Title: Latakia
Author: J.F. Smith
Cover Artist: n/a
Publisher: self published
Amazon: Buy Link Latakia
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance/Action/Adventure
Length: 531 kb (according to Amazon page/no idea what this translates into, except on my Kindle it has 6335 locations)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: I really enjoyed this romantic story of personal growth and finding happiness in the most unlikely places, and the great action/adventure scenes were an excellent bonus.


Matthew likes his life in Richmond. He has his friends and his softball and his volunteer work. And he has a very good-looking boyfriend, Brian, who he’s been happily dating for over a year now. So what if his friends tend to question just how good his boyfriend is, and so what if Brian tends to have inexplicable mood swings. And so what if Brian seems to invite Matt’s suspicions on occasion. If he just shows a little faith and trust, he’ll appreciate what he has with Brian the way he should. Right?

But suddenly, Matt finds himself in a desperate life-or-death situation on a trip overseas, and he realizes just how much he misses home, and Brian. He’s luckily rescued by a team of US Special Forces, only to immediately find out they’re a bunch of bigoted jerks. Worse, a quirk of his situation forces him to spend time with them that he’d rather not. And that’s when he finds out that first impressions can be misleading. When called upon, he steps up when every fiber of his being tells him not to, and discovers something deep inside himself that he didn’t realize was even there. And his life will never be the same. He finds that he can, after all, make some very overdue changes in his own life.

What Matt doesn’t realize is that the bond of brotherhood runs both ways. And he winds up changing the lives of several of the men on that Special Forces team as much as they changed his.

All it takes is faith and trust.


I reviewed this writer’s Falling Off the Face of the Earth and when I saw the new story, I was really interested to see if I liked it as much as I liked the first one, and for 99 cents I did not hesitate much.

Okay, my biggest gripe with this book is its title, which really, really does not reflect the great story behind it and I wish the writer would have come up with the better one. I also think that the story could use some general tightening up, but I really did not see obvious typos, grammar mistakes, etc.

So I highly suggest you ignore the title (and the cover while I am at it) and start reading. You will meet a completely ordinary guy Matt, who definitely has some self-esteem issues and puts up with his jerk boyfriend because Matt tries to convince himself over and over that he is lucky to have Brian. I have to say that Matt’s self-esteem issues did not make me less sympathetic towards him, but your mileage may wary.

All of this changes when Matt finds himself in the extraordinary situation and, as the blurb tells us, gets saved from it by a team of Navy Seals. I have to say, that I think this writer really has a talent to make out-of-whack situations to be completely believable for the reader and while I was reading the story, I kept nodding my head. When I thought it over after I was done reading, of course I thought that the idea of Matt’s further involvement in the situation he initially found himself in was not very realistic to put it mildly. However it still does not matter to me in the slightest, because the writer made me buy it. I am not sure how he did it, maybe because while he placed Matt in the not very probable situation, he concentrated on describing Matt’s feelings about it and he made him feel what very ordinary human would have felt. Matt does not become a superhero, he does not want to make a decision, he is really scared to get involved further and he is scared even after he decides to get involved. By the way, I want to be clear, when I say improbable situation, I do not mean the initial kidnapping; certainly today we hear of kidnappings of the civilians around the world way too often than I would have wanted to — never . What I find improbable is the idea that the military would want to involve an untrained civilian in their operation that way, but as I said, while I was reading I was able to suspend my disbelief and kudos to the writer for that. The emotions of the characters were very believable and the action scenes were a lot of fun to read.

I loved how Matt changes throughout the story, while still being an ordinary guy and I thought SEAL guys were really enjoyable characters. And I really enjoyed the story of Matt becoming friends with the SEALS and sharing the bond of their brotherhood with them, and again, somehow the author wrote about it in a very convincing way for me. By the way, if you don’t like reading stories about the US Army portrayed in a romantic way, you should stay away from the book. I really enjoyed it, but I always try to give the most warnings possible, even if I only suspect that there is a reason somebody may dislike the story. I have a friend who really dislikes the romantic stories about the military as she cannot think of the military that way, so just in case this is a turn off as well for you, keep it in mind.

