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REVIEW: General Misconduct by L.A. Witt

general-misconduct

Dear L.A. Witt,

When this book came up for review, I was particularly interested in it because of the Japanese setting.  And the descriptions of Okinawa did turn out to be the highlight of the book for me.  The landscape sounds beautiful and stunning.  (This was one of those books where I wouldn’t have minded some photographs to be included in the back matter actually.)  Unfortunately, the story was kind of boring for me and I struggled to finish.  About halfway I was hemming and hawing about whether to continue reading but at that point I felt I had invested too much time so I ploughed on.  You probably won’t thank me for that.

Aiden Lange is a newly minted naval ensign, stationed in Okinawa, Japan.  He has big career plans in the navy and is looking forward to his time in Japan.  It doesn’t start off that well.  He gets beaten (and nearly raped) by a gay Marine in an alley outside a seedy bar and the military police-type person (who I gather featured in a previous book which I have not read) advises him to go hiking in Hiji falls, post some photos on Facebook and tell everyone the story of how he fell on slippery rocks and thus bruised and cut his face and hands, rather than risk damage to his career by admitting the truth.  Even though DADT is over, I gather that being gay in the military is still somewhat problematic in terms of career advancement?  Or, at least, that is how it was presented in the story.

Naturally, Aiden has to actually go to Hiji Falls in order to take the photos for his cover story but things take a turn for the better when he meets Connor Bradshaw swimming in a watering hole at the top of the climb.  Connor and Aiden are both attracted to one another – the story is told in alternating first person POV so readers get to spend time in each character’s head – but are initially a bit shy about making a move.  Connor is a civilian – the son of an officer.  He is going to college as a dependent on his dad’s GI bill and living at home is part of the deal with that.  He is 20 but he seemed very young to me even at that age. Aiden is only 22 and doesn’t feel all that much older actually.

For reasons which are never made clear, Aiden doesn’t push to know who Connor’s dad is.  The guys go to dinner and agree to meet up again to explore the island.  After a couple of days, one of them makes a move and from then on their relationship turns sexual.  As Connor is very inexperienced, they take things slowly but at the point where they start kissing, most of the getting to know you conversation flies out the window and not a lot of time is spent showing how their feelings are growing.   Instead, I was told – and this rarely works well for me. Ultimately, I didn’t understand why they were together, apart from youthful hormones and when it turns out that Aiden works directly with Connor’s dad, and the shit hits the fan, I didn’t quite understand their investment in the relationship which would lead both to take the risk of continuing to see each other.

General Bradshaw is concerned about damage to both Aiden’s and his own career due to the potential conflict of interest and the appearance of being biased due to the relationship between Connor and Aiden.  He has no issue with Connor being gay – which was a plus and I really liked this aspect of the story – but he has forbidden Connor to date any military men (which leaves a very small pool indeed, because Connor doesn’t socialise with the local community because reasons).  The general also warns Aiden that he will do damage to the ensign’s career – including arranging for remote and boring postings – if the relationship with Connor doesn’t end.

This was a bad idea. A stupid one. Just like every time Connor and I had sneaked off to a beach or a restaurant or wherever over the last couple of weeks. We’d seen each other almost every day since we’d agreed to fly below his father’s radar, and I had the same ball of nerves in my gut every single time. The same certainty that we were going to get caught, that we were idiots, that I should really just tell him this was a bad idea and go our separate ways. Just call it quits before General Bradshaw made mincemeat of my career.

Apart from getting their rocks off, I didn’t see, on the page, the reason Aiden felt Connor was worth such a risk to his career.

Passages like this:

This wasn’t just about the sex we hadn’t had yet, or the fooling around we had done. If what we were doing was just about sex, we’d hide his car somewhere and spend every waking hour in my bed. Or these long drives would be to the resort hotels up near Nago, or the more cosmopolitan ones down in Naha.

But we didn’t hide.

Yeah, we fooled around sometimes, but we spent more time out of bed than in it. And I liked it. I liked the time we spent together, whether we were making out or going out, and that was the part that scared me. Connor may have been uneasy about taking the next step in the bedroom, but I was a nervous wreck over the places this was going that didn’t involve our bodies.

told me there was more going on than just sex but unfortunately, I didn’t see the falling in love occurring on the page and so my investment in them as a couple was pretty low.

There was also a lot of repetition in the book -

“For what it’s worth,” he said, running his hand up and down my chest and abs, “my first time was awkward as hell. And yes, it hurt.”

This was the third time this subject in very similar words came up in the book.  Anal sex might hurt. Aiden will look after him. It will be fine. I get it already.

The sex scenes were hot enough but I admit I was bored by the story and started to skim them because they weren’t showing me the connection I wanted to see. What I saw on page, reiterated my view that these two guys were really young and not terribly mature.

It was in the second half of the book, that two things struck me – one had been burbling along in my brain for a while, but my thoughts became clear in the latter part of the story.

