Title: Everything Changes
Author Name: Melanie Hansen
Publication Date & Length: March 13, 2015 – 68,029 Words
Former Marine and lower-leg amputee Carey Everett keeps a grueling schedule of counseling fellow war veterans and their families. The injury he received in Afghanistan forces him to rely on a reserve of strength he didn’t even know he had. A much deserved vacation will let him reconnect with his best friend, who saved his life and has been there for him through devastating injury and painful recovery.
Part-time EMT and aspiring singer Jase DeSantis has been in love with Carey for years, but he’s come to accept that his straight friend will never be able to offer more. Jase fills his days with band rehearsals, ambulance shifts, and willing groupies, all while trying to cope with debilitating PTSD.
A week of sun, fun, and music in San Diego changes Jase and Carey’s lives forever when their relationship takes an unexpected turn. Jase has been longing for that change, but it leaves Carey reeling with confusion. As Jase fights to hold things together, Carey deals with doubts, fears, and his own preconceived notions about labels and the true nature of love.
This is truly a beautiful piece of writing. The enduring friendship between Marine Corey and Medic Jase is forged in the heat of an Afghanistan warzone. The men are inseparable on deployment until a tragedy leaves Corey badly injured and Jase trying desperately to save his life even if he can’t save his leg.
Both men return from the war deeply damaged, but their friendship is immutable. What Jase never tells Corey is how much he truly loves his straight best friend.
Hansen’s elegant prose elevates this book beyond the average wounded warrior story. Her characters are complex and fully developed. Hansen never shies away from the realities of war or underestimates the strain of civillian life on former servicemen and women. Her plot drags readers back and forth in time until we have no hope but to fall madly, deeply in love with both of her captivating leading men.
A character in the story explains that “the best kind of love is friendship that has caught fire.”
Hansen captures this love with sensual, sumptuous language. Corey’s growing awareness of Jase sexually is delectably slow. The chemistry between Jase and Corey is explosive, delivering moments of almost unbearable desire. The slow burn attraction between two men who have loved each other for a very long time is painfully sexy.
Jase and Carey are kind of an odd couple. They had such a close connection while in the army – so close, that they stayed connected even after the tragedy that is war touched their lives.
Carey seems to hold all of his emotions in side. He hides himself away. Hints from his past creep in to the story and the reader can then guess as to why Carey is the way he is. His character was a hard nut to crack – despite his inner dialogue, he was very frustrating at times. I wanted to hit him over the head to get him to really see how he was living.
Jase is much more free spirited. He is much more go with the flow. However, even with that attitude, he was not unaffected by the war and he has his own demons to overcome.
Despite years of loving each other, neither was able to express that love for quite some time. The story of their love is a struggle – it is filled with years of meaningless encounters with other people, sometimes with each character floating through their life, not really living. While I thought the story was slow at times, I really liked how Hansen brought it all together.
One quote that really hit home was “Just give me one more day. And if that’s all you have to give me, it just today, I’ll take it.” I think that is a great way to get through rough times. This story was about survival, love, finding yourself and finding happiness even among the broken pieces of your life. Today is not tomorrow, nor is it yesterday and these characters were able to live in the moment. So many times, people are not able to do that.
So, this story was touching, hopeful and romantic.
“You keep looking at me like that, this ain’t gonna last long,” Jase growled. Carey smirked, then twirled his finger in a turn-around motion.
“I feel like a piece of meat,” Jase grumbled good-naturedly, but turned in a slow circle. Carey’s mouth watered as he took in Jase’s broad shoulders and muscular back, tapering in a perfect V into slim hips and high, round buttocks. Carey was a little bemused at how looking at another man’s body was revving him up, but it was. It was just… Jase. Carey already knew how beautiful he was on the inside; now he knew how stunning he was on the outside too.
Using his support leg and his arms, he pulled himself to the edge of the bed and sat up, crooking his finger “Come here.”
Jase’s eyes flared hot, and he took the few steps necessary to reach the edge of the bed. Carey reached up slowly and moved his hands onto Jase’s hips, stroking over the hipbones lightly before tugging him forward to stand between his legs.
“I just want to touch you,” he said hoarsely. “Is that okay?”
Jase smoothed Carey’s hair back from his forehead, his fingertips achingly gentle. “Touch me,” he said
One of my characters in Everything Changes, Carey Everett, is an amputee due to an injury he suffered in Afghanistan. The surgery he received to remove his damaged leg is called a transtibial amputation, which means below the knee. Carey is fortunate in that respect since transfemoral, or above the knee, amputations are more complicated and prosthetic fittings more difficult. With a transfemoral amputation, an artificial knee is required so the recovery time and mastering the range of motion takes longer.
Prosthetic comes from the Greek word meaning “addition.” The oldest prosthetic discovered in history was on the mummy of an Egyptian noblewoman dating back 3,000 years ago. It was a prosthetic toe made of wood and leather and was fully articulated, meaning it could bend and move exactly like a real toe.
Carey wears a prosthetic made of a blend of lightweight plastic, carbon fiber and titanium. He attaches it to his residual leg, or stump, with a suction socket. When he dons, or puts on, his prosthetic, he bears down until air is expelled through a one-way valve and a vacuum seal forms. When he doffs it, or takes it off, he opens the valve to expel the air and break the seal.
Fitting for a prosthetic is a long, arduous process since an amputee’s residual leg is constantly changing due to swelling or shrinkage. Physical therapy is painful and involved. Carey was already dealing with a traumatic and life-changing injury, and adjusting to and learning to walk again with an artificial leg was emotionally and physically draining. Jase’s support and care during this time made all the difference to Carey’s recovery, and it cemented the existing emotional bond between them which eventually turned to love.
Melanie Hansen has spent time in both Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.
She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.
Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.