Series: A Heart of a Hero #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on February 4, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Source: the publisher
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From award-winning author Laura Trentham comes an emotionally layered novel about redemption, second chances, and discovering that life is worth fighting for.
At thirty, Greer Hadley never expected to be forced home to Madison, Tennessee with her life and dreams of being a songwriter up in flames. To make matters worse, a series of bad decisions and even crappier luck lands her community service hours at a nonprofit organization that aids veterans and their families. Greer cannot fathom how she’s supposed to use music to help anyone deal with their trauma and loss when the one thing that brought her joy has failed her.
When Greer meets fifteen-year-old Ally Martinez, her plans to stay detached and do as little as possible get thrown away. New to town and dealing with the death of her father in action, she hides her emotions behind a mask of bitterness and sarcasm, but Greer is able to see past it and recognizes pieces of who she once was in Ally. The raw and obvious talent she possesses could take her to the top and Greer vows to make sure life’s negativities don’t derail Ally’s potential.
After Greer is assigned a veteran to help, she’s not surprised Emmett Lawson, the town’s golden boy, followed his family’s legacy. What leaves her shocked is the shell of a man who believes he doesn’t deserve anyone’s help. A breakthrough with Ally reminds Greer that no one is worth giving up on. So she shows up one day with his old guitar, and meets Emmett’s rage head on with her stubbornness. When a situation with Ally becomes dire, the two of them must become a team to save her—and along the way they might just save themselves too.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
I really enjoyed An Everyday Hero, especially the heroine, Greer. After a series of bad decisions leads her to bust up a bar, the judge assigns her to community service, helping veterans and their family members through songwriting. Greer has given up her music for reasons we only discover over time, and she does not want this assignment, but the judge is implacable.
She turns out to be quite good at it. Instead of offering pity and wounding their pride, Greer deals with her “clients” — disabled veteran Emmett and grieving, angry Ally — with Southern sass, sarcasm, and occasionally, brutal honesty. At the same time, she’s dealing with her own issues, less tragic but still painful.
Emmett, who lost a leg in combat, is gruff, angry, and withdrawn. When Greer first shows up at his door, he runs her off with a shotgun, literally. It says something about her grit as well as her compassion that she doesn’t give up. And eventually, of course, we begin to see the better man who still exists under the anger and grief for what he has lost. (The scenes with the kitten are adorable.)
On the surface, Ally is the quintessential sullen, angry teen. Surprisingly, Greer handles her just right most of the time. I loved seeing Ally begin to get interested in music and songwriting, though she doesn’t lose her attitude for quite a while.
I also appreciate that even at the end, the issues aren’t all magically solved. Greer & Emmett work hard to get back to living their lives, and those lives aren’t the ones they once thought they’d have. On the other hand, they now have each other, and Ally has friends, adults who have her back.
An Everyday Hero straddles the line between romance and what is often called “women’s fiction. (I’m not a fan of the term for reasons that are outside the scope of this review. ) You could argue that An Everyday Hero is a straightforward romance. It certainly includes one, but the relationship doesn’t feel to me like the central or even primary theme of the book. It’s at least as much about three wounded people learning to go on with their lives, finding the strength to pick themselves back up and let someone else in. For the two POV characters, Emmett and Greer, part of that journey does include becoming friends and eventually lovers, but the author gives as much time and attention to each of them on their own as to the time they spend together. The focus isn’t just on the ups and downs of their romantic relationship (pun not intended), it’s on the ways in which they help each other heal and start living again.
The third character, Ally, is secondary to Emmett and Greer, but her journey is also important. She’s not a POV character; we never see through Ally’s eyes, nor know what she’s doing when she’s not with Greer. Yet it is clear from what Ally says and does that she is making a similar journey to theirs, from her original porcupine-like defensiveness to learning to trust, from grieving to beginning to heal.
An Everyday Hero is the second book in Trentham’s “A Heart of a Hero” series, but it reads like a standalone. The book is well-written, full of humor but never shying away from the realities of what war, and life, can do to people. I enjoyed it so much that I’m putting the first book on my TBR, for whenever I’m next in the mood for a contemporary romance.