Review: Resilient Heart by Annabeth Albert

Rating: 3:25 🌈

Resilient Heart is an expanded short story that appeared in an earlier released collection of stories. Here the author has added an additional 10k words to give her characters a closure to their romance.

I didn’t read the first version and love this author so I thought this was a new release and took it that way when reading it.

Albert takes on some very hard, emotionally traumatic themes in Resilient Heart. Very current and tragic ones that are still impacting families and the country today. That’s our disabled veterans, and their dire need for support and treatment. It’s just not from our current wars and engagements but also from Desert Storm and wars past. The effects of war don’t cease to exist because the war does, history has taught us that.

It’s a lesson I’m not sure we’ve learned.

These themes are woven through a years long relationship/romance between two soldiers. Mackie and Xander. It’s Xander who’s in need of support and treatment, not that he’s accepting it.

Xander’s life is shattered along with his NETCOM unit when a IED exploded under their truck, killing most, leaving Xander scarred and an amputee. You might say Xander stands in for that population of our disabled vets, angry, depressed, a victim of PTSD and with a body he no longer recognizes.

A two person POV narrative helps the reader get under Xander’s mindset all the times he’s struggling with his emotional and physical “battles” and losing. Xander’s not comprehending what is happening to him mentally or equipped to deal emotionally with his disability and ending his career with the Army.

Mackey is harder to connect with here for me because much of the information he’s withheld from Xander is also withheld from the reader. He’s back in Xander’s life, after totally realigning his career for Xander and Xander’s rehabilitation. This after years of apparently a friends with benefits only relationship. Nothing more.

Even with Mackie’s perspective, I’m not sure I didn’t agree with Xander most of the time here and think nope, no clarity. It’s a complete guilt trip for Mackie.

So when the truth does come out, and the climax of the story hits, it works against the romance for me in a way perhaps the author didn’t intend.

Mackie not only never gave Xander any options or opportunity to have any say but even after it’s out, Xander never completely “owns” his truth. Calls himself a coward but never tells Mackie the truth, his truth about those decisions. What he, Xander, would have done given the opportunity. Instead, he keeps it “hidden “. No clarity between them still.

Felt wrong, felt like an imbalance in this relationship. Just my opinion.

The event does get Xander into therapy and medication is realistic. It ends well for him.

Just an aside. Walter Reed or the Naval Medical Hospital as it both known here locally is 243 acres of clinics, doctors and specialists. It’s sits across the street from NIH, which I’m very familiar with. It too is a small city at its head is a certain Dr. Fauci. National Institute of Health is a small city of 300 acres of buildings, clinics, doctors and scientists. It’s not unusual to see uniforms walking between campuses and white jackets scurrying under the lights across 355 as workdays and worlds intertwine.

Albert certainly gets the area right.

However, Walter Reed has just 244 hospital beds available. The local area alone? Home to Fort Derrick , Andrews AFB, Ft McNair, Joint Base Ft Myer-Henderson, Ft Meade, Aberdeen, more than I can name off the top of my head. You have any idea how many military are deployed in and around this area? 244 beds? Do the RL disabled vets get the same type of experience as Xander? Immediate response to the need for assistance, for therapy, and support? Not really, most don’t.

I only wish it were so.

While I enjoyed the romance I’m not sure a short story can unpack all the aspects of the huge themes and emotional elements Albert was trying to deal with here and do them justice.

There was too much left to discuss in what Mackie had done , to them and their relationship as well as what the repercussions had meant going forward. That was sort of brushed off.

As was his depression and PTSD. That was taken care of far more easily then it often happens in RL. The reality I know of the VA and the disabled veterans clashes too much with the rosy picture painted here.

So yes, some lovely things and some things that seem less than realized. I think that’s due primarily to the length and not the author.

If you like Annabeth Albert, you might have already read this story and will enjoy the relationship epilogue.

Her Out of Uniform series are terrific and I’d look there for a great series to start.

Synopsis:

Originally released as part of the Unconditional Surrender bundle, now available as a stand-alone novella complete with BRAND-NEW 10,000 word short story/epilogue. When a wounded soldier is forced to accept help from his former best friend, both men discover the true strength of their entwined hearts.

Army IT specialist Xander keeps his emotions wired as tight as his NETCOM gear, but when he’s seriously injured by an IED, his whole life unravels. Running out of options, Xander must accept help from his ex-friend-with-benefits, Mackey. However, Xander’s had feelings for Mackey for years, and close quarters only complicates his emotions. Further, Xander doesn’t know which is worse: combating his inner demons or dealing with Mackey’s guilty kindnesses.

Mackey’s always kept his emotions close to his chest, but now he’s got a secret that could destroy his one chance with the man he cares far too much for. Both men will have to heal their wounded hearts to ensure a future together.

Entwined Future: In this new short story, Mackey has news that could change everything for him and Xander, but a visit from Xander’s family jeopardizes Mackey’s plans–and forces Xander to confront some harsh truths

Resilient Heart by Annabeth Albert – Goodreads

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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