A Hero to Come Home to
Forever / June 25, 2013 / $5.40 print, $5.69 digital
First he fought for his country. Now he'll fight for her.
Two years after losing her husband in Afghanistan, Carly Lowry has rebuilt her life in Tallgrass, Oklahoma. She has a job she loves teaching third grade and the best friends in the world: fellow military wives who understand what it means to love a man in uniform. She's comfortable and content...until she meets a ruggedly handsome stranger who rekindles desires Carly isn't quite sure she's ready to feel.
Staff Sergeant Dane Clark wanted to have a loving family, a twenty-year Army stint, and then a low-key civilian career. But the paratrooper's plans were derailed by a mission gone wrong. Struggling to adjust to his new life, he finds comfort in the wide open spaces of Tallgrass—and in the unexpected attention of sweet, lovely Carly. She is the one person who makes him believe life is worth living. But when Carly discovers he's been hiding the real reason he's come to Tallgrass, will Dane be able to convince her he is the hero she needs?
Stories about men and women in uniform have been popular for a long time. And for a good reason; put a man or woman in a uniform and we as readers think bravery, courage, valor, self-sacrifice and altruism almost without the author having to write a word. And of course people in uniform are easy on the eye with their soldier’s physique. It is only recently that more and more authors are willing to shine the light on the less than glamorous aspects of this service—exploring both the physical and emotional cost to the men and women who serve and their families.
A Hero to Come Home To, the first book in the Tallgrass series by Marilyn Pappano, showcases the journey from devastating loss to the different stages of grief to happiness again. What is especially memorable in the story is Ms. Pappano’s exploration of our human frailties—dissimulation and concealment. We are afraid to admit that we are less than perfect, and of course when we conceal our problems or imperfections, then others feel the need to conceal their own.
The story opens thirteen months, two weeks and three days after the death of Carly Lowry’s beloved husband, Jeff. Carly decides that she needs to do more than just put one foot in front of another. Oh, she talked with her family and the grief counselors and the chaplain, but the bone deep sorrow and heartache has still got a stronghold on her. She takes the first step—pushing herself out of her comfort zone—when she reaches out to a Therese Matheson, another widow who stayed in Tallgrass, Oklahoma after her husband died:
But Therese had been there, done that and had the flag and posthumous medals to show for it. Therese really truly knew. Would it hurt to ask if they could meet for dinner one evening? One dinner wasn’t much a commitment. If it didn’t pan out, so what.
And while to Carly’s eyes Therese seems to have it all together, she is barely holding on too.
People asked her how she was doing, and she gave them phony smiles and phony answers, and everyone believed her, even her parents. She was afraid to tell the truth: that every day was getting worse, that she was losing ground with the kids, that her stomach hurt, and her chest hurt, and her head was about to explode. She did her best to maintain control, but she was only pretending.
And with dinner, a wonderful friendship is formed and also a new group called the Tuesday Night Margarita Club, otherwise known as The Fort Murphy Widow’s Club. Each Tuesday night, a loose knit group of fifteen to twenty women meet at The Three Amigos.
Jessy sighed. “I love a man in uniform.”
Coming up to hear the last, Marti Levin and Lucy Hart added their own sighs.
Didn’t we all,” Marti said softly.
Dane Clark is in Oklahoma with the Warrior Transition Unit. After almost a year dealing medical issues concerning the loss of his foot, he still is not comfortable with people’s stares:
He stood for a moment watching the water churn where the falls hit, giving the ache in his leg a chance to subside. Another month or two, and the pool would be filled with swimmers on weekends. He’d always liked to swim, and his various medical people had insisted he would again. He wasn’t sure about that. He’d never considered himself vain, but putting on trunks and removing his prosthesis in public…He wasn’t ready for that. He was beginning to think he never would be.
Dane and Carly meet at Turners Falls. Both have climbed up to the cave above the falls—Carly’s climb up is her way of challenging herself, since she is afraid of heights, and Dane made his climb as a tribute to his dad. The last thing they done together before his dad’s death was visit the cave. Neither had any plans a new relationship, but sometimes fate just won’t give up:
Carly related parts of the conversation, feeling like a fourteen-year-old girl with her very first crush. She and her best friend had whispered and giggled for days, until something else had caught their attention.
When she was done, Therese sat back and stared at her.
“You gave him your phone number.”
Still feeling about fourteen, she shifted awkwardly.
“Well, yeah. The way he said it . . . ‘I’ll see you?” rather than ‘I’ll see you.” I just thought. . . I mean, sure, we’ve run into each other four times in less than a week, but—”
As both Dane and Carly maneuver through new uncharted waters, you can’t help but root for them, because while you might have not lost a limb or a husband, you have experienced their insecurities, and used subterfuge to hide your hurts and sorrow. It is inspiring to see how much you can gain when you open yourself up to new possibilities.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of A Hero to Come Home to by Marilyn Pappano before its June 25 release:
Leigh Davis, Blogger