4+ starsI have a lot of mixed feelings about this book.... Some of the GR reviews that I've scanned indicate that some readers feel it's a "pity party" book, and I suppose, in some ways, it is. But it's about real emotions, even if those emotions seem to be about pity.IMO, this book is about the price of not speaking up and asking for what you want - or taking it. It's about living too much in your head and not enough living. And, wow, that speaks to me.Mary Lou - Sam - Ihbraham I know that this is supposed to be one of the two "side stories" in the book, but it's on my mind the most. It was easy to see Mary Lou as just some slut who tricked Sam into marrying her. It was easy to see Sam as the victim of that. But, I'm really, really glad that Ms. Brockmann didn't allow us to stay there. While it might have been annoying at first, I came to appreciate Mary Lou's point of view.Yes, ML made some mistakes. She thought that bagging a SEAL meant a HEA - a far cry from her life thus far. And, in her favor, ML is a great mom to Haley. If she weren't, it would so much easier to hate her. But the truth is, ML's done a good job raising Haley and keeping a house together, essentially on her own. Because, yep, Sam's been more absent than present; even when he's there, he's not really engaged. Sam is in straight survival mode, and that's not right.I was really, really, really glad when Jazz called Sam on it - on not being there, for either Haley or Mary Lou. OK, maybe Sam's not in love with Mary Lou, but SAM made the CHOICE to marry Mary Lou. No one forced him to do so; it's all wonderful that Sam felt obligated to "do the right thing", but in who's eyes? How was making a bad situation worse doing the right thing for anyone? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: My dad, when in the Marine Corps, was given the advice by one of his superiors that "You don't sleep with anyone you can't see yourself being married to." Seeing ML's POV made it clear that Sam wasn't even trying. And that's sad - no, it's cruel. As a SEAL, Sam does things every day that he'd rather not do, and yet, he does them. I'm not saying that Sam should have forced or faked love; but he should have TRIED. Mary Lou tried, in her own way: she attended AA meetings regularly; she got a part time job; she cleaned, cooked, and did the laundry; she tried to do things to make Sam happy, even if she was overly insecure and overly sensitive at times. Sam didn't try. And that really makes me angry at him.And on the reverse side, Mary Lou didn't ASK Sam for what she needed. She nagged. She did. She thought he'd know that what she was doing was for him. And while, in a way he did, ML wasn't being the person that Sam knew before they were married. He knew that she was acting, not living. And she wasn't asking for what she really wanted.Of course, the whole set up with who the bad guy would be... well, let's just say that for it to be Ihbraham would have been too easy and obvious. Ihbraham was obviously a great guy. He took a lot of things in stride. And realizing that Ms. B had to have written this book not long after 9/11, she did an excellent job at putting a human face on Muslims and those of Arabic descent; Ihbraham wasn't al Queda or a Jihadist simply because of his faith or his race. He was a decent guy doing his best to create a living and a life for himself. He was one of the only friends that Mary Lou had - willing to be there for her when no one else was.And THAT'S ANOTHER STORY: The wives/girlfriends of the SEALs... Yes, in that situation, I probably wouldn't have befriended Mary Lou, either. But, again, seeing things from Mary Lou's POV showed that's not right. No one had to be her bosom buddy; but to extend some sort of friendship to her and to at least attempt to include her... wow. So easy to just flip the Bozo/Bimbo switch and walk away from someone.Joan and Mike MuldoonFinally, we discover that Muldoon has a personality under all that perfection! He seemed like one of the dullest guys around... nice to know that there's more to the guy than what we've seen so far. His attitude about how he doesn't have to pursue women, they come to him was more than irritating. In this book, I get to see how and why. Ms. Brockmann does a great job of showing us that men can and are relegated to sex symbol status as much or more than women. And men in uniform - officers in uniform - are even more susceptible. Look at how Joan viewed the Admiral (not Larry), LT (Tom Paoletti), and even Jazz at first! They were man-candy to her. So it was easier for me to see how Muldoon, who sometimes still saw himself as that fat nerd kid, would both use and feel used for his looks.This romance happened FAST. I know, they all seem to, with the exception of Kelly and Tom - they at least knew each other before starting up hot and heavy. And I realize that the urgency