Honor Reclaimed (HORNET #2) by Tonya Burrows
Publication Date: May 27, 2014 / Entangled Publishing
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Adult Fiction
Former Marine scout sniper Seth Harlan is new to HORNET and anxious to prove he can still do his job despite an ongoing battle with PTSD. He remembers all too well what it’s like to sit inside an enemy camp, praying for rescue and waiting for death. So when a black ops soldier contacts HORNET to rescue a buddy who was left behind, all sorts of nasty memories strain his newfound stability.
When an interview with a runaway Afghan child bride leads photojournalist Phoebe Leighton to an arms deal involving a suitcase bomb powerful enough to wipe out a mid-sized town, she realizes this is one battle she can’t win on her own. Forming an unlikely alliance with a ragtag team of military and government delinquents, she meets Seth, a sniper carrying as many emotional scars as physical, who impresses her with his steely will and ignites passions within her she thought long dead.
Suddenly this mission is about a lot more than an abandoned soldier. Racing against the clock, Seth, Phoebe, and the rest of HORNET struggle to stop that bomb before it reaches its final destination: The United States.
After reading the first book in the HORNET series, I thought Burrows was off to a very good start in her creation of this rag-tag group of men from different military and law enforcement backgrounds who have joined the HORNETs unit, a group of private military contractors who specialize in hostage rescue missions. Now, after reading this second installment, Honor Reclaimed, I can say with certainty that this a series that readers of romantic suspense should consider because of the wonderfully flawed cast of characters and the well-balanced mix of action-oriented suspense and tension-fueled romance.
The title itself and opening quote for Honor Reclaimed are fitting to describe the hero’s story, former POW marine, Seth Harlan, who is the newest probationary member of the HORNET team. In the preface, Burrows quotes Khalil Gibran:
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
This statement sums up Seth’s character so well, his struggles with PTSD and survivor’s guilt, and most of all, his deep yearning to belong again.
Seth was invited to join HORNETs at the end of the first book because of his exemplary sniper skills, but readers don’t actually meet his character until now. The other team members are wary of Seth. They see him as a wild card, unpredictable and unstable because of his PTSD. At the start of the book, Seth is an outcast who hasn’t been fully accepted into the unit, and the frequent mistakes he keeps making during training exercises only exacerbates the existing tension between him and the rest of the team. His teammates don’t trust him, and Seth knows it. Until he can prove that he is an asset to the unit, his future with the HORNETs is questionable.
When the HORNET unit accepts a case to rescue a soldier who has been captured by an Afghani terrorist, Jahangir Siddiqui, while on a black ops mission, the team must travel to Afghanistan, and Seth is horrified and panicked at the thought of having to return to the place where his worst nightmares occurred. His PTST stems from his last mission in Afghanistan where he lost his entire team in an attack, and he was taken prisoner and tortured for 15 months before being rescued. Seth is deeply physically and emotionally scarred from his ordeal and is weighed down by survivor’s guilt. In many ways, he has emotionally shut down, but he knows this latest mission will put him to the ultimate test. If he can’t pull himself together and perform successfully, his career with the HORNETs is over.
Once back in Afghanistan, Seth’s memories of his time there become sharper and, at times, threaten to overwhelm him and make it difficult to do his job. It’s hard to read Seth’s story without being affected by his heart-breaking experience. Burrows has done a good job in bringing to light the pain and struggles of a man fighting to hold on to his humanity and to find peace despite all the horror he has endured. Seth is stronger and more courageous than he thinks. He is a survivor, and his perseverance and determination are admirable and inspiring.
The heroine of the story is Phoebe Leighton, a photojournalist working in Afghanistan who writes stories about the plight of women and young girls. Her most recent story about child brides puts her in danger after she begins asking too many dangerous questions that threaten the political future of Siddiqui, the same man the HORNETs are trying to find. Their dangerous circumstances bring Phoebe and Seth together and she begins helping with the team’s mission. Phoebe finds Seth intriguing, and the harder she works to get to know him better, the more she finds herself caring deeply about this stoic man who keeps others at a distance. I found the following dialogue between Seth and Phoebe to be particularly poignant when Seth apologizes to Phoebe after he snaps at her:
“Don’t.” She wasn’t fully aware of speaking the word aloud until he swung around and faced again. “I mean, you don’t have to apologize for anything.”
