Shelly's Book Corner received a review copy from NetGalley and voluntarily provided an honest review. This does not affect the opinion of the book or the content of the review.The Military Wife by Laura Trentham
Series: A Heart Of A Hero #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on February 5, 2019
Genres: Women's Fiction
Buy on Amazon
Harper Lee Wilcox has been marking time in her hometown of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina since her husband, Noah Wilcox’s death, nearly five years earlier. With her son Ben turning five and living at home with her mother, Harper fights a growing restlessness, worried that moving on means leaving the memory of her husband behind.
Her best friend, Allison Teague, is dealing with struggles of her own. Her husband, a former SEAL that served with Noah, was injured while deployed and has come home physically healed but fighting PTSD. With three children underfoot and unable to help her husband, Allison is at her wit’s end.
In an effort to reenergize her own life, Harper sees an opportunity to help not only Allison but a network of other military wives eager to support her idea of starting a string of coffee houses close to military bases around the country.
In her pursuit of her dream, Harper crosses paths with Bennett Caldwell, Noah’s best friend and SEAL brother. A man who has a promise to keep, entangling their lives in ways neither of them can foresee. As her business grows so does an unexpected relationship with Bennett. Can Harper let go of her grief and build a future with Bennett even as the man they both loved haunts their pasts?
Harper has been alive but not really living ever since her husband, Noah, died. Noah was a Navy Seal and Harper’s life pretty much revolved around him and his career and then their child. Fast forward 5 years later and Harper is feeling unfulfilled and decides to open up a coffee house to give the other military wives and herself something to do while their husbands are deployed. I really liked this idea and I felt it was a good venture for the women. People often forget about the wives and how much they sacrifice while their love ones are fighting to keep us safe. Thank you both for your service and sacrifices.
During the story we are introduced to Bennett and he was best friends with Noah. Harper and Bennett developed feelings for each other but they think it’s disrespectful to Noah’s memory. Honestly, it does make sense they would be together because they both loved Noah in their own way. I didn’t find their relationship as taboo as I thought I would.
My heart ached for the secondary characters Allison and Darren. They struggled with Darren coming home from war and not being himself. Allison is trying to be strong and take care of the house and kids and makes it seem like everything is fine. I’m happy the author shed a light on the emotional side of coming home from war and trying to readjust to civilian life after a traumatic experience.
I really don’t read a lot of military books but I’m glad I gave it a shot. The story was told in past and present which I enjoyed. I liked seeing how Noah and Harper met when they were younger. I loved how the army wives were active in the communities and helped each other out when things got tough.. I really enjoyed the book but I did feel the ending was slightly rushed. This was the first time I read a book by this author and it was a pleasant surprise!
Winters in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, were temperamental. The
sunshine and a temperate southerly breeze that started a day could turn into biting,
salt-tinged snow flurries by afternoon. But one thing Harper Lee Wilcox could
count on was that winter along the Outer Banks was quiet.
The bustle and hum and weekly rotation of tourists that marked the
summer months settled into a winter melancholy that Harper enjoyed. Well,
perhaps not enjoyed in the traditional sense . . . more like she enjoyed
surrendering to the melancholy. In fact, her mother may have accused her of
wallowing in it once or twice or a hundred times.
In the winter, she didn’t have to smile and pretend her life was great. Not
that it was bad. Lots of people had it worse. Much worse. In fact, parts of her life
were fabulous. Almost five, her son was happy and healthy and smart. Her
mother’s strength and support were unwavering and had bolstered her through the
worst time of her life. Her friends were amazing.
That was the real issue. In the craziness of the summer season, she forgot
to be sad. Her husband, Noah, had been gone five years; the same amount of time
they’d been married. Soon the years separating them would outnumber the years
they’d been together. The thought was sobering and only intensified the need to
keep a sacred place in her heart waiting and empty. Her secret memorial.
She parked the sensible sedan Noah had bought her soon after they
married under her childhood home. Even though they were inland, the stilts were
a common architectural feature up and down the Outer Banks.
Juggling her laptop and purse, Harper pushed open the front door and
stacked her things to the side. “I’m home!”
A little body careened down the steps and crashed into her legs. She
returned the ferocious hug. Her pregnancy was the only thing that had kept her
going those first weeks after she’d opened her front door to the Navy chaplain.
“How was preschool? Did you like the pasta salad I packed for your
“It made me toot and everyone laughed, even the girls. Can you pack it for
me again tomorrow?”
“Ben! You shouldn’t want to toot.” Laughter ruined the admonishing tone
she was going for.
As Harper’s mom said time and again, the kid was a hoot and a half. He
might have Harper’s brown wavy hair, but he had Noah’s spirit and mannerisms
and humor. Ben approached everything with an optimism Harper had lost or
perhaps had never been gifted with from the start. He was a blessing Harper
sometimes wondered if she deserved.
“Where’s Yaya?” She ruffled his unruly hair.
Of course, her mom had picked an unconventional name. “Grandmother”
was too old-fashioned and pedestrian. Since she’d retired from the library, she had
cast off any semblance of normalcy and embraced an inner spirit that was a
throwback to 1960’s bra burners and Woodstock.
