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Embattled Ever After

January 7th, 2017
Author: JM Madden    Series: Lost and Found #5

Duncan Wilde has avoided long-term relationships very well since his fiancée left him wounded in the hospital years ago. That one harsh lesson—that he needed to guard his heart—has lasted him for years. Besides. He’s a beat up old Marine well past his time for love. The fiery young doctor from Kansas seems to think otherwise though. She worked on one of his men months ago and they had a bit of a connection. Too bad she’s so damn young.

Alex Hartfield grew up as a military brat, but she sees something in Duncan that makes her think of permanence and starting a family. She wants someone to come home to every night and love, and he’s the first man that makes her guarded heart race with hope and excitement. Now to convince him that opening up to love doesn’t mean taking on responsibility for the other person’s life.

This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
My Review

With the fifth installment in the ‘Lost and Found’ series, we finally get the main man, Duncan’s story. He is the oldest of the bunch, pushing close to 50, which his age plays a big a factor in his story, or well I should say the heroine’s age is as she is 32.

There was a small part of him that sat up in joy, amazed he meant that much to someone. Anyone. But the fact that it was Alex made it that much more special. Alex Hartfield was a beautiful woman. There was no doubt about it. But she was so damned young… When he’d been deployed to Iraq, she’d been toddling off to school. Damn, that made him feel old.

Alex was first introduced in a previous Lost and Found book (#3 I believe) where she meets Duncan at a Kansas City hospital she works at. Immediately they feel a connection upon a meeting but Duncan doesn’t act on it a he feels she is too young and vibrant for someone like him. So thus makes Alex make the first move, coming to visit Duncan during Christmas – which is a total surprise to him, but not the LNF gang as they had a hand in it. Alex ends up staying at Duncan’s place due to snowy weather, which results in their chemistry exploding and lets just say things heats up quite a bit. Although things are going great for Duncan and Alex, in the back of Duncan’s mind, the age difference between them and his disability due to an old battle wound just won’t take a back seat. He has constant thoughts of letting her go because he believes she can do better. Alex eventually goes back home early due to hearing a comment Duncan makes, which upsets her leading to them ending their fling. With time apart, Duncan wakes up and sees the light, realizing he truly loves Alex and wants to be with her, that he wants to marry her, and eventually have a family with her.

“I guess it’s good we’re in the hospital, because I think I need to get my heart checked. I don’t think it’s working right.” Alex’s eyes filled with tears. “Let me check. It just so happens I’m a doctor.” She leaned forward enough to press her lips to his, and she couldn’t contain her tears any longer. Duncan cupped her jaw, kissing the tears away. “Don’t cry babe. I don’t want you to cry. I never did. I just didn’t want to tie you down.” Laughing, she pulled back enough to look him in the eye. “I want to be tied down, damn it.” So conscious of his injuries, she leaned forward as much as she could to hug him. With a not-so-gentle tug, he pulled her down beside him. He gasped in pain and stilled for a moment, then pulled her upper body against his, wrapping his arms completely around her. They lay against each other for several long minutes, before a voice broke the silence.
After a few minutes, Duncan leaned down to press a kiss to her hair. Damn, she smelled good. He wanted to see her and feel her and smell her every day if he could. “How can I get you to stay?” “Hmm…?” her voice was drowsy, but she looked up at him. “How can I get you to stay? I miss you, Alex. I saw you tonight and I wanted to jump up and down and cheer. Not my normal reaction to people, I might add.” She chuckled. “I felt the same way. When the doors opened, I thought I was imagining you standing there.” He gripped her hand in his own, marveling at the chance meeting. “I didn’t handle the breakup well. I should have chosen my words better and been more careful of your feelings. I’m sorry about that.” “I’m sorry too,” she told him softly. “I could have not reacted so harshly. Everyone is allowed to feel the way they want to feel. You don’t want kids. I get that now. But I think I still want to see where this relationship goes.” Duncan pulled back to look at her. “You would stay with me even though I told you I don’t want kids?” She shrugged, looking away. “What if I told you I think you could change my mind?” Alex looked up at him sharply. “What?” “I had a lot of long nights thinking about where we’d gone wrong,” he told her softly, “and I’m not sure anymore that it’s the kids themselves that I object to. I think it’s just the responsibility in general.” “Are you serious? You’re one of the most responsible men I know,” she told him firmly. “I am,” he agreed, “but what if a child is the one thing that comes along that I’m not good at handling?” Alex leaned into him again, laughing softly. “Oh, Duncan, I think you just voiced the fear of every single parent in the world. I bet if you asked Shannon that question, she’d have the same concerns.” Her words made sense. Responsibility was a heavy weight, and he already had a lot of it on his shoulders. “I would like to try again as well,” she told him softly.

