Sam Trammel has finally come back home again, but it’s to bring his brother’s body home. Sam and his twin brother, Connor, were both in the Army and both stationed overseas. Now Connor is dead and Sam has been discharged. But Sam was betrayed by his brother, and he’s allowed an estrangement between him and his brother’s family. The hurt and the pain is compounded when he finds out the situation at home, and Sam feels he has a lot to make up for.
Sam can’t help but be affected by his time in combat and the PTSD has his anxiety high, which is just compounded by the fact that he’s home laying his brother to rest. A panic attack results in his meeting Ben Santiago. Ben is an Episcopal priest, and a friend of Sam’s sister-in-law. Ben reaches out to Sam, wanting to be there for him, but Sam doesn’t know how to accept. Nor is he sure he wants to. But Ben is persistent, and Sam eventually begins to let him in. Their friendship starts to grow, but there is always an undercurrent of their attraction for one another. Ben makes it clear that he wants more than a one night stand, and despite Sam’s insistence that he can’t have anything permanent or monogamous, Ben doesn’t relent.
Circumstances are not the greatest for them though. Though their attraction to each other is intense, Sam is dealing with a lot of issues. Ben is understanding and wonderful, and they start to move forward in their relationship. When Sam’s PTSD rears its head in the form of a night terror, it ends with Ben getting hurt and Sam feeling awful. But instead of staying and working through things, Sam runs. He knows it’s better to be far away from Ben, where he can’t hurt the man he’s coming to love anymore. It’s a call from his niece that shows Sam exactly what he needs to do with his life. Now the only question is whether or not he can be the man Ben deserves?
This story had intense, real moments. It had funny and adorable moments. Sam as our narrator drew me in and kept me engaged. This guy is hurting on a lot of different levels, and he has a lot of reason to. But ultimately, he has an amazing heart, and despite all the hurt he’s feeling, he has even more reason to work through it. Between Sam and Ben, and a host of colorful secondary characters, this story is definitely worth a read.
Let me start with Sam, because he’s whose head we’re in, and he’s the one we get to know best. This guy grabbed my attention from word one. His hurt was palpable, and I wanted nothing more than for him to find his peace. He was incredibly well drawn, and I cared about him instantly. I thought Knox did a really great job of showing his emotional state and the way he thought. I was with him every step of the way as he navigated his PTSD and tried to deal with that on his own while putting his family back together It’s not an easy journey for Sam, and it takes a huge misstep for him to be able to finally ask for the help he needs.
Ben is another terrifically drawn character. He shows his caring and his heart from the first time he’s introduced. I really loved this guy. I loved his passion and drive, I loved his outlook on the world, and I really loved his determination. He was bound and determined to have Sam, and I loved that he went for it, no holds barred. I loved his sense of humor, and the way he knew just what to say at the right time. I loved that he called Sam on his bullshit when it was appropriate and that he let things sit when it was the right time to do that. Ben is not a perfect person, but he was utterly wonderful, and he was perfect for Sam.
Add to that a whole host of well-drawn secondary characters, and you have the making of a nice story. From Sam’s sister-in-law Sofia, to his nieces Adelyn and Emma, to the irreverent child psychologist Tara and Sam’s best friend Max, this book is populated with unique and interesting characters that really flesh out the story and make it good. I felt we got to know them all, and loved the addition they made to the story.
That being said, I have to say that I had a few tiny quibbles. I loved the slow build of the relationship between Sam and Ben. It was really wonderfully done. But the ending felt just a tad rushed to me, and some of the things Ben did towards the end seemed out of keeping with his character. Yes, there was a stab at an explanation, and I guess I could see where the author was going, but it just didn’t ring true to Ben for me. I also was a tad disappointed in not seeing more of Adelyn’s change of heart. The sixteen-year old had a lot of issues on the table, and they felt real. And while I realize it wasn’t her story, her hurt and anger with Sam was an integral part to the plot. To not be more involved with her healing was a little unsatisfying.
Overall though, I think that Knox did a really great job with these characters and this story. It’s a character driven story, and it will tug at your heartstrings. Though I had a few quibbles, the good here was so very good, that I don’t have any trouble recommending this book to you.