ONLY LOVE, the blurb:
“The diagnosis of a chronic stomach condition leaves thirty-two-year-old Sergeant Jed Cooper with little choice but to call time on his Army career. Then on the dusty streets of Kirkuk, an ambush gone tragically wrong decimates his team, and he returns to the US with a shattered leg and the memory of his best friend dying in his arms.
Life in his sleepy hometown proves intolerable until he finds solace in a lakeside cabin with vivacious young carpenter, Max O’Dair. In the shadow of the epilepsy that periodically plagues Max, he and Jed form an unspoken bond. After a late night episode, Jed realizes how much Max means to him, and life has taught him not to waste time.
But the lines between contentment and complacency are blurred. Things left hidden resurface to tear through their world, and before they can repair the damage, death comes to call again. Faces, past and present, rally around them to weather the storm, but before long, they are left with only love.”
Thirty-two year old Sergeant Jed Cooper knows his days in the Army are numbered due to a chronic stomach condition when an ambush in Iraq all but destroys his team, leaves him seriously injured and kills his best friend. A lengthy recuperation later, he finds himself back in the hometown he fled years ago, living with his brother Nick and his family. Nick was part of the reason Jed left all those years ago and hasn’t turned into a nicer man since. While Jed likes Nick’s wife Kim and adores the couple’s two daughters he doesn’t think he can stay in town until he moves in with Kim’s brother Max; the lakeside cabin and Max are exactly what Jed needs.
Max has dealt with epilepsy all his life and it isn’t long before the two men form a bond. Looking out for each other while allowing the other the space they need is an ideal situation for both of them.
The bond between Max and Jed grows stronger and deeper by the day until long held secrets force a separation both men detest yet fail to address. When Max next sees Jed, all the soldier’s health issues have caught up with him and it may well be too late to for the two men who have grown to love each other. As friends, family and unexpected brothers in arms gather to be by Jed and Max’s side, the only question still to be answered is whether or not love can be stronger than dead.
This book all but killed my while I was reading it. Max and Jed are wonderful characters to read about; well developed, fully rounded and completely realistic, I found myself in their thrall from the moment they were introduced. Their slow progression from roommates, to friends to so much more was smooth, realistic and beautiful. The secondary characters in ‘Only Love’ made it easier for me to understand Max and Jed and added warmth and realism to their story.
While I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t read the book, I have to say that I’m grateful that while the author gave us an optimistic ending, she kept it real. Thankfully there are no miracle cures on these pages; ‘just’ two strong yet vulnerable men finding each other and the strength to build a future together.
But none of the above is enough to completely explain the deep and very emotional reaction I had to this story. The reason I had to put this book down on several occasions, despite the need to find out what would happen next, was that this story hit too close to home for me. I won’t go into the details in this review but I do want to say that a lot, if not all of Jed’s medical struggles mirrored things I’ve had to go through in the past. And Max’s helpless bedside vigil gave me a new insight into what those times must have been like for my husband and a renewed appreciation for his endurance.
I can’t thank Garrett Leigh enough for the way in which she managed to combine harsh realism with thoughtful sensitivity. She took two men who might well have been broken by their medical circumstances and showed that the limitations health issues can throw in your path don’t mean you have to stop living, never mind loving. In fact, I don’t think I have the words to express how much reading this book has meant to me.
To avoid any confusion I should add the following. I would have loved this book if I had never been ill in my life. I would challenge any reader to pick up this book and not feel ALL the emotions. If you find yourself in need of a well written, thought provoking, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting love story, you can’t go wrong with ‘Only Love’. The book will take your breath away.
“For him, Max was the early morning sun, a cool springtime breeze, and a blanket of fresh white snow. His warm eyes were a guiding light in the dark, and the love they held was the only thing Jed would ever need.”
AWAKE AND ALIVE the blurb:
“After a successful surgery relieves Jed of the illness that nearly killed him, he returns home to slowly recover with Max. With time to reconnect, Max shows him a new way to love. Now at a crossroads and facing a new life, Jed must listen to his friends and family to learn how to move forward.”
Awake and alive is a 34 page out-take from ‘Only Love’ and is available as a free read on the publisher’s website. If, like me, you’ve read and loved ‘Only Love’ this is a very welcome and beautiful addition to a wonderful story. Make sure to read it after only love though, you will regret it if you don’t.
Jed has had a surgical procedure to put an end to the unbearable stomach complaints he’s been suffering and is recuperating in the cabin with Max who does what he can to make sure Jed takes it easy and gives himself the time he needs to heal.
Together the two men discover new ways of being together and loving each other while Jed has to start looking at what he wants to do with the rest of his life.
I was very happy with this opportunity to spend a little bit more time with two men I got very attached to over the course of 274 pages. While I completely understand why it wasn’t included in ‘Only Love’ I’m very glad it was made available to the public separately. It gives us a glimpse of the happier times once the heartbreaking events of ‘Only Love’ are a thing of the past. While the ending of ‘Only Love’ didn’t leave me in any doubt about Jed and Max’s happily ever after, it was a joy to be part of it for a short while; a very welcome burst of light after the trauma they had put me through in the main story.