and nature of the circumstances of the book - her brother, Donny, the Pres's daughter, Brooke, and the attempted assassination of the President (which was really just crowd terrorism) can bring two people together and forge a bond that can be seen as eternal love. It's tough, 'cuz is it, really?I have hope for Joan and Mike, mostly because Mike wants it to work. Joan is the Every Woman - she's fairly attractive, smart, ambitious, good at her job... but she's not drop-dead gorgeous. She's got her own body image issues and emotional intimacy issues - some because of her own parents, some because of her brother, and some just because it's not easy to be a modern, independent woman and yet still be seen as desirable. It can be tough to need another person (a man) when as women we're so pushed to not need anyone but ourselves. That's Joan's life. But Muldoon finally get's it. He fumbles and bumbles his way through realizing that without asking - without taking - what he wants from Joan, he'll never get it.Vince and CharlieThis is the ULTIMATE in not asking - not taking. It wasn't until the book was virtually over that Vince realized he hadn't been living his own life for the past 60 years. He was living James' life - Charlie's dead husband's life, or what Vince thought his life would have been.Heartbreaking. Pure and simple. Not only that Charlie (Charlotte) had never verbalized to Vince how she really thought and felt about James and then about Vince, but also that Vince never asked. Wow.Their story was a mixture for me - sometimes heart wrenching, sometimes puzzling, and sometimes simply seeming to break up the flow of the story. It was memorable because of the history of the Frogmen - the UDT, which ultimately became the SEALs. ============Lots of lessons for me in this book. Perhaps not for others. But I'm one of those people who can easily live in her head. And when there, it's easy to forget that living in my head isn't LIVING. It's easy to dream, to hope, to want... but until you ASK or TAKE or DO, nothing changes.When Mary Lou finally realizes what she wants - to be loved and accepted, she has to let go of some of her previous prejudices. She has to weigh whether being friends and possibly lovers with Ihbraham is more important than the color of his skin, his differences. That her vision of the "perfect" life (with a Navy SEAL) wasn't so perfect - it was her head's version of perfect. ML might not be my cup of tea, but her life's been drastically different than mine has been. I might not approve of the choice that she and her sister Janine made to get pregnant so that Sam would marry her. But where they've been and what they've lived through - well, that was the way that they thought. That was their version and vision of what would be a HEA. (Again, living in the head and not really living.)Vince spent his LIFE loving a woman he was convinced only loved him as her 2nd choice - in place of her 1st husband, whom he saw as a hero. Vince pushed aside himself and his own bravery and life. Wow. And, unfortunately, as much as his wife truly loved him for him and not as a 2nd choice, she never made that clear. Both of them allowed the ghost of James to disrupt their lives, simply because they didn't discuss him honestly.And this is where Muldoon comes in. He realized in a very real way when Joan pawned him off (or tried to) on Brooke, the President's daughter, that he didn't want to be anyone's consolation prize... 2nd choice. And he knew that he had to make Joan see that she wasn't a 2nd choice simply because she didn't look the way that she thought she should to be with a "god" like him. Or because she was older than he was. It's obvious that this book's ending sets us up for what's next: Mary Lou leaves Sam with a quickie note and divorce papers. But she's running. She's afraid that Ihbraham and/or his brothers were involved in the terrorist attack. And she knows, unfortunately, that her car was the means by which those weapons got smuggled onto the base. That's going to come back to haunt both Mary Lou and Sam. I can't even imagine what it'll do to Sam and possibly his career.I expect we'll learn what happened to Ihbraham because of that very investigation. And that Donny was right - the aliens were watching. Just not aliens from outer space - aliens in the sense that they're foreigners from outside the U.S.While it's easy to see this book as a pity party, that's only the surface. Human beings get caught up all the time looking at and living regrets. We forget to do what Ihbraham and, obviously, AA tells people all the time: Live NOW - this moment, this day. Tomorrow and next week and next year will come and take care of itself. You can life the NOW right now. And you can do whatever you want to or need to do right NOW. And to me, that's an awesome reminder. Which makes this book an awesome book.