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American Navy

REVIEW:  Conduct Unbecoming by L.A. Witt

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 DADT may be repealed, but an officer getting involved with an enlisted man falls under conduct unbecoming.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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REVIEW:  For Me and My Gal  by Robbi McCoy

REVIEW: For Me and My Gal by Robbi McCoy

Dear Ms. McCoy,

I came to your novel “For Me and My Gal” in a roundabout way. Somehow I was on another website about LGBT books – sorry, I honestly don’t remember which one – and came across a year by year listing of books which had received awards. Happily I began to peruse recent past winners and liked the fact that your book has a historical element coupled with a contemporary setting. I often enjoy WWII settings so off I went to buy a copy.

“Not only has architecture grad Shelby Pratt been fired from her job as a waitress, she’s locked her keys in the car and is infuriated when one of the women that just got her fired stops to offer help.

Gwen Lawford feels bad for the waitress, but it seems there’s little she can do. Director of a small Naval museum on San Francisco Bay, Gwen is working desperately to save the historic building from developers.

When Shelby learns that Gwen tries to get her rehired, she offers her thanks in person—giving her the chance to tour the museum and to meet the intriguing Gwen under better circumstances.

Soon they discover a mutual interest in unraveling a mysterious affair between a Rosie-the-Riveter shipyard worker and a Navy WAVES recruit, opening the door to continued contact…and deeper feelings.

But secrets of the past and present take a shocking personal turn for Shelby, and Gwen’s desire to set the past right could destroy any chance at a future of their own.”

for-me-and-my-galThere’s a lot going on in this novel. The past and present private lives of the characters, the contribution of American women to winning the war effort, the struggles of lesbian women during WWII and the present, the preservation of the history of the women who worked the shipyards and who served in the WAVES, the change in public acceptance of lesbians – it sounds like it could be overwhelming and lead to areas being skimped on but I never felt that a plot ball had been dropped. Okay so many of these threads were interwoven thus allowing many things to be explored and settled at the same time but the way everything comes together shows you have a firm grip on what’s going on and can keep the book focused. The ending is a little happy, happy with everyone either totally accepting of the lesbian couples in story or coming around to it. But then after seeing what some of them endured in silence for 60+ years, I can buy into a HEA for them.

The way you integrated the information about WWII, the WAVES and how lesbians were viewed then into the present setting held my attention without it seeming like an info dump. And I hate me a big ol’ huge info dump like almost nothing else. I could tell that you’d probably done a ton of research but limited yourself to including only what is pertinent to the story. The details serve the book without overwhelming it and whetted my appetite to learn more – something I adore in books.

I think the part that struck me the hardest is the all pervasive fear that lesbian women lived with then. Being outed meant lost jobs, dishonorable discharges, being shunned by friends and family and having to deny a basic part of who a person thinks they are. As one character says, it made people live lonely, unhappy lives. It made them exist in the shadows and lack any sort of community of support. I can only imagine how this would shrivel the edges of your soul after a while. It helped me understand why one contemporary character is so unwilling to deal with half truths and prevarications from another. It also adds sauce to the public and proud announcement made late in the book. I can only (admiringly) repeat what another character says. “Damn!”

I’m glad I found that website with the award winners and that I learned of the existence of your book. It was an eye opening, learning experience and interesting to read. I think it has a lot to offer readers who might come to it for diverse reasons. If it tended to a wee whiff of soapbox-ness once in a while, the story made it worth it. B

~Jayne

 

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