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REVIEW: Conduct Unbecoming by L.A. Witt

Dear Ms. Witt,

You’ve been reviewed at DA a lot but never by me so when I saw you had a new book out, I grabbed the chance to check out your writing. DADT is history now so what else is there to keep two men in love apart when they’re both in the military? The age old separation of officers and enlisted personnel, that’s what. Here it doesn’t matter if it’s heterosexual, homosexual, or lesbian – an officer and an enlisted person simply can’t mix it up. You hammer this risk home for most of the book but in the end I thought the payoff didn’t match the hype.

“As long as no one asks and they don’t tell…

First class petty officer Eric Randall is less than thrilled about taking orders to Okinawa. Three long, lonely years on a crappy island that’s thousands of miles from his daughter? Oh. Yeah. Sign him up. But as long as he’s stuck here, he might as well make the best of it, so he discreetly checks out the local gay scene.

Shane nearly drops his drink when the gorgeous, cocky-looking guy strolls into Palace Habu. He buys him a drink, and before long, they’re making out in a booth. Eric is a straight-to-the-point kind of guy and doesn’t want to play games. Since Eric’s idea of not playing games is getting the hell out of there and going back to one of their apartments, Shane is more than happy to go along with it.

What starts as a scorching-hot one-night stand leaves both of them wanting more…until Eric finds out Shane doesn’t just outrank him, he’s an officer. DADT may be repealed, but an officer getting involved with an enlisted man falls under conduct unbecoming.

Still, they can’t resist their mutual desire. There’s no reason anyone has to find out. But secrets have a way of outing themselves.”

Alternating first person storytelling means that some things are going to be rehashed. It didn’t end up being as much as I was afraid it might but it was still slightly awkward. SarahF called it lingering weirdness and I agree.

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I know a teensy bit about the military having had several friends either in it or related to someone in it but still the details about their military careers and day to day job stuff is interesting in a “foreign culture to me” kind of way. But in a romance, I’m used to the main characters being around each other more. Here, Shane and Eric think a bit about the other after their initial meeting but then it’s on to their daily grind. This separation could be problematic for some readers who want more together time. Looking back on SarahF’s review of your last book, in your comments you mentioned this one would be on Okinawa and from the details, it seems like you’re describing places you know well. Still, some scenes tend to drag a bit, veering into travelogue territory and I found myself skimming to get past them. I did learn enough that I will never try Habu sake.

Eric and Shane are two very aggressive and straight to the point lovers. They’re both out – to themselves and as much as possible when they go out to gay bars near military bases. Neither wants to waste much time blah, blah, blahing. Interest? Check. Compatibility? Check. Place to go? Check. So let’s get the hell there and get this going. Once they get to Shane’s apartment, it’s Katie-bar-the-door and get out lots of lube because they hurl themselves into vanilla sex that sizzles.

DADT is dead but it’s still not easy being gay in uniform is what I’m taking from this story. No one can be thrown out but others can still be assholes and it can make life a lot harder, opening you up to all kinds of shitwadery that it’s better to avoid if you have the option. Thus there’s still caution and hesitation about being openly gay. Add to that the issue of the difference in rank with Shane being the officer and Eric the enlisted man (MA = master at arms, I love that this still sounds slightly swashbuckly!) and there’s the conflict going on here.

Fraternization is still abso-fucking-lutely one of the best ways to kiss your career goodbye. Eric and Shane both have lots of years already under their belts and want to stay in long enough to retire. Getting caught will shit can two long careers. So this looks like it’s going to be the main conflict as they are sexually compatible and compatible out of bed as well. But…when will the fit hit the shan? After a carrier sized load of angsting by these two about the danger they face in being out in public…we get one near miss. I gotta say I finished the book feeling a bit let down.

The plot sounds realistic, the characterization is solid, the detail about the place is knowledgeable, if exhausting at times, but with no personal compatibility problems the only thing left was the military issue and after an entire book spent building that up all we get is “whew, that was a close one.” I guess given the plot set-up there really was no other way things could play out and still have a HFN with a potential HEA and eventual Honorable Discharge for all involved but I still felt a bit cheated. C+

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

26 Comments

  1. Sirius
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 13:09:42

    Hi Jayne, I have read a lot of books by this author, but then kind of gave up even though I like her writing (but sex occupied too much of the story for my liking).

    I had been eyeing this story for a while and can’t decide if I should click that button or not. Was basically your main dissappointment that build up danger never materialized and it was “that’s it?” moment for you at the end?

    I am just trying to make sure that I understood your review correctly. Thanks.

