Buy Link: Once a Marine
Author: Cat Grant
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: Novel

Rating: 4.25

Marc Sullivan is working in a diner, making ends meet as his romance writing career takes off.  One day he almost drops a load of plates when tall, muscular, and gorgeous Cole Hammond walks in.  Everything about Cole turns Marc on, right down to the high and tight hair cut.  But having grown up in San Diego and dated (and hooked up with) many a Marine, Marc is wary about starting up something with yet another military man when so many of his experiences have ended badly.  After an early physical encounter reaffirms all of Marc’s worst fears, he is wary of getting further involved with Cole.

Cole has been part of the Marines since he was 18, and after five tours of duty it is in his blood. However, he has recently been the victim of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy after being outed by a disgruntled fellow soldier.  Cole decided to stop hiding his sexuality and admitted to being gay when questioned. Although he is glad to finally be able to stop hiding, he feels a great emotional loss at giving up the military life.  He is also struggling with the aftermath of his experiences, suffering from anxiety, nightmares, and panic attacks.

Things get off to a bit of a rocky start with the men as Cole jumps in and pulls back, still getting used to life out of the closet.  And Marc is wary after being left by previous military boyfriends and is carefully protecting his heart against further abandonment.  But eventually the men find their way together, building a relationship and settling in together.  Marc is a great calming influence on Cole, having dated other men with PTSD.  He is patient and supportive as Cole struggles with the aftermath of his military experiences and encourages (and pushes) Cole to get counseling and to take his medication to better deal with his problems.

Things are going well with the men when Cole suddenly must face some family problems at home.  Seeing his father again is difficult since the man is former Marine and still angry to find out that Cole is both gay and that he ruined his career by coming out.  Cole and Marc struggle with their first separation and figuring out how to continue with their relationship. Marc must deal with his anxiety about abandonment and decide whether he can put faith in their relationship and trust that Cole will not leave him.  And Cole must deal with his father and being outside the bubble of support that Marc had provided back in California.

I really enjoyed this story and found the guys quite likeable. I appreciated the timeliness of the topic since the DADT repeal recently kicked in here in the states and I haven’t read many stories that deal with this issue so directly.  I enjoyed the nurturing side of Marc and the way he helped Cole feel safe and protected and didn’t just dismiss him as a guy with a lot of baggage.  I found their relationship both hot and loving and really liked watching it develop.

I did have a few problems with the story however.  My biggest issue was the shifting point of view.  The story alternates between Cole and Marc’s views, which isn’t that unusual for a romance novel.  But the problem I had is that the sections switched between first person and third person depending on whose POV we are getting.  Marc speaks in first person and Cole is told in third person, which changes the way all the names and pronouns are used.  I found myself getting confused each time Cole’s POV started up, having to stop and reorient myself before moving on.  I can’t remember reading another book that used this convention and while there may have been a good literary reason for doing it, I found it very confusing as a reader.

I had a few other small issues.  I felt that Cole’s shyness about being out in public was a big deal early on but seemed to go away rather quickly without a lot of explanation as to why he suddenly becomes more comfortable. I also think the conflict and resolution at the end could have been better fleshed out.  There seemed to be a lot of back and forth and changing minds and then suddenly everything is ok again.  They eventually reached a good resolution but I wasn’t completely clear how they got there. However,  I do like that we see how both characters are willing to ultimately put effort into resolving their problems and making the relationship work.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.  It is the first of Grant’s books I have read and I will certainly be seeking out more of her work.  Once a Marine is a sweet romantic story that tackles some difficult issues with characters I really enjoyed.