Description from Goodreads:
In 2003, journalist Connor Regan marched through London to add his voice to a million others, decrying the imminent invasion of Iraq. Eight months later, his brother, James, was killed in action in Mosul.
Three years on, Connor finds himself bound for Iraq to embed with an elite SAS team. He sets his boots on the ground looking for closure and solace—anything to ease the pain of his brother’s death. Instead he finds Sergeant Nathan Thompson.
Nat Thompson is a veteran commander, hardened by years of combat and haunted by the loss of his best friend. Being lumbered with a civilian is a hassle Nat doesn’t need, and he vows to do nothing more than keep the hapless hack from harm’s way.
But Connor proves far from hapless, and too compelling to ignore for long. He walks straight through the steel wall Nat’s built around his heart, and when their mission puts him in mortal danger, Nat must lay old ghosts to rest and fight to the death for the only man he’s ever truly loved.
I was disappointed with this one. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it but it never really grabbed me. My primary issue was that I never felt the chemistry between Conner and Nat. The romance was basically just insta-lust and while the reader was told many times how meaningful their encounters were, it all felt hollow since it was built on nothing.
My secondary issues was that the war was little more than a setting, not truly part of the plot, as far as I was concerned. Sure, Leigh had some interesting things to say against the violence of war and the meaninglessness of the West’s war in the Middle East (all of which I actually agree with) and the setting was vivid and well drafted, but the vast majority of the book was the two men mooning over each-other in a war torn Iraqi setting, rather than anything really incorporating that environment. Which meant, in the end, when something happened that actually did throw Conner against the people of Iraq, it felt as if the book had taken a departure from the previous 80% or so of the book. This is a romance story before a war story, for sure.
I don’t want to sound negative, because I did like the book even if it’s not making a favorites list. I thought the characters were well drawn. I especially appreciated the easy way that Nat’s bi-sexuality is handled and simply Leigh’s willingness to have a bi character. As I said, the setting was well described. I agreed with it’s politics. There was some humor in it. All good things.
It’s just that books that are predominantly based on ‘this person fills some mysterious missing void in another for no observable reason, therefore every little interaction is described as sooooo important, sooooo meaningful, soooo earth shatteringly better than anything else’ always annoy me a little. And there is a certain writing style that goes along with this that is like sandpaper on my skin.