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  2. Jayne
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 13:39:56

    @Sirius: Yes, exactly. The risk of these two being found together in a relationship is the primary obstacle to them getting together and after hearing about this and worrying about this – ‘eh. The danger is easily overcome. It felt like a let down and like little was really “overcome” in the end.

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  3. cs
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 14:18:21

    I think L.A. Witt is overdosing on books and I feel her books are suffering from that. It’s like the author has a new book out every month at twenty different publishers (exaggeration). L.A. Witt was an autobuy for me, but I have become very wary of buying her stuff now. I was looking at this one ~ but I have no patience for obstacles that aren’t as such. I suppose I’ll leave it for now.

    Thanks for the informative review, nice to see some M/M books being reviewed again :)

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  4. cleo
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 16:12:05

    I’ve been on the fence about this one – I didn’t love the two books by her that I’ve read, but I thought I might give her another try because I liked the excerpt. I am kind of in the mood for something with low conflict and hot sex, so maybe I’ll try it.

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  5. Jayne
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 17:32:22

    @cs: I try and check out m/m blurbs but often don’t get much past that. But that’s also a problem I’m having with f/m books as well. So many blurbs just blure into “same old.” I do have a review done for a f/f YA book I just recently finished.

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  6. Jayne
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 17:39:57

    @cleo: Well, if that’s what you’re looking for, you will get lots of sex and low degree of conflict here. Oh, and a travel guide to Okinawa.

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  7. cs
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 20:29:03

    @Jayne: I’m suffering from the same thing too. I primarily only read M/M books, but have resorted to reading old favourites, because nothing has been interesting enough to pick up. Looking forward to your f/f YA book eview – that’s quite a rare genre, you don’t see many f/f YA books written (unless I’ve been living under a rock).

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  8. Sirius
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 20:41:10

    @cs: I also read primarily mm books (other genres too, but in the romantic genre I read very little het) and am in the phase of good books right now (knocking on the wood). Have you read “Gives Light” by Rose Christo? YA romance which I loved so very much.

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  9. Sirius
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 20:43:17

    @Jayne: Thank you very much for clarifying for me.

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  10. Anna Cowan
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 21:02:37

    @Sirius: just bought Gives Light :-). Do you have any other recs from your good book phase? I love m/m, but there’s only so much KA Mitchell I can read in a row.

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  11. Sirius
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 21:11:26

    @Anna Cowan: Oh depends on what you like. You mentioned KA Mitchell and she is hit and miss for me. I mean I acknowledge her writing skills, but she has too much sex for me in her stories overall. Sex is the last component that I look for when I try to find good mm stories that make me happy. Gives light is YA and there is either one sex scene or none (they tend to leave my memory fast – sex scenes that is, although I do enjoy them as good icing on the cake – in addition to fun plot and great characters, not instead).

    For example I really loved Half blind by Christine Price from Carina, but this is a magical adventure first and romance second, although there is romance and there is some sex too.

    I was very happy with Tigerland by Sean Kennedy, but just as Tigers and Devils the sequel has no explicit sex scenes, so beware.

    Do you like fantasy? I really enjoyed Changing Worlds by Cari Z.

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  12. Sirius
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 21:20:49

    @Anna Cowan: I just thought of two more books which I enjoyed. Jayne, I am sorry!!!

    Have you read “Pressure head” by JL Merrow? I really loved it. What about “Hot floor” by Josephine Myles?

    Shutting up now.

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  13. tripoli
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 21:31:28

    This one sounds good to me, actually – hot men in uniform? Sign me up! And since I’ll probably never get to Okinawa, I’m happy for the travelogue, LOL. @Sirius, I also loved Pressure Head and The Hot Floor! I also liked If It Ain’t Love by Tamara Morgan, who was a new author to me I think the book was free on kindle.

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  14. Sirius
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 21:35:13

    @tripoli: Tamara Allen, right? I am such a fan of hers that besides saying that I cannot recommend all her works very highly I really should go away lol.

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  15. Kaetrin
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 00:59:32

    @Anna Cowan: I’d also recommend Tigers & Devils and Tigerland, The Hot Floor and just about anything by JL Merrow. :)

    I’m not sure whether I’ll try this one or not. I dont mind the hot men in uniform and the hot sex, but the low conflict with no permanent resolution may bug me too much. Will have to think on it. Thx for the review Jayne.

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  16. Anna Cowan
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 03:24:13

    Sorry for hijacking the thread – but also thanks for all the recs! JL Merrow has been very hit and miss for me, but loved the hits so will definitely give Pressure Head a go. LOVE Tamara Allen. I’ve had quite a few recs for Tigers and Devils but was put off by the higher price point. Should probably just suck it up and jump in (especially being Aussie and all).

