Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Baby and the Cowboy SEAL - Laura Marie Altom (HAR #1579 - Jan 2016)

Series: Cowboy SEALs (Book 2)


Former Navy SEAL Wiley James is lucky to be alive, but the war destroyed his health, his confidence and his livelihood. Now, back at his family's Montana ranch, Wiley struggles to find new purpose. Instead he finds an old childhood pal -- little Macy Shelton, who has grown into a beautiful woman. Wiley knows he should steer clear of the cheery single mom…if only she'd let him.

Macy doesn't recognize this new Wiley. A bitter stranger has replaced the young man she fell for as a teen. Though Macy's heart still wants so much more, what Wiley needs most right now is a friend, and Macy is the only one he'll let in. Her friendship is a lifeline, but will Macy's love be the one thing that can finally help Wiley begin to heal?

Good book dealing with a difficult subject. Wiley has come home to Montana a far different man than he left. Thanks to the injuries he sustained in the war, he has had to leave the service. The memories of what happened haunt him, and the pain gives him no peace. He has isolated himself on his ranch and avoids contact with everyone, until Macy forces herself into his life.

Macy is the single mother of a little boy, living on her grandparents' property next to Wiley's. She doing her own hiding after discovering that he husband was a lying cheat. She'd always had a huge crush on him, and having him back in town is like a dream come true - until a run in with him shows her how much he's changed. Common sense tells her to stay away from him, but her heart says she can help him.

I will admit to having moments of extreme frustration with both of them. Wiley has been coping with the pain in his leg by drinking instead of taking the painkillers the doctor prescribed. He has seen friends get addicted to them, so he wants nothing to do with them. Instead, he gets addicted to alcohol. When the pain is bad, he is really rude and mean to Macy when she comes by. He feels bad and apologizes, and lets her talk him into trying to help him. I liked the way that she takes his booze away and gets him to take his pills. Unfortunately, he totally forgets about his fear of getting addicted to them, and liking the way they reduce his pain, quickly starts taking too many. He lies to himself, believing that he can stop anytime, and to Macy, hiding just how many he's taking.

Macy is so happy to have Wiley back that she ignores all the things that others try to tell her. She sees that he is in pain and knows that the drinking doesn't help, so she pretty much forces her way into his life. Her husband's betrayal has done a number on her self confidence, but Wiley's presence makes her feel good again. Though she knows Wiley's problems are probably worse than he admits, she can't help dreaming and believing that being together is all that they need to overcome them. She even convinces him that marriage is the way to go.

Wiley's problems only get worse. He is so determined to make Macy believe that everything is fine, that his abuse of the pills rapidly spirals out of control. His mood swings get worse as he struggles to hide it all from her. There are also several episodes of flashbacks where he "checks out", making her worry about him even more. She senses that things aren't right, but ignores those feelings, choosing to believe him instead. It was obvious that it was all going to fall apart eventually, and it wouldn't be pretty when it did.

I did like the realistic portrayal of the problems some returning service members have. Wiley's alcohol and drug abuse aren't unusual, nor were his attempts to isolate himself. Macy's actions were also believable, as she wanted to believe that he was getting better. Ignoring her fears made it easier to do so. I ached for Wiley and Macy when he finally hit bottom and they had to face the truth. I loved that she didn't give up on him. I also liked the way that Macy's father, being a former service member himself, was able to recognize what was going on. His assistance and support were vital to getting Wiley the help that he needed. I really liked the fact that the resolution wasn't a quick or easy fix, but one they had to work at. There was a really sweet twist at the end.

I loved the part that the various animals played in Wiley's life. It was funny to see the way that the vet kept bringing more in need of rescue as a way to give Wiley a reason to face each day. I also adored Macy's llamas. Their names were especially amusing, with the male being Charlie, and the four females being Jill, Chris, Kelly and Sabrina. It didn't take too long to make the connection. 

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