Between the opening scene and the author note of this book, I was a little thrown until I realized the story had its roots in events from ten years early when Genna and Brody were both teenagers, though she was still jailbait as Brody puts it, rather than the book being about a Seal and a teenager. That was my last hiccup in reading this novel though.
Genna and Brody are perfect examples of how to make characters spring to life with real issues from the start. The glimpse into their teenage past shows how assumptions can blind people to value, and how some use their positions of authority to bully. In this case, Genna’s father, as Sheriff, gives Brody a choice between jail and the Navy when he shows interest in Genna. He’d committed no actionable crime and his reputation as a teenage troublemaker is founded on acts that would have been excused in a wealthy kid, as they were in Genna’s brother. That kind of experience, especially on top of an abusive, alcoholic father, can have an impact on a person. Brody’s value is shown in how he comes to appreciate what Genna’s father did because the Navy gave him purpose rather than clinging to the unjust aspects. The Seal qualities emphasized in the story are the important ones: purpose, the team, and drive rather than the adrenaline junkie side that does not leave much hope for the future.
Genna takes a little more time to realize she doesn’t have to be the counterbalance for her brother’s failings, a lesson she learns only when a double tragedy brings Brody back into her life. She suffers under an overprotective dad, yes, but it’s also a situation of her own making because she does little to assert herself, taking the road least likely to create conflict. She’s put her life, ambitions, and dreams on hold, succumbing to parental pressure and guilt, but when Brody starts treating her unjustly, she assesses her life and finds it wanting. Rather than letting that fact overwhelm her, she starts taking action and proves herself more than capable.
In many ways, that night ten years before had been a turning point for both of them, Brody to getting his life in order and ensuring he would not become his father, and Genna in cementing her loss of agency in favor of her parents’ needs. This allows both of them a growing point that Weber capitalizes on to offer a complex read where Genna must finally take a stand and Brody needs to as well, though in his case what he stands against is perception rather than pressure.
The Blaze imprint is on the sensual side, and this book doesn’t fall down there either. Even better, the lust-filled encounters serve to illustrate Genna and Brody’s troubled relationship while it reveals more than either is ready for.
My first thought when finishing this powerful and compelling read was simply: “Wow.” This novel illustrates just how one can stay within the genre and still deliver a deep, intriguing, complicated story with bigger implications about the assumptions people make based on class and how easy it is to blame an outsider rather than trying to figure out what’s really going on. And that’s not even touching on the post-traumatic syndrome Brody suffers thanks to the events that send him back to the one place he never wanted to return to. Well worth the read.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.