Rating: 4.25 stars
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“Okinawa’s a shithole.” Eric’s cousin had said that to him after being stationed there, and now as Eric’s plane touches down he doesn’t know how he’s going to handle being stationed here for three years. It’s better than his combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Eric’s not even off the plane yet before the separation from his daughter and the isolation of being in a foreign country with no friends or family starts eating at him. To make matters worse, Okinawa’s such a small island and all of the Americans here are likely to be military, so casual hookups with other men become far more dangerous. DADT may have been repealed, but for career Navy men, being openly gay is still pretty much career suicide. It’s a risk Eric’s not willing to take and he’s made the closet he lives in pretty comfortable.
After a few weeks on the island, sexual frustration sets in and Eric decides to risk trying out a discreet gay bar in the hopes of finding some companionship for the night. There he meets Shane, another military man, but they don’t stop to talk much about their careers before deciding to spend the night together. It’s a one-night stand that’s better than any in recent memory for both of them and it leaves both men kicking themselves for following good casual hookup etiquette and not exchanging numbers.
Weeks pass with both men unable to forget the other until a chance encounter has them running into each other again. Neither can deny the strong attraction that still flares wildly between them and they go home together again. Both are ready to admit that this might not be as casual as they intended and they might like to try dating, until they find out that Shane is a naval officer and Eric is enlisted. The Navy has strict rules about fraternization and for officers and enlisted sailors, even friendship carries the risk of serious disciplinary action—a relationship would mean the end of their careers, dishonorable discharges for conduct unbecoming a gentleman, if discovered.
Although the risk is serious, neither man can walk away from the other and they begin a covert relationship. Due to the secretive nature of their interactions, their relationship is slow to develop, but somewhere between exploring all the beautiful sights on the island, spending long nights tangled together, and introducing Shane to his daughter when she comes to visit, Eric not only discovers that Okinawa is not such a shithole after all, but that Shane might very well be the love of his life.
This was a strong story and a really good read. Witt’s voice and pure storytelling ability wrap you up in this world from the outset and carry you through a tale that would have otherwise felt meandering and directionless without such a skillfully applied writing style. There were a few things in this book that I normally don’t enjoy, but they worked quite well here and one of my favorite things ever is reading a book that makes me like things I normally don’t. That being said, I still had a few issues with a couple of things.
My biggest complaint is the last few chapters and the ending. We spend so much time wandering through this slowly unfurling romance with Eric and Shane where there’s so much underlying tension that while you’re enjoying the sweet build, you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop and for everything to go to hell. You wait, and you wait, and you wait some more, and then it happens, and we rush through it. The inevitable conflict that the reader can see coming for miles finally happens and we’re shuffled through it so quickly I felt a little cheated. And then the ending rolls around and nothing is resolved, all of the issues that have plagued this relationship from the very beginning are still there, and I felt cheated again.
But the rest of the story definitely made up for the disappointment of the ending. Witt has created two characters that are easy to fall in love with as they slowly fall for each other. I loved Eric’s inner strength and his very defined sense of self. I loved that his relationship with his ex-wife wasn’t the clichéd bitter and angry mess usually portrayed in romances. They’re actually still good friends and it’s a refreshing take on a common situation. Shane was absolutely delightful as well. He’s funny and playful and the two of them play off of each other very well. And good lord are they scorching hot together.
The intimate scenes between the two of them are so sexy and despite the fact that the dynamics between them are not something I usually enjoy, I was into it big time. This author made it work and the sex felt so right for these characters, not like just sex for sex sake, but a real fulfillment of emotional and physical needs. The whole plot is based upon the idea that they found one night of sleeping together completely unforgettable and I can totally understand why. It felt absolutely believable to me because they burned the sheets up that first time.
But these characters actually work even better together outside the bedroom than they do in. There are a lot of “date” scenes that take the reader through this budding romance and all of it is interwoven with absolutely gorgeous descriptions of Okinawa and trips to fantastic scenic locations and it’s just really enjoyable. Their easy shift from playful banter to serious conversations to unwavering support for each other works really well too. It’s hard to make a slow-build work well but Witt manages it flawlessly.
Unless you’re not a fan of slow building romance or secretive relationships, I highly recommend you check this one out despite the abrupt ending.
P.S. You can enter to win a copy of Conduct Unbecoming, as well as one of over 100 prizes, in our Men in Uniform Week giveaway.