While recovering in the hospital Neal is promoted to full Colonel. He doesn’t feel that he deserves the promotion; doesn’t feel that he did enough to help during the attacks. Now his unit will be traveling to Afghanistan without him as he has a long recovery ahead. An Airborne Ranger, Neal is committed to his job and country. He also recently became the legal guardian of April, his orphaned 8-year-old niece. She’s living with his parents at the moment, running through a series of nannies. She wants to live with her Uncle Neal and she can’t even talk to him on the phone! Nurse Arlene Taft is still caring for Neal who used to have quite a crush on her when they were kids. She often reassures April that her uncle is recovering just fine and defends April when she’s concerned about the way she’s being treated by her nanny. Before long Neal is released from the hospital to complete his recovery at home and Arlene prepares to move overseas for her next assignment.
Nearly 2 years later Arlene is stationed in Germany. She runs into Neal Allen, who is stationed at the same base with 10-year-old April in tow. To Arlene’s surprise April not only remembers her, she immediately throws her arms around Arlene and thanks her for saving Uncle Neal and helping her with her nanny. She thinks Arlene should be Neal’s girlfriend and not-so-subtly tries to get them together. Neal had a crush on Arlene the girl and he’s certainly interested in Arlene the woman. Arlene didn’t like the boy Neal was, but the man seems to be very different. She still sees traces of the wild exciting boy though, and wonders how deep the changes she sees in him actually run. How can a man like Neal stay interested in steady, reliable, boring Arlene? She’s fallen for the wrong man before and she doesn’t want to repeat her mistakes. She decides to take the chance but when she discovers that Neal has been keeping a secret, will it tear them apart?
COURAGE UNDER FIRE is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging military romance, focusing more on people and relationships than on action. Arlene and Neal each have very strong commitments to their jobs, families and responsibilities. There is a solid secondary romance involving younger characters whose lives are intertwined with those of the main characters. April is neither a whiny kid nor a perfect angel thrown into the story as a prop – she’s a loving and lovable child. Most of all, I loved watching Arlene and Neal grow both individually and in their relationship, and seeing how they handled each obstacle thrown in their paths.