Here and Now: American Valor #2 by Cheryl Etchison

Here and Now: American Valor #2 by Cheryl Etchison

Welcoming Cheryl Etchison to the blog today with her upcoming release, the second in her American Valor series. Please read on for my review of this contemporary romance title, read an excerpt, and be sure to enter the giveaway where you could win a $25 gift card to the eBook retailer of choice.

Here and Now

I don’t think any of us have trouble understanding the difficulties facing those who return from war, but Cheryl Etchison brings a story that is all about moving forward, and avoiding glances in the rear-view mirror.

Lucky is a former Ranger, a medic for his unit.  After his military career ends, he’s decided to return to school while working 3rd shift at the local hospital. Not interested in much more than getting through his next set of tasks, he’s slowly reintegrating into civilian life.  If only his classmates were as understanding as his work colleagues.

Rachel is one of Lucky’s coworkers, and while they are ‘friendly’ they aren’t friends.  Until his chemistry lab partner shows up with a dinner and more on her mind.  Quick thinking and desperation have Lucky begging for help in pushing off the young co-ed.  But, Rachel needs something too: the relationship with her boyfriend is notoriously unstable, and she’s finally decided that enough is enough. She’ll help him, if in return, he puts those muscles to use and helps her move out.

These two are adorable together: tentative steps to knowing one another ignores that first spark of attraction as they both decide to be friends.  Well, the friend zone is as dangerous to their hearts as any war zone that Lucky ever served in. Wholly competent and decidedly capable in an emergency, the whole ‘feelings’ thing has him in knots, with no way out.  Rachel is desperately trying to become less of a people-pleaser, learning to say no, and speak for what she truly wants. But she never thought she’d want another relationship.

With secondary characters that add humor and moments with a couple from the first book, this story is sure to please people who want a little less angst from a military themed story, but still want to understand the characters’ decisions, choices and motivations.  A wonderful introduction to the series that works well on its own, although I’m now curious about Danny and Bree.

Here and Now: American Valor #2 by Cheryl Etchison

Title: Here and Now
Author: Cheryl Etchison
Genre: Contemporary Military Romance
Published by: Avon Impulse
ISBN: 0062471066
Published on: 26 July, 2016
Pages: 384
Rated: four-stars
Heat: One FlameOne FlameHalf a Flame

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The Rangers of the 1st/75th fight hard, train hard and play hard. They are physically strong and mentally tough, disciplined and courageous. But all their military training hasn't prepared them for falling in love.

Former Ranger Medic Lucky James feels right at home working long night shifts in the ER, but less so during the day, when his college classes are filled with flirtatious co-eds. When his 19-year-old chem lab partner shows up at his work with dinner for "her Lucky," he quickly enlists the help of Rachel Dellinger, a nurse and fellow third shift "vampire".

Rachel is a people pleaser at heart, but she's finally decided enough is enough when it comes to her on-again, off-again boyfriend. When Lucky begs Rachel to help him ward off the advances of his teenager pursuer, she blackmails him into helping move her things out of the apartment she shared with her ex into a place all her own.

From there a friendship is born between two people just trying to make it through the night. Neither are living in the past or planning for the future. Until one day changes everything.

A copy of this title was provided via for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Read an Excerpt

 

June 2006

 

Even though he knew it was coming, Lucky James flinched at the first volley of gunfire. He remained steady for the next two volleys, the loud crack giving way to the mournful sound of the bugle.

 

During his five years with the 75th Ranger Regiment, he’d never attended a stateside service for a fallen soldier. He’d stood at attention on a tarmac halfway around the world as the American flag was lowered to half-staff and “Taps” blared from loudspeakers. He’d carried flag-draped metal coffins holding the remains of his brothers-in-arms up the ramp of the C-130 that would deliver them home. He’d knelt beside many of those coffins, placed his hand atop them, silently begging forgiveness for failing them. After all, as a Ranger medic, his number one priority was to return his fellow soldiers home to their loved ones safe and sound. Not in a box. Never in a box.

