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REVIEW: The Only One Who Knows by L.A. Witt and...

OnlyOneWhoKnows-The72sm

Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.
When Navy SEAL training pushed Lieutenant Josh Walker to his limit, Chief David Flint’s stern heart-to-heart—more like boot-to-ass—helped Josh realize his potential. When the holidays found them alone together and sharing a mutual attraction, they couldn’t help breaking a few regulations. And nearly breaking some furniture in the process.
Years after their short-lived fling, Senior Chief Flint returns to SEAL duty and finds himself under the command of the man he’s never been able to forget: Lieutenant Commander Walker. And Josh hasn’t forgotten David, either. Rules be damned, they can’t keep their hands off each other.
Despite their discretion, another SEAL catches on and threatens to expose their relationship, forcing Josh to bend to a blackmailer’s demands to avoid strife within the team just before a dangerous mission. David is the last man he can confide in…and the first to pick up on Josh’s tightly screwed-down stress.
When a life-or-death decision calls Josh’s leadership into question, coming clean could cost him what he values most. His coveted trident…and the man he loves.
WARNING: Contains a pair of Navy SEALs who don’t like playing by the rules, scorching-hot sex between two Alphas who like to be in charge, cursing as only Navy men can curse, lots of camouflage and badassery in the wilds of North Korea, and enough emotion to sink a battleship.

Dear L.A. Witt and Cat Grant,

One day I will understand why so many men in m/m romances (yes, in your book as well) want each other *from the moment they laid their eyes upon each other*. I cannot say that this book has the worst case of Insta!Lust , far from it, since both men did not act on it for some time and I only learn about that fact (that they wanted each other almost right away) when they actually got together. I am not sure why the story would have been worse if they would grew to appreciate each other over the course of training – as tough SEAL instructor and no less tough SEAL trainee (they did, but I am talking about without adding instantly wanting each other to such appreciation), but I can only discuss the story which is written and despite this scenario it really was an enjoyable book overall.

As the blurb tells you Josh Walker and David Flint met when David was an instructor during Josh’s SEAL training. The training details seemed very believable and well researched (and so do the later SEAL life and deployment missions) – from my brief look at SEAL website and Wikipedia anyway, but more importantly I really liked the connection between the men. I did not need them to get in bed, I saw how much David cared for all his trainees including Josh, but I thought that chemistry between him and Josh was really powerful. But when they do get in bed yes, the sex was scorching hot in my opinion.

Three years pass and David and Josh meet again, only now Josh is his commander and David is back for the last years of his career to resume his active duty as a SEAL. Apparently the attraction between them is alive and well and after attempting to ignore it, they decided- well – not to. Despite disregarding all kinds of rules, I actually thought that both men more or less behaved as adults. They made a conscious decision to be discreet but they also seemed completely aware of the risks, so I cut them both some slack in that regard.

But of course in romances if one tries to be discreet, well we know that it usually does not work, and as the blurb tells us another SEAL finds out and starts blackmailing Josh. Now, despite this sounding silly and the guy being an ass, I actually thought that in that particular situation at least his demands made sense. He was not evil (although of course what he was doing was not a good thing), he just was self-serving and wanted something very specific for himself. I actually liked this plot twist very much, because that led to deeper examination of Josh as a team leader, as a SEAL, as a human being. I enjoyed reading about both his doubts and the things he was not uncertain about at all, especially when he was deciding that he was making best decisions for the SEALS in one particular case and then I as a reader was wondering whether he would be forced to reevaluate that in the near future.

The mission was an exciting one to read about – I enjoy action movies a lot and some of it read as scenes from the best of them. I also like to read about bravery and military men helping each other and trying to make sure that everybody makes it home alive even though they know that there is a good chance not everybody will.

Interestingly, even though indeed questions arise about Josh’s leadership during and after the mission, I thought that those were the least troublesome questions Josh should have been asking himself. I questioned him before the mission much more and I will not say why because it will be spoilerish.

I thought the romance kept developing in a very mature, very adult direction even at the end of the story – like both men struggling with the directions where their lives and careers would go from now on. There is a sequel out in March and I hope that it will delve even deeper in that direction.

