3.5 because this woman CAN write.
This was a difficult book to rate. I liked a lot of things, and others, not so much.
For starters, this is not my favorite book from Sarah Black. I have my favorites, and this one isn’t one of them. I also wanted to be fair in my review of this book even though I was coming with some bias. Without giving information, I have some baggage with infidelity. And I couldn’t take it lightly because I know how destructive it is.
I do want to mention that what I liked most about this book was Kim. I loved him! I loved his bedtime stories. His firm belief in the power of love. I also loved the way John and Gabriel analyzed strategy for bringing down Kim and Billy’s abuser which at times ended up being classically John Wayne. That aspect of the story, the story of Kim was my favorite part of this story—no doubt about it.
What I liked the least was the amount of fillers or word padding. I loved the personal touches and humor, BUT the amount of unnecessary backstory and descriptions of food, clothing, etc. well, they just plain bored me.
On the technical side, if there’s one thing that Sarah black can do is write. Her words are a delight to the senses. She also fleshes out her characters very well, physically and emotionally. We really do get to know these characters. We get to know their virtues. John’s dedication and discipline. His code of honor and loyal dedication to Country and Gabriel. Gabriel’s adoration to John--to the point he named his son after him – and in that’s an example of weakness and indulgence because no matter the love, the action of naming his son for his lover was crass and insensitive. That’s not counting that these two men tend to see in black and white. They are men of action. They can be intransigent and stubborn. They might even be curmudgeons, probably because of that strict military way of life and/or because of their age. I also think that when the safety net provided by that military way of life was gone the delicate façade that they had maintained for decades started to crumble, and thus, the end of the marriage. It has to be very difficult to try to adapt to another way of life after you have dedicated your whole life to the service of others with only what they called their “occasional grace notes” as consolation. I’m sure, though, that for Martha those were NOT graceful notes, occasional or not. They were plain infidelity no matter how romantic and beautifully told.
There’s a lot in this book that shows Martha as an unsympathetic character, but it did seem self-serving. We do want to justify our character’s behavior. We do want them to remain heroes, but the question remains did it have to be at the expense of villainous Martha, the scorned wife? IMO that really wasn’t needed because the love these men shared was really a love story, and it was beautifully described. The yearning and loneliness. The waiting to be with the person you love year after year. I find myself feeling sympathetic to these men even against my will because Sarah knows how to tug at your heart strings. My romantic heart can feel the joy of their reunion and completion. BUT my soul feels the sorrow that Martha never experienced that.
You see, it wasn’t only Gabriel and John who lived a lie, Martha did too unknowingly. Monetary compensation or not, that’s the blurry grey of this story.