He dumped her in front of his friends when she told him about her pregnancy 5 1/2 years ago
and she hadn't heard from him since. As good as he was when they were alone,
he was equally bad to her when he was with his insulting friends
who thought she was fat & below his standards.
His 5-year career as a Navy SEAL seemed to have changed him,
especially since losing his leg from a bomb. 28y.o. Hero now wants to make up for his abandonment of them.
Heroine limits their relationship as co-parents to their 5y.o. daughter.
But her strong attraction to him makes it hard to resist him.
He tries hard to ward off her regrets and continued mistrust of his permanence in their lives
as he plans to be a permanent part of her life
But the disturbing trauma he's still having from the war
I heard about this book from Amazon romance Hero-grovels thread (discussion link here) and was very excited about this Hero's grovel. It turned out to be a disappointment for me. This book does show Hero genuinely regretting and sorry for how he treated heroine and their daughter. He even takes steps to atone for his wrongs. Looks good on the outside but problems on the inside. My main problem was his motivation. It wasn't driven by his love for heroine and their daughter. It was about his needs and wants. Just as it's always been.
In order to show how self-focused Hero was 5 years ago and in the present time, I'm providing their romance timeline as well as quotes from the book to provide as precise of a context as I can for their romance.
-------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details------
The 1st time:
Hero was 23y.o. when he met 21y.o. heroine and dated her for 3 months because he liked her but not with any permanent commitment in mind. He only had 6 more weeks until his 1st deployment (6 months long) when he met her and he was only after some "carefree"(p. 11) time with her. She, however, fell in love with him and expected more from him. She gave up her virginity to him after 2 weeks of dating him and didn't use any protection when he didn't use a condom (because “he hadn’t been thinking of anything other than getting it on”(p.13) with her). One week before deployment, he started avoiding her because "“he was tired of defending her to his friends (who thought she was fat)"(p.13). But when she confronted him about avoiding her in the bar he and his friends were at, he acted like a jerk by checking out another woman in front of her & told her “good riddance” when she turned away. Her pregnancy announcement made him happy. But, when he heard his friends laugh at him, he instead told her ”how is it my problem you’re pregnant? Look, baby, We had a 1 night stand. Go find the other guys you’ve been banging lately and tell them you’re pregnant. It’s not my problem."...because he didn’t want (his friends) to laugh at him anymore...and (he) wanted to keep “a badass image going” (p.13). This was his last statement to her until he wrote to her 5 years later. He turned her back on her and their unborn child to keep his image with his friends. He did it out of "stupidity and selfishness"(p.147).
9 months later:
He continued to make stupid and selfish choices. And now let's add passivity in the mix. He knew from heroine's friend that she just gave birth to their daughter. He's been regretting how he cruelly dumped and abandoned her ever since he did so. But he didn't do anything about it. Instead he merely stood outside hospital crying because he's not part of their life and then he left. Nobody, including heroine, prevented him from going to see them in the past 6 months since he dumped her. In fact, “his conscience & heart (were) screaming at him to stop, go back”(p. 14). But he left anyway because he “told himself it didn’t matter (that) she’d get over it and move on"(p.14). How could he know it didn't matter since he hadn't talk to her for months? This man rationalized his cowardice and irresponsibility as somehow something she condoned. He was even concerned that she was going to adopt out their baby and didn't like it if she did. But did he do anything to ask her, stop it from happening, or taking responsibility for his daughter's care? A big NO. He only “continued to walk away” (p. 14). He had lots of options to act on his regrets and concerns but he only stayed passive.
2 months after - his injury 5 years later:
Two months after his hospital 'visit', his LT (lieutenant) had a serious talk with him about being a SEAL after his friends were kicked off the team for smoking pot. When likening the SEAL team to family, Hero thought about how he actually had his own family with heroine and their now 2-month-old baby. And he felt sorry for himself that they likely don’t want to have anything to do with him because of what he did. His LT's pep talk made him resolve “to grow up, be man. Be a SEAL.”(p16). And Hero did so as a SEAL. But that's about it.
What he did with his self-pity about not being part of heroine and their daughter's life was to “put the whole issue behind him...(even though) shame and regret had eaten away at him...he’d convinced himself that they were better off without him.”(p.30). Instead of making some kind of contact for his daughter's sake (i.e., ask how she's faring, if she's with heroine or adopted out to a good family) or making child support payments, he did nothing for his daughter. In fact, he named his friends and various charity in his life insurance policy (more on this later). No concessions made for his daughter at all during his 5 years as a Navy SEAL. He didn't tell anyone in his close team that he had a daughter. As far as heroine was concerned, he supposedly never forgot her and regretted what he did to her. He "dealt with his guilt by finding EVERY(my caps) woman with light brown hair and brown eyes and fucking her"(p.134). So, instead of doing his best to contact heroine (he did try initially but her phone # changed) who stayed in the same town she was in when they were together and try to make up for his jerk behavior to her anytime during the 5 years, he didn't do anything directly for her benefit. He put a lot of effort looking for heroine's look-alike but he didn't even make any effort to ask her friend about heroine or his daughter's whereabouts, when he was in town for a wedding and saw heroine's friend there. He only sought to forget her and seek his pleasures elsewhere. This does not sound like a emotionally matured and responsible man. He's just older in age.
