Until There Was You
by Jessica Scott
A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure--except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.
Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else--including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He's more than the rank on his chest; he's a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.
Captain Evan Loehr is a straight arrow West Point graduate and does everything by the book, and doesn't have time for pleasure. He's got some baggage from his youth that seems to be the driving force behind his current identity. Captain Claire Montoya earned her rank the hard way, first enlisting in the Army and then completing Officer Candidate School and moving into the officer corps. Claire has her secrets, too, and they have shaped her current behavior. She and Evan had one brief interlude years ago but since then seem to have butt heads at every juncture. Both end up in Colorado to train a team for deployment to Iraq, forcing them to confront their differences and passions for their careers and each other.
I really liked Claire and Evan and found them to be compelling characters. It worked for me that she was brash and often bucked the system because of her roots in the enlisted ranks. Claire was passionate about her career, those under her command and her assigned missions. There was a lot to admire and respect about her, especially her loyalty to her friends. Evan's dedication was clear and even though his approach was different, it was no less passionate. He behaved with honor, even if it didn't always seem his feelings were invested in the people. It made sense that these two would connect because of their level of commitment and being opposites.
What didn't work so well for me was the romance between Claire and Evan. It lacked the passion we found in everything else they did. There were numerous starts and stops with these two that didn't quite ring authentic. We went from a sensuous interlude to a point of time three years later. It would have helped if there was more of the story about what happened in between to drive them so far apart other than just knowing they clashed on a regular basis. That would have made their coming together electric. When they succumbed to their attraction years later, those things that happened in between made a big difference in me being able to connect with them and tumble into the romance along with them.
The story was really interesting and the pitfalls of military command and politics was extraordinary. It's well written and the characterizations were really strong. I'm hoping, however, that some of the secondary characters (Reza, Sara, Lt. Engle) show up in the next installment of the series as their fates remain a mystery. I was also surprised to learn that some of the open ended issues regarding the characters from the first book were not included in this story, which was a disappointment.
I'm enjoying this series, even though the romance in this book fell a little flat for me. It was compensated by the strength of the story and the compelling characters. I'm looking forward to the next installment as I am dying to learn the fates of all those secondary characters from the first book and this one.