Born on the 4th of July by Jill Shalvis, Rhonda Nelson, and Karen Foley
Three novellas, all featuring male military heroes and the women who love them. 'Friendly Fire' tells the story of two best friends who become more when the hero returns home with severe injuries. The hero comes home on leave to wrap up his father's estate in 'The Prodigal' and he finds the past is always where you leave it. A fresh start is all the hero wants in 'Packing Heat' and he knows exactly the woman he wants by his side.
I got this anthology from the library as the first short story has been nominated for a RITA. Full disclosure, I don't normally read categories because it takes me about 15 minutes to finish them and I'm usually left wanting more. Categories are great for launching others and for people who just want a quick escape, but I enjoy a story I can sink my teeth into.
'Friendly Fire' by Jill Shalvis is the RITA nominee, a finalist for Romance Novella. The reader is literally plopped into the middle of things. The story opens with the heroine using the hero's showerhead to, ah, relieve tension and he catches her. They've been friends forever and now that he's returned injured from a military mission, it's the catalyst they need to take things to the next level. I thought it was cute for the most part, but I didn't particularly agree with the way they portrayed his hearing loss. The hero's loss is supposed to be somewhat temporary, but he's already reading lips, which can be difficult to do. Perhaps he already had this skill in his repertoire, but it's never mentioned.
'The Prodigal' by Rhonda Nelson was a typical Prodigal Child returns after Hated Parent dies and meets the Surrogate Child who's the Prodigal's better half. In this case, it was the hero returning on leave and the heroine is the one who was keeping the home fires burning. They went to high school together, which is the existing relationship that their newfound romance is based on. I thought this one was mostly okay until the end when the hero has to go back to his unit, but he doesn't want to leave the driveway because it means he's leaving her. That was really touching. Things aren't magically solved, but they acknowledge their feelings and end it with an 'until later.'
I'm not sure what to say about 'Packing Heat' by Karen Foley. I think this is a story that would have benefited from being expanded into a full novel. The premise is simple. The heroine works for the hero's mother. A picture of the hero in his military uniform is the mom's desktop. Heroine immediately falls in lust and offers to send him care packages. Mom says 'Hey, why don't you have your class adopt his unit?' Hero is touched by the packages (no word if anyone else in the unit gets anything) and starts communicating with the heroine. And all I can think is, 'What about the kids? Did he ever write them back?' Without the pretext of the kids, I felt like the heroine basically manipulated the mom into hooking the heroine up with the hero. Since I was already doubting the heroine's motivations, I called bullshit on the hero's 'meet me in a hotel' maneuver. It came off as a little sleazy. He just happened to order room service that came with chocolate sauce and other multipurpose-able edible delights? I don't think the author intended for it to come off that way and she was constrained by the shortened format, but I'd be hesitant to pick up another book by her without a solid rec first.