A guest review by Lasha
Summary Review: A wonderful story about two lonely men stationed overseas who find love and companionship with each other.
First class petty officer Eric Randall is less than thrilled about taking orders to Okinawa. Three long, lonely years on a crappy island that’s thousands of miles from his daughter? Oh. Yeah. Sign him up. But as long as he’s stuck here, he might as well make the best of it, so he discreetly checks out the local gay scene.
Shane nearly drops his drink when the gorgeous, cocky-looking guy strolls into Palace Habu. He buys him a drink, and before long, they’re making out in a booth. Eric is a straight-to-the-point kind of guy and doesn’t want to play games. Since Eric’s idea of not playing games is getting the hell out of there and going back to one of their apartments, Shane is more than happy to go along with it.
What starts as a scorching hot one night stand leaves both of them wanting more…until Eric finds out Shane doesn’t just outrank him, he’s an officer. DADT may be repealed, but an enlisted man getting involved with an officer falls under conduct unbecoming.
Still, they can’t resist their mutual desire. There’s no reason anyone has to find out. But secrets have a way of outing themselves.
Wave asked me to review this book because: 1.) I was in the Navy, and 2.) I’ve been to Okinawa multiple times (Kadena Airbase). Plus, I like hot, closeted Navy men!
First Class Petty Officer Eric Randall is a single man who just got stationed in Okinawa, Japan for three years. Having just come back from a tour in the Middle East, he’s not very happy about his assignment because it will take him away from his teenage daughter. So, he’s angry, determined to hate Okinawa and trying to figure out his new job as a supervisor of security forces (they are called Master-at-Arms or MA’s). Add in the fact, he’s gay, he wonders how he’s ever going to find some action on island with this many military people! For the purposes of this book, DADT has been repealed.
Now, we need a little bit of a history lesson to understand Petty Officer Randall’s situation, and as a history teacher I am happy to oblige. At the end of World War II, as a part of the surrender of Japan and their forces in the Pacific, in order to protect the U.S. from another surprise attack like Pearl Harbor, the Japanese “agreed” to let U.S. military troops build bases in Okinawa. There are many bases on the island of Okinawa, run by the Air Force (Kadena), the Marines, the Navy, etc. and in 1960, after a revision of the treaty, there are on any given day 21,000 American troops on the island compared to the 40,000 residents of the island. Meaning the U.S. military is a huge presence there. I won’t discuss the politics at great lengths, but the locals dislike the bases, most don’t like Americans which goes back to the Battle for Okinawa during WWII and more recently, the 1995 rape of a Japanese girl by American servicemen. Many locals would like to get rid of the bases, but because of the treaty and other policies, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, so there is this uneasy alliance between Okinawans and Americans.
Eric Randall knows all this, plus add that he’s gay, in the military and he thinks his life is going to be crap for the next three years. Enter Commander Shane Connelly. The two men meet at a gay bar, go home together for a night of scorching hot sex — this is an L.A. Witt book after all! — and figure they will never see each other again. Wrong. The next time they are at the bar, they hook up again as their chemistry is off the charts, but when they realize that Shane is an officer and Eric is enlisted, they know they cannot see each other again. (DADT may be gone, but fraternization rules are not.)
But like every other human being on the planet, you tell them something is off limits, and you want it more, so of course, Eric and Shane continue to see each other in secret, hoping they won’t get caught and kicked out of the military.
What I really liked about this book was the accurate portrayal of servicemen overseas, how they miss their families, their country, and how hard it can be to adjust in a strange new place where you don’t understand the language or the culture. (Even when I was stationed in Italy for three years, I still felt homesick for the States. Now, I just long for real Italian food and wish I could go back!) L.A. Witt was able to convey those emotions to the reader and I think it gave us the setting and atmosphere of the novel.
Second, the sex scenes? Ooh la, la. Is it hot in here? As with every other L.A. Witt book, the sex was scorching and plentiful. While some m/m books are filled with sex scenes that add no purpose or do not move the plot along, that is not the case with Conduct Unbecoming. I really felt the sex between Eric and Shane helped explain their relationship and why they were willing to risk their careers for it and each other.
Third, the setting was perfect. L.A. Witt really took pains to give you a guided tour of Okinawa, exploring all facets of the island as the main characters did. Having said that, about 3/4ths of the way in, I felt like I was reading a Condé Nast travel magazine, so while I enjoyed the guided tour for about 50% of the book, the rest felt forced and caused me to drop my rating by .50 points.
My only other niggle was that I did not understand why Shane and Eric while trying to hide their relationship did not leave the island and fly to Tokyo, rather than stay on Okinawa, where it might be easier to get caught by other military people. Advice to Eric and Shane that might or might not have come from personal experience: the Navy cannot catch you dating an officer if you are in another (large) city having a naughty weekend!
But overall, I really enjoyed this book. L.A. Witt once again was able to transport me to a specific setting and make me experience the emotions of her characters. I highly recommend this book, not just because it brought back some many good memories of my experiences in the Navy, but because it has solid characterizations, a great plot and amazing chemistry between the protagonists. I think you’ll enjoy it too.
Conduct Unbecoming will be released October 23, 2012.