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on August 11, 2009
2 1/2 - 3 stars
Jackson "Jax" Graham is a Navy SEAL whose ex-wife just died leaving their almost five-year-old son, Tyler, without a mother. He plans to give custody to his ex-mother-in-law without a fight, but his commander forces him to take 30 days leave to spend with his son to figure it out.
Pickett Sessoms is a family therapist and specializes in military families. She spies Jax and his son on the beach not bonding and intervenes to give a little help.
When a hurricane blows into town, Jax has no place to go and finds himself asking Pickett for a place to stay to ride out the storm. Plus, he's looking for help with his son.

I had high hopes for this book. It actually started out fairly well. It seemed almost believable that a single woman would allow a stranger and his son to stay with her after having only knowing him for an hour.
Jax is a SEAL--this point is driven home over and over and over to the point of annoyance. I got it! It is who he is and what he does, but does he have to repeat it to himself and everyone else 50 million times?
The middle 1/3 of the book is a huge lull...not much really seems to happen other than Jax repeating his SEAL mantra and Pickett reminding herself that he is a SEAL and won't be there for long. Plus, the author likes to use big words and go into intellectual rants. I couldn't help but wonder if the author was/is a therapist (checked her bio and she was a speech therapist and hypnotherapist, so I was partly correct--she is well-educated).
Near the end it speeds up a bit and comes together and slightly redeems itself. Unfortunately, the end is a little bland and doesn't really finish (some things seemed to hang a little and left the reader to assume the outcome).
I would say that I think this book is good for setting up a Navy SEAL as not only a hero, but a real person with problems and life difficulties. Sometimes other SEAL books make them out to be perfect--heroes, great fathers, husbands, etc...this one actually puts it a bit more on a real level of a hero not really knowing how to deal with his own life.
Overall, this was just a so-so read.

For the KINDLE readers: the formatting on this book is TERRIBLE! It has the page "headers" in the middle of page (like the book was scanned in and the top and bottom of the page with the page numbers and titles were not removed) for a few pages, but not all. Some lines had carriage returns in the middle of the line making the book look like it was in a column, not a page...overall, I was disappointed in Amazon's formatting this ebook.
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on April 15, 2008
Every time you think you have this one figured out Daughtridge comes from a different direction... always with fresh perceptive understanding of the characters' motives. A beautifully told story of relationships and self discovery with enough healthy, fun sex to satisfy most (my favorite was in the swing). This serious novel by a skilled writer is clothed as a romance and I enjoyed it as such, but it deserves to be seen as much more. Witty, funny, tense, rough and tender with credible characters, settings and action.
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on April 4, 2008
Mary Margret has my SEAL Teammates down to a "T". Well Written for anyone that loves a Romance Novel or just a great story. She does understand the human condition and makes you happy about it with this story.

John Carl Roat
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VINE VOICEon March 26, 2008
Navy SEAL Jax Graham has found himself in a precarious situation. His ex-wife's death leaves him as the sole support to his four-year-old son, but his career leaves precious little time for him to play full-time dad. Granting custody to his ex-wife's mother seems like the ideal solution but after spending time with her and his son, Tyler, he's questioning if he's making the right decision . . . and if not then what should he do?

Family therapist Pickett Sessoms takes her job to heart. She knows exactly what she wants and love doesn't enter into the equation. She sees military families struggling all the time to stay together and knows she doesn't have the fortitude to withstand the demands of military life. So why is she obsessing over a little boy and his father she met on the beach?

With a hurricane barreling toward the North Carolinian coastline, Pickett's mother volunteers her to prepare some elderly friends' beach house `because Pickett lives at the beach' - never mind that she lives thirty miles away in Snead's Ferry. While struggling to close the shutters she notices a young boy and his father on the beach, both uncomfortable with each other. Getting involved isn't part of her plans but she can't resist trying to help. When she leaves Jax and Tyler are happily building castles in the wet sand.

