Released : 3/3/2015
Stay focused. Get a job. Save her father’s life. Beth Lamont knows far too much about the harsh realities of life her gilded classmates have only read about in class. She’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her father, even if that means tutoring a guy like Noah – a guy who represents everything she hates about the war, soldiers and what the Army has done to her family. Noah Warren doesn’t know how to be a student. All he knows is war. But he’s going to college now to fulfill a promise and he doesn’t break his promises. Except he doesn’t count on his tutor being drop dead gorgeous and distracting as hell. One look at Beth threatens to unravel the careful lies Noah has constructed around him. A simple arrangement turns into something neither of them can deny. And a war that neither of them can forget could destroy them both.
There is nothing that gets me straight in the heart like a patriotic read. Regardless of the pain in the story, the heroism and strength the men and women of the military possess always catch me. A lump forms in my throat thinking of the sacrifices these brave men and women make to ensure our safety and our freedoms. I think that is why Jessica Scott’s books are must reads in my life, no matter how they find their way into my life, they are my military lovin’ books and they always hit a soft spot I hold deep down inside for the men and women who serve, who have served and for those that have made it home. She tells their story and she lets their voices be heard. They are always an emotional read for me because of the characters. I want to hug and embrace each one of them knowing that they have sacrificed so much defending our country.
Before I Fall takes a hard look at what it is like for the families of the men and women who serve and the demons those who serve have to face when they return home. A home that may or may not feel like something they left behind. It is a raw and real look at the medical system that the vets have to face and a gut wrenching look at what their families go through in the aftermath of war and the lingering effect it has on soldiers.
I feel so much strength in Beth’s character. She lives her life the only way she knows how, by protecting her father, by sacrificing everything a girl her age should be enjoying and by finding hope in the future. She knows she can’t solve all the problems she faces with her dad, but she will put up the fight. Sometimes that strength needs to be found in others around her. She is in a great school getting an amazing education because of the sacrifices her father made. She will not let him down, even if the VA benefits seem to have shoved him into a system he may never find his way out of.
But in the process of protecting her dad, helping her dad, working and going to school, she has been give a student to help by tutoring him. She could use the extra money from tutoring him to make ends meet, but she knows it is a difficult choice in doing so. He is a soldier. He was in the war. He is something that she never expected and him well, he see something amazing in her.
Noah has been given the opportunity to go to this amazing school because his LT made sure of it. But he knows it is going to be nothing like the battle he faced overseas. He knows that he has his own demons that he faces each day. The anxiety, the trauma from the war have left him missing so much inside. But this is his chance to overcome everything that is haunting him. But he has to want to do it for himself. He can’t just do it for the girl who he wants to give everything he has to. It’s a fine line when you need to recover.
But it also sets Beth up. She has spent so much time taking care of her father, does she have what it takes to take care of Noah too? Can she take on his battle and still fight the ones she is already tackling?
The harsh realities of medical needs of those who served is at the forefront, but love is at the root of this amazing and inspiring book. I fell in love with Noah because he wants to get better, if not for the one woman he is falling in love with but for himself. I loved Beth’s strength and courage. Through it all she still looks for the light at the end of the tunnel. It is a long dark path, but her strength guides her through it and it is just inspiring.
This book just captured my heart as do all of Jessica Scott’s books. She speaks to that soft spot I have for the military. It is a big place in my heart and she finds the words to make it that much more. Powerful and full of strength and honor. I loved this book!
My dad has good days and bad. The good days are awesome. When he’s awake and he’s pretending to cook and I’m pretending to eat it. It’s a joke between us that he burns water. But that’s okay.
On the good days, I humor him. Because for those brief interludes, I have my dad back.
The not so good days, like today, are more common. Days when he can’t get out of bed without my help.
I bring him his medication. I know exactly how much he takes and how often.
And I know exactly when he runs out.
I’ve gotten better at keeping up with his appointments so he doesn’t, but the faceless bastards at the VA cancel more than they keep. But what can we do? He can’t get private insurance with his health, and because someone decided that his back injury wasn’t entirely service-related, he doesn’t have a high enough disability rating to qualify for automatic care. So we wait for them to fit him in and when we can’t, we go to the emergency room and the bills pile up. Because despite him not being able to move on the bad days, his back pain treatments are elective.