    As to the actual book reviewed – yeah, the no-conflict doesn’t appeal to me as much. Actually, more the “There’s CONFLICT! Oh wait, no there isn’t”. I prefer interesting internal conflict – even if it’s subtle – to non-starter external conflict.

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  17. Merrian
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 05:38:32

    @Anna Cowan: I like Sarah Black’s writing. Her books tend to category length and are always thoughtful. The latest two I’ve read are Marlowe’s Ghost and Marathon Cowboys. Also anything by Jordan Castillo Price might be of interest to you e.g. The Psycop series or The Starving Years. AM Riley’s Amor en Retrogado is also a good read.

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  18. tripoli
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 05:39:15

    @Sirius:
    Oops yes! Tamara Allen. I really liked If It Ain’t Love.

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  19. Mary G
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 12:20:12

    I’ve read a lot of military/seal romances in the F/M genre but not as many in M/M. I enjoyed CU very much. What I loved about it was that it was very emotional to me. I’m not crazy about first person POV so alternating chapters were perfect for me as well. I get what you mean about the travelogue but it’s also one of the very few books I’ve read where I actually felt I was there. It pushed my buttons in the right way I guess lol.

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  20. cs
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 15:06:43

    @Sirius: No, I haven’t. I haven’t had a chance to read many YA books lately. So I’ll check up on it and see if it’s something I’ll like.

    I’m like you I don’t want a lot of sex in my books, which is something I find is a no-go from e-publishers. I read “Pressure Head” by J.L. Merrow which was very good. I hope this will become a series. I don’t read M/M/M books but the blurb to Josephine Myles new book made me cringe, and I have enjoyed her other books.

    I tried Christine Price’s first book and didn’t like it, but I am looking forward to reading Sean Kennedy’s new book. So am glad you enjoyed that one, and the reviews on GR seem to be raving about it.

    @Merrian: Lately I have enjoyed Sarah Black’s newer novel, or newish novels. Shes actually quite a different author compared to the ones that I read which is sort of refreshing.

    I would read Tamara Allen but she writes in a genre that I do not like. I’m sure I’m the one losing out, but I just can’t ;)

    I’m reading the new book by Kaje Harper. I know a lot of reader’s don’t like her stuff, but she somehow works for me.

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  21. Sirius
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 11:23:03

    Okay, I have read it and I have to admit that I liked it a great deal more than you did :) (I gave it a B). I guess I did not feel cheated because of what that near miss forced them to do. Does that make sense? I understand how the payoff from such huge built up (and boy was it ever, totally agree) could have been much more dramatic, but I felt that what Eric attempted to do had all the potential to be no less dramatic. Thanks again for the review.

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  22. Jayne
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 04:04:04

    @Sirius: I see what you’re saying. That the close call would be heart poundingly suspenseful for them but I guess that just didn’t translate for me in the way the story was written.

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  23. Evelyn
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 10:45:05

    Hi,

    I just don’t understand the problem in this book which is what totally annoys me. Being German, I don’t have any idea about US military. So, DADT is out of the way and people can say whether they are gay, but they tend to not do it. Also, people with different ranks can’t be friends – why is that? I don’t see any problem due to this. Also, what’s with all the acronyms? Maybe some footnotes would be helpful.

    Could you please help m? Many thanks in advance.

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  24. Jayne
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 12:10:26

    @Evelyn: My understanding is that even though it’s now okay to admit to being LGBT, it’s still not readily done because this is still a prejudiced world in general and in the military.

    The rank thing is a bit different. It’s okay for enlisted personnel and officers to be casual friends but anything more intimate – and especially lovers – is against the rules. This might help explain it a bit more – http://usmilitary.about.com/od/navy/a/fraternization.-uqE.htm

    Which acronyms are a problem? HFN — happy for now. HEA = happy ever after.

    Did this help any?

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  25. Evelyn
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 04:08:05

    Thanks, Jayne, for clarifying. Still I didn’t quite like the book, because as you mentioned the obstacle was overcome quite too easily.

    As for acronyms I meant the military ones in the book. The ones you mentioned I had to figure out when I started reading romance books in English – along with TSTL and such.

    Greetings from Germany

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  26. Jayne
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 07:34:56

    @Evelyn: Oh, acronyms in the book. Yes, it would be helpful to have a list if you don’t read a lot of military books or know people to ask. Some of them I knew or could figure out. Others I had to guess at too.

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