 

When the bugler finished, the honor guard lifted the American flag from Ethan Dellinger’s casket and began the ceremonial folding. Everyone watched in silence as the soldiers worked in tandem, pulling the fabric taught, smoothing each crease, making each fold with precision. It had been years since he’d last seen Ethan; his last memories of him were as a chatty middle schooler who invited himself to shoot hoops with Lucky at a nearby playground one day. Over the course of the next few years, Ethan would show up out of the blue and follow Lucky around as he worked on his car, mowed the yard, whatever he was doing. Right up until the day Lucky left for basic training.

 

To be completely honest, Lucky hadn’t given much thought to Ethan during the past five years. After all, he was just a kid he once knew. He hadn’t even known Ethan had joined the army immediately following his high school graduation. Only after arriving home on leave the day before had Lucky learned from his father that “the youngest Dellinger boy” had been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

 

Barely three weeks into his very first deployment, Army Pfc. Ethan Dellinger died two months shy of his nineteenth birthday.

 

His immediate family assembled only feet away from his casket with the remaining friends and family forming a semicircle around the grave site. From where Lucky stood at the back, he could see each of their faces. Ethan’s mother and father sat side by side on small folding chairs with elderly relatives, grandparents perhaps, seated next to them. The youngest of four children, Ethan’s immediate family was large to begin with, and when in-laws, nieces, and nephews were thrown into the mix, it grew to massive proportions.

 

Despite the large gathering, his eyes were drawn to Ethan’s sister, Rachel. She stood out even among her own siblings with her fiery red hair and bright blue eyes.

She and Lucky were of the same age, had attended the same schools from the time Lucky and his father moved to Durant, Oklahoma, in the middle of seventh grade. In all that time, he’d never spoken more to her than the occasional hello, goodbye, or single-word answer. And for as long as he could remember, while she’d never paid any mind to him, she’d always had his attention, despite the fact they traveled in different social circles.

 

But what stood out about her today he found upsetting. There she was, surrounded by all these people, all family or friends of her brother, and she stood completely alone. With her arms wrapped tight around her middle, Rachel comforted herself at a time when no one else seemed to notice or care.

 

It took every bit of self-restraint for him to not make a scene, march over to where she stood, and pull her into his arms. He was on the verge of saying to hell with being polite when the service ended and the crowd began to disperse. Everyone except him. He remained right where he stood, watching Rachel as she walked over to Ethan’s casket, pressed a kiss to her fingertips, and laid her hand upon the polished wood.

 

He had only taken a few steps in her direction when her head lifted and she caught sight of him. Much to his surprise, she stepped away from Ethan’s casket and walked toward him. Her blue eyes were red and swollen, her face tearstained.

 

“Rachel,” he began the moment she was in earshot. “I’m very sorry about Ethan. He was a great—”

 

Before he could finish his condolences, her palm met his cheek with a resounding crack.

 

“How dare you come here,” she said bitterly.

 

The tears fell freely down her face now. Her hands shook and her body vibrated with restrained fury.

 

He apologized a second time for reasons unknown even to him. But judging from the expression on her face and the hurt in her eyes, the words needed to be said.

 

“This is your fault,” she said, pointing to the hole where her brother’s casket would be lowered and the adjacent pile of red dirt that would bury him deep beneath the earth’s surface. “Ethan idolized you. Wanted to be you. He joined the army in hopes of following in your footsteps. Except he didn’t score high enough to be a medic. Wasn’t fit enough to be a Ranger. I hope you’re happy.”

 

Stunned into silence, he could do little more than watch as Rachel Dellinger turned her back on him and walked away.

 

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About Cheryl Etchison

Cheryl Etchison graduated from the University of Oklahoma's School of Journalism and began her career as an oil and gas reporter for a weekly business paper. Bored to tears and broke as hell, it wasn't long before she jumped ship and headed for the promise land of public relations. But that was a nearly a lifetime ago and she's traded in reporting the facts for making it all up as she goes. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and three girls.

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