The Return of Brody McBride
By Jennifer Ryan
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: May 4, 2014
Brody McBride is back on Clear Water Ranch, the place that holds some of the best memories of his life and some of the worst. But after eight years away and five tours of duty as an Army Ranger in a war zone, the Brody who has come home is different from the troubled, chip-on-his-shoulder boy who left. Wounded in body and spirit, he doesn’t feel like the hero a collection of medals, including a Purple Heart, proclaim him. He’s just a man filled with regret for the wrong choices he made and hopeful that admitting his faults and confessing his remorse will earn him a chance to reclaim the place he once held in the heart of Rain Evans.
Rain Evans supports herself and her two daughters working as a mechanic at her father’s garage. It’s not the life she imagined for herself at eighteen. Instead of leaving Fallbrook to attend college and someday becoming Mrs. Brody McBride, she is a single mother who takes a college course occasionally when she can afford the money and the time and who spends more time than she likes thinking of Brody with a mix of anger and longing. But with a little help from her father, who has supported her emotionally and helped in other ways through all the changes in her life, and from Brody’s brother Owen, who is an indulgent uncle to two little girls who miss having a father, Rain has seen to it that her daughters have what they need. She loves them more than her own life, both Dawn, the daughter to whom she gave birth, and Autumn, Brody’s daughter whose life she saved when she added her to their family.
When Brody discovers that he is the father of two seven-year-old girls, he knows he has two more reasons to prove that he is a changed man, a man who can be trusted to stay true to his promises. To his consuming love for Rain is added the overwhelming love and tenderness for the two children who call him Daddy. He can think of no life better than a home on Clear Water Ranch with Rain and their daughters. But the past intrudes in the form of Brody’s PTSD and in the form of the woman who still holds a legal claim as Autumn’s mother.
The first book in Ryan’s McBrides series might aptly be described as former bad boy turned tortured military hero comes home to the woman he left behind and secret babies. The second secret baby gives a different twist to a much-used plot, but there’s not much else new here. From Brody’s role as an elite and supremely heroic soldier to the evil other woman, this is romance as usual. Despite the familiar storyline, however, Ryan hooks her readers with characters who are easy to love—or hate. Brody’s pain, both physical and psychic, has a hard edge of reality, and single mothers who sacrifice for their children and abusive, self-absorbed mothers who care nothing for the babies they birth can be found in any town, as community gossip and headlines can confirm.
I admit my feminist feathers were ruffled by the virgin/Madonna versus village whore dichotomy, but not all readers will share my concerns. This novel has emotional punch with the reunion trope plus the child-in-jeopardy thread, and it has the sizzling scenes some readers expect. Nor am I immune to the appeal of hurting children, a near-saintly heroine turned kickass when her cub is threatened, and a hero who blends honor and vulnerability. I recommend this book with some reservations and acknowledge that I was hooked sufficiently to note that brother Owen’s story will be released April 15 (Falling for Owen) and a third McBride, a cousin, will be the hero of Dylan’s Redemption, an August 12 release. I expect to read them both.
Military heroes are big in contemporary romance fiction these days. What do you think is their appeal? Do you ever wish that more of them were just ordinary soldiers, sailors, and marines rather than members of elite forces?