Grade: B-/B

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Sirius

Sirius started reading books when she was four and reading and discussing books is still her favorite hobby. One of her very favorite gay romances is Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark. In fact, she loves every book written by Tamara Allen. Amongst her other favorite romance writers are Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, Josephine Myles, Taylor V. Donovan and many others. Sirius’ other favorite genres are scifi, mystery and Russian classics. Sirius also loves travelling, watching movies and long slow walks.

32 Comments

  1. cleo
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 13:32:00

    I was wondering about this one. I hated (hated) the only Cat Grant I’ve read and while I like LA Witt, she’s a bit hit or miss for me. I’m still on the fence – a romance about adults acting (more or less) like adults sounds good, but I am so sick of insta-lust. I like romances that show people actually falling in love – but they can be hard to find. Sigh.

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  2. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 13:38:56

    @cleo: I did not like couple of books by Cat Grant either, and you are right L.A.Witt is a hit or miss for me as well, since she just has so many books out so fast and I just do not see how they could be different enough, you know? But I liked enough books by L.A.Witt to give this one a chance and I decided that it was pretty good for me.

    Oh my god, do I hear you about insta-lust or what? I just read a book where the protagonists are attracted when one sees each other through the window – the second they see each other I mean. Soon I will be reviewing a very decent action adventure book where the guys decide that they cannot be without each other after two days – two days. As you said, can we please get a romance where the guys actually fall in love and we can read that part? But then as I just said to somebody it looks like I will have to ignore 90% of m/m books then.

    Rant is over.

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  3. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 13:40:13

    Oh Cleo, have you read “Conduct unbecoming” by L.A.Witt? If you did and liked, I think there is a good chance you may like this one – not the same story or anything, but I think the feel of the story was in a sense similar.

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  4. cleo
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 14:57:29

    @Sirius: I did like Conduct Unbecoming (although I got tired of the angsting over getting caught together) – I don’t know much about the military but it felt much more realistic than most military romances. I liked the feel of that book a lot.

    My biggest problem with LA Witt, besides the repetitiveness of some of her stories, is that her heroes can be too whiny for me – they spend all their time thinking / worrying / obsessing about things that seem trivial and I don’t have much patience with that (which is funny, because in my personal life, I tend to whine and worry and obsess about trivial things constantly). I think With the Band is my least favorite whiny LA Witt.

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  5. Liz C.
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 18:48:21

    @Sirius, I’ve recently started reading a lot of m/m romance and I’m sick of all the insta-lust too. I think a big part of the problem is that so many m/m romances are novellas or category length books at best, so they have to skip a lot of the falling in love parts because that takes up too many words. I’ve read so many m/m romances lately where I wish there’s been another 100 pages of character and relationship development or they’d removed a couple of the sex scenes and replaced them with the character/relationship development instead. Do you have any idea why so many m/m romances are shorter books?

    Glad you enjoyed this one though and Conduct Unbecoming too – I have both of them on my Kindle ready to go. :)

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  6. Kaetrin
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:05:04

    I have this one on my TBR. Please tell me it has a HEA/HFN? :)

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  7. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:06:57

    @Kaetrin: Certainly :) – HFN and sequel has a happy ending.

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  8. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:07:55

    @Kaetrin: why do I press submit before I finish my thought?

    I said HFN because there is a possible uncertainty in how their circumstances changed not because their love was not strong.

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  9. Kaetrin
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:13:31

    @Sirius: thx :) Good to know. I plan to try and squeeze it in between review books. Wish me luck!

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  10. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:15:22

    @Kaetrin: Definitely good luck!

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  11. cleo
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:18:05

    @Liz C.: Have you read any Marie Sexton? She tends to write m/m where you really see the couple fall in love.

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  12. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:18:06

    @cleo: You know, I actually do not find her books to be too angsty, interesting right? I mean the ones I read and liked. I guess to me the perfect example of angst is Amy Lane and I stopped reading her almost completely by now. If the heroes are in real tough situation and they do not spend pages and pages thinking about it, I can be ok with that. But of course we often put different definitions in what angst means for each of us. Hmm, I do not remember nothing about “With a band” except that I did not like it :).

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  13. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:21:37

    @cleo: So true. Also because I am going to be reviewing her new book soon, I remembered this older book by Libby Drew called “Great restorations”. To me couple moved slowly enough there – by m/m standards anyway.

