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To celebrate the long Independence Day weekend, we’re going to do book reviews starring men who served our country with honor … starting with the heartwarming (and heartbreaking) Return to Glory.

*****

cover48928-mediumIn Glory, Kansas, the best bakery in three counties not only brings together ingredients for sweet treats, but is the place where—through the powerful mix of friendship, community and a well-stocked kitchen—a wounded hero can forge a forever kind of love.

Back in the hometown he left behind five years ago, Jack McConnell has returned battle-scarred and feeling like half a man. But Betsy Lewis only sees the hero who once saved her life and set her heart on fire. Now she’s burning to save him in return. She’ll use every trick she’s got up her sleeve, from her generous natural assets to her talent for baking, to coax Jack out from the bottom of his whiskey bottle.

At first, Jack responds to Betsy like any red-blooded man would. He’s always denied his attraction to the innocent girl he used to know, but he’s returned to find Betsy’s grown into a full-on woman with strength enough for both of them. Until Jack realizes the only way to conquer his demons and be worthy of the hero’s mantle she’s pinned to his shoulders is to save Betsy one last time—from himself.

Ya’ll, Jack and Betsy just about broke my heart … and I loved every page.  There are moments of great beauty and moments of extreme heartache, but there are so many wonderful, ordinary moments in between.

Betsy’s sassy and sweet at the same time, and I love her style.  She may be a little over her head with handling Jack’s troubles but that isn’t going to stop her from trying.  She’s caring and I love the relationship between her and Jack, as well as with her friends and family (especially her brother Caleb and his best friend India).

Jack has had so much bad happen to him that it is hard to imagine how he made it home and it is not surprising that he’s broken because of it.  He’s strong for making it as far as he has but he’s also got to realize that sometimes even great men need help.  The lead up to the moment he decides to fight is wrenching, although I do wish we’d seen a bit more of his recovery.  There is so much to be made of getting him to that point that I would have liked to have seen just a bit more of how he handles it from there.

I adored the Jack and Betsy together.  They each do so much for the other and even when Jack’s broken he’s still got so much heart (he just doesn’t realize it).  I just ate up the way their relationship changed over time and it added so much more oomph to their love story to have them be such a large part of each other’s lives for so long.  They are sweet and touching, and troubled, and the ending just brought a huge smile to my face.  It’s the perfect way to wrap up their relationship.

I can’t wait for the next book – hopefully we’ll get to see Caleb and India finally figure things out.

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