In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.
Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.
As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.
Squared Away had a strong start for me. I love military themed novels, and Navy SEALs are a personal favorite. That this series is specifically about Navy SEALs being laid low by love is what drew me to it. I think the novels stand alone well enough, but I am a fan of reading a series from the beginning, regardless.
Now, I am in the minority among my friends that have read this one. I didn't love it. I loved both of the MC's and I appreciated their challenges, but I never really "got" them together and several of my pet peeves were hit dead on while I was reading.
First, the good:
I genuinely liked both Mark and Isaiah. They're both really stand up people who have to make the best of a very tragic situation. Mark is used to being depended on for situational triage - mostly medical, of course, since that is his function on his SEAL team, but he's protector, at heart. It's what makes him a good SEAL. Isaiah is determined to prove that he isn't the flighty party boy with no direction that everyone thinks he is. I admire that.
I also loved the exploration of Mark's sexuality and how patient Isaiah was during intimacy. That showed that Isaiah cared about more than his own pleasure, and that is very important to me.
I also enjoyed both MC's interactions with the children. Mark was unsure, at first, but quickly grew more confident and it was clear that Isaiah loved the kids and was familiar with their routines.
So what went wrong?
Well, I never really bought them as a couple. There was too much non-communication, too many assumptions about what the other person was thinking or feeling, and too much ego on both their parts. I don't know about you, but when someone presumes to tell me what I'm thinking or feeling, I get a bit prickly. This tendency was very prevalent in both MC's and it drove me nuts. For the longest time, I just wanted them to have an honest conversation, but they were never on the same page. There were ample opportunities for them to talk about an actual plan, as well as their relationship but every single time, one of them would decide it wasn't the right time to bring it up -- until everything blew up in their faces, and then Isaiah decided to act like an impetuous child and double down on going it alone.
Isaiah was too caught up in his pride and ego to see what was best for the children. He did not have the resources to care for them on his own and he wouldn't look past his own ego to see that Mark actually had as much right and more resources to make sure the kids had what they needed. I'm sorry, but there aren't many 24 year olds that I would think would be ready for such sudden responsibility for 3 kids under the age of 6. And Isaiah was determined to do it on his own, refusing to ask for help and only begrudgingly accepting it from Mark. He wasn't thinking about what was best for the children, he was thinking only about what HE wanted.
Mark wasn't blameless, either. He was super confident in his job, but when it came to his personal life and actual feelings, Mark floundered. That take-charge guy went right out the window. I don't think he should have felt rushed to declare his sexuality, though, either. He was just figuring out that just because he wasn't out having a bunch of meaningless sex like most of his single friends, that didn't mean there was something wrong with him. Isaiah was great about it when they were alone, but I felt that he put too much pressure on Mark, too soon. Again, they needed to talk about their relationship and where they wanted it to go.
And that brings me to their HEA...not buying it. They go from barely speaking to their HEA in about 3.7 seconds and, well, meh. I just couldn't bring myself to feel all that excited about it. I think they have a lot more talking to do before they reach that point.
Your mileage may vary, though. Most of my friends really loved this installment, so maybe you will too. If you're a fan of this author and this series, I'd say go ahead and give it a shot.
ARC of Squared Away was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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