Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Richard “Tank” Martin was a big boy from the start. Born weighing over 11 pounds, he didn’t stop growing. When he was in middle school, a football coach took him under his wing and finally explained to him the mystery of calories in, calories out and from then on it was all good for him. At least he thought. Being called to meet with his platoon sergeant and told that he was now part of the Army’s overweight program, sent him into a spin that only his crews can help him out of.
Dr. Jack Dillon thought his life was good and finally settled. Part of an active veterinarian practice, volunteering with a service dog organization, spoiling his sister’s triplets and training in sports jiu-jitsu…the only thing missing was a partner. He never thought that his world could be shattered with just a phone call even after being around his military friends.
Tank and Jack have been dancing around each other for months until Tank takes a chance and kisses Jack at their friends’ wedding moving their slow dance into a heated bump and grind. Can these two survive the changes coming their ways together or will all the changes break them apart?
It seems I always learn something new about military life when I read one of Kris Jacen’s stories, especially her series With Me. Step Up with Me, the fifth book in the With Me series, addresses an issue I hadn’t even thought was a problem with the military. That of weight and body issues. I had no idea. i just assumed (bad me) that all the constant training and workouts kept everyone ready and well, slim or rock hard. I should know better considering all the various body types out there and struggles with weight that just don’t mysteriously vanish one you enter the military. Or that it has such serious repercussions if not met. Including the end of a career.
Yes, the U.S. Army has Weight Standards for its Soldiers , men and women. Army Body Fat Measurements that includes an army body fat calculator and the Military Tape Test which Jacen makes such effective use of in her story. She also notes that the current standards are under review and, hopefully will be updated to more realistic measurements.
All of this brings us to Richard “Tank” Martin, a man who has been fighting with his weight and body image all his life. Solid muscle by any standards, a recent “tape test” has deemed him overweight and his superior officer put him on the Army’s Overweight program, which carries not only a stigma but potential career consequences. This in addition to the emotional impact its having on Tank himself, who is not only frustrated in his attempts to lose weight but dealing with the old issues of poor self image as well.
Tank is easily one of most recognizable and connectible characters of all of the military unit for me. Perhaps it’s in his issues with his body image, his quiet manner of questioning his choices later on in this story, or his appreciation of all the difference people in his life, his teacher on nutrition and diet (who just happens to be the wife of one of the Heptad). Maybe its a largesse of character and personality to go along with his body that Jacen has created for him, a huge heart as well. Whatever it is, Tank is someone who I gravitated towards immediately. You will too.
As we saw towards the end of the last story, a swift surprise kiss with Dr. Jack Dillon moved a tentative romance ahead and that’s where this story starts off.
Both men are already established characters and here they come more fully into depth, revealing more layers and backhistory as their romance progresses and we see Tank work through his “program”, learning to eat better, exercise more in a way that suits him all the while talking about body positivity and support.
The two men together are so special and just settling in, when another traumatic event happens to throw them and the reader into an emotional spin. I wasn’t prepared for just how much pain this section caused but as Jacen has done her normal outstanding job of putting together a character that we cared about, however briefly, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Then come the triplets, oh my. And a family unit.
I won’t give too much away except to say how much I love this story. All the many other characters from previous books appear as support and, as have been proven over and over again, the military families joining forces to act as an extended family to those in need. It was heartwarming, moving, and it felt as authentic as could be.
With Me is such an outstanding series and Step Up with Me (With Me #5) by Kris Jacen is another exemplary reason why I always recommend this series and this author. The writing is so smooth as to be impeccable, the plots realistic and moving, and the characters real and memorable. Read them all in the order they were written for a memorable journey with a group of people you won’t soon forget.
Cover art: Kris Jacen. I adore this cover by the author. It’s perfection in its representation of Tank and one of the triplets. Now I need to read it again.
Kindle Edition, 125 pages
Published February 20th 2019 by MLR Press
SeriesWith Me #5