marineWhat Part of Marine Don’t You Understand? The catchy title caught my eye, but not as much as the black Labrador Retriever on the cover. What a sweet face! Looking over the cover, I noticed this is part of “The Challenge Series: Always a Marine Book 12.” OK, so the series has been around long enough to get to book 12, (there are apparently 22 in the series so far? At least, according to the author’s website.)

When I read that the book is about returning warriors from Afghanistan and Iraq who are fighting PTSD and other issues, it immediately caught my attention. Especially when I saw that the book revolves around “Mike’s Place” a private veteran’s services facility where veterans come for physical and psychological therapy to learn to deal with the devastation of their lives due to their service to this country.

Heather Long’s “Mike’s Place” should be real, and there should be several in every state! Run on mostly donations and grants, this is a place where warriors can renew and relearn without condemnation or cruelty. With the state of government facilities which are in such terrible shape, funneling monies into places like this may be just what this country needs to help those we owe so much.

The story itself is a romance, between Matt McCall’s, a wounded Marine, and Naomi Sparks, the sister of a wounded veteran who is now a spanking-new Congressman. Naomi has come to Mike’s to do a report on the good accomplished by the facility for her brother in order to garner funds for expansion and continued success. Naomi is also using the visit as a quiet place to write songs for her first album which is due out soon. The romance is sweet, but it also has an edge as Matt works to overcome his PTSD. There is no magical answer and no magical recovery. Instead, we learn about how hard it is to deal with PTSD in soldiers – how even tiny steps are to be cherished.

There are, of course, story lines that I am not “in on” as this is book 12, but nothing that made it impossible to enjoy the book as a stand-alone. I am curious, however, about something called the “1Night Stand service” run by a Madame Eve, where, apparently, injured Marines get hooked up with “some random woman” – for a fee? The first intro to the term is awkward, to say the least, as Naomi suddenly looks up the site on the internet with no sort of link to the story line at all. This must be something that runs through the series, but in this case there was no ‘hooking up’ as Matt and Naomi meet in the park where Naomi is working on her songwriting and Matt is walking Jethro, his PTSD dog. It feels like Long wanted to write another edition of the series, but didn’t want to use the Madame Eve or 1Night Stand story itself, so simply threw in a couple of lines in various spots to hold it into the series without exploring it further. This didn’t create an issue for me other than being a bit confusing. I will have to look up her other books and see if I can figure it out. Is prostitution legal in Texas or something? Hummm.

Be that as it may, other than this tiny glitch I was well pleased with my introduction to Mike’s Place and the characters who populate it, and the focus on veterans with PTSD and the magnificent job that the PTSD Dog program is doing to help veterans.

I received this book in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.