“Upstairs painting.” Ben slipped his hand into Harper’s and tugged her
toward the kitchen. Bright red and orange and blue paint smeared the back of his
hand and arm like a rainbow. At least, her mom had put him in old clothes. “Yaya
gave me my own canvas and let me paint whatever I wanted.”
“And what did you paint?” Harper prayed it wasn’t a nude study, which
was the homework assignment from her mom’s community college class.
“I drew Daddy in heaven. I used all the colors.” The matter-of-factness of
his tone clawed at her heart.
No child should have to grow up only knowing their father through
pictures and stories. Her own father had been absent because of divorce and
disinterest. He’d sent his court-ordered child support payments regularly until she
turned eighteen but rarely visited or shown any curiosity about her. It had hurt
until teenaged resentment scarred over the wound.
Noah would have made a great dad. The best. That he never got the
chance piled more regrets and what-ifs onto her winter inspired melancholy.
“I’m sure he would have loved your painting.” Luckily, Ben didn’t notice
her choked-up reply.
He went to the cabinet, pulled out white bread and crunchy peanut butter,
and proceeded to make two sandwiches. It was their afternoon routine. Someday
he would outgrow it. Outgrow her and become a man like his daddy.
She poured him a glass of milk, and they ate their sandwiches, talking
about how the rest of his day went—outside of his epic toots. His world was small
and safe and she wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible.
Her mom breezed into the kitchen, her still-thick but graying brown hair
twisted into a messy bun, a thin paintbrush holding it in place. Slim and attractive,
she wore paint-splattered jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt that read: I make AARP
look good. Harper pinched her lips together to stifle a grin.
“How’s your assignment coming along?” Harper asked.
“I’m having a hard time with proportions. It’s been a while, but I’m pretty
sure my man’s you-know-what shouldn’t hang down to his kneecaps.”
Harper shot a glance toward Ben, who had moved to the floor of the den to
play with LEGOs. As crazy as her mom drove her, she was and would always be
Harper’s rock. The irony wasn’t lost on her. As hard as she’d worked to get out of
Kitty Hawk and out of her mother’s reach when she was young, she’d never
regretted coming home.
“It’s been a while for me, too, but that’s not how I remember them,
“A pity for us both.” Her mother pulled a jar of olives out of the fridge and
proceeded to make martinis—shaken, not stirred. She raised her eyebrows, and
Harper answered the unspoken question with a nod. Her mom poured and plopped
an extra olive in Harper’s. “How was work?”
Harper handled bookkeeping and taxes for a number of local businesses,
but a good number closed up shop in the winter. “Routine. Quiet.”
“Exactly like your life.”
Harper sputtered on her first sip. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I hate seeing you mope around all winter.” Her mom poked at the olive in
her drink with a toothpick and looked toward Ben, dropping her voice. “He’s been
gone five years, sweetheart, and you haven’t gone on so much as a date.”
“That’s not true. I went to lunch with Whit a few weeks ago.”
“He was trying to sell you life insurance. Doesn’t count.”
Harper huffed and covered her discomfort by taking another sip. “What
about you? You never date.”
“True, but your father ruined me on relationships. I have trust issues. You
and Noah, on the other hand, seemed to get along fine. Or am I wrong?”
“You’re not.” Another sip of the martini grew the tingly warmth in her
stomach. Their marriage hadn’t been completely without conflict, but what
relationship was? As she looked back on their fights, they seemed juvenile and
unimportant. It was easier to remember the good times. And there were so many
to choose from.
She touched the empty finger on her left hand. The ring occupied her
jewelry box and had for three years. But, occasionally, her finger would ache with
phantom pains as if it were missing a vital organ.
“You’re young. Find another good man. Or forget the man, just find
something you’re passionate about.”
“I’m happy right where I am.” Harper hammered up her defenses as if
preparing for a hurricane.
“Don’t mistake comfort for happiness. You’re comfortable here. Too
comfortable. But you’re not happy.”
“God, Mom, why are you Dr. Phil–ing me all of sudden? Are you
wanting me and Ben to move out or something?” Her voice sailed high and Ben
looked over at them, his eyes wide, clutching his LEGO robot so tightly its head
“You and Ben are welcome to stay and take care of me in my old age.”
Her mom shifted toward the den. “You hear that, honey? I want you to stay
Ben gave them an eye-crinkling smile that reminded her so much of Noah
her insides squirmed, and she killed the rest of her drink. She was so careful not to
show how lonely she sometimes felt in front of Ben.
“Harper.” Her mom’s chiding tone reminded her so much of her own
childhood, she glanced up instinctively. Her mom took her hand, and her hazel
eyes matched the ones that stared back at Harper in the mirror. “You’re marking
time in Kitty Hawk. Find something that excites you again. Don’t let Ben—or
Noah— be your excuse.”
Harper looked to her son. His chubby fingers fit the small LEGO pieces
together turning the robot into a house. She had built her life brick by brick
adding pieces and colors, expanding, taking pride, until one horrible day she’d
stopped. Maybe her mom was right. Was it time