One More Soldier

Title: One More Soldier
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical  M/M, 1960’s
Length: Novella (16,320 words 69 PDF pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

 

 *This review contains what might be considered spoilers*

 Summary Review: A powerful love story that broke my heart but made me incredibly grateful to the author.       

  THE BLURB      

It is 1963. Being gay is a sin against God. And twenty-eight year old mechanic Will meets Bran for the first time.     

Over the years a close bond forms between them despite the seventeen year age difference. Will teaches Bran to swim and helps him with homework. The years pass, Bran drops out of school and moves away.     

Then Bran comes home. Can Will move past their age difference? And if he does, how can he keep Bran in 1970 America?     

A beautifully told tale of love and loss told from the viewpoint of a deeply closeted gay man at the very beginning of the American Gay and Lesbian Rights movement.      

THE REVIEW 

Will and Bran met for the first time at the pool attached to the apartment complex where they lived. Bran had just moved into the area with his mother and sister because his Dad had died and they could no longer afford the rent where they lived before. Bran immediately attached himself to Will, much to his dismay, but he decided not to reject him because he didn’t have any friends. They spent most of the time by the pool due to the Texas heat which was stifling, and Will taught Bran how to swim and even helped him with his homework. However, as he  grew older Bran became much smarter than his tutor who hadn’t gone beyond high school and worked as a mechanic in a local garage. When Bran told Will he was quitting school at 17 because he couldn’t allow his Mom to continue supporting him, Will was very disappointed; shortly after Bran left to work on a ranch in another town. They didn’t see each other again until Bran came back home at 18, a year later, and Will didn’t recognize him because the person who showed up bore no resemblance to the skinny kid he once knew. 
     

They swam and fooled around in the pool like old times but it was obvious that Bran had his own agenda and the games that he wanted to play were more adult, which horrified Will who was very much against having any sort of  sexual tryst with someone he knew as a kid. At 35, Will was 17 years older than Bran and he did everything he could to dissuade him, even offering to take him to the bar he went to every Saturday night so that he could meet someone his own age, but there was only one man for Bran. Will could not understand why Bran would want him since he was young and gorgeous, then Bran told him why he had come home – he had been drafted and in two weeks he would be leaving to fight the war in Vietnam. Will kept saying “”You’re so damn young–” when Bran took matters in his own hands –

 ‘He leaned close, lightly brushing his lips over mine. “Will,” he whispered against my lips. “In less than six months, the US Army will put a gun in my hands and make me a killer. If I’m old enough for that, how can I be too young for this?”
And then he kissed me.’
   

I had no power left to protest. The arms holding me were strong and sure, and the chest I felt beneath my hands definitely belonged to an adult, and any memory I had of the person he had been before fled. Maybe my reasons for saying no had been good, and maybe they hadn’t. Either way I could no longer muster any conviction for them. Here and now he was a man in every way, and he wanted me. He trusted me. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him back, relishing the feel of his hard body against mine.  

What followed was some of the most tender, sensuous and moving lovemaking, as Bran gave himself to Will.  The thought that this could be all they would ever have made being together even more poignant and heartbreaking, as Bran wanted to experience every aspect of love and sex with Will to store up memories, just in case he never came home again. The war was constantly on their minds and they counted down each day as if it was their last, and they made each one count. 

Because this was a time of war happy endings were almost non existent so there’s no HEA or HFN, but if you pass on One More Soldier you will have missed a powerful love story. Many romance readers do not like to read books where the protagonists do not end up together because they are looking for escapism, but at times we have to remember that reading is all about giving your imagination wings and living in a world that sometimes enchants, but at times it’s like real life with all of its heartbreak and disappointments. Bran and Will were so real they grabbed a hold of my heart and never let go, and the Houston heat was like another character in the story because it was always present.
 
Some books take me out of my humdrum and usually uneventful life into a different era or genre and they have an incredible impact because they are so well written. That was how I felt after reading One More Soldier which was all of 69 pages, and I wondered how the author could pack so much living and loving into such a short book. The majority of books I read are forgettable, however I will remember this one for a long time, and that’s mostly because of the characters and the era. Gays were treated at times worse than criminals – but Bran had a plan for what he was going to do after the war, if he survived. His youthful exuberance and determination to make a difference, with all the odds against him, showed a lot about his character. He made it clear that he was not going to hide his sexuality, unlike Will who was still in the closet at 35; he wanted to make a difference in the gay community and couldn’t wait to get started.
   
If you have read any books by this author you know that her greatest strength lies in her characterizations, and Bran and Will were so well drawn it was as if they were real. This story is told from Will’s first person POV which was distinctive.  
  
I highly recommend this book which will let you live or relive a hated period of American history about which much has been written.  I think you will like the ending.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

62 comments

  • Taken me a year to get around to reading this–but yes, agree with everything you say, will be reviewing it on 14th Feb (apt..) brilliant book and I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on Ms Sexton! 😀

    Reply
    • Hi Erastes
      Wasn’t this a wonderful story? Even though the ending was sad it was also hopeful.

      Marie doesn’t write a lot of historicals as I recall but I could be wrong. I should check.

      Reply
  • While some might consider this review as having spoilers, I wish I had read it before the story. I read it expecting a typical romance HEA/HFN, but within a page or two I couldn’t imagine how that could possibly happen. So I sort of raced through the story, desperate to know how it ended. I think I was too distracted to get the full impact, and immediately put it on my TBRA (to be read again) pile.

    Yes, it was evocative, heart-wrenching, hopeful, inspirational…incredible how much Marie packed into so few pages! Also, I agree with Tj’s comment in its entirety.

    Reply
    • Hi Jessica
      I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews but because I know that “romance” readers expect their books to have an Hea?HFN I felt that I should be fair to them and let them know what to expect. It was a tough call but I think I made the right one and I’m glad you agree.

      As for the age difference I, too, thought it would squick me but it didn’t because of the way that Marie handled that aspect of the story.

      Reply
  • Hi Wave – Wonderful job on the review. I loved this book as well. I thought the age difference and the fact that Will had watched Bran grow up would ick me out, but Marie did a fantastic job of avoiding that. And I thought that the ending would be sad, but it was kind of hopeful for me – a reminder that our mere presence in people’s lives change them, hopefully for the better.

    Reply
    • Hi Tj
      This was really a wonderful book. I tried to get Buda to review it because he had read the story and I hadn’t at that point, but the little devil gracefully lobbed the ball back to me. lol. Anyway I’m very happy he did because this is the type of book I really enjoy. I love books written around the 60’s era, Vietnam and the problems that gays were having at that time.

      Marie did an excellent job on the age issue which could have been a tipping point for me, but it wasn’t because of the way she weaved the story. Also I think the ending was hopeful and not at all depressing. Great job!

      Reply

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