Title: I’ll Be Your Drill, Soldier
Author: Crystal Rose
Publisher: Dark Roast Press
Buy Link: Still available at SmashWords as of 12/26/2015
Genre: Contemporary M/M, military
Length: Novel (576 pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK
Ryan Gracin had a good life until he told his parents he was gay. Since they yanked their support for college he had to find a way to pay for it. Little did he know that joining the Army was going to change his life forever. Especially when he was introduced to a Drill Sergeant who was nicknamed ‘Big Daddy’.
Phillip Grabowski had joined the Army to follow in his father’s footsteps; by the time Ryan entered, he had already made a name for himself. He was a soldier’s solider, but Ryan was making it really hard for him to remember that.
This book was recommended to me by several readers, but to tell the truth it took me a while before I decided to buy it because I don’t read books that are almost 600 pages long. Obviously I bought it but it languished in my TBR pile for a few months before I cracked it open. However, once I started reading I was blown away by the story.
I’ll Be Your Drill, Soldier is a story about four recruits who joined the Armed Forces for a variety of reasons and undergo basic training together for six weeks at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The story also spans their lives for almost 6 years after they become soldiers and takes us on a journey to see what happens to them as they are deployed in different parts of the world, including Iraq.
Our main protagonist Ryan Gracin soon realized that he fallen for Drill Sergeant Grabowski, the most evil, sadistic D/S in the Army who did everything he could to instill fear in Ryan and his three fellow recruits – Brendan, Patrick and Kenneth. This mythical Army is a completely different universe from the one we are familiar with since being gay in the military was not against the Armed Forces code of conduct, there was no “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and no one had ever been kicked out because he preferred men. It’s like an OK Homo world but Drill seemed real in every sense except for the tolerance of gays in the military. The plot takes us into the lives of these raw recruits and shows how they bonded with each other during Basic Training, and details their adventures and misadventures along the way to graduation. You will root for the guys as they overcome obstacle after obstacle and pass incredible tests of human endurance.
This story is partly a tactical playbook for Basic Training in the Armed Forces as the guys are taught how to survive and save the lives of their comrades in dangerous situations; the principles of “all for one and one for all”, brotherhood, loyalty and camaraderie were all part of their training. The book is gritty and real but funny in a morbid sense at times and the readers see the world through the eyes of these characters in every situation, no matter how horrible. Ryan or “Freckles” as Phillip calls him, is 22 years old in the beginning of the story and his lust for his D/S kept getting in the way of duty to his country whenever Phillip was around. Phillip was just as smitten and he made life hell for Ryan by touching him and doing most of the things a lover would do when he wanted to raise his temperature. Because he was Ryan’s superior there was only so much he could do without going over the line, but he walked a razor’s edge as he had fun at Ryan’s expense. These two characters steamed up the pages every time they were in the same room yet Ryan was deathly afraid of Phillip and his reputation as a crazy person, which Phillip cultivated. 😀
All of the characters were well drawn and I fell in love with Ryan and that wonderfully complex man, Phillip Grabowski whose family became Ryan’s extended family because his own hypocritical Christian parents had kicked him out. I think that the supportive relationships, trust and loyalty that developed among the characters over the years was one of the reasons I liked this book so much. The characters kicked each other’s butts when needed but were supportive during the disasters and near misses. War is hell and this book showed some aspects of that hell. But I don’t want you to get the idea that this book was totally serious. It wasn’t! The ribald humour which filled the pages was a laugh a minute and I have never seen the “F” word used so many times in a book – it was like sprinkling condiments liberally over food ten times over, so be warned.
Drill is warm, funny, gritty and sad and I went through every emotion while reading this book. I never expected that the characters would tug at my heartstrings or have the effect on me that they did. The emotion at times was so powerful and poignant that I needed a lot of tissues.
Although the story spanned several years it didn’t seem long because the author moved ahead 5 years when we caught up with the characters again after Basic Training. There are too many high and low points to detail in this review but the best part for me were Phillip and Ryan who were so hot together that at times they had to be scraped off each other. For its length there wasn’t too much sex to overwhelm the book, as Drill was all about the story and the men, their relationships and their families which made this lots of fun and an engrossing read. The author must have done an incredible amount of research to ensure that her story and characters were authentic, or maybe she was in the Armed Forces herself and wrote from personal experience.
I’ll be your Drill, Soldier is one of the longest romances I can remember reading, at almost 600 pages yet the time flew by, which is the greatest compliment I can pay an author. I loved the characters, the plot, the world building, the humour and everything about this book and the pacing was incredible. If I had one criticism it was that Phillip’s family members, including his ex, were too darn perfect.
If you want to read a book with lots of hot men in uniform who will take your breath away, wonderfully crafted secondary characters, great man on man action, a plot that will go from the depths to the heights in a split second, and much more fun than you would expect in a story about four army recuits, then I’ll be Your Drill, Soldier should be next on your ‘to buy’ list. Crystal Rose is one hell of a writer!