by Paris Wynters
Release Date: July 22, 2021
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Book #3 in the Navy SEALs of Little Creek series
Number of Pages: 199
Source: Tule Publishing ARC
Contemporary Romance/Military M/F
Ages 16 and up
After two of his buddies found love through the military’s matchmaking program, Lucas Craiger decides to give it a shot. He’s not necessarily looking for love, just companionship and a kind, reliable stepmom for his young son. When he’s assigned to his high school sweetheart who shattered his heart, his plan for an uncomplicated relationship becomes acutely complicated.
Riley Thompson signed up for the matchmaking program because she needs a fresh start—and the health insurance. She desperately wants to build a life with a man where her autoimmune disease doesn’t define her and she can prove herself. But being matched with Lucas isn’t the new beginning she wanted. He’s the love of her life she let go when she was first diagnosed.
Lucas is determined to make the most of this second chance with Riley, but when his custody battle heats up, his new marriage isn’t the only relationship in jeopardy.
This series is really so much fun. I don’t mean that in a way to say it’s a laugh a minute, because it’s not. There are always serious issues going on along with the love story. But the camaraderie of the SEAL team and their significant others is a joy to read. Regardless of the premise being very fictional, the author gets me to believe and to go all in when it comes to the military’s Issued Partner Program (IPP).
It’s frowned upon in the IPP to participate if you are in it for health insurance (or any other monetary type of gain), so Riley hides the fact that is exactly why she signed up. Then she gets matched with her high school boyfriend, her first love. The man she broke up with to spare him from feeling obligated to take care of her once she got her diagnosis. Now she has two reasons to hide her medical condition. On top of that, she finds out Lucas has a son and, although the split was amicable, his ex is not happy about Riley coming back into his life and starts threatening his custody rights. Now she really feels she cannot let anyone know she’s sick in case the ex finds her to be unfit to be left alone with the boy. It’s a mess.
Lucas is a wonderful father and carries a lot of guilt for not always being their for his son due to the demands of being a Navy SEAL. He also puts a good portion of the blame for his divorce on his own shoulders because of the crazy lifestyle his career demands. He’s hoping by bringing a spouse into his life through the IPP they will know in advance what they’re signing up for and the relationship can build from there. Of course, he doesn’t expect to be matched with his first love.
There is a lot to work through between Lucas and Riley, and that’s hard to do when neither is being fully up front about their past. That lands more squarely on Riley’s shoulders, but Lucas’ attitude doesn’t really help either. The respect and love they have for one another shines through and, due to their wonderful chemistry, they can’t help but rekindle old feelings. Lucas is so patient and accepting once he knows (most of) the truth. But they both still have their moments, always having their defenses up so as not to get hurt again.
The ex-wife is really not great and I’m not sure I like how she was written. We’re being told over and over that she is a wonderful person and everyone loves her and yadda yadda yadda. But all we’re show, through most of this story, is her being unreasonable and jumping to conclusions without speaking with Lucas about her concerns. Every other sentence out of her mouth is a threat. How is that what is best for their son? It’s baffling and really threw me off. I know the author was going for the conflict that was needed. But the arc of the character didn’t make sense to me.
That being said, I still enjoyed this book and didn’t want to put it down. Riley’s insecurities about her health and being a burden, and Lucas’ insecurities about his poor upbringing, both tugged at my heart. I love the emotions and connections the author puts into these stories.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**