A teenage love affair, a wounded soldier, and the joys of motherhood make for a sweet romance about new beginnings.
When 15-year-old Halo Pearson meets 17-year-old Thomas Wells, a good kid from the wrong side of the tracks, she’s smitten. After her parents are killed in a car accident, her high school sweetheart truly becomes her everything. Fast-forward eight years, and Thomas has redeployed as a Navy SEAL in Iraq and served her with divorce papers. Meanwhile, Halo is in the hospital having their baby, Brandon. It’s not very happily-ever-after. Luckily, she meets Ryder St. John, a veteran who was badly injured in an ambush and has a case of amnesia, to boot. Strapped for cash and for company, Halo suggests that he rent her garage as an apartment, and Ryder easily slips into a role as the man of the house. Soon, the sexual tension ramps up. Still, Halo struggles with her fear of being abandoned again, while Ryder is wary of overstepping his bounds—and he also has no idea what life he’s left behind elsewhere. Plus, there’s always the chance that Thomas will make good on his oft-repeated promise: “You’re my halo, my ray of light. I will always find my way back to you.” Veteran romance novelist Stephens (Dick, 2016, etc.) calls upon a few classic conventions—the good girl who falls for the bad boy, the long-lost lover at war, the man with a blurry past—but this story feels far from contrived. After she front-loads it with racy scenes of teenage lust, the rest of the novel focuses on the gritty realities of a relationship’s ups and downs and the slow burn of a more adult affair, with some nice snippets of maternal affection. It’s a well-structured narrative—fast-paced, with timely flashbacks and changes in first-person perspective; Thomas’ chapters are particularly juicy. Between his PTSD, his fear of turning into his abusive father, and his inability to choose between his brothers-in-arms and his wife, he’s a sympathetic romantic hero. Ryder isn’t quite as well-developed, but readers will find this easy to overlook.
From first kiss to major plot twist, this romance novel offers two solid love stories for the price of one.