Book Review:  Risky Business by Melissa Cutler

in Book Review, Toni Linenberger

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RiskyBusiness High Resolution (1)Military heroes are my favorite.  There is something about men who are willing to die so the rest of us can live freely that gets me every time.  I still tear up at the singing of the national anthem honoring those who have sacrificed in the name of freedom and liberty.  Once sacrifice meant death; in the age of modern warfare and medicine it often means traumatic injury.  There are weekly, if not daily stories on the news of the wounded warriors trying to adapt.  It is high time they made their way into our everyday reading, as well.  Thanks to Melissa Cutler, they have.  Her new series, Bomb Squad, is focused on the small town of Destiny Falls, New York, and a local hockey team; each member of the team is a wounded warrior battling his own demons.

Welcome to Destiny Falls, New York, home of the Bomb Squad—an ice hockey team full of rugged military heroes. But the season’s biggest match-up isn’t on the ice as one of their own prepares to go head to head with his new boss…

Allison Whitely’s ex left her with a mountain of debt and Cloud Nine, a struggling boat rental business. With zero job skills, her only hope of getting back in the black lies in a brooding ex-soldier who has her seeing red…

Theo Lacroix’s teammates are counting on their star player to help them win an upcoming high profile hockey game. But when a sexy tornado of a woman sweeps into town and expects him to help her with Cloud Nine, Theo is tempted to skate away from it all.

Theo vowed to never again be someone’s knight in shining armor, but his feelings—and desire—for Allison are becoming harder to ignore. He longs to save her, but to win Allison’s love, he’ll have to throw out his old playbook and take the ultimate risk…playing from the heart.

Cutler had me hooked from the very first sentence.  Allison appears on the surface to be a victim of her circumstances, but time proves that she is very capable and able to chart her own destiny.  When her cheating ex-husband leaves her with a mountain of debt and a newborn, Allison decides to take on the one remaining asset she has left:  as boat rental business in Destiny Falls.  There she makes a dramatic entrance to the locals when she tries to set the house where the business resides and herself on fire.  Theo, the enigmatic manager and soon to be owner, he hopes, is less than impressed with Allison’s arrival.  After throwing her into the river to douse the flames his only hope is that she will leave quickly.  Allison proves far more determined than that and proves she is there to stay.

Theo is a fascinating character.  Instead of an obvious disability, he has a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  The scene where he tells Allison how he’s had to adapt his world to this new reality is powerful and humbling all at the same time.  TBI are so seldom recognized it was wonderful to have a main character struggling with an invisible disability.  Allison takes him on completely, which is fascinating to watch.

The twist at the end that drives our hero and heroine apart is not what I expected.  Cutler did not take the obvious route, which was a nice surprise.  The obvious conflicts are addressed maturely and by talking through the problem, giving the characters added depth and the story more reality.  I like a little maturity in my characters and Cutler certainly delivers.

I am very much looking forward to more books in the Bomb Squad series.  Cutler has created a detailed and fascinating world and I eagerly await a return trip.  I have my fingers crossed that there will be many books to come as more people take time to appreciate our wounded warriors as they make the transition to fiction.

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