The Purple Heart by Christie A.C. Gucker
When does hiding the truth become an outright lie?
As an Army psychologist, Sydney Porter has heard her share of horror stories. The battle-scarred, down-trodden, and guilt-ridden have come to her office, seeking her help. When a highly decorated soldier is referred to her, she feels confident she can help heal his wounds. The chemistry between herself and Sergeant Aiden Thane is instantaneous. Sparks ignite and against her friend’s advice, she opens both her home and her heart.
Torn between a voice of reason and her undeniable feelings, Sydney begins to question just what is hiding behind her lover’s decorated uniform. What secrets are hidden behind his Purple Heart?
And does she really want to know?
This book touched me on so many levels. It was nothing like I expected but in a very, very good way. This story pulled at my emotions – I smiled, rolled my eyes, became frustrated, scared, and the suspenseful climax left me with goose bumps all over and my eyes filled with tears. Now, that’s a good read!
The story’s protagonist is Sydney Porter. Sydney used to be an Army nurse, but after dealing with so much death on the frontlines, she decided to obtain a psychology degree and shifted her career path in the Army to work with soldiers who are making the transition from Army to civilian life. I found the book’s opening to be a bit slow, but it did provide an effective introduction to Sydney’s character, her background, and her career focus. In the opening scene, Sydney is presented as the consummate psychologist, professional, polished, and dedicated to helping others.
Upon arriving at work, Sydney finds a case file with her new client: Sergeant First Class Aiden Thane, a highly decorated soldier recently wounded in battle who is returning home with an honorable discharge. The case file contains little personal information about Aiden, but emphasizes that he is a top priority and will be Sydney’s only case for now. Not only did that strike me as unusual, but everything about this mysterious Aiden Thames did as well.
My interest in the book really picked up when Sydney actually meets Aiden. Sparks ignite when they shake hands, and that’s when Sydney’s professionalism metaphorically goes flying right out the window, and she begins thinking and speaking with her heart instead of her head.
To say Aiden is an intense character is almost an understatement. He’s handsome, reserved, and Sydney practically melts into a puddle whenever he looks at her. She sees signs that Aiden suffers from PTSD, and she is determined to do her best to help him acclimate back into society. However, her methods for doing this go far beyond the boundaries of a normal practitioner/client relationship. Even though I was surprised when Sydney invites Aiden to stay with her, and I couldn’t help smiling as she mentally slaps her forehead for making such as rash decision. There are a few more moments like this, when Sydney’s thoughts had me chuckling as she loses her composure around Aiden.
Sydney and Aiden have an instant, life-altering connection that, at first, I found hard to accept. Since Sydney doesn’t have any other cases, she concentrates on helping Aiden outside of the office. I keep thinking, “big mistake.” And just as I expected, their professional relationship quickly crosses over into a personal one. More and more, Sydney sees Aiden as the man she’s been looking for all of her life instead of a man who has been emotionally and physically wounded from battle and needs psychological counseling. For example, on their first night together, she suggests they watch a war movie, not even thinking about detrimental effects this could have on Aiden’s psyche. Aiden’s traumatic flashback during the movie is a clear indication that she really doesn’t know much about what this man has gone through. In fact, she knows very little about Aiden.
Cheryl and her wife Gina, play an important role in the story. They are Sydney’s best friends and have become her new family, since her parents died. Cheryl is the voice of reason: “Wow, Sydney, are you out of your mind? You have no idea what he’s like. He could be all messed up in the head from the war.” Gina, on the other hand, encourages Sydney to embrace the happiness that Aiden has brought into her life: “Just sit back and go with the flow and enjoy the ride, Syd. It could end tomorrow, a year from now, or never. So enjoy every little bit of it.” I understood both Cheryl and Gina’s perspectives, and just like Sydney, I kept swaying back and forth, about whether she is jumping into things a bit too soon.
Their relationship isn’t easy. Aiden has secrets, and just as much as Sydney, I want to know to what they are. I was so intrigued that I read this book in one afternoon because I had to know what Aiden is hiding. It’s suspicious when he refuses to share anything about his past, and furthermore, throughout the story, he makes comments to Sydney that are so melodramatic I begin to question his mental stability.
His cryptic comments and pleas sound desperate, but why? They’ve only just met. How can they have a love this intense so quickly? It can’t be real. By the end of the book, though, I realize their relationship isn’t within the normal realm of falling in love. Their feelings for each other push the boundaries of love beyond reality.
The climax of the story occurs when Aiden’s big secret is revealed, and boy is it a doozie. I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming—the author does an excellent job of providing appropriate foreshadowing, symbolism, and imagery to gently and subtly lead the reader to this surreal conclusion. My surprise compounded by goose bumps and tears left me wishing so much for a different outcome. However, the author does a good job of tying up the book nicely and leaving me with a feeling a peace about everything that happens.
The only aspect that was problematic for me in reading the book is that, at times, when the author brings up the controversial issues of gay marriage, war, and the afterlife, she begins to proselytize. The characters and the events that occur in this story are powerful enough to raise my awareness of the issues and situations without a direct input of opinion.
Nevertheless, this book focuses on the undeniable beauty and power of love, destiny, and fate. The story will linger with me for a long time to come.
I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.
About the Author
Christie A.C. Gucker lives in NJ with her husband, two daughters and a menagerie of pets. Being a mother is one of the greatest joys of her life. She has worked in the advertising industry for over 20 years as a degreed artist, but also works in the fine arts, especially sculpting out of stone or snapping photographs. Christie is also a singer and musician, and can be found singing on a few CDs.
Link to Follow the Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2013/05/now-booking-tasty-virtual-book-tour-for_1015.html
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