The Purple Heart by Christie A.C. Gucker
Contemporary Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Categories: Inspirational, Military, Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Pagan Writers Press
Release Date: February 22, 2013
Heat Level: Sizzling
Word Count/Length: 52,000 words/164 pages
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?
Warning: This title is intended for readers over the age of 18 as it contains explicit sex scenes and/or situations and adult language, and may be considered offensive to some readers.
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:
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I just blurted out the words and even shocked myself. “Would you like to come stay and my place?”
“I’ve got a spare room, and it’d be nice to have some company.” I couldn’t believe I was saying the things that were coming out of my mouth. Word vomit. What was I doing? He was a complete stranger. A highly-decorated soldier stranger. A hot, highly-decorated soldier stranger…in uniform. He was becoming seemingly irresistible to me. “
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.
Yet, how can I argue with someone’s feelings of falling in love, especially when Aiden tells her:
“Sydney, I have waited my whole life to meet a girl like you. Actually, I think I was waiting to meet you. Now we have this one chance to have something other people search for their whole lives. It’s being handed to us. I don’t want to stop or slow down. I want to be with you.”
I’m such a sap when it comes to love.
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:
“I can’t exist without you. You mean everything to me.”
“We’re running out of time.”
“You are my entire reason for existing at this very moment in time.”
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 via this book tour for an honest review.
Read an excerpt from The Purple Heart
“Excuse me, Sergeant Thane?”
The soldier stood up, perfectly at attention, and addressed me with a serious, military tone and utter respect.
“Yes, Ma’am.” He offered his hand to shake mine.
My breath hitched in my throat immediately. Any man in uniform was to die for, but he was just drop-dead gorgeous. His dark, messy hair was longer than it should be for someone returning from a tour, and appeared as though he had just rolled out of bed. Sex hair is what I would call it, although others might refer to it as bed head. He must have been at the infirmary for some time. His face was squared and chiseled, and accentuated by a shadow of scruff. His eyes seemed to be piercing right through me. They were a deep shade of blue, but somehow had the appearance they were glowing. I bet now that he was home, all the girls would be knocking down his door, if he didn’t have someone already waiting for him. I couldn’t imagine he wasn’t already spoken for, unless he was a player.
I reached out to shake his hand, and when we touched, I could feel this humming vibration thing happening, from his skin directly to mine. It was reminiscent of something, but I couldn’t quite place it. I found myself holding onto his hand a little longer than was socially acceptably for a first meeting but just didn’t want to let go. I managed to stutter out a few words.
“Um, hi. I — I’m Sydney Porter. I’ll be handling your case.” This reaction was so unlike me. No one ever had this type of effect on me.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said, and he released my hand with a small squeeze.
“Maybe you can just call me Sydney, okay? You’re making me feel old by calling me ma’am.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said again, but this time, I noticed a small smirk make an appearance at the corner his lips.
“Okay then, great. Would you like to go to one of the meeting rooms to talk for a bit?”
“Ma’am.” He nodded his head.
I walked over to the nearest open office, and he followed quietly behind me. He was so silent I couldn’t even hear his footsteps. I wondered if he had been trained for covert military missions or was special ops. I showed him to a seat, which he stood behind until I took mine. One thing about soldiers, they were extremely respectful. I loved that.
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.
After the death of her father, Christie searched for something to fill her desire to make a mark in this world. Her love of the arts and creativity allowed her to search for a new medium, which she found with a pen instead of a brush. Being an avid reader her whole life, and with her family cheering her on, she decided to take her shot, and began writing.
Christie is fascinated by the supernatural and sharks, and studies both avidly. You’ll be sure to find something spooky lurking somewhere in her stories. Her greatest joy is sitting on a beach with her family while surf fishing, flying kites or building sandcastles with her girls.
Christie is on FOUR Amazon Best Selling Lists: Romance, Short Story Paranormal Romance and Fantasy.
Connect with Christie A.C. Gucker
Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author’s Page | AuthorDB
This book is dedicated to every man and woman who has served as a soldier to defend freedom for all. You are heroes. It is also dedicated to the families of those soldiers who give up their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and friends so that we can have those freedoms. Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. Thank you all.
Special dedication to the soldiers in my family, My father, John P. Choida, grandfather Stephen P. Gaida, brother-in-law in-Darren Dreher, my father-in-law Donald Gucker and my grand uncles who have served or continue to do so for our country.
I want to give a special shout out to Battling BARE for all their hard work to help soldiers and their families recover from PTSD! They have a special place in this book!
5.0 out of 5 stars – from KimCheck
“I have read 2 of Christie’s books and one of her short stories and I have to say I’m very impressed with her writing. I have had the pleasure of meeting her as she was so very gracious to call in to my book club and chat about her books and her writing which impressed me even more! The Purple Heart was a story that draws you in and makes you feel like you are living within the story line. This story took me to a place I did not expect at all. The characters in the book became so alive in my head that I truly felt connected to every turn the story took. I highly recommend The Purple Heart and will be sure to let everyone know how great it is.”
5.0 out of 5 stars – from tori muise
“This book had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t put it done! Beautiful book and I’ve been telling everyone I know to read it!!!”
5.0 out of 5 stars – from Ireland
“This book was one that I could not put down. I started it on Friday night and finished it on Saturday night, it was that good! I did not want it to end. I can’t wait to read the next book that Christie Gucker writes!”
5.0 out of 5 stars – from BRIAN E LAROCQUE
“Her best book yet! Great story and great characters! I loved the Cheryl and Gina story as well. I’m sure we will be reading more great stories from this new author!”
5.0 out of 5 stars – from Newest Fan
“Although I am an avid reader, I seldom feel the need to write a review for a book. With The Purple Heart, I just had to. I discovered this book by accident, wanted something to read on a cold winter’s day. I no way expected to be pulled into this love story. It pulled me in alright. Pulled at my heart strings. What a beautiful love story. Classic, romantic but completely unpredictable. Discovering this book and this author, Ms. Gucker was a delightful surprise. Can’t wait to read your other works.”
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