Everything I want in a contemporary, full length, M/M book I got in Conduct Unbecoming. One of my favourites of 2012.
- Review by Kazza K
I loved this book. It's been a while between drinks, as the saying goes, for me and L A Witt. Thank God I pre-ordered this. If I hadn't I may have missed out on what is a terrifc piece of M/M fiction. One of this year's best. Once I picked it up I could not put this book down.
"Dude, Okinawa is a fucking shit-hole." My cousin Jim's words repeated over and over in the back of my mind.
This pretty much introduces us to Eric Randall's sentiments on his latest posting to Okinawa. He's left his 16 year old daughter, Marie, for yet another posting to a foreign land. This time for three years. He's proud of who he is, proud of serving his country, but is essentially going to have been away from his daughter for over a quarter of her life, and he's over it. The fact that Okinawa is not the Amercanized place that he's been led to believe it is makes it seem even more isolating as he tries to settle in, right hand drive vehicles, and kanji signs included. He's gay, he's divorced, so he has no family with him, he doesn't play golf, and he's unsure of the gay scene on the island. Plus, it's hard to be friends with your subordinates, and, as an enlisted man, you can't fraternize with the officers.All of this is going to make it extremely socially difficult being in such a small 'community' for Eric
Shane Connelly is a Commander and has been on Okinawa for long enough to know the ropes. He, too, is missing his twins, who would be around 7-8. He has not had a pleasant separation from his wife, Katy, who it seems asks for money, is aloof, and appears to be none too keen on meeting him half way with the children. She cheated on Shane while he was on one of his tours. He goes to Palace Habu, a local gay club, to hook-up, and one night in walks this breathtaking man, that he has to have. Of course it's Eric. He organises with the bartender to pay for this new guys drink, it's the quick or the dead in Palace Habu, after all. I have to say that the first scene where these two men get together is incendiary. Two alpha males, that are versatile, make for some smoking sex, and then some.
What I liked -
That it is explained that Shane is bi, he has dated men and women. it is clear-cut why his marriage broke down. Same for Eric. He is gay, married his wife when they were young, discovered that she was pregnant, that he couldn't make it work, even though they were, and still are good friends. She just wasn't the right gender for him. They maintain a tight relationship and have done a great job raising their daughter in solidarity.
This book is over 300 pages and it really builds on the relationship, and who these two men are very well. There is no insta-love. Insta-lust, yes. But not love. No love is mentioned until around the 90% mark, and I loved how darned good that felt. I liked watching their relationship grow. That they built on common interests and likes - the same sense of humour, exploring historic castles, war memorials, dining, snorkeling, family, understanding each other's job, photography - I loved the camera rivalry between Nikon and Canon -
Shane peered at my camera and wrinkled his nose. "Canon."
"Oh. So you're a Nikon man.
"I am." His lip curled up with mock disgust. "I suppose I can be seen with you, even while you're shooting with that. Not like anyone will suspect us of being together now."
I loved, loved, loved the two MC's Eric Randall and Shane Connelly. I also liked them as men. Both were decent, loved their kids, took care of their responsibilites, were proud of their respective service for their country. Without being perfect, they were just good people in the best sense of the description.
They were great together. If you like hot, buff navy men going at it. Here is your book. If you like a cop thrown into the mix, you're in luck as well, because Eric is an MA, Navy Police. So you get to see some police work thrown in, on occasion. Eric's job is also pivotal towards the end of the book.
There was this amazing chemistry between Eric and Shane, and the sex scenes were just erotic as erotic could be. Holy heck, my Kindle asked me for a glass of wine and a smoke after!
Great, sexy kissing too. God, I love it when it's well done in books, particularly M/M, and I got it here -
A light kiss became a longer one, and we sank back onto our beach towels and kissed for the better part of a lazy hour like we wanted nothing more than to just touch and taste each other.
This quote is the abbreivated version. I will never look at a beach and wetsuits the same way again. For as much as it is sexy there is also a beautiful romance that develops in the truest sense of the word. One where they just wanted to be with each other, to tell the other about their day, share their life, their milestones, their worries, their time, and growing affection.
