Reviewed by Helyce
Blurb from Goodreads:
The diagnosis of a chronic stomach condition leaves thirty-two-year-old Sergeant Jed Cooper with little choice but to call time on his Army career. Then on the dusty streets of Kirkuk, an ambush gone tragically wrong decimates his team, and he returns to the US with a shattered leg and the memory of his best friend dying in his arms.
Life in his sleepy hometown proves intolerable until he finds solace in a lakeside cabin with vivacious young carpenter, Max O’Dair. In the shadow of the epilepsy that periodically plagues Max, he and Jed form an unspoken bond. After a late night episode, Jed realizes how much Max means to him, and life has taught him not to waste time.
But the lines between contentment and complacency are blurred. Things left hidden resurface to tear through their world, and before they can repair the damage, death comes to call again. Faces, past and present, rally around them to weather the storm, but before long, they are left with only love.
I’d read the first two books in Garrett Leigh’s Roads series (Slide & Rare) and really liked them so when I heard about Only Love, I had to read it.
Jed Cooper expected the Army to be his life, so when a serious injury pushes him into early retirement he finds himself at loose ends. He returns to the place he grew up, something he never expected to do. He hadn’t left on good terms with his father and younger brother and over the course of his time in the Army, he’d not returned. Now, with little choice, he’s back and needing to rely on his brother and his wife.
Needless to say, things are very strained with Jed and his brother Nick. Nick’s wife Kim is welcoming, but she also knows to give Jed his space. Nick’s two daughter’s Belle and Tess, however, quickly become beacons of light for Jed. And then he meets Kim’s brother Max.
I love big angst and emotional tension in my reading and this story really delivers. Jed is dealing with so much. He’s got health issues due to his injuries and a horrific gastrointestinal problem he developed while overseas that has no cure. On top of everything, though, he’s dealing with a lot of grief–the loss of his best friend and fellow soldier, Paul. The author reveals in a lovely but subtle way that Jed and Paul’s relationship was special. It is hinted at that it could have been more, but it is also made clear that Paul, who is married, did not have a physical relationship with Jed. I thought their relationship was presented beautifully and later when Jed receives a letter Paul left for him, everything becomes clear.
When Jed meets Max and moves into Max’s lakeside house, I think it was the beginning of Jed really starting to heal, both inside and out. Max has issues of his own. An epileptic, he’s suffered from seizures since childhood. In spite of this, he becomes a kind of calm in Jed’s storm. They seem to be two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly and they quickly fall into a routine. I loved the easy symmetry these two men seemed to have. They easily come together and begin to depend on the other without even realizing it. There is attraction on both sides, but it is left to the side in the beginning and their physical relationship is slow to develop. Even after they take that step, there is little focus on sex. They come to need each other on a much deeper level.
So much so, that when a secret Max is keeping is revealed they completely fall apart. Jed and Max’s actions took me by surprise here. They had seemed such a tight, cohesive unit and I thought Jed seemed to over-react in a really huge way. Max did what he had to do and perhaps if he’d been able to explain so many things would have been different. As it was, this secret is the cause for the huge conflict that takes us into the second half of the book.
I really enjoyed this story. For me, this is a story not only about the relationship developing between Max and Jed, but about relationships in general. All aspects are covered in here; the brotherhood of the soldiers at arms, the relationship between brothers, the relationship between friends, and mostly, the relationships that make people your family, even when there is no blood bond. This story goes into both Jed’s and Max’s pasts to reveal a connection that I found spectacular in it presentation and it’s innocence–though it goes a long way to explain Jed’s reaction to Max’s secret.
I only have one little thing that I wish had been flushed out a bit more, but it’s a bit spoilery so I will just say that something is revealed between Jed and his father before he leaves to join the Army. But nothing more is ever said about the subject. While it explains the additional animosity between Jed and his father, I would have liked more on this subject. I’m not sure why the author used this really, when the issue of Jed’s being gay and his father and brother not accepting that was huge enough.
I cannot wait to read more by this author. She is expert at taking a damaged, tortured hero from the darkness into the light.