Bob D’Angelo, a sports copy editor with The Tampa Tribune, has written a great review of YOUR GIFT TO ME. This wonderful book that seems to have it all was written by two talented authors, Bonnie Latino and Bob Vale. Bonnie Latino has also written another short book entitled, “Love Bug Love: Doin’ the Deep South Hokey Pokey”. It is hilarious and true! Please click on the Amazon link to see both books, including a poem and short story by Latino.

Romance novel takes a smart, sensitive look at military lives
By BOB D’ANGELO | The Tampa Tribune
Published: September 16, 2012

“Your Gift to Me,” by Bonnie Bartel Latino and Bob Vale (CreateSpace)

Venturing outside one’s comfort zone can be difficult, particularly when grief and romance are tugging at the heart. Leave it to a brassy, perceptive and slightly dyslexic character to put it all into perspective. “Life is like a curve ball,” N’awlins Harrison tells her friend, Emily Ann Meade. “Sometimes you’ve just got to reach way out and slam that thing over the freakin’ fence.”

That sums up the plot of authors Bonnie Bartel Latino and Bob Vale in their military romance novel, “Your Gift to Me.” The authors have combined to write a richly detailed, sensitive novel — punctured by spurts of humor — that relies heavily on their military backgrounds. Military personnel will not find fault with the descriptions of Air Force regimen and protocol.

What’s interesting about this collaboration is that Latino and Vale have never met in person. They began writing together several years after meeting online in 1996 in CompuServe’s military forum. Latino, an Alabama resident, is a former freelance columnist for Stars & Stripes in Europe and has been a military wife for three decades (her husband is a retired Air Force colonel). Vale, from New Jersey, is a graphic designer, writer and photographer and, like Latino, is a member of the Military Writers Society of America.

“Your Gift to Me” is a novel about grief and taking those tentative steps into a new romance, and it also contains a more complicated subplot: Air Force personnel are forced to face a “lone wolf’ who has extremist and distasteful ideas about racism.

Emily Ann Meade is the central character in “Your Gift to Me.” She lost her husband in a fiery Special Operations crash during the first Gulf War. Ten years later, she still grieves and is unwilling to get involved with any man who puts his own life at risk. That is, until she meets a F-16 Viper pilot, Col. Ted Foley, who is battling his own grief since losing his wife to breast cancer.

While Foley is a military guy, he displays a sensitive and creative side that seems incongruous with the rigidity of the armed forces. Are there colonels in the Air Force, for example, who dabble in origami? Perhaps. The authors may have portrayed Foley as a little too sensitive, but creative people do join the military. Although Meade balks at romance throughout the book, Foley finds a way to connect with her, giving her an avenue to clear her mind and find a safe haven for her emotions.

Some of his tactics stem from the advice he receives from his uncle, who had his own set of emotions to deal with. The perceptive words of “Unk” are Ted Foley’s key to unlocking the puzzle of Emily Ann Meade.

“She can’t fall for you if she’s still grieving for him, no matter how long it’s been,” Unk says. “Nobody knows how to mourn these days. We think the wake will be a quick fix. Half the time, people don’t even wait for the casket to be put in the ground. The family rushes off with friends to share a big meal. Then, presto! Everything is supposed to go back to normal.”

Unk calls it “microwave grief.” It’s up to Foley to cook up a way to draw Emily out of her shell. His methods are unorthodox, and at times he seems almost too controlling. Meade eventually breaks off the relationship, but her career as a journalist slowly, tentatively brings them back together as they collaborate to foil the rogue extremist.

Meade and Foley are the main focus of the story. The military couple that introduced the pair have a small role, while the wise-cracking N’awlins Harrison serves up doses of humor and advice, Southern style. Whenever Meade turns maudlin, Harrison is there to puncture the gloom. It keeps things light.

Most of “Your Gift to Me” takes place in Hawaii. Military personnel will appreciate the authors’ attention to detail. It’s an accurate, smart and sensitive look at military lives and military wives.


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