3.5 starsCALEB- means "whole-hearted"; one who served with his whole heart
There's always that one character in a series that just has a little je ne sais quoi about him or her that makes the reader anticipate his or her story. I have read a few from the With Me
series and I must admit that ever since the 2nd book, I have been hot for Caleb.
Caleb is gruff, fiercely protective of his family, has a dark/slightly tortured side, screams alpha and hides a heart of gold behind a gruff exterior.
I was psyched that he would be the Montgomery brother that falls for Brynna, the widower with kids, psyched that he insinuates himself in the role as protector and father right away.
In reading Caleb and Brynna's story, I enjoyed the interactions with kids, I reveled in Caleb's jack-knifed-caveman act when he would whisk Brynna away to a corner or leave abruptly to take her home to ravish her (swoon to a puddle!). Yet, Caleb's character is taken a little deeper because time is given to describe his PTSD, which entails his survivor's guilt, a fact that makes him feel undeserving of a family of his own, his nightmares, episodes that sometimes play out violently, and his extreme discomfort in crowds, a condition that can show itself if the company expands outside his close friends and family.
Yes, Caleb is complex and Brynna offers him nothing but love, her girls do too, but the sequence of events in the plot are too formulaic to lend a grand uniqueness to Caleb, and IMO this character deserved that; he deserved to be given more.
The story is told in 1st person and it switches from Brynna's to Caleb's PoV. I liked this form but felt Caleb could have been written darker, especially in scenes where he is forced to protect or forced to face his demons. Mostly Caleb puts off a self-pitying/self denial vibe that pin-pricked an annoyance in me one or two times. He was kind of wavering and waited too late to ultimately decide to take and enjoy what he wanted, and that unfortunately was the gist of the plot, never mind the threat against Brynna's life or potential killers, who surely were dealt with, but we never get full detail of Caleb handling this business, just a summary of it.
For me, Caleb was badass enough to have his combat skills come center stage when he was defending his woman. His PoV was absent when he fights an intruder, investigates Brynna's past and takes steps to ensure the safety of his loved ones. This is who Caleb is characterized to be and I found it a missed opportunity when this side of him was not given some colour. The most we get of Combat Caleb is when Brynna and friends ogle his strenuous, ab-showing work-out routine outside the window.
In all, I liked the story and found that it was replete with the usual fun-loving gang, sexy-talk and steamy romps, and fluff. This series features alphas but even with mentions of murders, killers, soldiering, and would-be betrayals, the mood never descends to a darker feel. The writing is kind of...well...fluffy. So Caleb's character is kind of misplaced at times even though I still loved him.
This has become my favorite story of this series, regardless.