There were almost no Japanese people in the book.  This is despite the entire story being set on the island of Okinawa.   I gathered that the American military kept generally to themselves and perhaps the book was saying something meta about how whacked it is that this was the case, but I don’t know enough about the context to be sure of this.  Basically, the only Japanese people in the story were servants (wait staff), or shown in servile behaviour.  General Bradshaw had a Japanese (second) wife.  Her only role in the book was to show  a character into the house late in the book.  Another officer had a Japanese wife and the sum total of her lines is included in the following:

As soon as I stepped into the kitchen, Noriko turned around and held out both hands. “I take it.”

“Are you sure? It’s—”

She beckoned with her outstretched hand. “I take.”

>.<

Connor had spent a lot of time on the island but had learned very little Japanese.  He didn’t hang with the locals and had no Japanese friends. There were NO Japanese characters in the story of any consequence at all.  In a book set in Japan.

Aiden wanted to explore the beauty of the Japanese landscape but he didn’t appear to be interested in getting to know much about Japanese culture and customs.  He didn’t appear interested in meeting any locals. Neither did Connor, who had been there for years already.  The juxtaposition of the lovingly described natural beauty and the almost complete erasure of the people was baffling and disturbing.

Which brings me to my second bone.  Where were the women?  The most “significant” woman in the story (who was mentioned but had no actual page time) was Connor’s mother who was not only an alcoholic but also an abusive homophobe.  Ding Ding!!  I counted five six women in total (the two wives, a waitress, a grandmotherly neighbour who was barely mentioned, an officer by the name of Gonzales who briefly appeared and Connor’s evil mother). There were no female characters of any depth or substance whatsoever. Gonzales at least was an officer and had a couple of lines which weren’t about taking dinner orders or removing dirty dishes but when that’s the best one can say about a female character in a novel, the barrel is scraped pretty clean.

If I had been more engaged by the story I may not have noticed (or at least, not as much) the absence of Japanese people and women but as it was, I was bored and not very invested in Aiden and Connor getting their HEA and those two things stood out to me as if they were surrounded by neon lights. For those reasons, my grade for General Misconduct is somewhere between a C- and a D. I have read and enjoyed other books by you and I’m sure I will again, but unfortunately, this one was not for me.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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Kaetrin started reading romance as a teen and then took a long break, detouring into fantasy and thrillers. She returned to romance in 2008 and has been blogging since 2010. She reads contemporary, historical, a little paranormal, urban fantasy and romantic suspense, as well as erotic romance and more recently, new adult. She loves angsty books, funny books, long books and short books. The only thing mandatory is the HEA. Favourite authors include Mary Balogh, Susanna Kearsley, Joanna Bourne, Tammara Webber, Kristen Ashley, Shannon Stacey, Sarah Mayberry, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, KA Mitchell, Marie Sexton, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, just to name a few. You can find her on Twitter: @kaetrin67.

13 Comments

  1. LG
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 11:15:31

    Granted, my experience is limited entirely to military family life in Germany, but I know my dad somehow managed to be stationed there for several years without learning much German beyond “Ein Bier, bitte.” It’s much harder to believe that there would be so few Japanese people around, however.

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  2. Sunita
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 11:50:32

    Kaetrin, one possible reason for the lack of women and indigenous population: there is a lot of tension between at least some of the Okinawans and the military. There have been high-profile rape and assault allegations (and convictions) over the last few years and it’s a major source of diplomatic conflict for the Japanese and US governments. While some Okinawans obviously benefit from the large military presence, others want the bases gone, and a majority don’t want the US forces there at all.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that the issues can’t be brought in as context for the story, and there’s going to be interaction between US and Okinawan people regardless of the tensions that are present. But the problematic conditions might be part of the explanation.

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  3. cleo
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 12:05:24

    I read Conduct Unbecoming, the previous book, and it was ok. It had some of the same problems you mentioned, especially the repetition and the showing, not telling. I missed the lack of Japanese characters when I read it, but thinking about it, that was true. One of the heroes did speak Japanese however, and really loved Okinawa. The thing that I liked about CU was that it seemed like a realistic depiction of military life (to my non military self) and it was nice to read a military romance where the conflict came from normal workplace stuff rather than saving the world.

    I’m picky about 20 something’s in contemporaries. I’ll probably skip this one.

    On another note, I noticed that she has an ff set on Okinawa coming out this fall under the name Lauren Gallager (sp?). I’m intrigued but cautious. I really hope someone at DA will review it when it comes out (hint hint).

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  4. Jayne
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 12:24:53

    @cleo: I read “Conduct Unbecoming” too and found it okay but nothing amazing. The teaser conflict that turned out to be more of a damp squib instead of a fire cracker was my main problem.

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  5. cleo
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 13:34:56

    @Jayne – well put. The conflict never went anywhere. There were lots of things I liked about it – the openly bi hero, the cheating ex wife who was humanized, not demonized. But the romance was boring.

    I’n really excited to see that she’s writing more stories set in Okinawa because I think it’s such an interesting setting that she obviously knows well – I’m hoping one of them will be great.

