Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
Calvin and Camden Luna — why yes, their dad is a big baseball fan— have moved around the world with their parents. Their father has been in the military since before they were born. Proud of their father and uncles and all they’ve done, neither of them is sure the military is for them. Cam is a fantastic baseball player and Cal loves the science of everything. Haven’t they given enough?
Tristan Nolan and Maddy Holt both grew up as military kids too, but neither of their fathers moved them around as much as the twins. Maddy wants to save the planet and capture the heart of Calvin Luna… if he’d only open his eyes. Tris has grown up wanting to follow in the footsteps of those before him. But can he be himself — out and proud —serve and protect his country and end up with the one he’s loved for as long as he can remember?
What can happen when you grow up a military brat with the ties that they have with their fathers’ close friends and their families? Find the love of your life almost from the start? Or find out that maybe you’re all too close for anything else?
I have loved Kris Jacen’s With Me series from the very first story Wait for Me. From that foundation novel, Jacen established a universe, tone, and overall series framework that pulled her readers into the world of military families and soldiers, the units that become to tight that they form a brotherhood unlike any other, one that also then encompasses their families as well, and then extends out to future generations coming up the ranks. We watch them toil, and sweat, and work through major issues, deep ones, military in nature, emotional, and sexual.
Some of the men start off alone and get pulled into the heptad, a strong group of men that trained and fought together. Others were there all along as part of the foundation. And we watched and were there, connected through our hearts as each and everyone has found their HEA, And gotten married. Some have had kids, those that had kids or adopted, well, we watched them grow up through theses stories. We felt as much a part of these families as these men did.
That is the beauty of Jacen’s writing. It’s her intimate knowledge of this world and it’s workings. Her compassion for the families and her acknowledgement of the strength and flexibility or perhaps adaptability it takes to be a military spouse and family. And the support system needed as well. It’s all here, layered in, all the characters, the kindnesses and the tears, the food and the packing, the stress and the pain. And also the joy, the love, and the fierce pride in serving their country. That is here too and never forgotten.
I loved the men and I love the romances. And I though the author was finished with the series with her story Step Up With Me. With that book, she seemed to have wrapped up things nicely.
Then out comes Always With Me (With Me #6) and it’s a whole new generation. Literally. And in so many ways it just doesn’t seem to fit in with all the books that went before. Style, characterizations, and even editing. Something happened here with this story and that’s surprising.
The first thing (and this element is something the author noted in her forward) is that there are too many voices. Hard not to do with when the book is about twins but the format of the book which moves the storyline forward by ages (ex Cal age 26, Cam age 28) doesn’t give the reader a smooth flow. It’s jumbled to begin with and lacks a continued character growth for both men. That’s the other thing. We have two men here. One gay, that’s Cam. One, het, that’s Cal. To do each justice, each needs their own story. But both gets jammed into one here and it suffers from that.
The book flip flops back and forth between brothers quickly, never really resting too long for any depth or layering to set in. We know that Tristan and Maddy (kids now grown from other men in the heptad) are going to be the twins boyfriend/girlfriend. But when it happens, it’s so quick, that you find yourselves blinking in astonishment over the suddenness. Cam and Tris needed their own story. By putting Cal in here too with Maddy no one got the story they deserved and everyone came off pale shades of what could have been.
So I think this book and romances hurt by a jumbled format and hurt by too many characters not allowed to show growth and development.
But the final issue for me was the editing. I will give just one example. Under the Chapter Cal Age 26 . This is the chapter where Tris is surprising Cam but first meets up with Cal for a talk. Every word that is supposed to say Cal says “Cam”. For pages. So it looks like Tris is talking to Cam about well, Cam. It’s jarring and removes the reader totally out of the story. There were other issues but this was the most egregious. And yes, it was the final copy.
Then ending did see everyone show up from many of the other stories, brief appearances that were nice to see but again only made you wish for those couples and stories in comparison.
This was also lacking much of the military life that one normally expects to see in this series, especially as Tris went into the military as a career, a huge thing and should have been a major element in their relationship. And it was barely addressed, again something that was left by the wayside because too much had to be fit in . But made no sense in what is essentially a military series.
So I absolutely recommend books 1 through 5, I will leave book 6 up to you.
Cover art: Kris Jacen captures the twins perfectly.
Sales Links: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 114 pages
Published May 24th 2019 by MLR Press
With Me Series:
Always With Me #6