His features darkened. “And you don’t have to give me any special treatment just because you know my sob story. If I’m being an asshole, tell me. It’s the only way I’ll-” He stopped short and edged past her. “We need to get moving.”
She wasn’t quite sure what made her reach out and catch his hand, but his whole body went rigid. She drew away and clasped her hands together, lest she keep finding ways to touch him. “It’s the only way you’ll…?”
His throat worked. “It’s the only way I’ll learn to be human again.”
He walked away, leaving her to gape after him in stunned silence. Did he really believe he wasn’t human anymore? Yes, he’d lived through the unimaginable, and going by his screams while in the grip of a nightmare, she didn’t want to imagine it. And yes, he was ragged around the edges, a walking open wound with psych issues galore. But he still had a beating heart. Thoughts, feelings, fears. He was still human and someone should prove it to him.
Phoebe sees the beauty of the man behind his scars and she wants so much to help Seth. Surprisingly, Seth discovers that being around Phoebe calms him. He is more relaxed and less jumpy. Even the rest of the team notice that Phoebe has a stabilizing effect on Seth, and they hope that will help him keep his head in the game. Seth is drawn to Phoebe and is surprised at how much he enjoys her company:
“But this woman. She didn’t handle him like he’d break. She acknowledged his issues and let him deal, but she treated him like…like a human being. It was such a refreshing change from everyone else in his life these past two years, he could kiss her for it. And that was the second time the thought of kissing her had crossed his mind.”
Their romance evolves slowly but the passion between them sizzles in the love scenes, which are explicit.
However, Phoebe is far from perfect. She’s made mistakes in her past, one in particular that she’s can’t bring herself to share with Seth. Her shame and guilt over what she’s done have led her to try to make a fresh start, and she hopes to make atonement by using her writing and photography skills to bring awareness of the problems of others to the public’s attention. Phoebe’s character is flawed but real, and one lesson she must learn is that no matter how hard we try, we can never escape from our past. The aftereffects of the mistakes we’ve made often linger, and until we face the repercussions head on, we can never really leave the past behind and move forward. This is what Phoebe has to do, but she risks losing Seth for good.
In this second installment, I see the supporting characters developing and becoming more rounded. For example, Quinn’s brain injury from a previous accident continues to affect his work, and he worries he won’t be able to stay on the team. Ian finally makes a friend, and readers get a glimpse of the real man behind the sneering, indifferent, and cold-hearted veneer that Ian wears so well. The HORNETs are still far from the cohesive group they need to be. Their different personalities, experiences, and emotional wounds have molded some of the team members into men who don’t always play well with others. Their endeavors to learn how to work together add another layer of richness to the plot so the story never stagnates. Just as in real life, change isn’t always immediate, and it will take time for the team to build trust.
The plot is more complex that I originally anticipated and full of conflict. The first half of the book focuses on rescuing the imprisoned soldier from Siddiqui’s compound, and in the second part, the stakes become higher as the HORNET team try to keep Siddiqui from possessing a suitcase-sized nuclear weapon. The pacing is effective and the action and suspense intensify as the story progresses. The importance of forgiveness, redemption, and trust are three key themes running throughout the story. To sum up, this was a great read!
Source: Received an ARC of the book from the publisher for an honest review: All quotes have been taken from a pre-published copy and may have changed or been omitted from the final copy.
Writing has always been my one true love. I wrote my first novel-length story in 8th grade and haven’t put down my pen since. I received a B.A. in creative writing from SUNY Oswego and I’m now working on a MFA in popular fiction at Seton Hill University.
When I’m not writing, I spend my time reading, painting (badly), exploring new places, and enjoying time with my family. Give me a good horror movie over a chick flick any day. (And, let’s be honest, I’ll take a bad horror movie too!) I’m a geek at heart and pledge my avid TV fandom to Supernatural and Doctor Who. I’m also a big fan of The Voice. What can I say? Guilty pleasure.
I share my life with two dogs and a ginormous cat. I’m from a small town in Western New York, but I suffer from a bad case of wanderlust and usually end up moving someplace new every few years. Luckily, my animals are all excellent travel buddies.
Purchase from Amazon Honor Reclaimed (HORNET)
The conclusion of Honor Reclaimed reminded me of “Home” by Philip Phillips. This one goes out to you Seth Harlan!