Sanctuary is the story of Ed Russell, an Army major in his late 30s who is commander of group in Serbia. While manning a border checkpoint he meets Lea, a 19 year old former college student who is now a refugee. Lea is recovering from pneumonia and is planning to head south to find her family, who left without her. He convinces her that to do so would be suicidal and offers her the chance to stay with him, if she will be his mistress--basically trading sex for food and shelter. She agrees. She gives him use of her body, but guards her heart. Eventually he asks her to marry him and return to the US with him. She agrees, not because she loves him (she is the first to admit that due to her disfunctional family she doesn't know what love is) but because he is kind and needs her.
They return to the US where Lea learns to be an officer's wife. They end up parenting his son from his first marriage and Lea discovers her talent for art. Its a romance novel, so I doubt you think it ends in divorce court.
I started reading the book figuring that a woman must have written it--after all, its a romance novel. Several chapters into it, I turned to the back cover, to confirm my suspecians that it was a man, but no, it was a woman. Why did I think it was a man? Basically because of all the crude sexual references and potty language. Look, I know the book is set around Army life, and I know those guy's language isn't always the nicest, but there is just so much in this book that wasn't necessary to the story. Lea tells Ed's orderly (kind of all purpose servant, but a soldier) that she heard he lost a c.j. competition last week. She didn't know what kind of competition that was; turns out it has to do with masturbation. It added nothing to the story, it was just another opportunity to bring in sexual content in a crude way. In another scene, when they are back in the States, they put their coats in the CO's bedroom, which they see is decorated with Japanese erotic art featuring men with large erect.....again TMI, added nothing to the story...
We are constantly told that Ed and Lea have sex, and we get a few descriptions of the bedroom scenes but these aren't the sweet, passionate encounters one usually reads in bodice-busters. They all sound pretty "slam bam thank you ma'am", but later Lea talks about learning to enjoy sex so he couldn't have been all bad.
These two learn to love each other, but we really don't get to see why or how. Ed's character doesn't make sense in so many ways. He is said to be a born-again Christian and is dismayed when Lea won't go to church with him--but he is the one who took her as a mistress. He asked her why prostitutes did what they did, and didn't seem to see the irony.
When I started reading this book, I almost put it down after a couple of chapters as I didn't care for the crude language or his treatment of her, but I decided to keep going, and did finish the book. The basic storyline is good, but I would have preferred a lot less sexual content and better character development.
I'd like to thank the author, N.E. Julian for sending me a review copy of the book. If you check her website you can read excerpts from the book and learn about her.
To purchase from Amazon: Sanctuary