Hero now wanted a relationship with heroine and his daughter. Being injured and with lots of time to think made him realize that he was all alone because he's no longer an active member of his SEALs team and his granny died 2 years ago. In one letter, he confessed to “(needing) someone, ANYONE, and Tara & Madelyn were the only people he really had outside of the team. And he didn’t want to ask his team to coddle him.”(p.32). So heroine and their daughter were the most convenient people to connect with due to their history. I believe that if she didn't succumb to him, he would've found another woman to coddle him. What's also sad was that he knew that he likely would never have "tried (contacting her) again if (he) hadn’t lost (his) leg” (p. 42). His disabled life now made it convenient for him to want to be settled with heroine and their daughter. What's sad for heroine was that his reconnecting with them was motivated more by his wanting a relationship with his daughter. It was with his daughter that he realized that "(his heart) had never really beat before"(p.152). Heroine was secondary. And I don't think he would've looked for her if it hadn't been for their daughter.
I didn't like how he manipulated her with his letters and seduction. He wanted to be a daddy to their daughter but knew that heroine was understandably guarded. He sends a check for $7000 as his belated child support payment, with a note that "no one told me to sent it, but maybe it will help. Please don’t leave me in the dark.”(p 18). I got the sense that it was his payment to get access to their daughter with the following letter: ”Can I meet her?...I won’t stop writing. I just want to see you and meet her…Please cash the check”(19). And he paid for his access some more by setting up(FINALLY!) a monthly automatic child support of $1000 (a big chunk of his disability check). He also changed his life insurance policy’s beneficiary from his friends & charities to their daughter as his beneficiary & heroine as her caretaker because “he decided to change that in light of the fact that he has a living relative. A daughter”. Just shows how much he remembered his daughter in the past 5 years!
Hero emotionally, physically, and financially abandoned his young daughter when he was supposedly growing up and being a man, a SEAL. He may have been a successful SEAL. But he was a failure as a father and a romantic partner. Now that he had time on his hands & nothing else to do, acting like a father to their daughter was now convenient. And if heroine was still available and willing, she'd be a bonus.
I didn't feel his love for her in all the time he was with her. Definitely strong physical attraction and caring for her because she was a nice, sweet, and smart woman who cared about him. But the kind of love that makes sacrifices to benefit only the other without thought of taking any good for oneself? No. This Hero didn't have that for heroine. His grovel was more to get in his daughter's life and, hopefully, heroine too if she was still willing. His grovel was self-serving and out of convenience. He really didn't make much sacrifice. His financial contribution now was more like paying a ticket for his daughter. Plus he had nothing to spend it on at that point since his stay at the hospital was indefinite. And he didn't have any further plans for his life. So he didn't sacrifice his time, energy, or career for them either. He had lot of both and none of the 3rd. And his approach to heroine was more like a take-it-or-leave-it approach. SInce she was free and willing when he'd seduce her, he seduced her pants off. Literally. Even when she'd put the stop on their foreplay, he'd take it to the next level anyway with his charm and knowledge that she still wanted him. He used her and she was his doormat.
Heroine showed some character growth. Some gumption and maturity during their 5 years apart. But it crumbled, when faced with her sexual attraction to him. Her strict boundaries about only relating with matters about their daughter gave way to talking about their past, which then gave way to considering now and the future. Soon considering became acting & then, there they were humping like bunnies every chance they were physically alone together. They had nothing to talk about, aside from their daughter. When it wasn't discussing their daughter or having sex, they sat awkwardly with each other and suffered some uncomfortable silence. So, sex became their ice-breaker. And heroine's protestations were meaningless, when she succumbed to his seductive maneuvers each and every time. I liked her at first but then I got annoyed with her when she regressed into his sexual plaything and emotional consolation. It's almost like she got hit on the head and had amnesia or something. Every time he'd whine about being lonely and not having anyone in his life, she'd fall for it. I was mentally reproaching her and saying "Girl, who was there for you during the nights alone with the baby? Where was he during your pregnancy or labor? Who coddled you in the past 5 years while he was banging chicks to forget you? He forgot you and your daughter all those years and he's whining about being lonely now that he's injured? Do not fall for his charm. Step away from him and don't let yourself be alone with him.". She was regressing to her pathetic self from 5 years back. I couldn't stand it.
Do I think they have a future together? Yes, but not a healthy one if they continue with how they're going. He'll manipulate her to get his way and she'll likely give in. Again and again. If he's with some impressionable friends, it's likely that he'll follow the crowd again and disown her. He'll likely stand up for their daughter though. She's got his heart. Fortunately, he's LT was still part of his current life due to his LT's fiance being friends with heroine. So, he'd be a good life coach for Hero. Maybe his PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder) therapy will include her and some couples therapy will help them together.
I limitedly recommend this book.