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  14. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:24:42

    @Liz C.: I wish I can answer your question. I can’t, although I think your suggestions make total sense – I cannot tell you how many times I wish that gazillion sex scenes would have been taken out and instead time spent on the couple getting to know each other. Yes, there are tons of novellas and shorts in m/m and they are different animals from novels and should cover different things IMO. Sigh.

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  15. cleo
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 20:37:21

    @Sirius: Hmm. I didn’t mean to call LA Witt angsty, because I don’t think she is (except maybe for From Out in the Cold and I loved that one). My problem is that her heroes sometimes strike me as self-indulgent and whiny. They create their own problems (usually some variation of falling for the “wrong” guy and having to keep it a secret or whatever) and then spend a lot of page time worrying or complaining about said, self-created, not very interesting (to me) problem. It’s lighter than angst, it’s just self-indulgent and annoying, imo.

    I agree about Amy Lane – she’s the angsty-est author I read, and I avoid her super high octane angst ones.

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  16. Liz C.
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 22:00:48

    @Cleo, I haven’t read anything by Marie Sexton yet, but I think I have one of her books on my tbr (Promises, maybe?). I’ll move it up the tbr list! :)

    @Sirius, yeah, I figured you probably wouldn’t know but it was worth a shot to ask. :)

    Most m/m romances tend to be erotic romances too, which I guess makes sense since a lot of them are published by the smaller niche publishers that focus on erotic romance. Maybe that’s part of the reason for shorter books? Shorter books means more books per year for the author/publisher? And they can be expensive – thank goodness for Kobo coupons! Of course none of my complaints/frustration means I’m going to stop reading m/m romance any time soon!

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  17. Fiona McGier
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 22:16:02

    My favorite L.A.Witt book is “Static”. It won the EPIC award last year, so I’m surprised no one else mentioned it. It has a totally unique premise and an excellent love story. I laughed, cried in some parts, and can’t stop thinking about the issues it raised. I bought multiple copies and gave them to my friends (and my gay cousin) to have someone to talk about it with. It was my favorite romance of last year!

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  18. Sirius
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 22:27:51

    Cleo thanks for clarifying :). I loved “From out in the cold” too.

    Liz I have no plans to stop reading m/m romance either – while sex sells sells sells it is possible to find stories where sex is an organic part of the story and some authors ( few but at least they do exist) even have stories where sex may fade to black or there are couple non explicit scenes. Some of my favorites are Tamara Allen , Nicole Kimberling, Gin Hale, Astrid Amara, Josh Lanyon.

    Fiona McGier I liked “Static” when I read it but I think I mostly liked it for the issues raised – characters did not leave a lasting impression on me unfortunately.

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  19. Kaetrin
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 22:59:17

    Butting in to say that I thought Sean Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils shows the couple falling in love and it’s fade to black so there’s no sex (just a bit of hot groping).

    I also second (third?) the nomination for Marie Sexton. The Coda series (which starts with Promises and includes my all time favourite Sexton, Strawberries for Dessert) is a favourite.

    FWIW, I don’t find “insta lust” a problem so much – I can buy that seeing someone attractive can make someone interested really fast (although I’m not a big fan of the insta boner). It’s the “insta love” I don’t cope with all that well. I like to see the couple connecting and falling in love. Love at first sight is rare and not my experience so I don’t like a lot of it in my reading.

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  20. cleo
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 07:09:36

    @Kaetrin: I agree that insta-love is worse than insta-lust. At least with insta-lust there’s the possibility of seeing love develop after they become lovers. I think KA Mitchell does that pretty well. But I still like a slow build up where the lust is based on actually knowing and liking each other.

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  21. cleo
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 07:40:23

    It’s interesting, thinking this because when I started reading m/m I thought it was pretty refreshing to read about the h/h meeting, wanting each other and getting naked together much, much more quickly than you usually read in m/f romance (erotica is a different story). And with no slut shaming.

    I guess after a couple years and a couple hundred books the novelty has worn off for me. And honestly, I like a little build up even with insta!lust – maybe make eye contact or flirt a little first before getting horny.