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  6. Kaetrin
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 22:42:06

    @LG: I didn’t have any trouble accepting that the miltary on Okinawa might be quite insular and perhaps if I had been enjoying the book more I would have noticed less. But it struck me late in the book that the Japanese are poorly represented in this book – in numbers and also because they were portrayed as servants/servile. Even one Japanese person portrayed differently would have made a difference to me.

    @Sunita: That’s really interesting Sunita. There was no evidence of that in the book. If it did form part of the context, it was very much deep background. I’d actually like to read about a book with that kind of conflict – it could be really interesting. One of the things which attracted me to the book was the unusual setting. The landscape was lovingly described. The author clearly knows the area well and finds it very beautiful. Unfortunately, and partly (probably) because I wasn’t really enjoying the book, that only served to highlight the absence of women and Japanese people in the book for me.

    @cleo: My sense here is that the people all loved Okinawa – the landscape and geography is lovingly described and definitely made me want to go and see it for myself. There is a little bit about the characters in Conduct Unbecoming in this book – their HEA is fully secured is how I’d put it.

    This was one of those books where I felt guilty for saying negative things because I think the author is a nice person and I like her Twitter presence. But I really didn’t enjoy the book and I was bothered by the absence of female and Japanese characters – or some plausible explanation for it. And ultimately, if I can’t say what I really think, my reviews are worth nothing.

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  7. Shaheen
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 00:55:03

    L.A. Witt has always been more miss than hit for me. I always want to like her books, but somehow they don’t fully engage me. So I probably wouldn’t have read it even before I read this review. Now it’s a definite stay-away.

    The question I have is if you’re not going to have any meaningful Japanese characters, why bother setting the book on Okinawa? Why not set the book on a base in the US? Surely one or two must be in beautiful locations!

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  8. Sirius
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 04:37:30

    I liked the first one too, but do not think what you described would make me happy in the second one. Thanks Kaetrin.

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  9. cleo
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 08:37:58

    unfortunately, I didn’t see the falling in love occurring on the page and so my investment in them as a couple was pretty low.

    I’ve been thinking about this passage and the rest of the comments here and it’s made me realize (one reason) why LA Witt is so hit or miss for me. I like to see the h/h fall in love and build their relationship together and LA Witt’s not good at that (she’s great at writing banter and hot sex, etc). All of my favorites by her are friends to lovers stories (esp Out from the Cold and Finding Master Right) – which makes sense.

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  10. Cassie
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 15:19:38

    I spent two years in the 80s on Okinawa and while relations between military and civilians wasn’t great in some cases, I had a blast interacting with the locals which my friends and I did quite a bit. I had heard things changed and I was so sorry to hear about that. I’m just glad, if it had to change, it was after I was there. The scenery was stunning and the locals I met were terrific. I did learn a few words but not much–we always managed to communicate very well. I remember my stay there with lots of fondness.

    It does seem that tensions would have had some acknowledgement in this book if the tensions were still as high as I’d heard they were.

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  11. Kaetrin
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 19:10:11

    @cleo: that makes sense. I have Static on my TBR and I keep meaning to get to that one because I love the concept of it. And I liked the first Tucker Springs book too.

    @Cassie: I think even one Japanese character who had more than 2 brief lines of dialogue and did more than serve drinks or answer the door would have made a difference. Okinawa sure did sound beautiful in this book though. She sold me on that for sure.

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  12. Castiron
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 22:09:01

    Spouse was stationed at Okinawa during his time in the U.S. Air Force; he says that the base is huge, and when he was there (which, granted, was 25-30 years ago, so things may have changed), it was entirely possible that someone could go for days or weeks without ever seeing a Japanese person (or, more precisely, an Okinawan; they’re a different ethnic group with a different language). He remembers weeks when the only local person he interacted with was the cook in the mess hall who only knew enough English to understand whether someone was asking for ham or eggs. While you could go into town and interact with the locals, people were generally discouraged from that unless they had a specific reason (i.e. wanted to go scuba diving or to learn about a local craft rather than wanted to go get drunk off-base, which was a recipe for trouble). That said, people who *were* interested in the culture did interact with locals; Spouse knew someone who had done glassblowing as a hobby, was fascinated by Okinawa’s local glassblowing traditions, and spent many of his days off assisting a local glassblower and learning their techniques.

    Spouse also said that he could buy an enlisted man having a Japanese wife whose English was limited, but not a high-ranking officer’s wife.

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  13. Kaetrin
    Jul 29, 2014 @ 23:17:03

    @Castiron: If Aidan had been basically confined to the base it would have been easier for me to accept few Japanese (or, I should say, Okinawan) characters. But he rented an apartment off base and Connor didn’t live on base either (IIRC). They spent a lot of time exploring Okinawa and there was basically no mention of indigenous people during this, apart from reference to wait staff.

    By the time I read “I take” and “I take it” in reference to an officer’s wife, I admit I was a bit steamed. Because that was the only indigenous person who spoke in the book and it seemed so wrong to me on a number of levels.

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