Yes, there is a lovely romance in the book for Matt and you should read to find out with whom he gets his well deserved happy ending. I really do not want to describe romance in great details since the blurb is so silent on that, but I thought it was very well done and mixed with action adventure story line. The guy with whom Matt ends up is a terrific character in its own right.

While I think that the story could have been shortened somewhat (not much at all!), I did not feel it dragged a lot and overall highly recommend it.



    • You are welcome Pea, I liked the first book quite a lot, but I think I like this one much more than his first one. Hopefully you will enjoy it too.

  • OK, I just risked 99 cents to give this one a try. I really appreciate you all at Jessewave going through the self-published stacks to let us know what is worth picking up.

    Regarding length: according to Smashwords, it has 116453 words, so at 250 words/page, that would be 465 pages. Long!

    • Hi Charming Euphemism, I cannot take the credit for going through self- published stacks, I just dont think that my overall percentage of self published book reviews is that high overall. I do read some self published books of course, just do not think it is a huge amount, but definitely finding books like this makes it all worth it for me. Thanks for the information about page length as well.

  • I read this book over the the holidays and fell in love with it!!! So as you can imagine I have just been waiting for your review to see if you liked it as much as I did. I would love to see a sequel! I agree with what you said about the title and cover flaws, but the blurb is what snagged me and I am so glad it did.

    • Hi Oilsparky I am so happy you enjoyed this book as much as I did. See, I dont know about the sequel, I am often ambivalent about the sequels to my favorite books. As much as I want to see more Matt and the guys, I really really do not want to see Matt and his beloved break up and then make up just for the sake of sequel, you know? I also feel that all the character growth issues were resolved very satisfactory, IMO of course.

  • Great review, Sirius! This sounds like fun. I’m going to get it.

    But… If the military personnel in the story are Navy SEALs, I wish the author hadn’t called them “U.S. Special Forces” in the book blurb because that refers to U.S. Army, aka Green Berets. Army and Navy are vastly different. I know — a tiny persnickety thing to object to on my part. Must be the former technical editor in me coming out. 😀

    • It was a lot of fun for me Val, in fact if I were to grade the book solely on the emotional appeal of the characters and action, I would have given it a solid 5 stars. But yeah, see things like this one is something that good editor would have spotted.

  • Ok, based on your review and the fact I love a good bargain, I decided I’d give it a try. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Sounds like my cup of tea 🙂
    I like the cover, but reading what you wrote it doesn’t really match, oh well, once bought I rarely look at ebook covers anyway (there’s a few exceptions)

    • Hi Majken, don’t get me wrong, after you have read the book cover makes sense and same with title IMO. However it does nothing to grab the attention of potential buyer, IMO and both cover and title could have reflect what happens in the book so much better. For example Latakia is the name of the place where some of the events in the book took place, but the story is not *about* the place, you know? It is about love, adventure, faith, trust and all these amazing guys . If I have not read another book by this writer, I would have looked at the title, said meh and moved along. Believe me I am saying this because I think this writer is amazing and I think he has the potential to be great, so I really want his stories to attract readers instead of losing them. I guess price is very attractive marketing point, but I would imagine that at some point he would decide to charge more (and I think it would be totally justified) and then attractive cover and blurb will be even more important IMO. I hope you will enjoy the story Majken.

        • Haha, I so hear you about “never decreasing no matter what” TBR pile. I kind of adjusted my thinking and decided that it will always be with me, might as well get used to it :). Please consider coming back and sharing with us what you thought after you will finally read this one.

  • A great review of a book that has it’s flaws- mainly the title and cover……..such a mistake! 😕

    I too felt the beginning with Matt’s inferiority complex was overdone, but once the SEALs came into the story it was such fun.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it’s energy and vigorous romantic escapism.

    Thanks for introducing me to this one Sirius. :flowers:


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