A SEAL’s Honor by J.M. Stewart

A SEAL’s Honor by J.M. StewartA SEAL's Honor by J.M. Stewart
Series: Military Match #3
Published by Forever Yours on January 16th 2017
Pages: 240
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three-stars

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.

You’ve heard this story before: girl has thing for guy who typically doesn’t do commitment, both get into an agreed sex-only fling for a period of time, girl convinces herself to keep it only physical, but fails, but takes it anyway because he’s what she wanted for so long. It all leads to a climax—sometimes literally—where someone breaks it off, which also happens to be a kick in the arse or an epiphany for the other party who then wakes up and grovels for something he/she had always wanted but denied.

It’s a formula that has worked in romance multiple times despite how often this has been repeated in different contexts, with the details and names differing. ‘A SEAL’s Honor’ is yet another iteration of this, so there are no surprises here, only in how J.M. Stewart steers her characters and the circumstances that shape the coming together of this particular pairing. Stewart however, does throw in some surprises here—and with assured writing that keeps the pages turning—with a steel-spined heroine as the driving force behind the action and a male lead who isn’t afraid to talk.

Older brother’s best friend or not, it was more than impressive to see Mandy Lawson taking charge, insisting on keeping her end of the bargain and pushing for what she wanted the whole time as she pursued Marcus Denali relentlessly the way the heroes in romantic fiction normally do—age gap, differences in outlook be damned. And in the end, it was Mandy who bailed on the arrangement as well, after realising she couldn’t have more than what Marcus was (not) offering. Still, with both protagonists talking an honest game, both Mandy and Marcus were easy to sympathise with—and even like, no matter who took point in steering the development of the relationship.

I did struggle however, with the ‘flip of the switch’ type of ending and this isn’t a struggle that’s confined to this story alone. Can someone’s decades-long belief of not ever being good enough or good in a relationship really change at the snap of the fingers, or after a good talking to? Can years of resentment and accumulation of emotional dirt just fall away when epiphany strikes? Romance stories don’t necessarily always provide a convincing way of showing this when it happens; romantic moments (typically accompanied by waves of emotion) tend to overshadow this niggling bit tends to stay a loose end.

‘A SEAL’s Honor’ nonetheless, is definitely a decent read. It faltered here and there for me, but the maturity of the protagonists was the biggest draw of it all.

three-stars