This isn’t a pretty story, it’s thought provoking, it’s gritty, and it’s real but it’s also very, very good. ~ Slick, Guilty Pleasures
There is no job like company command. Commanders must be all things to all people and are often inadequately prepared to assume these roles. At the tail end of the Iraq war and facing yet another deployment, the Pale Horse battalion has recently swapped out every company commander in an attempt to root out inherent corruption. There are five new commanders and each will be tested far beyond anything they ever thought possible.
Captain Ben Teague wants neither the responsibility of command or the commitment but his request for release from active duty is denied, leaving him with little choice. Frustrated and angry, Ben sets about trying to get fired, wanting nothing to do with leading soldiers in a war he deems futile.
Major Olivia Hale is shocked by her reception in the Pale Horse Battalion. As the person who is meant to formulate legal opinions that keep commanders out of trouble, she’s greeted not as part of the team but as an obstruction.
But Olivia sees more in Ben than he sees in himself and as the legal challenges in his new command grow, so too does the pressure and the strain. A night of comfort, of reaching out for someone real turns into something more. And Ben and Olivia must navigate the complex world of the Pale Horse battalion.
Review copy provided for an honest review
I’ve always appreciated the way author Jessica Scott manages to incorporate the issues that face our military men and women into her books. She isn’t preachy about it, she simply states the facts that most people would like to overlook. In It’s Always Been You we see a commander who doesn’t want to command not because he can’t, but because he simply cares too much about what will happen to his men when he’s forced to make decisions that affect their lives. We see men who are broken from war but not getting the care they need and we see the effects it has on their families when they don’t. This isn’t a pretty story, it’s thought provoking, it’s gritty, and it’s real but it’s also very, very good.
Lieutenant Ben Teague has been to hell and back and while he tried to get out of the Army his general of a mother wouldn’t allow it and now he finds himself back in command someplace he never wanted to be again. He’s been tasked with cleaning up his command and getting rid of the soliders who aren’t playing by the rules. Unfortunately, some of those soldiers are people who have kept him alive and served him well in combat. While trying to save his men he’s forced to go head to head and toe to toe with Major Olivia Hale an attorney assigned to ease the transition.
I won’t lie reading about some of the issues that face our military today truly makes me a little sick to my stomach and I hope to God that there are officers out there like Ben Teague who try to do the right thing to help these men and women who deserve it. Ben is one of those men that has scars; scars from a childhood interrupted by war and scars from being in a battle and not being able to protect the men who served under you. He’s lost his faith in the system and believes that nothing you do ever really matters.
Olivia Hale has her own scars as well; scars from a father ravaged by war and substance abuse and scars from mistakes she feels she made in her career. She’s tough and she plans to help clean up this unit no matter how many people she has to take down to do it. Unfortunately she doesn’t quite know what to make of the Lieutenant who doesn’t seem to want to command yet will go to the ends of the earth to protect the men under him.
I found the interplay between Ben and Olivia to be intriguing. Even when they were on opposite sides of a situation it was easy to see they wanted to understand where the other one was coming from. They might not agree but there was a respect between them that couldn’t be missed. And the sparks, wow they were zinging all around the room whenever these two were together. They went fairly easily from foe to friends to more but I felt like this had a lot to do with the fact that they respected each other. It didn’t seem unnaturally fast, it just seemed right.
As with every one of Ms. Scott’s books the secondary characters play a huge role in the plot and this one is no different. I was happy to see Reza and Emily from the last book doing well and both offering advice and a swift knock up the head to their friends when needed. Most of all I was impressed by Ben’s new First Sergeant Gale Sorren he was the calm in a rocky sea and I admired his ability to not only keep the men in line but to help keep Ben on track. His character added so much to this story and without him it wouldn’t have been the same.
This is one of those books that will stick with me, there was so much brought up that I think I’ll have a hard time letting it rest. Once again author Jessica Scott has blown me away with her frank and honest assessment of how things in our military run and what we can do better and on top of that in It’s Always Been You she showed us that sometimes the person you think will be your biggest adversary turns out to be your biggest cheerleader.