Erryn reviews Semper Fi by Keira Andrews, published November 11, 2014 by KA Books, 332 pages. The audiobook was released by Tantor Media on February 25, 2020, is 11hrs and 46mins and is narrated by John Solo. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read the book: I adore Keira Andrews and enjoy historical gay romance novels.
The war is over. The battle for love has just begun.
As Marines, Cal and Jim depended on each other to survive bloodshed and despair in the Pacific. Relieved to put the horrors of war behind him, Jim went home to his apple orchard and a quiet life with his wife and children. Knowing Jim could never return his forbidden feelings, Cal hoped time and an ocean between them would dull the yearning for his best friend.
But when Jim’s wife dies, Cal returns to help. He doesn’t know a thing about apple farming – or children – but he’s determined to be there for Jim, even as the painful torch he carries blazes back to life. Jim is grateful for his friend’s support as he struggles with buried emotions and dark wartime memories. Then Jim begins to see Cal in a new light, and their relationship deepens in ways neither expected. Can they build a life together as a family and find happiness in a world that would condemn them?
Contains mature themes.
I was recently asked to name several of my favorite books. My mind immediately went to the MM genre, and from there I moved through as many books as I could remember reading. Two of the three I selected were historicals.
Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper is about two World War II soldiers meeting on a ship. Their love was forbidden, of course, but they found ways to furtively come together. Things after the war weren’t much easier, but the men forged a life together and found happiness.
Wilde Love by Lucy Lennox is another book I often think of fondly. In this book, two men meet in Vietnam. One is married and one is gay. Only years later do they come together for their happy ending. Keira Andrew’s Semper Fi was much like this book and I have to say it will rank up with one I really enjoyed.
Cal Cunningham is gay. He was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, and go into the family business of banking. Instead, after Pearl Harbor, he signed up to join the military and became a marine. He met Jim Bennett as they were on a troop train headed off to boot camp. The men couldn’t be more different. Jim is an apple farmer. Both from New York state, their homes are mere hours apart, but it seems like different worlds. They bond over first boot camp, and then fighting in the South Pacific. There is no sugar-coating here – the war is described in a fair amount of detail and it’s no wonder these men, as well as many others, came home with what we now refer to as PTSD.
After the war, Jim comes home to his wife and daughter while Cal heads to Europe with the family business. Jim and his wife Ann have a son Adam and things seem to be going okay until Ann is killed in a tragic car accident. Suddenly Jim is a widower with two young children. Cal comes to visit, sees he can help, and basically stays.
This book is a slow burn. Although Cal has been in love with Jim for years, Jim has been oblivious. Although his marriage wasn’t always a happy one, Jim never perceived there could be other kinds of relationships. He’s a God-fearing man who believes that being queer is a sin. Heck, he’s even been taught that masturbation is a smite-worthy offense.
Then one day Jim sees Cal in a different light. The change was believable, and I was rooting for the men to get together. Of course it’s 1948 in rural New York State, so it can’t be simple for them. There are plenty of obstacles and a dark moment to boot. But this is a Keira Andrews romance and I was pretty sure I’d get my happy ending.
This book has an interesting structure. Each chapter begins during the war (the first ones in 1942, moving along until the surrender of Japan in 1945). Midway through the chapter, there would be a transition into ‘present’ day (1948). This structure worked brilliantly as the war became more vivid, the lives the men built afterward more precarious. The epilogue also contributed greatly to the flow of the story and it was nice to see things from a different perspective.
John Solo narrated Ms. Andrew’s Gay Amish love series and he did another amazing job with this book. I love that he’s consistent in his delivery. I always know I’m going to get a solid performance and he delivers. He also has distinctive voices for the men and I was never confused. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and will be happy to recommend it. Near the top of my list.
10/10 pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars