it snuck up on them, but rather that it progresses slowly -- it just happens. There's not a big finale and moment for them; it's the whispers in the dark, the quiet murmurs against the other's lips, the arms wrapped around the other while they stay silent. Every time Ben whispers against Olivia's lips, my heart squeezes a bit. Here was an opportunity for Jessica to write another loud hero, and while he can raise his voice and he and Olivia have had loud words with one another, he's actually rather quiet compared to the other men Jessica Scott has written. He cares a lot -- not to say the others don't, but he takes everything to heart. So when he whispers against Olivia's lips, when his eyes turn tormented and he keeps to himself... You can't help but feel for this man.

I have to add, though...

That the epilogue. Oh my. I love a good epilogue (but you know that already). In this epilogue, we see the now more-confident, not-as-tormented Ben worried and nervous, and may I just say: that it is a good look on him? The absolute love and adoration he has for his Olivia... I just love it.

{ giveaway } .

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