Soldier

Title: Soldier. A Scarcity Sanctuary Book
Author: AKM Miles
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: 217pgs 71,000 plus words
Rating: 4 out of 5 rating stars

A Guest Review by Raine

Summary Review: Two men, badly scarred by life, come together to build family for abused boys. Warm, very sentimental, page turner.

Blurb: When Soldier shows up to check on one of his properties, he’s amazed to find the old house in disrepair and full of scared boys being cared for by a man who makes him believe in angels. Dillon falls for this big bald man, so scarred inside and out, who comes to mean so much to all of them. All of the boys have such heartbreaking stories and these two men’s mission in life now becomes to make life better, easier, and most of all, safer for the children in their care. Love is all important in building their dream.

This story has been previously published.

Review:

Set in Texas, this story starts with our first introduction to eight year old Gom—short for Montgomery—one of the seven heartbreaking, abused children Dillon has somehow come to care for out on the blurred edge of the Social Services, boys who who can’t cope within the system. Gom has spotted somebody lurking in the garden.  Although the intruder looks threatening—very big, bald and scarred—he unexpectedly turns out to be the unhappy, depressed but very rich owner of the run down house they are all officially squatting in.

Bitterly abused, Gom, who looks like a five year old, can’t sleep, won’t be touched except by Dillon and cries soundlessly, is caring, loving and brave, and this is the trigger to a change in Soldier’s unhappy life. Physically and mentally scarred by war, Soldier is unexpectedly taken by Gom, who not only spotted him half hidden in his camos, but who wants to both protect Dillon and care for the intruder, bringing him a peanut butter sandwich, in case he was hungry. Gom falls asleep in this stranger’s arms, out in garden.

So you get the idea, almost a Walt Disney scene set, sweet lullaby playing, it’s as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. Later there are puppies and rescue dogs…all things I am very susceptible to. The viscious situations that have led the boys to this shelter are rooted in reality and that upsetting, discordant note saves the book from being drowned by the sweetness, but it was still a little saccharin for my taste.

The situation is precarious; Dillon has to work hard scrounging and asking for leftovers to even get the boys enough to eat. Food is clearly a metaphor for love; Soldier provides them with good food, serving the boys fried chicken as he gets to know them,

Gom came forward and held up a paper plate and said, ” I’m Gom and I love you “

As instant as the child’s trust is for Soldier so is the attraction between the two men.  Both are scarred, and wary of life. With his damaging experiences of war Soldier has fallen out of love with life. You quickly get the sense that all these characters embody the old blues line:

If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.

There is always the feeling that really bad things could happen at any moment as these boys cling to the raft that Dillon has made them. This tension is nicely offset by Soldier, with his big heart, bringing financial security and sensible, practical treats. The shopping scenes with the wide eyed, grateful kids are good fun, but is balanced by what they reveal about Tommy whose world doesn’t usually hold something for nothing,

“You won’t want us to…you know…”.

Both Soldier and Dillon have put their emotional and sexual lives on hold until this instant attraction drives them forward. The careful juggling they have to do in order to finally get some hot sex is amusing and also touching. As when Tommy becomes aware of what they are doing in the laundry, this again reveals more about his abuse; prostitution by his own mother.  We are in the Amy Lane territory of  ”driving while gay” as in ” Keeping Promise Rock”, “Talker” and “Talker’s Redemption”, but the writing is very different. Without the clever contemporary edge, AKM Miles work feels traditional, wordy, slightly worthy, and very sweet. The general emotional feel reminded me of The Walton’s—readers of a certain age will know what I mean…I hope. On her website the author says of her work:

You can expect there to be a happy ending every time. You can expect for the two to find each other and choose to be together fairly early on, and then face conflicts, trials, and experiences as a couple.

She also says:

Often called for being too mushy or romantic or sweet…

although she discounts this, I think it is fair comment. However, the book is a real page turner, the story following this newly forged family as they cope with various future threatening events. The practical situation of how it is possible for the two openly gay men to care for the boys within a system which includes homophobic police is necessarily dealt with but in some detail:

“…We have to decide if this is a foster parent family or a sanctuary for boys. That makes it more a business- type deal.  You might have less trouble with the gay thing with that.  I’m still doing research.”

The practicalities of their lives together is, again, all spelled out, the explanations of being gay to the boys and how that affects their living arrangements: when Dillon and Soldier have private time, the bedroom door will be shut, but the kids can knock on the door, wait, and it will always be opened for them.

One of my problems with the book was the ages of our protags—Soldier at thirty three and Dillon at twenty five—as both characters felt to me as at least a decade older in attitude and emotions.

“…You are my other half, Soldier. I waited my whole life for you.”

And Soldier replies

” Yeah. I never thought I’d have somebody…I just thought I’d be alone all my life…”

This age anomaly might well be a device because of the need of later books, which deal with the boys as adults, and Soldier and Dillon are required to be parental not grandparental. I will be reviewing Gom’s story, “For Gom’s Sake,” next week, a book I liked very much. I read this before Soldier and that might be why I prefer it.

However although Soldier is a little over-sweet for my taste, this heartwarming story is pleasant, well-—written and enjoyable.

OVERALL

27 comments

  • How very interesting. Thanks for the review. I admit that he dog shopping scene gets me, too, and I wrote it! Yes, it’s overly sweet, but the other parts needed to be balanced with some good. For those who love these guys, there will be more coming. I’m glad folks are liking For Gom’s Sake, too. IF you’ve read Soldier already, I’ve gone everywhere saying you needn’t buy it again as the story is not changed, just a few minor tweaks to help the flow and fix mistakes. I love the new cover, though. It is so perfectly Soldier and Gom. I like hearing people’s responses.