When the time comes to evacuate, Tyler's grandmother Lauren is panicky and demands to take Tyler with her. Jax is still on leave and insists that his son will stay with him. He hasn't changed his mind about giving her custody but her drinking is cause for concern. Before leaving Lauren projects her own fears onto Tyler so that nothing Jax does calms his fears. Finding a hotel to stay at until the storm blows over proves to be impossible, but Jax comes up with idea of calling Pickett and asking her to put them up for a few days. Against her better judgment she agrees and they move into her home but Pickett isn't prepared for the emotional attachment that she feels for them. The last thing she wants or needs is to become involved with a military man and SEALs are extremely focused on their career. What she doesn't realize is that she needs a hero just as much as he needs a family therapist to help him form a relationship with his son.

Mary Margret Daughtridge really pulls at the readers heartstrings with her debut release SEALED WITH A KISS. Pickett, Jax and Tyler are wonderful characters who are struggling with their own issues and insecurities that makes it easy to be able to relate to them. I loved getting to know these characters and being privy to their relationship through its ups and downs. What stunned me was how my feelings toward the grandmother went from hatred to almost feeling sorry for her.

Military men are often considered the ultimate hero and highly desirable. Ms. Daughtridge presents Jax in a `human' light and we get to see his vulnerabilities and insecurities. Not traits we normally expect to see in heroes but in this case it works beautifully. SEALED WITH A KISS is a wonderful story that will have readers experiencing a whirlwind of emotions and culminating with an awesome scene that will have your pulse pounding.

Chrissy Dionne (courtesy of Romance Junkies)
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on March 29, 2008
I don't read many romance novels, don't have time. But when the opportunity came to read SEALed With A Kiss, I jumped at it.
It's a thinking woman's romance novel.
Jax and Pickett are complex, authentic characters before they meet, and get even more interesting as their lives come together over one weekend at the beach during a hurricane. The sex scenes are fun (and hot), but the story of how two good, solid, independently minded people fall in love and then help each other to grow and love even more is a page turner.
While some will consider it a great "beach" read, it was a "Friday night into early Saturday morning" read for me. And I'm not a fast reader. It was just too good to put down.
All romance novels have happy endings. I loved Daughtridge's ending because through the storms they weathered together, Jax and Pickett forged a truely healthy, loving relationship.

Dr. Elizabeth Vaughan
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on May 18, 2011
I don't usually go for contemporary romance, or any kind of military romance, but it was free at Amazon, and I decided to give it a try... By almost 4 AM, I figured I probably liked this book I had stayed up all night reading on my iPod to finish.

Jax is given leave to get to know his four-year-old son, who had been living with Jax's ex-wife. Due to the demanding lifestyle of a Navy SEAL, Jax has not seen Tyler much in his four years of life. Now that Jax's ex-wife has passed away, he has to decide what he wants to do about Tyler. Jax has no idea how to behave with the boy, and the first few scenes with Jax and Tyler had my heart breaking. (Maybe because I have a son around the same age). Pickett is a family therapist and can't help but step in when she sees Jax and Tyler on the beach. She knows how easy it would be to get them to start interacting and she astonishes Jax with the ease with which she makes Tyler open up.

I loved that there was some curious attraction between the two at first, but it was not an instantaneous, off-the-charts type of thing. Jax even sees Pickett in the grocery store later that day, and barely acknowledges her, writing her off as high-maintenance and too much work. Jax doesn't want a woman who is going to make demands, and Pickett doesn't really believe in love.

There's a hurricane coming and, after a couple of strike outs, Jax has nowhere to take Tyler during the storm. He ends up looking up Pickett's number because she was the only person who seemed to connect with Tyler and Jax is hoping she will teach him how to connect with his son. Pickett reluctantly allows Jax and Tyler to come stay with her during the storm.

What follows just blew my mind. I fell in love with Jax, empathized with Pickett, and wanted them all to be a happy family. The author does such a great job of having you get to know the characters. We learn about their pasts, what they want out of the future, and we see them grow. The tension between Jax and Pickett is delicious and each is holding back for different reasons. As Jax gets to know Pickett more, he realizes she has some serious hang-ups that he is not sure why she has. Together, they work through her insecurities about herself and his insecurities involving his son.

