The Grunt by Latrivia S. Nelson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book, from page one. Brett is such a sweetheart. He is a tough, formidable Marine, but he's also a caring, warm, emotionally vulnerable man. My heart ached for him because of the way his wife treated him. It seems as though there was little of value to his marriage, but he did keep trying to be a good husband. I can't imagine who hard it was for him to go out on the frontline and have an indifferent, judgmental, unloving wife at home. Never feeling good enough for her or that he had done enough. That's so damaging to one's self-esteem. When he and Courtney make a connection, I was cheering for him. He needed a woman like her in his life. And it was on the best day possible for them to meet. It surely felt like God was answering his prayers.
I also loved Courtney. She was giving, cheerful, honest, lovable, motivated, and open. She had made some decisions that her family gave her trouble about, but I liked that she owned those choices and learned from them, and chose to be a happy person despite the low points in her young life. Considering what she was risking to be with Brett, I think she was very brave. Although Nelson doesn't pretend ignorance about the racial issue, I love the fact that this is not really the issue for Brett and Courtney's relationship. Instead it is the fact that Courtney's father and brother are officers and Brett is happily a grunt in the Marines, not to mention his emotional baggage from a toxic marriage. I liked that Nelson takes the time to show why that was an issue. The detail that Nelson gives about life in the Marines, both as a soldier and as family to Marines comes highly appreciated. There is no patriotic flag-waving per se, but merely telling it like it is. And for a person who is not directly involved in the military, but does admire what the Armed Forces do for Americans, it was welcome.
Even though I loved Dmitry's Closet, I found that this book touched me much more. While Dmitry was more of a modern day fairy tale, The Grunt is steeped in realism, but no less (actually more) romantic. Although Courtney is about Royal's age, she seemed more mature and more textured as a person. While I normally like a sexually inexperienced heroine, I think it was fitting that Courtney wasn't inexperienced in relationships, and she knew what she was getting into with Brett and his son. She had her eyes open and the staying power to see it through. Plus, it's nice to different kinds of heroines get their happy ending, and Courtney works hard for and deserves hers with Brett and Cameron.
As far as sexual tension and love scenes, this book was hot! I was like wow! I love that Brett is both vulnerable and open emotionally, not a playboy, but he definitely can give a girl a run for her money in the bedroom! Dang! That's all I'm going to say! Man I was feeling the heat there. Brett and Courtney had great chemistry, but it was also clear that Brett respected and valued Courtney as a whole person, not just a convenient body or sex object. Ms. Nelson really earned my respect with how she portrayed the sexual part of their relationship, considering the circumstances.
The family dynamics were also well done. I was afraid that Courtney's family would lean so hard on her that she'd break up with Brett, but I love that she stood her ground, and Brett stood up for her and next to her. I like that Brett told her brother like it is. I loved Courtney's mom, Diane. She was a real sweetie, but knew how to handle her husband and son. I loved that Courtney was close to her mother, and that her mother was very supportive and proud of her. I thought her dad and brother weren't as well-developed, but then Courtney wasn't as close to them. I also loved Cameron. What a sweet little boy, but also realistically portrayed. I wanted to give him a hug. (view spoiler)[The one part I still have a question about is when/how is Brett going to explain that Cameron's mom is dead? I guess he'll wait until Cameron is older. (hide spoiler)]Final Thoughts:
Although there were some mild editing issues, I continue to be impressed with Latrivia Nelson's writing ability. I loved the connection she developed and conveyed between Brett and Courtney. It felt like true love, but also realistic. Never does Nelson downplay how hard family life can be in the military, but the power of the love in the relationship between a military person and their spouse gives them the energy and the fortification to go out there and risk their life for us all. I was a very satisfied reader when I finished The Grunt!
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