Reviewed by May
When Jess Albert learned the devastating news that her husband, Jeff, was killed in action in Afghanistan, a painful void entered her life. The more time passed, the more acutely she felt that emptiness. But four years later, when Tyler Brown, former military hero and all-around alpha male, shows up, Jess gradually begins to realize there is one thing that can make her feel whole again—love.
As they’re planning their wedding and new life together, Jess receives a shocking revelation: her husband is alive, under the care of a young Afghani woman who’s hiding him from the Taliban. Though Ty knows Jeff’s return will mean the end for him and Jess, he joins the One Eyed Jacks and Black Ops, Inc. teams in a daring and dangerous rescue mission to bring a hero home.
Jeff is broken physically and emotionally, his memory of their life together lost, yet he and Jess desperately try to find their way back to each other—until an unexpected development helps them see the true way home, to the people they love.
This book is listed as part of the One Eyed Jack series, however I felt that it stood alone wonderfully and you could read just this story and have no previous knowledge of Gerard’s other books or characters. Now if this book had been by almost any other author, I would have passed on it. The set up screams angst, drama, sadness, and maybe even love triangles. However I trust Gerard as an author, and so I braced myself and dug in. I’m glad I did because this was a really sweet read and none of the things I worried about initially were issues.
If I speak freely about this book I am bound to reveal who Jess winds up with (which is something I worried tremendously about, but upon re-reading the blurb I realize I shouldn’t have!) and I have to do this to really review this book. So! If you don’t want to know if Jess will have happily ever after with Tyler, Jeff, if she ends up solo, or runs off with the mailman then stop reading this review right now.
What I found in this book was two very tender love stories intertwined and told in such a way that it was clear how the past, present, and future would come together in a wonderful way. I’m not used to seeing such a soft side from Gerard, and I have to say she did a great job. We get to see Jeff not only realize what his situation is and watch him recover physical and mental strength, but we also get to see Jess open up and move forward with her life.
I never did quite figure out why Jess falls in love with Tyler (and why he’s so into her), and that bugged me a lot. Yes he’s a beautiful specimen of alpha male like only Gerard writes- but so what? Theirs was such a quiet romance, I felt like it was too understated and I had to really watch for reasons why he’s the one for her. What I did absolutely love is that Jess was very honest about her past with Jeff, what was good and also what wasn’t working with their relationship. In death (or assumed death, I suppose!) he was neither a saint nor the evil first husband. I love that Gerard does this in a way so that there was room for both her past love, and her new love.
Jeff’s time in Afghanistan and his story really stole the book for me. Rabia, the woman who found him and is caring for him, is a brave woman and it is really shown so wonderfully how she helps heal him, and how she comes to see how special he is.
“I remembered,” he said, after what felt like an entire phase of the moon had passed. “I lay in that hole, in the dark, under the floor… and I remembered what happened to me. I remembered my name.”
Her heartbeat quickened. He blinked slowly, his gaze still on the sky. “Jeff. Jeffery Robert Albert.”
Jeffery. She rolled the name around in her mind. Then whispered it softly. “Jeffery.”
He reached for her hand. She entwined her fingers with his. “Say it again. Make it real.”
“Jeffery. Your name is Jeffery.”
The muscles in his throat constricted. “Eighteen-Delta, Special Operations Medical Sergeant, Albert, Jeffery Robert,” he said, as though he needed to hear it again and again and again.
Jeff doesn’t have it easy, not by a long shot, and it’s clear that he will have issues for a long time – Gerard doesn’t skim over this or make him suddenly fine. The gritty reality strengthened his story and had me looking forward to every scene, every word of his story.
… he lay back down, angered by his weakness and pumping heart but looking like a proper Pashtun man.
Like a man, he thought grimly, lost between a world he had forgotten and a world where he didn’t belong.
The big problem I have with this book is the “daring and dangerous rescue mission”. It takes up a lot of space, it was incredibly boring, and it did not fit at all with the pace or flow of the book. I felt like the only reason it was even in this story is because Gerard is known for her action packed books in general so it was decided to throw some action into this book. The issue with that is that this is very much a quiet, tender, emotional book and the space dedicated to a detailed military off the books mission would have been better spent showing us more development with the main characters.
Had that space been given to the characters I think their happily ever after would have felt less rushed and more believable to me. The book might have flowed a bit better. We didn’t need the random cameo by so many of her past heroes – it didn’t delight me or add any value for me. In fact if anything I felt like they were intruding into a very special story.
You do not have to read any of Gerard’s previous books to read The Way Home. It stands alone beautifully and was a really sweet read about second chances, finding love, and the path that leads you to your happily ever after. She continues to impress me with her characters, storytelling, and overall skill with which she pulls me into her books.
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