An absolute pleasure to read
My feelings after finishing this book can be summarised in a four-letter word: sigh. I’m an unashamed fan of the Ask, Tell series and when Ms. Noyes announced that she was writing another book, I did a happy dance. This novel feels like a belated birthday present, so thank you, EJ Noyes, thank you, Bella Books.
Lieutenant Colonel Rebecca Keane is a successful US army doctor leading a surgical team deployed in Afghanistan. She’s used to repressing her sexuality under the strict Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. But when Captain Sabine Fleischer joins her team, she feels an attraction that is hard to suppress. As Sabine’s direct commanding officer, Rebecca knows she cannot act on her desires but when a mutual attraction grows between them, it gets harder to ignore her feelings. However, under strict Army rules, acting on their attraction means risking not only their hearts but their careers.
This is book 4 of the Ask, Tell series formed by Ask, Tell (book one and Noyes’s excellent debut, 2017), Ask me Again (book 2, 2018), and If the Shoe Fits (book 3, 2019). If you are new to the series, first, what are you waiting to read it? and second, I don’t recommend following the publishing order. If I don’t ask retells the events of Ask, Tell (which was told from Sabine’s point of view) this time from Rebecca’s perspective. The timeline of both books is very similar though If I don’t ask starts a bit earlier. However, I suggest starting with Ask, Tell, following with this book, then Ask me Again and finishing it with If the Shoe Fits. The reason for this is that Ask, Tell has an element of surprise that you don’t want to miss but, at the same time, it creates an enigma around Rebecca Keane that this book reveals. (After writing this review, I noticed that Ms. Noyes suggests the same reading order in her blog post at Bella Media).
We are rarely privy to the same set of events told in two separate books from different points of view. This novel reminded me of the Winter Jacket series by Eliza Lentzski which covers part of the same story in book 0 and book 1. Rebecca Keane – like Hunter in Winter Jacket – is a pleasure to unveil when getting into her headspace. Some reviews of Ask, Tell complained that Rebecca’s actions seemed rushed but now that we can see the depth of her feelings and her personal circumstances, her decisions make complete sense. This book closes the full circle of the story and completes it.
If you have read Ask, Tell, then this novel loses any element of surprise but it doesn’t mean that it’s not heart-wrenching all over again, even if you know what’s coming. Additionally, Rebecca’s point of view, the discovery of her most intimate thoughts, her relationship with her best friend Linda (who unfortunately doesn’t appear in the rest of the series), a glimpse of her moral compass and work ethics, give a fresh perspective of the same events. In the acknowledgments, Ms. Noyes says that this book felt like a self-indulgent project but let me tell you, it’s not. At the risk of sounding like a hard-core fan of the series (which I am) I’d say that this book is necessary, plus, it’s a pleasure to read and who can reject that? I can’t wait to listen to Abby Craden narrate this story on audio and say “darling” again. More sighs coming from me.
Overall, another winner by EJ Noyes. An absolute pleasure to read. 5 stars.
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.