Returning To Eden – Rebecca Hartt – Acts of Valor #1 – Rise UP Publications – Published 1 October 2019
Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden’s husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the reminiscent attraction she feels.
Jonah Mills knows he has work to do. Unfit for active duty, he commits himself to therapy and relies on faith in the loving God who sustained him through torture and hardship to also heal his body, mind and family.
But as the memories lurking in his wife’s haunted eyes and behind his step-daughter’s uncertain smile begin to return to him, a disturbing chain of events is revealed. If his memories are truly real, not only is his career at stake, but so is the welfare of his small, cherished family.
I am always on the lookout for new authors within the Christian genre and so I was excited to give Rebecca Hartt’s Returning To Eden a try. Exciting, and tense, Returning To Eden is part romance and part suspense.
When Eden receives a phone call saying her husband, missing in action presumed dead, is actually alive and on his way home, it’s a shock. And not necessarily a good one. Eden and her daughter were just getting used to their freedom without a neglectful and controlling husband and stepfather. But Eden is resolved to offer Jonah support in his recovery, especially when she discovers he has no memory of the past two years, no memory of her or their marriage, and it seems he is a new and changed man. But Jonah is certain the dangers of the past year have followed him home and he is determined to protect his family, even if following his hunch means he could lose them forever.
I enjoyed Jonah’s side of the story. A story about his brave return from a year spent being tortured and to a situation of which he has no memory. He is determined to win back the affections of his wife and stepdaughter, realises he has a lot to make up for and is on guard for the trouble he can sense coming. He is a man of faith, determined to trust in God for guidance and protection, yet he’s not content to sit back and do nothing. There is plenty of both romantic tension, as Jonah tries to show Eden he is a changed man, and dramatic tension, as he tries to recall his last mission and prepares to counter a looming threat. While there wasn’t much room for surprise with the mystery of who was behind it all, as Jonah is so clued into the situation and the reader gets to ride along with him on his investigation, there was still plenty of close calls and action.
However, I didn’t like Eden all that much, which sadly detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story. While I can totally understand her reluctance to resume a romantic relationship with her husband due to his previous ill treatment of her and her daughter, her constant doubting of Jonah, of putting his suspicions and concerns down to him having PTSD or being ‘crazy’, was annoying and narrow minded. Sadly I think Returning To Eden had a great chance to help destigmatise PTSD and failed to make the most of that opportunity. While I can totally understand why Jonah and his family would rather he wasn’t diagnosed with PTSD, I didn’t like the way it was referred to in such demeaning tones. Eden even mentions breaking up with Jonah should he be diagnosed. This, I believed contributed to the judgemental tone surrounding mental health in this book. She had no reason to doubt his training or combat experience (he was a lousy husband but an excellent warrior) and frankly her explanation for “I thought you had PTSD and so therefore I discounted all your observations, experiences and concerns, etc,” wasn’t good enough.
I really enjoy Miriam’s character. Strong, independent and just finding her way in the world, Miriam was the perfect tension reliever and I really enjoyed her blossoming relationship with Jonah.
Returning To Eden is classified as Christian fiction. The characters pray, quote scripture, attend church and freely speak about God. They are not without faults or profess to be perfect, which I liked (and also disliked, see rant above about Eden). There is also plenty of romantic and sexual tension between Eden and Jonah, as they rekindle their relationship.
Overall, Returning To Eden is a compelling story about second chances and faith-renewed romance, with action and strong military heroes.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Adult fiction
Genre: Christian – Contemporary.
Themes: Family, returned soldiers, military, memory loss, romance, daughter relationships, PTSD.
Advisory: Frequent sexual references.
Published: 1 October 2019 by Rise UP Publications