**NOTE FROM AESTAS: As some of you know, my husband occasionally reads romance books as well. You can check out his first review here of The Dark Duet by CJ Roberts. Last night he asked me for a stand-alone recommendation so I gave him one of my favorites. He finished it in one sitting and wrote out his thoughts for you guys so… here they are! 🙂
It’s been a while – sorry for that. I’ve been busy with non-book things, but last night I was fortunate enough to have a chance to read Wounded, by Jasinda Wilder.
I admit, I was instantly hooked by the description: A wounded marine being sheltered by an Iraqi girl in the middle of a war? YES!
I’ll get right to it: this an awesome book. I would venture to say that it’s probably impossible to avoid enjoying reading it. It’s perfect, in its own way. The author does a really good job of making everything just work. It’s a short book, but that’s because there’s no time wasted on anything extraneous to the story of the two main characters. If I were to compare this book to a meal, I would describe it as a perfect steak with a side of baked potato: absolutely delicious, rich, and utterly satisfying (Sorry all you non-meat eaters – there is simply no vegetable equivalent to steak, so you’ll just have to imagine). You will enjoy every second of this story, and you will put it down with warm and fuzzy emotions floating around inside. You *may* also need to go take a cold shower afterward 😉 Hunter, man, I feel your pain.
Quick Aside: I hope this book gets a movie deal. Seriously, Hollywood, make this happen! I’m picturing Black Hawk Down (but with a happy ending!) crossed with some romantic movie I haven’t seen but I’m sure you guys have. I think it could work, and I would LOVE to see it come to life.
The two main characters really are the heart and soul of this story. I mean, yes, the author does an excellent job of describing war-torn Iraq and contrasting it against Hunter’s hometown in the states, but it is frankly quite amazing how well she manages to make the Hunter and Rania embody their respective worlds. What I mean by that is that her character writing is so beautifully expressive that she doesn’t even need to describe stuff – by reading about Hunter and Rania,you just understand the world from them alone.
Hunter Lee is my kind of guy. Ooh rah! I felt like we could totally hang out, and I admit it was a relief to meet this all-American hero after spending time with Caleb. But make no mistake – Hunter wasn’t perfect in that annoyingly unrealistic way that some of these guys tend to be, and for me that always makes a world of a difference. Hunter actually comes off as just a real guy – the kind you might pass at the airport, all dressed in camo on his way to Afghanistan – and that makes him instantly relatable in a really cool way.
Rania. Oh man, this girl. Her backstory broke my damn heart, and it hurt all the more because, again, everything about her and her story is completely believable. She’s tough and self-reliant, and it’s impossible not to admire her strength. It’s that strength that makes it especially touching when she actually opens up to Hunter, since you can appreciate how truly vulnerable she is and how much it takes for her to trust him.
This is a relationship-centric book, and in this case that’s a very good thing. Hunter and Rania’s attraction to each other, and the fact that they’re dealing with it while in the middle of the war zone is wonderfully suspenseful. The cultural and linguistic gap between them is enormous, and their determined, adorable, clumsy efforts to connect in spite of that is unbelievably endearing. The way they struggle to stay apart, fighting their attraction to each other, and fail, is intensely erotic. There is, in fact, epic sexual tension, and when it gets released…well, be ready to unfog your glasses. However, I really want to say that, yes, it’s steamy and it’s sexy, but in a very pure kind of way. It’s not kinky, just passionate. There’s always a strong emotional component, and that makes it really meaningful.
I have to admit, the hardest part for me was the whole thing with Rania and her clients. It really added a lot to the story, but fuck me if I wasn’t grinding my teeth right there along with Hunter. It was so difficult to read about what Rania had to do, had to go through, just to survive. I guess it’s just that (some?) men are programmed to be protective creatures when it comes to women, and being put in a position where you can only observe is beyond tough. The moment when Hunter was finally able to crawl out of bed and put a stop to things with his combat knife was one of profound relief and absolute satisfaction for me.
The happy ending for these two is just so sweet. I’ll admit I choked up a little reading it. I won’t spoil it for you guys, but I swear that I don’t know if I’ve ever been as happy for a book couple as I was for these two. You seriously owe it to yourself to read this book just for the feels at the end. They are superb.
I also want to say that I liked this book a lot because it was relevant. I must commend Jasinda Wilder for writing a book that weaves important messages into a heartfelt, enjoyable, and moving story and pulls the whole thing off without a hitch. That isn’t easy to do, folks. This book is the best kind of meaningful story – You can read it and you’ll have a great time, but if you stop and think for a few minutes after you’re done you’ll find that this book has a lot of really interesting and important things to say.
I feel this way a lot with these romance books. A lot of people treat them dismissively, try to describe them as shallow and meaningless stories. I think that’s a shame, but in all honesty, I think that such people are blinded by preconceptions, held back by an inability to be comfortable with sexuality and emotion, or are simply operating on really outdated stereotypes. The truth is that many of the romance books I’ve read are actually quite rich stories, with a lot of complex themes and questions that run just beneath the surface. So yeah, I’m sure there are some shallow books out there, and that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that at all. But it would be a mistake to think that all romance books are like that, and Wounded is a perfect example of one that isn’t.
So to wrap up, this is a fantastic book, and I think it’s an excellent one to recommend. It’s just long enough to be engaging and satisfying without being overwhelming. It’s got characters you can’t help but like, and a really sweet, adorable relationship at the center. It’s exciting and suspenseful, both emotionally and otherwise, and the sexiness, well, it’s pretty off the wall. Add to that the fact that the book has a surprising complexity and maturity, and you have what I think is a wonderful read.
In any case, it was a pleasure writing for you guys again. Thank you to Aestas for suggesting such a great book, and to Jasinda Wilder for writing it. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I’ll try not to take so long with the next one.