I just loved this book, I couldn't stop reading. Jax and Pickett's scenes had me sighing at one point, then made my chest tighten with sadness in the next minute. I wanted them to try and make it work, even though they both were trying to convince themselves it would never work. And at one point, Jax even says "This doesn't mean...anything." I could feel my heart breaking!

This is a heartwarming story that made me laugh and cry, and even get angry at some of the characters. I was drawn into the story and didn't realize how long I had been reading until I was done. The sex scenes are steamy, but nothing too explicit. I would probably give it a heat rating of 3 out of 5. There is some description, but not too much. The sexual tension is deliciously built and you may find yourself screaming, "Just do it, already!"
I completely recommend this book, it was amazing!
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on May 9, 2011
I don't always have luck with Kindle books from authors unfamiliar to me, but this book was a perfectly delightful gem. I loved the author's in depth knowledge of SEALs and of family counseling. It was insightful, sweet, and intellectually stimulating. I don't agree that the "SEAL" part was overdone. It's a facet of the armed forces that is not well understood. The training really is as intense and all-consuming as it was described, and I loved that the author brought the training into the rest of life so well. The heroine's thoughts about military life were spot-on and I appreciated the real life context of that as well as of a person living with celiac disease. The family dynamics and learning to navigate them was a beautiful aspect of the story.

I do agree with a previous reviewer that the Kindle formatting was horrible! In every other way, it was a book I very much enjoyed and will read again!
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on April 1, 2008
What an excellent read! From the first page, I was hooked. Daughtridge's characters experience the gamut of emotions and you're right there with them, thanks to the author's style and exceptional grasp of the human condition. The story is filled with challenges, both external and internal, for each main character as they weave their way toward love. Ms. Daughtridge's colorful descriptions of the North Carolina coast and her understated wit make for a wonderfully entertaining first novel. I can hardly wait for her next work!
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on July 8, 2008
SEALed WITH A KISS
MARY MARGRET DAUGHTRIDGE

Rating: 4.5 Enchantments

Dedicated workaholic, Jax Graham is the ultimate Navy SEAL. He's a leader. He's a planner. He's skilled and responsible. And he's deployed about 200 days a year. Burned by his ex and tired of SEAL groupies, he's completely focused on his career, avoiding anything even hinting at commitment. He's on the fast track to early promotion when fate throws him a mission he never trained for - single parenthood! Lacking parental skills and struggling to connect with a defensive, emotionally guarded five-year-old stranger after the death of his ex-wife, Jax finds himself completely out to sea - and not in a good way. Under pressure to surrender custody to his former mother-in-law, well aware of the demands of being a SEAL, and desperate to do the right thing, Jax has dedicated all that he is to making one last attempt to bond with his son - or risk losing him forever.

Lovely, soft-hearted Pickett Sessoms knows first hand how difficult it is for a relationship to survive the grueling demands of military service. A family therapist for a Marine base, she deals with emotional wreckage every day, but she cannot resist offering her help when she inadvertently observes Jax fumbling to connect with Tyler at the beach. When a hurricane forces Jax and Tyler to evacuate, Jax reaches out to Pickett. Even though his first impression has him wondering if she's just another high maintenance woman, it seems that she can offer some of the answers he needs. Pickett may be a little inexperienced, but one look at Jax and she just knows he's not relationship material, and besides, she wants nothing to do with a man who isn't there for her. Yet touched by Jax's protectiveness of his son and glimpses of vulnerability in such an alpha male, Picket shelters them from the storm. Wary of entanglement but drawn to Pickett's innate kindness, Jax must set aside his preconceptions and learn to trust. Will the intimacy inherent in working together in a time of crisis lead them to something more?