    Reply
    • Thank you.

      I’ve just read Tommy’s Story, so now I know how he got his HEA too 🙂

      I really think Gom- all grown up- is a very good character development, you can see the child in the man, but also the influence of how Dillon and Soldier have raised him up.I’m looking forward to doing that review.

      Reply
  • I’ve had my eye on this one and it’s been on my TBR for awhile now. There are times when I want nothing more than to curl up with a book and feed my literary sweet tooth. Soldier sounds perfect, and the cover makes me go “Awwww…” Now to find some reading time.

    Reply
    • Yes Eden this one will be a good fit, it’s been really interesting to see the consensus of opinion on Soldier. Hope you agree. 🙂

      Reply
  • Hi everyone,
    I can answer the question regarding the difference between the two versions (Torquere and MLR) since I’m the editor for the MLR version and have read the Torquere version many times. There are minor tweaks, no major changes and a new cover. Hope this helps.

    And for those interested, FOR GOM’S SAKE is out as both a m/m romance through MLR and a YA (titled UNDERCOVER ASSIGNMENT) out through our YA/childrens imprint Featherweight Press. The story line could help too many if it was out there for them so we felt that it was necessary. The main difference between the two (besides titles and covers) is the lack of full sex on the page.

    Reply
    • “The main difference between the two (besides titles and covers) is the lack of full sex on the page.”

      That’s interesting because I read the original version and I liked it a lot… but it was a little uncomfortable to go back and forth between hot sex scenes and family discussions of abuse. Was that the reason for the re-edit or was it a general marketing decision?

      Reply
    • Thanks very much Kris.

      I’m reviewing For Gom’s Sake next week, I can see that the YA version is a really good idea. Gom is such a great character, I like him just as much as an adult.

      Reply
  • I agree with your review and feel the same way about this book. It is one of my comfort reads and I cannot count how many times I have re-read it. The scene with the dogs has to be one of the best, still tears me up everytime I read it.
    I did not know Gom’s story was out! Off to shop! *so happy*

    Reply
  • Ah I knew there had to be something about Tommy cos of what happened to Gom when he was older.

    Luci, whats Tommy’s story called? You see I just get hooked in…..

    Reply
  • It was everything you said, wordy, too sweet etc. But, in this case it worked for me. I liked Soldier, Dillon and the boys. Seriously how can you not like a rescue dog that’s called Pee Wiggles or the little boy that named him?

    Reply
    • Oh Luci, the whole rescue dog scene, with Gom being so brave and selfless about the puppy 😥 and 🙂 that got me every which way.

      I like knowing how he grew up too. Sometimes writers just hook you in that way don’t they?

      Reply
      • I think romance readers are all a bit of a sap at heart, those kind of story lines trigger all the right things. 🙂 *sniffle*

        Reply
          • Oh, me too. My husband laughs at me when I get all emotional because a book tugs at my heartstrings. Don’t tell him but I love it. 🙂

            Has anyone read Tommy’s story? It was short, but now I know how he’s doing.

            Reply
  • This story is a comfort read for me. It is very sweet but then sometimes I go for the brownies instead of the fruit. The theme of this story is also one that comforts; that there are people who genuinely want to help children in need and do.

    Thanks for the review.

    Reply
    • Mmm…brownies, belgian chocolate ice cream, topped with little praline filled easter egg ! Yes :yes: Linda that sounds good. Thanks.

      There some books that just soothe and you can get lost in no matter what- Georgette Heyer used to be my go to author for that…..now one of them is J L Langley.

      Reply
  • This one pushed all my hot buttons, abandoned abused kids, people helping them and forming a family. However I do find the author’s work to be similar. Most of the books are too sweet and too insta-lovey for me, but I know that the author has fans who adore knowing exactly what they are going to get every time.

    But for me, it was the topic that drew me to this particular one allowing me to be more forgiving of some of the sweetness and other flaws in the writing that don’t work so well for me in other contexts.

    I may have read the older version as well, didn’t realize it had been re-released

    Reply
    • Yes Tam, I have to say it is heavy handed on the sentimentality, but sometimes I guess that hits the spot. Oh I have just thought- Little House on the Prairie- hah another tv series it reminded me of!

      I can understand that fans liking the formula go back for more. I do that over and over again when a writer works for me.

      Reply
  • I’ve been kicking this one around for a bit. Based on your review, I just got it and Gom’s story. Thanks. 😀

    Reply
    • You know this is a genuine comfort and hot chocolate read. 🙂

      I have to confess I fell for Gom, and enjoyed his story most, as I said probably because I read it first.

      Hope you have a good time.

      Reply
  • I’ve read a previous edition of this book (by Torquere, I think) and I remember I had some problems with it (too sweet, too wordy and everything spelled out, being some of them). Do you know if there are any and what are the differences between the editions? Was the book reedited?

    Reply
    • I’m sorry I’m not much help on the details LadyM, all I know is that it has been published before, don’t know about editing. It doesn’t feel as if its been heavily edited as it is, as you say, wordy.

      I think I have decided it also feels like an old favourite, perhaps an earlier M/M that was enjoyed in its day. However this could be me in total fantasy land! :nuts:

      Reply

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