Title: Anchors Aweigh
Author: Janey Chapel
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
After completing Navy SEAL training, Cooper Fitch and Eli Jones face assignment to different platoons. Since the strength of their mutual physical attraction is exceeded only by their emotional reliance on each other, the idea of being separated for a year or more is a bitter pill to swallow.
But missing Eli may be just the beginning of Cooper’s troubles: he’s got an undisciplined man in his platoon, an uptight commanding officer, and his own insecurity about his leadership skills to deal with. Without Eli at his back, Cooper starts to wonder if he really has what it takes to be a SEAL.
This is really Cooper’s story for the most part. In Anchors Aweigh Cooper evolves from the green lieutenant who graduated Navy SEALs Basic Training and assumed a leadership role that he never expected to fill because Eli was always the leader of their team. As is normal after graduation, the men (enlisted and officers) were given new assignments, and three members of the old team moved on to other platoons. The remainder – Eli Jones, Cooper Fitch, Mickey Chavez and Ace O’Reilly knew that the possibility they would remain together probably would not happen. This assumption was proved right as Ace, Mickey and Cooper were assigned to their current base but Eli was redeployed. One minute Eli and Cooper were together and the next he was gone – wheels up – and Cooper didn’t know when next he would see him or even if he would return from his dangerous mission. This was the biggest blow suffered by Cooper so far even though it was not unexpected, since he and Eli were both lieutenants junior grade and it was unlikely they would remain together. Not only would Cooper miss Eli’s leadership but also his companionship and love and he knew he faced the biggest challenge of his short career because he would have to demonstrate that he was deserving of being an officer in the Navy SEALs.
On their last night together Kim, a student at U.C. at San Diego with whom Cooper had had a brief sexual encounter in Maritime Men, showed up at the guys’ favourite bar, Ketchum’s, and after talking briefly with Cooper she indicated that she was trying to rent her house because she was going away for a couple of years. Later that evening Cooper and Eli decided to rent the house as their first home together, but would they ever share it?
Cooper was tested immediately by his new Commanding Officer, and with each frustration and challenge he missed Eli’s strong hand guiding and supporting him as he had done every day during Basic Training. In the following months Cooper knew that he had to assume the mantle of command for his small group and be the leader his men deserved. They were all floundering without Eli, and in addition to learning to live without the man who always had his back, Cooper had to cope with new senior Command Officers whose approach to leadership was sometimes in conflict with his. During the next 6 months Cooper had to step up to guide Ace and Mickey in addition to the other men under his command and deal with all of the petty annoyances that are ever present when people have to work closely together. As their training assignments became more complex and dangerous, at times Cooper was tested to the limit especially by O’Reilly who was a powder keg ready to blow, but he knew that O’Reilly was a valuable member of their team and Ace proved it at a time when Cooper and the rest of the men most needed him and his marksmanship. The camaraderie among the men was amazing especially in situations where lives hung in the balance, and making spilt second decisions could mean the difference between going home in a box or living to fight another day.
I love Eli and Cooper even more in this book and I think that the author did a really good job in researching life in the armed forces because there was a lot of detail about the exercises and the chain of command. What was better in Anchors Aweigh was that the other characters were also well drawn. Ace O’Reilly and Michey Chavez were more fun in this book and their drunken antics helped to relieve some of the serious undertones of training for fighting in wars. Even Master Chief Cherkov (Jerkoff as the soldiers called him behind his back), was given a bit of humanity in his characterization, and many other characters had enough face time to introduce additional conflict into the story. I was really pleased with the way that Janey Chapel made the sequel even more exciting than Maritime Men and I got to know not just Cooper and Eli, but some of the secondary characters as well.
In Anchors Aweigh Cooper was no longer the green untested junior officer but someone who showed maturity and demonstrated that he really cared about his men and was capable of assessing their potential and making sure that the senior officers in his platoon did not discount the value of their contribution to the team. Of course Eli and Cooper were the stars of this book and deservedly so, but Eli was away for a major part of the story so Cooper had to make decisions and act like an adult for the first time in his career. Even though he felt Eli on his shoulder guiding him in critical situations he still had to make the judgment calls. When Eli returned he and Cooper had to navigate their relationship all over again since they had both evolved during Eli’s absence and his return could create friction, depending on the new reporting relationships. And what of Eli? He was just as armed and dangerous, challenging, powerful and complex professionally, but he proved that he knew what was important in life – the love of a good man! This book was exciting and a lot of fun and I liked how the guys connected with each other. Although I would have liked more of Eli and Cooper together, I thought that the way the author handled their relationship was appropriate.
If you’re looking for a story with engaging characters, solid writing, exciting training runs set amidst the discipline of the Navy SEALs then Anchors Aweigh should be on your list of books to buy. Definitely recommended.