SEALed WITH A KISS snatches the reader up into a whirlwind of emotion and never disappoints! Skillfully using the slightly arcane world of the military as a backdrop, the author creates a believable reality for her lead characters, yet does not enmesh them in that culture. Instead, she focuses on the development of their relationship and the very real lessons that each much learn as they discover each other and bond as a family. With very realistic insights regarding the impact of a young child on both a parent and on a new relationship, and the pressures imposed by the demands of a military career, Ms. Daughtridge offers an endearing tale of love found. Glimpses into their early lives enrich the current personalities of the lead characters and enable Jax and Pickett to grow beyond their fears and bridge the gaps that keep them apart. A particularly knowledgeable reader might quibble about a couple of minor inaccuracies about the nature of shared custody and the extent of military authority into custody decisions, but this distraction fades as the author shifts her focus onto the characters. Interesting vignettes involving Jax's fellow SEALs encourage the reader to be on the lookout for the next book by this author. This one's a keeper!

True southerner, Mary Margret Daughtridge has been a grade school teacher, speech therapist, family educator, biofeedback therapist, and Transpersonal Hypnotherapist. A member of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Romancing the Military Soul, she is a sought-after judge in writing contests.

Deana W.
Enchanting Reviews
May 2008
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on July 31, 2011
Plot Summery: Jax's ex-wife dies and custody of their four year old son, Tyler, reverts to him. Jax is a Navy SEAL, and he hasn't had much of a hand in raising Tyler so far. He's convinced that Tyler should be handed over to his grandmother to be raised. Jax's CO orders him to spend some time getting to know his son before he makes any rash decisions, and Jax agrees. He quickly discovers that he has no idea how to handle the kid. When a hurricane threatens to cut Jax and Tyler's visit short, Jax makes the hasty decision to stay with Pickett, a very new acquaintance. Pickett happens to be a family counselor. My first thought was oh, how very (contrived) convenient. That's like having a leak in your roof and having a sexy and competent repairman fall out of the sky and onto your doorstep. With chocolate. And a puppy. Anyway, obviously romance ensues.

Jax genuinely wants to be a good father and do the right thing for Tyler. He listens to Pickett's advice and shows a lot of patience in dealing with the kid. Honestly, I was more interested in the progress that Jax made in his relationship with Tyler than I was in the romantic relationship. The father/son thing was touching without being sappy and felt realistic to me. Jax goes through a full and satisfying process of development throughout the book.

I have some issues with Pickett. I want to say first that I liked her as a character and as a match for Jax. I enjoyed her character arc, though not as much as Jax's. There is this detail, however, which frustrated me a lot. SPOILER WARNING:

Pickett has decided that she doesn't like sex. Furthermore, she has general insecurities about her body. This is because the first (and only) guy she slept with said something kind of mean about her behind her back and she overheard. Then Jax comes along and tells her she looks sexy, and it's this huge emotional moment for her. She literally cries with joy her confidence soars and she decides to go to bed with him. So to recap: one guy says she looks better with the lights off, and she defines herself by it as unsexy. Another guy says "nice legs" and she has an epiphany of self confidence. It bothered me quite a bit that so much of how she defined not only herself, but sex and relationships in general, was based on the opinions of a small sampling of men. This type of plot isn't romantic to me, it's pathetic.

Ultimately, Pickett has some confidence issues and some fear of failure to overcome, and watching her work through all of that was fairly satisfying (the above issue aside). She starts out as a doormat, and to at least a small extent learns to be more commanding.

The relationship has some beautifully emotional moments, and plenty of steam as well. Jax and Pickett balance each other well, and I could see them working as a couple. More importantly, they both love Tyler and they seem to make good parents. I genuinely wanted to see them together as a permanent family.

There are a number of negatives to mention. The above spoiler was the most glaring one for me, but I had some other issues. The dialogue is a bit awkward at times, like the characters are aware of the parts they're playing. It reminded me of the way people talk in soap operas. The narrative gets kind of self aware at times, too, commenting on how romantic this or that moment is. Let's face it, this is a contrived plot to begin with. And it's pretty predictable. It doesn't help to layer on cheesy dialogue and narrative.

Overall, I had a lot of ups and downs with this book, but the good does outweigh the bad. It's a nice character driven contemporary. 3 stars.

(Originally Reviewed for Reading to Penguins)
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