barman and the sealRating: 5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novella

The Barman and the SEAL, the latest installment in R.J. Scott’s Ellery Mountain series is I feel, by far, her best.  The compassionate writing, the slow and realistic emotional build between her characters, and the reminders that no one ever really “recovers” from PTSD but rather learns how to cope and live beyond it were absolutely spot on!  I thoroughly enjoyed this novella from beginning to end.  While it is best to read this complete series in order to get a feel for continuity and a sense of how the other couples met, this very well could be read as a stand alone.  In other words, don’t let this one get away by thinking you MUST read the other five novellas.  This one is an absolute gem!

Travis Baranski is an ex Navy SEAL and the first resident of Daniel’s home for recovering military.  While on a search and capture mission, Travis thinks he is the only surviving member of his squad as he watches an explosion rip through the high mountain range in Afghanistan, seemingly burying his team and tearing through his knee and lower leg, hands and feet.  Travis is then captured and made to endure endless days in a five-foot cage in freezing temperatures.  The experience leaves his body and mind broken and susceptible to near catatonic reactions to crowds and stress.  He remains haunted by daily nightmares and unable to endure even casual touch, until he meets Avery Gideon.

Avery is the bartender at the local watering hole.  Saving to buy the place, he takes pride in running the business and enjoys the endless eye candy that is his clientele.  However, while he may have had a crush on the local doctor, Avery remains unattached and lonely.  When Travis comes to his bar, he recognizes the haunted look in the man’s eyes and his heart is lost just a little bit.  However, Travis carries huge baggage and the very real possibility that a loving and complete relationship with another man may never be something he will be capable of sustaining.  Now the only question that remains is will Avery have the patience needed to wait for Travis—to stick with Travis long enough to see his lover heal and be able to remain by his side.

This was an emotional read for me.  I genuinely fell head long into this story and it was truly due to the way in which R.J. Scott so carefully crafted these two men into living, breathing people.  I was so relieved that the story was not rushed, that Travis did not show signs of “magically” healing fully, and that Avery had his doubts throughout the novella.  His doubts were focused not on whether he could wait for Travis, but rather whether Travis would stay long enough for both men to find out if they could be together long term.  The author really took the time to focus just on these two men and draw out their story slowly, allowing us to see what was going on in their hearts and minds.

I found the reminiscences of Travis’ time spent in captivity raw and emotional—just the right balance to give me a sense of the brutality, but not so much that it took the overall angst level beyond what I could handle.  All in all, this was an outstanding novella and I feel the best story in this series to date.

I highly recommend The Barman and the Seal by R.J. Scott to you.  It is a beautiful story of healing and love.

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