What I like about this book is that our hero Duncan has had a bad experience with a prior relationship 10 years ago when he came back from Iraq (his fiance left him when he was hurt and needed her the most) which turns him off at the thought of any relationships or marrying. Then Alex comes into the picture, shakes things up for him and shows him she’s in it for the long haul, the good and the bad. Due to her, he finally got his happy ending.

I understand completely. I love you, Alex, more than I ever could have hoped. I had kind of reached the point where I didn’t expect this kind of relationship in my life, but I don’t think I will be able to let you go now. So you’d better put on your seatbelt and strap in, because I want you to marry me.” She barked out a laugh and rocked back to look at him. “Are you serious?” He nodded, and though it had been spur of the moment, the rightness of it settled into his bones like it was supposed to be there. “I am, absolutely and completely. I didn’t plan on asking you here and now, but there it is. So, what do you think? Can you put up with a grumpy old man who doesn’t need a cane any more?” She laughed and leaned in to wrap her arms around his neck. “Yes, I definitely think I can do that. I love you, Duncan. I’ve loved you for so long and I would be thrilled to marry you. And we’ll have kids, too. Later on down the road.” They kissed to seal the words to their hearts, and it was the most amazing feeling Duncan had ever experienced.
Chad adjusted the fit of the little tiara on his big head. Maybe if he held really, really still it would stay put. “I can’t move, darlin’. You’re going to have to pour the tea.” “That’s okay, I will. It’s my party anyway. I’m s’posed to pour it.” Oh. Okay. Well, that put him in his place. Mercy giggled at the face he made for her, like he was an English nobleman waiting for service. She loved it, so that was all that mattered. Movement at the doorway caught his attention, and he looked up at Lora with a beleaguered expression on his puss. Rather than commiserate she tossed him a laughing kiss and faded away. Well, that stinker. He would let her escape this time, but only because she was cooking something fabulous downstairs.

Another thing I like about this book – possibly more than Duncan and Alex’s story of their relationship – is that Shannon and John becoming parents. It totally threw him for a loop as he never had pictured himself with kids. It was cute reading his thoughts and actions in this book pertaining to this, especially when he would feel her belly, kiss it, and try to listen to the baby’s heart beat. Oh it was so sweet and mushy watching a hardened vet who curses like a sailor go soft at the mere thought of experiencing fatherhood and seeing the changes that Shannon’s body goes through.

John was laying on his front, arm draped over her thighs as he explored her tiny baby bump, pressing kisses here and there. “I can’t believe we’re having a kid. I mean, I’m excited but it’s one of those things that I never thought would happen to me.” “Well, maybe you never thought it would happen, but I did. I know what a wonderful man you are, and what a great father you’ll be.” John’s dark eyes got a little misty and he rested his ear against her tiny bump, as if to listen for a heartbeat.
“Aren’t they amazing?” she sighed. When John looked at her a tear rolled down his cheek. “I can’t breathe right now with the love I feel for you and our family. You are the best part of me, and you’ve given me bounties of joy beyond any measure.”

I know there is more stories for the other guys that was occasionally mentioned throughout this series, but I think I’ll stop here although I do wish we got more of an epilogue or a future look into Duncan and Alex’s life – lets say maybe 1+ years ahead to see how they fared.

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