Jun 30 2013
General John Mitchel and his favorite pilot, Gabriel Sanchez, served together as comrades and brothers-in-arms for more than twenty-five years. They followed the warrior’s path: honor first, and service, and the safety of the tribe. Their own needs for love and companionship were secondary to the mission. Retirement from the army, however, proves challenging in ways neither expected.
When old warriors retire, their armor starts falling away, and the noise of the world crowds in. That changing world sets up longings in both men for the life they might have had. After years of loving on the down-low, the idea of living together in the light seems like pure sweet oxygen to men who have been underwater a little too long. But what will it cost them to turn their dreams into truth?
Dear Miss Black,
I am a huge fan of your writing. I used to think that you were one of the few writers in the m/m genre who has mastered the art of writing real short stories and novellas. Recently you started writing longer books, and I was even happier. Unfortunately while I found many things to like in your latest novel, one aspect of the storyline and characterization made me angry, both right after I have read the book and then again when I reread it.
Let’s start with what I loved first. I loved that both characters are mature men in their late forties – early fifties, because mm romance does not have nearly enough of older protagonists. I loved that after retirement John and Gabriel choose the professions that make them use their brains: John becomes a college professor and Gabriel a lawyer. Not that I mind when in so many m/m books army vets choose the professions like private detective, bodyguard, etc., but I’ve thought more than once that many retiring officers have a lot to offer to professions like John and Gabriel choose. So I was very happy to see the characters actually choosing to make a living with their brains in their civil life.
I also loved the chemistry between the guys and I thought the writing was exquisite – as in so many of her previous stories. There are not many sex scenes and none of explicit ones – this is also one of the features of her works – but the connection between Gabriel and John felt so real, so very beautiful.
My favorite character of the book was undoubtedly John’s nephew Kim, whom John had brought up as a son since Kim’s parents died. Kim is a beautiful spirit and the love between him and John was very well portrayed.
Kim smiled at him from across the table, and John remembered a summer’s day in the park when Kim was four or five. He’d come whirling across the green grass, his arms outstretched like wings, and he’d announced his soul looked like a butterfly and was full of beautiful colors.
Kim had been the darling of his tiny Catholic orphanage in Seoul. There was no question, from the moment he had crawled delightedly into John’s sister’s arms, which baby they were going to take home. John’s sister and her husband had stayed with him on base while they worked through the lengthy system for foreign adoption. The Koreans required a six – month wait between the initial application, done in person, and the final award of adoption. When they had gone back to States for their six-month wait, John had walked the two miles from his quarters to the orphanage nearly every evening to check on Kim. Kim would see him from across the tiny playroom and climb over the furniture and any playmates in his way to get to his big uncle. The boy would reach his leg, and then tug on the cuff of his pants. Two tugs and John would reach down and pick him up. It was their secret signal. Kim still did it, though John could not believe he remembered that far back. When he was in trouble, when he was so outrageous that he scared himself, he would curl up next to John and give his sleeve a couple of tugs. And John knew it meant his baby needed to be picked up, lifted high above the scary world.
One of the main storylines of the book (probably the main storyline of the book) is John and Gabriel defending Kim against an abusive faculty member who almost became Kim’s boyfriend. I loved that storyline – I thought it was awesome how both of them used military strategy and tactics in formulating their plans. Kim refused to be a victim, but his reaction to his treatment was different from John and Gabriel’s. I had no problem with resolution actually – in real Iife I might, but I felt like John and Gabriel tried very hard to go through all the proper channels before taking the actions they did.
Now for what made me angry. Besides John and Gabriel dealing with the abusive professor, the story is also about them adjusting to civilian life and actually trying to build a life together. I really wanted them to have a life together, but I had a huge problem with the way they went about it.
After I finished the book I discovered that the author is doing a series (trilogy?) with these characters. Despite how much Gabriel’s attitude towards Martha made me dislike him, I will buy and read the next book because Kim owns a very special place in my heart and he is supposed to be one of the main characters in the second book. And who knows, maybe Gabriel will decide to own up his mistakes too and I can like him again as well.
I have a huge problem rating this book. My rant/ review on Good reads was a C – only because of Martha, but I am really torn, because if I imagine that there was no Martha in the book I would consider this one of Sarah Black’s best works.
So here we go – a grade of A for everything but Martha and D for Martha’s characterization and her storyline; make what you wish out of it. ;)