So I juggle phone calls to the docs and try to keep us above water.
I leave his phone by his bed and make sure it’s plugged in to charge before I head to school. He’s got water and the pills he’ll need when he finally comes out of the fog. Our tiny house is only a mile from campus. Not in the best part of town but not the worst either. I’ve got an hour before class, which means I need to hustle. Thankfully, it’s not terribly hot today so I won’t arrive on campus a sweating, soggy mess. That always makes a good impression, especially at a wealthy southern school like this one.
I make it to campus with twenty minutes to spare and check my e-mail on the campus WiFi. I can’t check it at the house – Internet is a luxury we can’t afford. If I’m lucky, my neighbor’s signal sometimes bleeds over into our house. Most of the time, though, I’m not that lucky. Which is fine. Except for days like this where there’s a note from my professor asking me to come by her office before class.
Professor Blake is terrifying to those who don’t know her. She’s so damn smart it’s scary, and she doesn’t let any of us get away with not speaking up in class. Sit up straight. Speak loudly. She’s harder on the girls, too. Some of the underclassmen complain that she’s being unfair. I don’t complain, though. I know she’s doing it for a reason.
“You got my note just in time,” she says. Her tortoise-shell glasses reflect the fluorescent light, and I can’t see her eyes.
“Yes, ma’am.” She’s told me not to call her ma’am, but it slips out anyway. I can’t help it. Thankfully, she doesn’t push the issue.
“I have a job for you.”
“Sure.” A job means extra money on the side. Money that I can use to get my dad his medications. Or, you know, buy food. Little things. It’s hard as hell to do stats when your stomach is rumbling. “What does it entail?”
“Tutoring. Business statistics.”
“I hear a but in there.”
“He’s a former soldier.”
Once, when my mom first left us, I couldn’t wake my dad up. My blood pounded so loud in my ears that I could hardly hear. That’s how I feel now. My mouth is open, but no sound crosses my lips. Professor Blake knows how I feel about the war, about soldiers. I can’t deal with all the hoah chest-beating bullshit. Not with my dad and everything the war has done to him.
“Before you say no, hear me out. Noah has some very well-placed friends that want him very much to succeed here. He’s got a ticket into the business school graduate program, but only if he gets through Stats.”
I’m having a hard time breathing. I can’t do this. Just thinking about what the war has done to my dad makes it difficult to breathe. But the idea of extra money, just a little, is a strong motivator when you don’t have it. Principles are for people who can afford them.
I take a deep, cleansing breath. “So why me?”
“Because you’ve got the best head for stats I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen you explain things to the underclassmen in ways that make sense to them. You can translate.”
“There’s no one else?” I hate that I need this job.
Professor Blake removes her glasses with a quiet sigh. “Our school is very pro-military, Beth. And I would consider it a personal favor if you’d help him.”
She’s right. That’s the only reason I was able to get in. This is one of the Southern Ivies. A top school in the southeast that I have no business being at except for my dad, who knew the dean of the law school from his time in the army. I hate the war and everything it’s done to my family. But I wouldn’t be where I am today if my dad hadn’t gone to war and sacrificed everything to make sure I had a future outside of our crappy little place outside of Fort Benning. There are things worse than death and my dad lives with them every day because he had done what he had to do to provide for me.
I will not let him down.
“Okay. When do I start?”
She hands me a slip of paper. It’s yellow and has her letterhead at the top in neat, formal block letters. “Here’s his information. Make contact and see what his schedule is.” She places her glasses back on and just like that, I’m dismissed.
Professor Blake is not a warm woman, but I wouldn’t have made it through my first semester at this school without her mentorship. If not for her and my friend Abby, I would have left from the sheer overwhelming force of being surrounded by money and wealth and all the intangibles that came along with it. I did not belong here, but because of Professor Blake, I hadn’t quit.
So if I need to tutor some blockhead soldier to repay her kindness, then so be it. Graduating from this program is my one chance to take care of my dad and I will not fail.
USA Today Bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house. She’s also written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View Regarding War, and IAVA. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice. She’s pursuing a graduate degree in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.