About That Man

After Tex

Amazing Gracie

The Cowgirl & the
Unexpected Wedding

A Love Beyond Words

The Unclaimed Baby

Michaelís Discovery by Sherryl Woods
(Silh. Sp. Edition #1513, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24513-0
The Devaney brothers are back, and this time itís Michaelís story of how he learns to face his past and embrace his future. Kelly Andrews had a crush on Michael when she was a teenager and he was her brotherís best friend, but he never saw her as anything but Bryanís little sister. When he finished high school, he joined the Navy, became a SEAL, and never looked back. A mission gone wrong changed all that, putting Michael in a wheelchair and eliminating his only source of self-respect, his career at a SEAL. Not even being reunited with his two older brothers, Ryan and Sean (Ryanís Place, Seanís Reckoning) can replace that.

After three surgeries, still in a wheelchair and in need of long-term physical therapy to see if he can ever walk again, Michael yields to his brothersí demands that he move back to Boston, where he grew up with the kind of loving foster family that neither Ryan nor Sean were lucky enough to have had. And on the list of therapists that Ryan hands him soon after he arrives is one he recognizes: Kelly Andrews.

But Kelly isnít the teenager she used to be. Not only has she grown up into a beautiful woman, she is also a strong, self-confident one that doesnít take no for an answer. A talented therapist, she is willing to use every ploy she can to get Michael back on his feet, including persuasion, harassment, dares, challenges, and hot, steamy kisses. Once she sees the man Michael has become, her crush quickly turns into love, and her commitment to him for therapy into wanting to be committed to him for life. Michael, however, canít get past the fact that heís not the man he used to be, and never will be again, or deal with the scars left when his parents deserted him and his older brothers when he was only four, instilling in them all the belief that none of them were lovable or worthy of love. Thereís no doubt that thereís a sizzling attraction between them, but Michael knows Kelly isnít the type for a short-term affair, and thatís all he thinks he can offer her.

Kelly and Michael are realistic, complex characters who carry the story easily. Michael is crippled not only in body but in mind, paralyzed by the fear that everything he based his identity on has been taken away from. He survived his childhood by sealing himself off emotionally, a tactic he continued to employ during his SEAL career, never getting close to anyone. Now he is unable to reach out and accept the love that everyone around him - Ryan and his wife Maggie, Sean and his wife Deanna, his foster family the Havilceks, and Kelly - is offering him. He vacillates between wanting that closeness and being frightened of having it and then having it taken away. Kelly, on the other hand, wants a relationship with Michael, and is deeply hurt by his blowing hot and cold, not realizing that his psychological scars have to heal before he can connect with anyone else, or that that healing requires the time and space that she is too impatient to grant him.

Those familiar with the previous books in this series will enjoy the chance to reconnect with familiar characters, but this book, as well as those, is able to stand on its own. The Devaneysí family expands to include new characters, including Greg Keith, an ex-SEAL whoís now runs a fleet of charter boats. The brief glimpse of him is intriguing enough to make me hope that he will have a book of his own before the series is over, or at least be part of future books, with a romantic connection of his own.

There are a few flaws to be aware of however. Both Kelly and her brother live with their parents, although they are plenty old enough to be on their own. Bryan is a psychologist, but is one of the densest characters in the book, making one wonder how effective he can be with patients. Kellyís work as a therapist is only part-time, in spite of the fact that she is written as a successful professional who certainly should be able to get a full-time job. Moira, Kellyís best friend, doesnít seem to be a fully-realized character, and the thread about her and Bryanís involvement is weak.

Nevertheless, Michaelís Discovery is a good and satisfying read, which shows a different perspective of the life of a SEAL, and how the love and support of family and friends can help heal both a crippled body and a crippled soul.

--Joni Richards Bodart

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