I liked the fact that while DADT has been repealed L A Witt still gave readers something to think about. Let's not kid ourselves, you still don't want to be gay in the armed services. Some may be sympathetic, and Shane had a friend who was. Many are not so comfortable with it, and Morris, the antagonist, of sorts, was very much a representation of thoughts and ideas about gay men, and, in fact, women serving, that are still very much alive and have to be dealt with today. Plus, fraternization rules and regs are still very much in place, which was a double whammy for our two MC's both wanting each other - being same sex, one an officer, one an enlisted man. Bad news on all counts.
Because of all of the above Eric and Shane have to find places to be able to be together. Luckily, Shane has learnt more than a few places to be away from other Americans, from prying eyes, so they can meet and be friends, enjoy the sights, and do something other than just banging each others brains out in their apartments. But it was always tense, because they never knew who might see them. Plus, the more you are on your own the more likely it is that people will look a bit closer at your sexual orientation, so it's like being on high alert. That's the backdrop against which Conduct Unbecoming is set. So there's always a concern about what the heck is going to happen to these two men. For two guys who shouldn't be forming a relationship, based on their job descriptions, who love their jobs, and have family repsonsiblities, yet are two people that fall for one another. I had my heart in my mouth as I wondered how this was going to go. The unfairness of having to hide your feelings. I understand the fraternization laws, I've contracted to the armed services. However, love does not understand rank, rules and regulations. I wondered how it was going to work for them. And by God I wanted it to work for them.
I love the way L A Witt writes changing POV's. Yes, at times, you may have to stop and think or find a signpost as to who is talking, because these men were so much alike. That was part of the charm for me, their genuine reason(s) for being in a relationship. It never seemed like she had just thrown them in and hoped for the best. I was engrossed in how they felt about each other, what was going on in their lives, and how they viewed the sex as it intensified into something more, into lovemaking. The POV's were never clunky and always gave you the opportunity to see what both men were thinking, feeling, just how hot one makes the other feel, how sad, or angry they were. There's no missing communication for the reader. Perfect.
There is a lovely travelogue of Okinawa and its surrounds. If you're not interested in other countries perhaps you won't enjoy it so much, but if you like travel and new sights L A Witt does Okinawa justice. To me, everything always progressed the relationship and also served as culturally and historically interesting.
I loved reading Shane's thoughts on Orion beer; particularly associated with the first night he met Eric, and their....dalliances.
It was nice to see Marie get to visit Eric. It was also nice to see how Shane progressed his relationship with his ex wife, and they learned a few things about one another, the reasons why Katy did as she did. Things in life and love are not always as clear cut as they may seem.
Chapter 24, the combined heading 'Shane and Eric' nearly ripped my heart assunder and destroyed me. I loved these two guys together. I felt like I was reading a duet, like they were going to burst into song together, as crazy as that sounds. It was lyrical and beautiful They have given up so much for their country. Expecting someone to give up love? I don't like it, irrespective of signing a contract. I'm glad they worked this out too.
There was not one thing that I didn't like about Conduct Unbecoming.
I loved the pacing of this book. I appreciated the fact that there was a statement being made by L A Witt in amongst the sex, growing relationship, all 'round interesting love story, and beauty of Okinawa. A statement that just because DADT has been repealed does not make it easy on servicemen and women. That serving one's country takes a toll on the family as well as the person serving. That tours of duty do people's heads in and sometimes something has to give.That the fraternization rules are archaic and, on top of so much that these people give already, love often gets sacrificed cruelly. You are not hit over the head with this, it' is not preachy, however, it's there, if you look.
If you like armed services, navy in this case, M/M, perhaps one a cop, sexy, sexy writing, some beautiful scenery, great characters, a bit of action, that's all here. If you also like a primarily character driven story, with some realistic dialogue, detail, emotion, and hope, that's also here. If you also want a slower build to love, as should be the case in a contemporary 300+ page book, then Conduct Unbecoming is that book. If you just like good writing, once again, here it is. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I would more than love to see another book/novella on Eric and Shane and, yes, I would pre-order that too. I am now re-reading it, that's how much I loved Conduct Unbecoming.