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  22. P. J. Dean
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 10:15:53

    I read “The Only One Who Knows” and enjoyed the romance, the sex and the adventure. It was a nice mix of the erotic and the romantic. Not a thing wrong with Insta-lust or -like. No to Insta-love though. Big No. As far as m/m romance is concerned, are readers (mainly the female ones) projecting their conditioned, hetero ways of how a romance should be conducted? I’ve seen this type of commentary on multi-cultural/interracial romance. How they’d be more widely read if the romance didn’t dwell on this or that or frame the couple’s relationship in their backgrounds. When reading IR romance, if one doesn’t frame the couple’s cultural diffrences it in some way, I WON’T continue reading it. It’s the 800lb elephant in the room! How can you NOT mention it? So now, I think some of the elements of old school m/m romance (the very quick hook up, the rough, dangerous, good sex and the characters’ ability to participate in these activities without guilt) are getting prettied up, made more appealing to a wider, curious audience, with all the angst-y stuff now. That ok if that’s the type of m/m you are looking for. But as I’ve said before, the overflowing fountain of feelings that guys are exhibiting in newer m/m romance is beginning to look a lot like m/f romance without the chick.

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  23. Sirius
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 10:44:11

    @P. J. Dean:

    I do not mind Insta!Lust myself if it is not followed by Insta!Love (although in my experience it often does).

    See, I do not see slower romances as something which is necessarily following m/f trend (I do not read lots of it, but I do read some).

    To me gay relationships are all different from another, same as straight relationships (to me as a straight woman), people come in all shapes and sizes, etc and some gay guys may like relationship to take place at slower pace, some may not. My point was that I miss reading the slower ones, a lot. Not that I mind Insta!Lust here and there, just please do not let them get married after a day of knowing each other.

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  24. Sirius
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 10:45:07

    @Kaetrin: Right as I said to PJ Dean, I do not mind Insta!Lust either as long as it does not follow by Instantaneous Love.

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  25. Sirius
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 10:49:16

    @cleo: If the story pays little attention to romance, then I do not mind Insta! anything, I guess. I love gay mysteries, where sometimes I am happy just to know that the main character has a partner at home, I am okay with scifi where the protagonist just happens to be gay and hooked up with another guy for a long time, or not. But if the story tries to do a balance of lets say action and romance, show me some balance please, just my preferences as a reader.

    Oh, I think I just had a revelation. I think this is the reason why I adore “from enemies to lovers” trope so much – not just because I often like bickering, if it makes sense, but because if the trope is done well, the writer is often forced to actually show how their feelings towards one another change and we can actually see it. If it is well done, I rarely see Insta! in those stories.

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  26. Sirius
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 10:58:38

    @P. J. Dean: I also wanted to add as somebody who had been reading m/m romance for seven or eight years now (not the longest period I know, but not the shortest either), I do not think you are in any danger of having lots and lots of sex disappear from m/m romance any time soon :). It seems that most readers prefer the lots of sex and I will settle for sex at least being part of the story (if the story is romance rather than erotica) and it is readers like me I think constitute a minority and always did (as I said I do not care if there is no explicit sex in the book, as long as the plot and characters are great and UST is there).

    Although if the sex is icing on the cake *in addition* to plot and characters like let’s say in “Magpie Lord” by K.J.Charles, I am very happy too.

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  27. cleo
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 12:10:53

    @Sirius: me too! I like friends to lovers and enemy to lovers because they tend to show the build up of emotions and also have good sexual tension.

    I read The Only One Who Knows this morning and enjoyed it – nice way to start my day off.

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  28. P. J. DEAN
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 14:01:46

    @Sirius thanks for the clarification. Got my wires crossed.

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  29. hapax
    Jan 24, 2014 @ 18:59:55

    @Sirius:

    I do not care if there is no explicit sex in the book, as long as the plot and characters are great and UST is there

    You are very much NOT alone in this opinion!

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  30. Sirius
    Jan 25, 2014 @ 15:02:18

    @cleo: So glad you enjoyed it.

    @hapax: Oh I know I am not alone :), I just always feel as a member of a tiny minority on this :).

    @P. J. DEAN: No worries.

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  31. cleo
    Jan 25, 2014 @ 17:10:32

    @Sirius: Me too. Thinking about it, I would have liked more character development and more romance, and I really would have preferred that they didn’t sleep together while David was Josh’s instructor, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the story when I read it – it was a quick, engrossing read. And the action sequences were great.

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  32. Sirius
    Jan 29, 2014 @ 11:17:59

    @cleo: You loved action sequences too! I just started reading sequel for review and so far I do like it.

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