Winner of Romance Writers of America's 2015 RITA® Award for Best Romance Novella "Richland packs a novel's worth of plot and characterization into this tantalizing novella. " —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Special Forces medic Rey Cruz needs to find a fiancée, fast, or he'll end up in a marriage orchestrated by an Afghan warlord. Finding a picture online of a girl he barely knew back home, he fakes an engagement photo, thinking no one else will see it. But when Rey loses both legs and the ability to speak while rescuing a local boy, the image goes viral.
Seattle marine biologist Grace Kim is shocked to find out she's engaged. When she's offered a plane ticket to visit her "fiancé," she takes it, looking for the answer to one question: Why did he lie? Touched by Rey's funny texts and the determination she sees in him, Grace offers her friendship—a big step for someone who prefers whales to most company.
And when Rey is finally sent home, Grace agrees to help him drive his classic car cross-country over Thanksgiving—a once-in-a-lifetime road trip that leads to what feels like real love. In front of his friends and family, she plays the caring fianc‚e, but what place will Grace have in Rey's new life once he's ready to be on his own again?
Richland (First to Burn) packs a novel's worth of plot and characterization into this tantalizing novella. Sgt. Reynaldo Cruz fibbed to his fellow soldiers about being engaged to a woman he barely knows. When an explosion catapults him from serving as a medic in Afghanistan to recovering from a double amputation at Walter Reed Hospital outside of Washington, D.C., his supposed fianc e is called to his bedside. Dr. Grace Kim, a marine biologist, doesn't even remember meeting Reynaldo. Unwilling to expose his deception given the circumstances, she heads to Walter Reed to figure out why this man connected himself to her. What follows is a raw, emotional story of two embattled people slowly building a life together. Painful self-examination is rewarded with a deeper understanding of what it means to love and be loved in return. The story's only flaw is that it ends far too soon, leaving readers desperate for more of Richland's powerful descriptions and deep characterization.
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Buy this book and read it. Then tell your friends
I’m finding it hard not to gush, this story combines some of my favorite elements: a smart yet not glamorous heroine, a damaged hero with a strong streak of independence and the overall feel of the classic It’s a Wonderful Life with such heartwarming moments that if you don’t shed a tear or two you have no heart.
Richland has used one of the characters from her debut novel, and given him a story of his own: doing justice to the original story and to veterans, wounded or not, everywhere. Everyone will be talking about their connection, the heat, and even the wonderful depictions and detail that are added to the story to build the background and feel.
Rey and Grace are adorable, with conversations and interactions that feel real, and with the solid point of view from Rey that clearly outlines his frustrations with his lack of mastery of the spoken word and his recurring flashbacks and nightmares. Grace is the perfect foil with her patience and diligence and her refusal to allow him to behave badly show her core of strength even as she is fighting her own questions and concerns.
Most wonderful are the secondary characters that add a flash of normalcy to the story from Grace’s sister and parents to Rey’s friends and wives and his own mother. Throughout the story I was smiling or wiping a tear, and completely broke down at their Thanksgiving celebration in the middle of nowhere. Truly Richland uses her own personal experience of deployment and her knowledge of the bonds that hold soldiers together to bring us a sense of the connection: gut wrenching, palpable and often bittersweet. Her ability to tackle the issues head on and make a story that combines sadness, sweetness and hope MUST be that story you turn to when hopelessness at the bad news that surrounds us start to overwhelm.
Do yourself a favor and Buy this book and read it. Then tell your friends. And while you are at it – add Anna’s first book ( First To Burn) to your shopping cart as well. You won’t regret it.
I received an eBook copy of the title from the author via Tasty Book Tours for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.