by J.M. Stewart
Series: Military Match #3
Publisher: Forever Yours
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Rules are made to be broken . . .
When it comes to dating, ex-Navy SEAL Marcus Denali has a few simple rules. Never date a coworker. Never date a friend's sister. And never ever date a girl whose brother is a coworker, a friend, and a fellow SEAL. So why would Marcus dance so closely---and flirt so shamelessly---with Mandy Lawson? Simple. It's a Fourth of July masquerade ball. He doesn't know she's his buddy's little sister. And once the masks come off, the real fireworks begin . . .
Mandy doesn't care about the rules. She's been crushing on Marcus for years, and she's not giving up now that she has proof he wants her too. She has a plan to show this military man some moves he never learned in basic training. And Marcus is going to learn that some rules-the rules of attraction---are just too strong to fight.
This was a ton of fun! I was expecting this to be more of a “dating my friend’s little sister” trope, but other than some initial resistance and a few brother comments, this is more of a commitment-phobe romance. Since I love that particular trope, I was not disappointed! This is the third book in the Military Match series, but I read it as a standalone.
“Confusion filled Mandy’s eyes. ‘So why use a dating service, then? What did you hope to get out of it?’
‘Because I’m human. I get lonely, too, and a one-night stand just doesn’t do it for me anymore.’ He released a heavy breath. ‘What I need is someone I can see for a while. Someone my grandmother will like.’
‘Wait…’ Mandy cocked her head sideways. ‘You sought out a dating service to make your grandmother happy?’
He rubbed the back of his neck. Yeah, okay, so it sounded as pathetic as he’d assumed.”
Mandy is a tomboy, impulsive and cheerfully upbeat. When her dad was home from deployments, he liked tinkering in the garage, so she learned to help out in order to spend time with him. So while she can do her own car repairs, it also has the unfortunate side effect of getting her friend-zoned every time she tries to date someone. Mandy’s had a crush on her older brother’s best friend, Marcus, for quite a while, but can’t seem to break through his crusty exterior.
Marcus’s life has been rough. His dad abandoned the family when he was a kid, and then a few years later, his mom dumped him and his sister at his grandma’s house and never looked back. He’s a military vet and, while his PTSD is mostly under control, it still crops up occasionally, and he helps run a support group for returning vets. His sister was bipolar, and committed suicide while he was away on a deployment. So, you can certainly understand why Marcus is dealing with a morass of guilt and unworthiness, and why he avoids relationships and commitments.
After their aborted Military Match date, now that Mandy knows Marcus is interested in her, she decides to pursue him. When Marcus reiterates that he’s not relationship material, they agree to a month of no-strings-(or emotions)-attached sex, with them staying friends afterward. Of course, things don’t work out as planned! I loved they way they communicated and opened up to each other, plus the sex was steamy! This book deals with some heavy topics, and I think the author handled it very well, with Marcus exhibiting some of the classic PTSD symptoms and Mandy responding by gently challenging some of the unhelpful thought patterns he’d created (thanks to previously helping her brother with his PTSD). Mandy’s the force behind the relationship, so when she realizes she can’t keep the original terms of the agreement, she breaks it off. This is definitely a case of tough love, though, as Marcus comes to the realization that maybe what he had with Mandy had already grown beyond friendship, and that he missed it.
So, while this is based on an old trope, this was a lovely version of it. I very much enjoyed this book, and I’ve added the first two in the series to my TBR list!
“’Life should be lived, grabbed by its ears and rode hard.’
His body shook with his quiet laugh. ‘Only you could say something like that and not make it sound like a sexual innuendo.’
She leaned in and nipped at his chin. ‘Who said it wasn’t?’”