He’d make the perfect husband—if he wasn’t a Marine…

After her husband is killed in Iraq, Tessa Matthews makes a promise to herself—never date another man in the military. Especially a Marine. A flat tire and dead cell phone threaten to challenge that vow when Gunnery Sergeant Dylan Cooper comes to her rescue. But can she ever allow herself to love a Marine—again?

He loves her but being a Marine is all he knows…

Dylan has never wanted any other occupation than being in the military, but now he’s in conflict. He knows Tessa cares for him, but she won’t allow herself to trust him or let the relationship develop past friendship as long as he’s a Marine. He’s also keeping an important secret from her that could end their relationship.

When the truth comes out, Tessa is devastated. How can she trust him with her heart when he could be killed at any moment?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In To Love a Marine by Debbie Lee, Tessa Mathews is a recent widow who lost her marine husband to the war in the Middle East. Afraid to love a military man again, she denies her attraction to the handsome marine captain, Derek Cooper, who stops to help her change a flat tire. He is determined to win her, despite her resistance. But when he finally does, she discovers a secret that could destroy their relationship.

To Love a Marine is the second book from Lee. And while the first book was a good offering for a new author, Lee seems to come into her own on this second one. To Love a Marine is a touching and poignant story of loss, grief, and true love.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: To love a Marine by Debbie Lee is a heart-breakingly touching story of an all too real situation that many young women find themselves in today. Tessa Mathews married the love of her life and when he was killed in Iraq where he was deployed as a marine, she decided the pain was too great and she would fall for another military man. But she hadn’t counted on the handsome, and persistent, marine caption Dylan Cooper, who is relentlessly wearing down her resistance with charm and compassion. When she falls, she falls hard. Then she discovers that he can’t stay. Now her heart is breaking again.

I thought the story was very well-written. Lee handled the difficult subject with sensitivity and compassion. I could really relate to Tessa has she struggled to keep her heart from being broken again, even though she knew she was doomed from the start. The story is warm, sweet, touching, and has an authentic ring of truth that was almost painful at times.

Chapter 1

Rifle fire pierced the still morning air. With each shot, Tessa Matthews felt a deep stab of pain in the middle of her chest. Off to the left, seven stone-faced Marines in their dress blues stood waiting to complete the task that had been asked of them. Each movement was precise and tightly synchronized as they readied themselves for the next pull of the trigger. Their highly polished black shoes glistened in the sun against the emerald green carpet of grass. Behind them, rows of white marble headstones gave testament to the other brave men and women who had found their final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

Even though the temperature was nearing a pleasant eighty degrees, Tessa shivered as a chill rushed through her. One she felt penetrate deep into her bones. Sitting on the folding chair in her simple black dress, she stared through dark sunglasses at the flag covered casket in front of her. The last thing her husband, Ben, had said to her was that he’d be home in about a month, just in time for their wedding anniversary. It turned out he’d been right–but not like they had planned.

The third and final round of gunfire broke through Tessa’s wandering thoughts, bringing her back to the painful reality surrounding her. A sea of black enveloped her, friends and family who’d come to pay their last respects. Her parents sat on one side and Ben’s on the other. She could hear crying behind her. In some odd way, it gave her comfort to know that so many people cared about him. Yet, she also believed, that for them, the unfortunate incident would soon become only a sad, fading memory. For Tessa, it was just the beginning of a hollow and excruciatingly lonesome existence. Now she had to figure out how to go on without him. How to live each day and pretend things were going to be all right. But they weren’t–not ever. There would always be this gaping hole in her heart that nothing could ever fill.

Four Marines approached Ben’s casket, two on each side. Reverently and solemnly they lifted the American flag that had been draped over the top. With meticulous precision, two of the men folded it thirteen times, forming a tight triangle with the bright white stars facing up against the field of deep blue.

One of the men approached Tessa and presented it to her. Then without a word, he quickly turned and walked away. Closing her eyes, she hugged it against her chest for a moment before placing it on her lap.

After the Chaplin finished speaking, she felt every muscle in her body tense as she watched a young Marine lift a shiny brass bugle to his lips. At the sound of the first note, she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold back the heartbreaking tears welling up within her any longer. Taps. The haunting melody ripped at her heart. She pressed a linen hankie to her nose until he lowered the horn.

It was over.

People came up to her and expressed their condolences. They commented on how strong and brave she’d been for being able to hold it together during the service. She didn’t even have the energy to fake a smile, so she just nodded. Tessa had heard all the encouraging words she could stomach since news had gotten out that her husband had died. She’d been told that it would get easier with time, that she’d get over the heartache and find someone else. How dare they trivialize Ben’s death!

She felt as if they were talking about him like the passing of the family goldfish. Something easily replaceable. Then they assumed her life would simply carry on. She knew they meant well, but it took all the strength she had not to scream. Her love for him would last forever. No one could ever take his place in her heart. Not in a month, not in a year.

Not ever.

Over the last couple of weeks, Tessa had felt as if she had been drowning in her unbearable grief and loss. She’d wept for the man she loved. For the children they’d never have. And for their future together that had been stolen.

There would be no happily-ever-after.

© 2014 by Debbie Lee