Reviewed by PizzyGirl
TITLE: Battle Born
SERIES: Robbie and Sam #3
AUTHOR: Caitlin Ricci
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 180 pages
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017
A Harmony Ink Press Title
A Companion to the Robbie & Sam Series
Daniel Messana wanted a way out of Thornwood, Colorado, and he found it in the Army. Now he’s returned with no more direction to his life than he had when he left as an angry teenager. And even though the war is behind him, the things he experienced won’t leave him in peace. His PTSD plagues him in crowds, and isolation sets in when he’s by himself. Because of the way he treated his brothers, regret gnaws at him, and he has no family to turn to.
For Franklin “Coop” Cooper, the Army was life, and one he loved. But when an IED in Afghanistan left him blind, it ended not only the career he’d built, but any chance of being his own man. Back home, his parents refuse to let him do anything for himself, even though Coop and his service dog are ready to move forward and adjust to his new conditions. His only escape from being coddled like a child is going for pizza on base while his mother shops on Fridays. There, Daniel sits down next to him, and the two men begin a friendship that could become more—if they can break free from everything holding them back.
I would like to begin by saying that I did not need to read the prior novels to fully enjoy and understand this one. In fact, based on the background given and events in this story, I am not so sure I personally would have been able to read the previous novels. This one was mildly angsty and tugged at my heart. The previous two seem like they would not only be angsty, but so angsty my heart would be torn apart. However, as soon as I finished this story, I immediately bought the previous books and intend to read them on day when I have some time to recover from the hurt I suspect is contained within those pages.
Now onto the story itself. Battle Born was wonderfully written and executed. I like to take notes as I read and one of my notes likens this story to a “find the hidden objects” game with me constantly on the lookout for hints the author was dropping that these men were opening up and healing. I was drawn in and on edge waiting for that thought from Daniel on how he felt about things and what it meant to him in terms of his past and present. I kept looking for hints that Daniel would realize how his past was affecting him and how that past needed to be overwritten. I kept waiting for indications that Coop was dragging him out of his shell and that Daniel was opening his heart to the possibility of love (not only with Coop but with his family as well). Daniel was a rich character and I know he probably would have been even more so had I read the previous two books.
I loved learning alongside Coop. This was a recent injury for him, so Coop was struggling and healing and learning to do old things in new ways. Seeing him struggle but never give up was wonderful. Seeing him yearn for independence and demand he be allowed to be whole again was so brilliant in that it was the perfect foil for the darkness Daniel was struggling with.
These men were great together. Each brought out the best in the other and pushed the other to look inside for what he wanted in life. They did not “fix” each other, but instead drove the other to try for things and drove the other to take those steps needed to heal. It was mutual support and encouragement without ignoring the flaws. In fact, sometimes the flaws were point blank called out. It was well done.
I have to admit, Coop’s attachment to Daniel was FAST. But I never questioned it because of the structure of this novel. This was a beginning. This was the formation of a friendship and then more without sex getting in the way or being the ultimate goal. Instead, these men were in it for the long haul with the focus being on a shared life and learning what that meant. This was slow building relationship with the focus being on healing and growing together. Lust was a factor, but it was not the sole focus and felt organic. This was written how I personally love my relationships to be written, with the focus on the love and development rather than on using sex to show emotion. I LOVED it because this played to my tastes.
I think I need to go back and read the Thornwood and the Robbie and Sam series. If Battle Born is any indication, I will love learning about the men who feature in Daniel and Coops lives. I need to prepare myself for the angst, but I believe this story deserves me going back and reading it again after I have read the preceding history.
On a final note, I love Caitlin Ricci as an author. She is very prolific and versatile. I have never read anything by her that has disappointed me (that I can remember anyway) and I recommend this book and really any of her books if you want something well done.