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On Broken Wings by Chanel Cleeton

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 22nd December 2016
On Broken Wings by Chanel CleetonOn Broken Wings by Chanel Cleeton
Series: Wild Aces #3
Published by Berkley Books on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 320
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five-stars

A year after losing her husband, Joker, the squadron commander of the Wild Aces, Dani Peterson gets an offer from his best friend, Alex "Easy" Rogers, to help fix up her house. Dani accepts, and their friendship grows along with an undeniable attraction.

Racked by guilt for loving his best friend's widow, Easy's caught between what he wants and can t have. Until one night everything changes, and the woman who's always held his heart ends up in his arms.

Yet as Easy leaves for his next deployment, he and Dani are torn between their feelings and their loyalty to Joker's memory. But when Dani discovers something that sends them both into a spin, the conflicted lovers must overcome the past to navigate a future together.

‘On Broken Wings’ returns with a very unique look at the burden that military wives and girlfriends shoulder and how the military men gossip with heart-to-hearts as insanely as the women. Anticipation has always been half the fun and the build-up to Easy’s and Dani’s story over the past few months has played a huge part in it.

The storyline isn’t at all unpredictable, following a trajectory that had no major surprises I couldn’t guess, but as always, the highlight is Cleeton’s illuminating writing about a journey of unrequited love, tragedy and grief, a friendship that weathers all of it and finally, how it all goes in a different direction when feelings change. But it’s also an incredibly romantic road that Dani and Easy go down, despite the pages of angst and guilt that pour off them and I thought them both so brave in their own ways as they dealt with the death of Joker and their feelings for each other.

I read this in a single sitting, then re-read it, mesmerised by this deeply-character driven POVs, the long, emotional declarations and the ending which always makes you want more: about the more distant future, the unsold house, Easy’s future deployments and their lives post-hospital.

But Cleeton chooses to sign off just as her characters step into their deliriously happy-for-now ending where the light of the end of the tunnel just pierces the gloom, as though friends, family and the absolute present matter the most of all, rather write them into a future that none can yet predict.

It’s bittersweet, worth the wait and best of all, a fantastic reason for a sleepless night.

five-stars

Into the Blue by Chanel Cleeton

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 5th July 2016
Into the Blue by Chanel CleetonInto the Blue by Chanel Cleeton
Series: Wild Aces #2
Published by Berkley on July 5th 2016
Pages: 320
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four-stars

Eric Jansen—call sign Thor—loves nothing more than pushing his F-16 to the limit. Returning home to South Carolina after a tragic loss, he hopes to fix the mistake he made long ago, when he chose the Air Force over his fiancée.   Becca Madison isn’t quick to welcome Thor back. She can’t forget how he shattered her heart. But Thor won’t give up once he’s set his sights on what he wants—and he wants Becca. Thor shows Becca that he’s no longer the impulsive boy he used to be, and Becca finds herself irresistibly drawn to him. But will Thor be able to walk away from his dream of flying the F-16 for their love or does his heart belong to the sky?

In ‘Into the Blue’, Becca and Thor’s reunion play out against the harsh demands of military life and the unrelenting call of duty, and much of the story is a (re)discovery of what they’ve had together and whether they could do it all again after the scars of the pasts. Chanel Cleeton’s writing is stellar, even in the very odd first person narrative that gives a new adult feel to the very adult story that’s being told here. Yet the standouts in this story are the main characters themselves, who, against all odds, find love again after a long decade: three-dimensional, flawed protagonists who never really grew larger than life because Cleeton has anchored them deep in human experience that any reader can relate to.

That said, put me on team Becca, stat.

There’s so much I loved about her: the unshakable sense of justice, the steadfast, uncompromising stance in knowing what she wanted and the sacrifice she’d been willing to make for Thor and the full  support she’d given him before he’d thrown all back in her face. For that reason I fully understood and empathised with her cool, wary stance with Thor’s sudden reappearance – which I understood and empathised with much less. His reasons for returning and falling back together with Becca seemed incidental than deliberate and it left me wondering if he would have returned to her of his own volition had things still gone well for him in the air force. I did think it rather patronising when Thor’s granny offered ultimately meaningless excuses for his leaving, as though Becca hadn’t been enough for him to man up when he really needed to do so.

My nitpicking aside, what struck me deeply was Cleeton’s so very succinct articulation about military wives and girlfriends finding themselves torn between what their men’s careers demand of them and how much of their own desires they would have to deny. Beyond the sizzling chemistry and steamy bedroom scenes, Becca’s gutting, merciless arguments and demands of Thor must have at some point in time – extrapolating from the author’s acknowledgement of how personal this series is to her – paralleled Cleeton’s own personal misgivings and thoughts which give these particular scenes a weighty credence and resonance backed by real life experience.

The sense of tragedy isn’t as all-encompassing in this book as it was in the previous one, yet the weight of the personal price both Thor and Becca paid for their own happiness feels no lighter than the price the rest of the squadron paid when they lost one of their own. Even Thor/Becca’s happy ending is written as a potential reality rather than a confirmed one, as though their closing chapter can’t quite be written until the entire series is complete, or rather, until unrequited love gets its turn in the spotlight with Dani and Easy in the final book.

It’s sneaky as hell, but something very much to look forward to.

four-stars

Fly With Me by Chanel Cleeton

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Young Adult 5th May 2016
Fly With Me by Chanel CleetonFly with Me by Chanel Cleeton
Series: Wild Aces #1
Published by Berkley on May 3rd 2016
Pages: 320
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four-stars

U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Noah Miller—call sign Burn—loves nothing more than flying hard and fast. When he meets a gorgeous and sassy woman while partying in Las Vegas, he immediately locks on to her.
Jordan Callahan owns a thriving clothing boutique, but her love life is far less successful. Her luck changes when six feet, two inches of sexy swagger asks her to dance and turns her world upside down. 
One scorching weekend becomes an undeniable chemistry that they can’t leave in Vegas. But the long distance relationship and their different lives threaten to ground their romance. And when the dangers of Noah’s job become all too real, Jordan learns being with a fighter pilot means risking it all for a shot at love…

This was a book that grew on me and I’m happy that I persevered through what I felt were shallow and vain characters simply looking to get laid (the number of sex scenes – gratuitous and perhaps even superfluous – merely reinforced this opinion).

What surprised me entirely however, was the poignancy and depth written about relationships pursued when a partner is in the military and the sheer amount of sacrifice that came with it. All of that though, kicked in only towards the latter part of the book, which I wouldn’t have known about had I not soldiered on. While I’ll readily admit that the main characters didn’t exactly resonate with me, I do find myself anxious to read the stories of the peripheral cast members which are already set up for what has to be heart-wrenching tales.

four-stars
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