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Originally released as part of the Unconditional Surrender bundle, now available as a stand-alone novella complete with BRAND-NEW 10,000 word short story/epilogue. When a wounded soldier is forced to accept help from his former best friend, both men discover the true strength of their entwined hearts.
Army IT specialist Xander keeps his emotions wired as tight as his NETCOM gear, but when he’s seriously injured by an IED, his whole life unravels. Running out of options, Xander must accept help from his ex-friend-with-benefits, Mackey. However, Xander’s had feelings for Mackey for years, and close quarters only complicates his emotions. Further, Xander doesn’t know which is worse: combating his inner demons or dealing with Mackey’s guilty kindnesses.
Mackey’s always kept his emotions close to his chest, but now he’s got a secret that could destroy his one chance with the man he cares far too much for. Both men will have to heal their wounded hearts to ensure a future together.
Entwined Future: In this new short story, Mackey has news that could change everything for him and Xander, but a visit from Xander’s family jeopardizes Mackey’s plans–and forces Xander to confront some harsh truths.
Okay, I admit when I started the story, I was ready to complain about it. The story opens in a hospital scene; Xander has been seriously injured after his convoy was blown up by an IED, he is missing his forearm, his face scarred-up, and right now his ex-friend-with-benefits, Mackey is visiting the mission to take care of Xander.
You see, I always prefer to be with my characters since the very beginning. So the fact that the story started in “the middle” with reference to a big argument that Xander and Mackey had several months ago just annoyed me. Yes, there were a couple of flashbacks that explained what had happened and the conversation between Xander and Mackey helped me to understand what these men had been going through, but I was annoyed with the set-up.
However, as the story progresses, I started to care really deeply for these men. I thought Albert wrote the depression from Xander’s perspective really, really, well. This is a character-driven and quite an emotional story. Xander’s anger towards his current situation, towards Mackey, towards the doctors and the nurses and the army (who he thinks just chucked him away now that he is disabled) feels so earnest. I admired Mackey’s dedication to be with Xander every step of the way. Mackey might not have been there when Xander was first admitted to the hospital, but when he gets there, he will not leave, no matter the hurtful things Xander leashes out to him.
There is one scene – I will not spoil it, you just have to read it by yourself – that I thought was very intense, I felt like my lungs were out of breath and I had tears in my eyes. It is a moment where you are fighting with that dark demon inside you. The important moment when you can just give up or fight your way out of the darkness. It was emotional and frighteningly real. I thought it was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever read.
For a novella-length, I thought Resilient Heart packed a punch. It offers a look inside a soldier’s life who suffers from the dark clutch of PTSD but at the same time provides hope for a healing journey. I was happy that Xander’s healing did not magically happen just because Mackey loves him. The extended epilogue Entwined Future shows that it is a work in a progress. Xander and Mackey still learned to balance out their feeling and relationship and family issues. It’s like life, really, it doesn’t stop just after one big moment happens. It might not be a bed of roses for these guys, but it’s so worth reading and I know that they will be just fine … with the strength of their love (and also a great service dog :p).
Annabeth Albert has definitely entered my list of authors-to-look-forward to. I will be waiting for her next story for sure.