Impossible Choice is the continuation of the Unchecked series, begun in book 1,Impossible Promise. In this installment, Layna and Blaze find their fledgling relationship put to the test when, shortly after his deployment to Afghanistan, Blaze is wounded and returns home to recover.
Read on for my review!
Impossible Choice picks up shortly after Blaze deploys to Afghanistan, leaving Layna heartbreakingly lonely and lost without him. Part of what I love so much about this book is that the author doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the difficult feelings. Loneliness, anger, fear, jealousy, lust…they exist, and we all feel them. The characters in this book feel them. Things aren’t always picture perfect and beautiful, with the hero and heroine skipping off into the sunset, everyone fulfilled and no feelings hurt. And, as much as it shreds the heart to read those kinds of truths, it makes the characters so much more real and relateable.
“I craved him–his touch, his smile, the intense way he looked at me. I missed him more than I missed my parents and that scared the hell out of me.”
That quote. Right there. That’s what connected me to Layna’s emotional state at the novel’s opening. Can I relate to sitting bored in my bikini by the pool at my ritzy house in South Florida? Ha. Not even close. But I think that deep yearning–the craving–is something we can all relate to. Add to that yearning a sense of missing love, of feeling a total loss of security and certainty about your place in the world? A loneliness that surpasses that felt with the loss of ones parents–for many, the providers of a person’s first and deepest sense of belonging and security–is a deep kind of loneliness that brings with it a gnawing, aching emptiness. Now hold on to that feeling for a minute. Imagine that one of your best friends in the world (who also happens to be a devilishly sexy man) shows up with his smiles, hugs, and abs of steel.
“Every reason why I’d thought I’d once wanted Talon seeped into my bones like poison. He laughed, he played, he teased. He wasn’t half way around the world, fighting a war I couldn’t see, he wasn’t even a marine any more.”
There has always been a tangible attraction between Talon and Layna, and it’s not hard to see why. Talon, despite his shortcomings, is a genuinely good man. And when he decides he cares about someone? It’s for good. So, really, it’s no surprise that Layna is, once again, tempted by the sinfully sweet apple that is Talon, is it?
“But Buck was–a complex, strong, silent marine. He carried the world and shouldered responsibility because that was the type of man he was. He didn’t make it look effortless, he made you not realize he was doing it. And I loved him.”
Oh yes. But wait. What about Buck? I’ll admit that I didn’t really connect with Buck in book 1, Impossible Promise, but everything here? The complexity, strength, and silent shouldering of responsibility? It really comes to life in Impossible Choice, making Buck more real…more tangible. This isn’t just a cheap romance novel where the heroine goes with the sexiest man because he rocks her world and treats her like a queen. There’s more to it, and this book really makes it possible to see why, as delicious as Talon is, Layna chooses Blaze. And THAT is an essential knowledge that makes everything else in this book come to life, grab you by your heart, and refuse to let go. And we’re just a few chapters in…
“The light went out, the bedroom door closed and I knew. Nothing was ever going to be the same. I would never sleep again without nightmares. I would never watch him deploy without fear. I would never be free as long as he was at war.”
Never having been a military wife (or significant other), my understanding of their everyday struggles before reading Impossible Choice was abstract at best. The way that Bartel paints it here, though? As a constant fear, keeping Layna a prisoner of war for as long as Blaze is fighting? It makes the pain more real, and it makes Layna’s wish for Blaze to be done with the Marine Corp about so much more than a selfish bid for attention. It’s about survival, connection, and peace.
“He wanted me to need him. He needed me to need him, body and soul, like he thought he needed me. He didn’t want to be alone in this. He was lost like I was lost and suddenly I realized that if we were lost together, nothing would be insurmountable.”
The most beautiful part of Impossible Choice, though, was Layna’s realization of the equity in their need for one another. Their relationship isn’t just about Layna needing security and affection from Blaze. It’s about Blaze needing that tether to his life outside of deployment and war. It’s about Blaze and Layna being lost together and, with each other, finding their way home.
Keep your eyes peeled for my interview with the Impossible Choice author, Sybil Bartel, coming on September 16th!