BLOG REVIEW: Disarm (The Complete Novel) by June Gray

26y.o. web designer doesn’t know what to make of the sexual feelings she’s been having recently for her 28y.o. roommate, Air-Force captain Hero. 
He’s been her brother’s best friend since they were teens and he was her rock since her brother’s untimely death in Afghanistan a year ago. 
When Hero confronts their mutual sexual attraction, their passion for each other combusts. 
His 6-month deployment to Afghanistan, however, came too soon.  Heroine had a hard time with the separation but his frequent phone calls & letters and promises of love and eager reunion helped. It was, therefore, baffling to heroine when he came back a bit more detached and different than he was before. 
And it stunned her when he proposed that they break up. 
Then she learns that he’s moving to Korea for a year. What hope is there for their relationship?

Even though the end has a bit of a question mark(my copy included the after-series short stories called "R and R" and excerpts from "Arrest"), this book gave me a pretty full view of Hero and heroine's romance. The way it was written gave us an in-depth look at what both heroine and Hero were going through. It’s told from heroine’s point of view(POV) but we get a good understanding of Hero’s POV from his recorded therapy sessions he had heroine listen to. I thought that was a brilliant POV strategy.  I expected some tiptoeing around their sexual tension as per usual with longtime-friends-to-lovers or brothers-best-friend romance are wont to do and then some separation given Hero’s military work. Well, we got a bit of that. Then more.  Their shying away from what they both thought was an unrequited romance spanned about 13 years. The timing was always off when the other was ready. Then her brother’s death brought on a needed friendship from their emotional dependence on each other to grieve his loss. It was mere happenstance that heroine became sexually aware of Hero’s attraction towards her. It was to his credit that he confronted their sexual attraction because a tidal wave of suppressed longing and desire surged between them. It was hot. Then Hero confessed his feelings soon after and I sighed. But then he had to leave her even sooner than was planned. Cue to some poignancy & mutual longing. So far, so good and as expected.

It was Hero’s coming back after his 6-month deployment that took this book further than I expected. It was established early on and repeatedly by Hero that he was in love with heroine, has been for a long time, and was so happy to finally be with her. This was clear among his numerous letters, emails, and phone calls to her from Afghanistan. The emotional betrayals that happened soon after were unexpected since the preceding events didn’t foretell them.

--------------------SPOILERS: Don’t read below if you don’t want to know the book’s details----------

1. Before:
When they saw each other again after his coming back from Afghanistan, their reunion was hot and loving. Hero kept verbally and physically expressing his love for her with such sincerity.
He proposed some time apart to figure himself out. This wasn’t too bad and too unexpected since it was becoming more apparent to heroine that he was unsettled by something that happened during his deployment. He wanted to go see his former therapist in California to help him with some post-traumatic war issues.  Heroine encouraged it and was fine with it. What was unexpected, however, was that he’d already planned to take 18 days off for it before talking to heroine about it. He did ask her to go with him but his doing so was sudden it didn’t give her enough time to plan some time off from work.
2. Before:
His therapy seemed to be working. He looked less stressed and he was connecting with heroine and others. Heroine’s arrival in their hometown heralded some good times with their family and old friends. Their parents were happy with their romance and so were Hero and heroine.
The day after partying with their old friends Hero suddenly breaks up with heroine. He wanted to figure out his identity without clouding it with his relationship with heroine and her family. Despite heroine’s understanding of his identity crises and offering her support, he was resolute about being apart. Yet he insists that he will always love her and that will never change.
3. Before:
They’ve been broken up for 5 months and they hadn’t seen each other since but Hero left phone messages, checking in on heroine a few times. He’s also been keeping asking about her through their mutual friends.
She learned from somebody else that he’s moving to Korea for a year. She goes to his goodbye party that their mutual friend was throwing for him and invited her to. He basically confronted her about why she was at his party, and told her to stop clinging to the past and get it through her head that he didn’t want her anymore. So much for his promise to always love her.

-----------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS------------------------------------------------------

What made it poignant was how tough and self-assured heroine was so gutted by the unexpected betrayals. She became this blubbering mess of a girl and even went on a desperate mode to seduce him into admitting he still wanted her. She waited about 1.5 years before she dated again. She was no pining doormat though. She was very hurt but she eventually pulled through and moved on with her life. I loved her response when Hero almost made her feel bad for dating again. She slammed him with the truth of his selfish behavior that got them in their current relationship condition. I loved how she didn’t give in to his apologies and welcome him back easily. I loved how she forthrightly told him she couldn’t trust or forgive him yet. She wasn’t being spiteful or manipulative. She was just wisely more cautious with him when he asked her for another chance.

Did Hero grovel? Yes but not at first. He seemed to hope to win her back easily with his charm, his happier demeanor, and his promises to love her and desire to be with her for long-term now. But she made it tough for him because she was still hurt, angry, and cynical.  So he was forced to make some sacrifices to show her that he meant what he promised.  But it wasn't immediate. It took some complaining on his part, some confrontation and reminder on her part, and some inner wrestling on his part before he finally made some sacrifices for her and their relationship's benefit.  There were, therefore, moments where heroine thought he was just going to submit to the hardship and not even fight for her. His personal sacrifices at the end convinced me that he was genuinely regretful of his past mistakes and was in it for the long haul with her. It also helped convince me that he realized how valuable she was to him with his 1 year (or more) celibacy.  He dated a couple women but couldn't do more because his heart was with heroine.

I love that we got to see the start of their HEA(happy ever after). I thought it was realistic for them to still struggle a bit with trust and forgiveness. Hero was a huge jerk to heroine in the past and made her suffer as a result. She was only human to still have some lingering doubts and moments of insecurity, especially when she overheard his conversation with his friend about something that happened to him in Afghanistan.  I thought this was the “complete novel” but I guess there’s more to come with the full "Arrest" book released next year. I'm hoping that we'll see Hero be more open on his own initiative about his inner struggles with heroine. I'm hoping he won't leave her again (physically or emotionally) in order to figure things out.

I recommend this book (NOTE: You can only pre-order right now. See below for more info).

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