by Kori David
Series: Once A Marine Always A Marine #1
Published by Insatiable Press on June 27, 2016
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Military, Suspense
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Romance author Elizabeth Russell lives alone and works alone, and that's the way she likes it. No ties, no relationships, no complications. But when her apartment is broken into and it looks more personal than chance, she finds herself running to the only person who can protect her. Too bad he also has the most potential to crush her world.
Former marine turned securities expert Zach Steele doesn't do regret or second chances. So when a sexy heartbreak from his past shows up on his doorstep desperate for a safe place to crash, his first reaction is hell no. But with a stalker quickly closing in and the only woman he's ever loved looking up at him like he's still that guy, Zach offers up his protection.
Working together to bring her stalker down brings them closer than ever, and Zach realizes that it's not just Elizabeth's life that's in danger...but also his guarded heart.
In Zach’s Arms is book #1 in the Once a Marine Always a Marine series. This is a novella, but I felt that the plot was pretty well-developed, despite the shorter length of the story. There are some suspenseful moments that kept the pace moving quickly and made me want to keep reading. This was my first time reading anything by this author and I enjoyed her writing style. I’ll be reading the next book in the series.
Elizabeth (Beth) is a paranormal romance author who has a fairly isolated life. She lives alone, keeps to herself, and doesn’t really have friends. When her apartment is broken into, she’s shaken up. Then it happens again and she knows it can’t be a coincidence.
In her time of crisis, Beth immediately wants to go to Zach, her high school sweetheart. They broke up years ago when Zach proposed and Beth turned him down. Zach then became a Marine after they parted ways. Now, Zach is a security specialist and he’s the only person Beth wants to turn to during this time. It’s clear that someone is after Beth.
After reporting the latest burglary to the police, Beth goes to Zach’s remote cabin to ask if she can stay with him. I had a little trouble with this part because Beth doesn’t even try to call Zach first–she just shows up at his home. They haven’t seen each other in years. What if he hadn’t been home? What if he didn’t want to see her? What if he had a hot date? As it turns out, he is home and even though he’s surprised to see her, he lets her stay with him in the meantime. His home is equipped with an alarm system, so Beth will be safe. There’s also the fact that Zach has always loved Beth and seeing her again stirs up emotions from the past.
Beth and Zach fell in love when they were teenagers. Beth had a troubled home life due to an abusive father and a mother who chose to stay. With this as her only example of what marriage was, Beth has always been afraid of commitment. She’s determined to avoid ever being controlled or abused again, so she doesn’t have close relationships. This is the reason why she turned down Zach’s marriage proposal, coupled with the fact that they were very young when he proposed.
Zach also had a rough upbringing. He grew up in the foster care system. After Beth broke his heart, he decided that he needed order and stability in his life, which is what led him to join the Marine Corps. But throughout their years apart, he’s always held a torch for Beth, and Beth has always felt something for Zach.
There are several suspenseful moments when we get the stalker’s point of view, which is well-written because it creeped me out quite a bit. At times, I had trouble with Beth’s decisions because I thought she behaved somewhat carelessly when she should have been more vigilant. Because of how she was raised, she’s stubborn and wants her independence. However, there are times when she should have been more careful, especially considering that she has a stalker. During these scenes, I felt kind of frustrated with her character. But I had my guesses as to who the stalker actually ends up being and guessed wrong, so I didn’t feel that the story was predictable.
Zach is basically a dreamboat. He’s super protective of Beth and always has her best interests in mind. He’ll do whatever he needs to do to keep her safe and track down the person who wants to harm her.
I think the relationship really worked for me because of Beth and Zach’s back story. If they had just met and fell in love immediately, I wouldn’t have believed the relationship. But since they had years of history between them, it seemed credible to me that they could reconnect so easily after years apart. There’s also the added element of peril that draws them even closer together. There are some pretty steamy scenes, which also feel natural since the two of them are familiar with each other and are reuniting after a long time apart.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read that kept me guessing and the second chance romance element really worked for me. I recommend this novella and plan on reading the next book in the series.
Rating: 4 stars