The Officer and the Secret
Many romances with military heroes (or heroines, though that’s less common) are doing interesting and good things about recognizing and dealing with PTSD in their characters. At the same time, there’s also a one-upmanship happening. Whose hero can deal with the most traumatic event? How many best friends need to die for the PTSD to be deserved? How many hours must he lay, bleeding out, for nightmares to be warranted? In The Officer and the Secret, I appreciated that the hero is struggling with PTSD even though he didn’t experience any horrific event or see all of his companions die. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing I enjoyed about the book.
Dwayne Robertson has just returned home after a long deployment. He’s back in the company of his friends, but things have changed. His friends are married or in relationships now, and a new woman has joined the mix: Veronica Gibson. Dwayne “met” Veronica via skype a few times, and always enjoyed their conversations. Now that he’s back, though, he more fully appreciates Veronica’s attractiveness. He also realizes how shy she is.
Veronica was raised by missionaries in the jungle, and had little to no social interaction with people her age. Two failed attempts to return to the U. S. at 10 and 15 made her even more nervous around people, but she decided it was time, and returned to the United States to live with her cousin. She’s trying to adjust to “normal” life as a young woman in her mid-20s. She works at a restaurant and is studying for her GED, and trying to build relationships with those around her. Dwayne is certainly on her radar, and there are sparks there, but she has a lot of secrets about her past, and he has a lot of baggage.
Not a lot happens in this book. Dwayne and Veronica try to figure out a relationship. Their friends meddle. There’s a conflict, but it’s an obvious one that you see coming from a mile away. Books don’t have to be action-packed to be good, but if you are going to have a quiet plot, you need to make up for the lack of excitement with interesting and compelling character development, and that wasn’t here in this book. Or, perhaps I should say, there was character development, but it wasn’t particularly interesting or compelling. Despite the potential for interesting characterization and depth, they both fell flat as characters, and also as a couple.
That said, like I mentioned before, I think Dwayne’s PTSD was handled very well. It highlighted the fact that a single traumatic incident doesn’t necessarily cause it, but the nature of combat, of always being hyper-vigilant and on guard for months at a time. Veronica was exactly what Dwayne needed — someone who didn’t flinch away, but could talk him down from his nightmares or flashbacks. But besides that calming presence, I didn’t see much else that would draw them together, and as a result I couldn’t quite believe their HEA. (As a side note, Dwayne was the type of hero who called Veronica a “female.” This is one of my biggest pet peeves.)
The writing was also unpolished. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t very good, either. There’s a difference between conveying a story and writing one, in my opinion, and this was definitely the former. I don’t need my romance novels to be great Literary works, but I do appreciate a well written book, and this just wasn’t it.
Nothing in this book is worse than the norm. The Officer and the Secret is really just wholly average. Average plot, average characters, average writing. If you’re looking for something that stands out from the crowd of military romances, this book probably isn’t the place to start.