Author: Jen Frederick
Publisher: Pear Tree LLC
Tour Company: TRSOR Promotions
Source: ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Twenty-five-year-old Sgt. Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his life: stay in the Marine Corps or get out and learn to be a civilian? He’s got forty-five days of leave to make up his mind but the people in his life aren’t making the decision any easier. His dad wants him to get out; his grandfather wants him to stay in. And his growing feelings for Sam Anderson are wreaking havoc with his heart…and his mind. He believes relationships get ruined when a Marine goes on deployment. So now he’s got an even harder decision to make: take a chance on Sam or leave love behind and give his all to the Marines.
Twenty-two year old Samantha Anderson lost her husband to an IED in Afghanistan just two months after their vows. Two years later, Sam is full of regrets—that she didn’t move with her husband to Alaska; that she allowed her friends to drift away; that she hasn’t taken many chances in life. Now, she’s met Gray and taking a risk on this Marine could be her one opportunity to feel alive and in love again. But how can she risk her heart on another military man who could share the same tragic fate as her husband?
Flirty Review: Four Lip Bites
Every book also follows a different love interest of one of these men. Book one was Noah and Grace and book two was Bo and AnneMarie (AM). For Frederick's third installment of the Woodlands, I expected the book to be about one of the other two housemates, Mal or Finn. But I was wrong and a little let down. I really wanted to see Finn's story. Oh well. Maybe next book. Book three showcases two new characters, Gray and Sam.
Gray Phillips is on an extended leave from the Marines and comes to visit some of his old friends who he served with, Bo and Noah. Gray is on the fence about re-upping and only wants his leave to be filled with fun, ladies, and not thinking too hard about what his next move will be. What he doesn't predict is that he will meet Sam. Samantha lost her husband two years earlier. He was in the Army and died in action. She's a war widow and has been living in a state of grief ever since. Very understandable. On the night that Gray and Sam meet, sparks ignite that awaken something in Sam she had long since forgotten--her desire. The attraction is immediate and very explosive. But what happens in every story, there is a miscommunication, and Gray thinks that Sam is still married and about to cheat on her husband, something that Gray abhors greatly. Gray is very much against cheaters having been cheated on by his last girlfriend.
When Gray finds out the truth, that Sam is a widow, he feels like crap, naturally. But he seeks her out and him and Sam start to form a relationship, The problem is that it's crowded with the ghost of Sam's husband and the Gray's fears of a relationship that could mean he would have to trust another woman again. Add into the mix Gray's impending leave coming to an end and the question if he loves the Marines enough to re-up or get out and figure out his life. Whatever that is.
My thoughts: I really, really enjoyed this book. But not as much as I enjoyed the first two. Maybe it was because I was expecting the book to be about Mal or Finn. I'm not sure. There was a disconnect with Gray sometimes for me and I couldn't put my finger on why. Sam completely had me from the beginning of the book to the end. I love her character and felt that Frederick did a fine job of conveying what it is like to be a very young war widow. It's a life that most people don't know, or really want to know. You hear of all the death and the soldiers leaving families behind, but what you don't hear all the time is the aftermath of what these families and loved ones go through. I really think that Frederick nailed it on the head with Sam's character.
Frederick did show a vulnerability to Grey that I wasn't expecting either. I was really surprised and thought it was so cute that Gray took up knitting because he wanted to finish what Sam started with her flag she was knitting. I think it was almost like a homage to her late husband that Gray was going to take care of her, but never take his place in her heart. I really enjoyed that touch to his character.
I know that this book is good enough to be read as a standalone but I would strongly suggest you run and read the first two books to fully grasp these characters. The men are not just love interests, they are Marines. Frederick does a fantastic job at really portraying the Marine life. Her research is outstanding and I applaud her hard work at really getting into the head of a Marine or a soldier for that matter and the women who hopelessly fall in love with them.