Carolina Man (A Dare Island Novel)
Berkley / March 4, 2014 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital
Carolina Man Marine Luke Fletcher is determined to do his duty—first to his country and now to his ten-year-old daughter, the unexpected legacy of a high school girlfriend. But his homecoming to Dare Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks challenges his plans for the future and forces him to face everything that's missing in his life. He wasn't prepared to lose his heart to this child he never knew. Or to fall hard for coolly reserved small town lawyer Kate Dolan.
Former military brat Kate knows Marines can make lousy fathers...and she's got the scars to prove it. Giving her heart to a man who's bent on leaving seems one sure way to have it broken.
Now, no matter what it takes, Luke must prove to Kate and to his daughter that Semper Fi is more than a motto—and to himself that there’s more than one way to be a hero.
Virginia Kantra’s Dare Island series caught my interest from the very first book, Carolina Home. The second book, Carolina Girl, was my favorite book of 2013. So as you can imagine, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Carolina Man.
What has made this series so emotionally satisfying is that the characters seem so fleshed out. With each character’s story, the reader is given a glimpse into not only their love interests, but their relationships with their siblings, parents, and the children in the family. And that trend continues with Carolina Man. Both the realism of the dialogue and the scenes are extraordinary—in an ordinary way. I say that because the scenes are common scenes in many of our lives. Like when Luke returns to Camp Lejeune:
He reached her in three strides. “Mom.”
He put his arms around her slender shoulders, careful not to hug too hard. Small as she was, Tess had always been the family’s rock. Their anchor. But now she felt so frail.
She squeezed back hard, her arms, her love, as strong as ever.
Tom Fletcher . . . grabbed Luke in a one-armed hug. “Good to have you back, son.”
Matt was next, dragging Luke into the family circle, gripping his hand, pounding his back. “You look like shit.”
“You smell like fish.”
They beamed at one another, reassured.
A simple scene, not overly emotionally, but one that just feels right. You just know that this type of situation has been played out generation to generation—the more demonstrative mother, the low key emotion from the Dad, and the flippant, jesting conversation between brothers.
Of course, one relationship is not that easy. There’s probably never an opportune time to discover that you are the father of a ten year old, but while deployed overseas has to be the worst. Luke took emergency leave to take custody of his daughter Taylor, but with his commitments he had to solicit his family’s help in caring for her so he could finish his tour in Afghanistan.
Luke vainly attempted to build a relationship with his Taylor via Skype, but their conversations were stifled and reserved.
Now he is back in the States and his relationship with his daughter is fraught with uncertainty. Neither Taylor nor Luke are sure of how to forge a father-daughter attachment. Both are leery of saying or doing the wrong thing:
“Brought somebody else to see you too.” Matt reached down with one hand, nudging the somebody forwarding producing her from behind his back like a magician with a reluctant rabbit.
Hey, presto, it’s your daughter.
Suspicious blue eyes regarded Luke from under the brim of a United States Marine Corps fatigue cap. His eyes, looking back at him from his daughter’s thin, unsmiling face.
Emotion seized him by the throat. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t grab her. From her point view, they were practically strangers. . .
Taylor held her breath, waiting to see what he would do. . .
All around them people were crying and kissing and stuff, babies bawling, fathers hugging their kids.
Taylor stuck out her chin. She wasn’t going to cry. But she guessed it would be okay if he wanted to hug her.
Luke’s tension is ratcheted into overdrive when he discovers his relationship with his daughter is to be put under a microscope. Kate Dolan, the attorney representing his daughter’s interest, offers him concrete support and advice. Of course there is another reason he reaches out to her.
Luke would like to think that the spark between them is just hormones, because he is not looking for anything serious. His daughter needs to come first, still:
He wasn’t looking to find love at first sight, the way he parents had. But he learned to trust his instincts and his instincts said, Go for it. . .
Kate instincts are telling her to beware, because she has already had one bad experience with a military man. Even after therapy, her demoralizing relationship with her father has hampered her ability to trust and develop stable relationships. But Luke proves over and over that he is not a replica of her father. And of course he is very persuasive and attractive:
“All right, fine. I won’t deny that I’m attracted. And flattered. But—” She held him off with one hand. “You just got home. You’re understandably feeling unsettled. This is hardly the right time for you to be . . .for us to be doing . . .”
She waggled her fingers in the air between them, “This.”
His grin broadened. “I’m not sure I recognize your hand sign. You mean dinner?”
She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. Any sort of personal contact—relationship—between us would be terribly complicated.”
“Only because you’re thinking like a lawyer.”
“I am a lawyer”
“Right. You’re used to complicating things. Marines keep it simple. Identify your long-term objective, execute the steps to achieve your objective.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Do you honestly expect me to believe your objective is to have dinner with me?”
“No,” he admitted. Dinner would be more like the short-term strategy.”
“I thought so.”
“Getting to know you would be the objective,” he explained.
Her lips quivered in a smile.
You will definitely enjoy being back with the Fletchers again, and reading Luke’s story. I know that I did.
Learn more or order a copy of Carolina Man by Virginia Kantra, available March 4, 2014:
Leigh Davis, Blogger