The Military Wife: A Heart of a Hero by Laura Trentham is a contemporary romance fiction novel about a 40-year-old Navy SEAL’s widow – Harper Lee Wilcox – who is still coping with the loss of her husband five years later. She lives in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, but she is usually with her mother who lives in Nags Head. While Harper’s husband, Noah, was deployed they were expecting a child. In a bittersweet series of events, Harper has to give birth to their son after Noah dies in combat and prior to his untimely death, they had agreed on the name Ben for their son. When the novel begins, Ben is about four to five years old – he is happy, well-mannered, and able to cope with his emotions well for his age. Harper is simply living her life day-to-day life without passion and Harper’s mother has no qualms pointing that out to her regularly. Harper uses the same excuse for why she doesn’t go out, try to meet men, pick up a hobby or anything like that. Mom calls her bluff on these excuses and encourages Harper to accept an invitation to visit an old friend, Allison.
Allison was with Harper when she gave birth to Ben (and throughout the pregnancy too, of course) and Harper no longer had any reason to decline and found herself heading to Fort Bragg. Allison lives with her husband, Darren, and their three children: Ryan – the oldest, Libby – the middle child, and Sophie – the youngest daughter. Harper stays in Fayetteville for a few days and while she’s there she notices a tension between Allison and Darren; later that day, in the middle of the night, Harper catches Darren sneaking out of the house – not entirely dressed right and not quite coping with his nightmares, memories and trauma well. Harper follows him until they end up in a park where they talk and after some time, Harper is able to persuade him to return with her to the house. Harper can see the toll it’s taking on Allison despite Allison’s attempts to hide it.
While visiting with Allison and talking about how she received a large sum of money from a close friend of Noah’s, but doesn’t know who. Harper stumbles on the idea of Home Front Coffee which would specifically hire military spouses and would be located near U.S. military bases. She immediately has the support of Allison and Allison’s two friends, Madeleine and Joyce. Harper has not met Bennett, but knows of him because of Noah and realizes her Ben is named after Bennett. Somehow, Harper and Bennett end up meeting and he begins helping her with her business endeavor while simultaneously falling in love with her all over again – only harder this time. Bennett and Harper begin spending more time together and Harper figures out that the money she received is from him as part of some mysterious promise he made to Noah while they were deployed. She also figures out that Bennett was with Noah when he died and she wants to know what happened.
The story follows Harper as she navigates her changing feelings for Bennett, trying to move on from Noah and running her own business. Bennett and Harper’s relationship begins to get more serious causing them both confusion and guilt at first, but it is soon smoothed over as Bennett and Harper continue to move forward with her business idea. She and Bennett are there for Allison and Darren when Sophie has a major accident and their marriage is on the verge of deterioration – Bennett was able to convince Darren to get the help he needs and not commit suicide as he was contemplating doing. After Darren speaks to Bennett’s friend who works with Wounded Warrior on the phone and gives Darren a way forward with Allison, Darren is ready to head back to the hospital to see Allison (who had asked Harper and Bennett to bring him to the hospital since Sophie woke up) and talk about his struggles. At the hospital, Harper and Bennett offer to keep an eye on the kids so that Allison and Darren can have some alone time to talk. After Darren and Allison emerge, they seem to be on the mend and ready to work through their marriage; Bennett and Harper decide to head home because Harper couldn’t wait another day to see Ben.
Readers also get a front row seat to Bennett and Harper’s budding relationship as they navigate their complicated pasts and work together to remember Noah without feeling as though he’s in the middle of their relationship. This takes some time, but they’re dedicated to each other and are ready for the next step. The book follows their relationship as it unfolds – as Harper and Bennett realize that they need to talk about Noah’s death in order for both of them to cope and deal with their relationship. The story is well written and the author does a good job developing the characters in the story. Although the story is a romance, there is a good balance in the story and it moves along well. No stagnation or boring parts in the book. One of my favorite characters in the book is little Ben (Harper’s son) because he seems like a total sweetheart and mature for his age. It’s clear he had been longing to have a father-figure in his life and became increasingly interested in Bennett who shares his name and knew his father. I can relate to Allison since I watched my husband struggle with PTSD in the first few years of our marriage. It was hard and it takes a lot of patience, understanding and love to work through it.
Overall the book was good – a mature romance novel that gives readers (who aren’t military spouses or married to veterans) a small glimpse into the lives of military spouses. I loved the ending more than any other part in the book – even though I’m not exactly sure why, but it was predictably nice. My other favorite character in the book was one of Harper’s business partners – Joyce; I like Joyce because she’s a good negotiator, always wants and looks for a fair price for items and is good with money. She’s quiet and reserved, loyal to friends, hard working and dedicated. All great traits to have and to have in a friend and business partner. There are funny moments, sobering moments, and maybe one that was honestly sad. I’m not sure I’d read the book again, but I’m not upset that I purchased it either. I would recommend this book to any young adult who enjoys romance novels and doesn’t mind the military theme of the novel. I purchased this book at a used bookstore and recommend people check their local library or used bookstore if they are not sure they will like it. For those who would rather purchase the book at full price, Barnes and Noble has copies in paperback for $16.99.
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