Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
The war is over. The battle for love has just begun.
Little did Jim Bennett and Cal Cunningham know what the future had in store for them when they met abroad the train bound to South Carolina and the training ground for the Marines. The time is 1942 and WWII is underway. From that initial meeting, a strong bond was forged, one that would see them through the rigors and pain of Parris Island where they became Marines then across the ocean to the Pacific campaign where the horrors of Guadalcanal and Okinawa awaits them. And through all the blood, tears and anguish, the bond grows from friendship to love at least for Cal, a love undeclared, buried and forbidden.
After the war, Cal stays connected to Jim from afar until Jim’s wife dies. Then Jim’s need for Cal’s help overrides Cal’s plan to stay away from the man he loves and he arrives at Jim’s farm thinking to stay just a short time. But Jim is a man in pain, suffering from PTSD and with an orchard and two small children to care for. The bonds between them snap back into place and the loves Cal holds for Jim is stronger than ever. But what happens when Jim begins to see Cal in a new light? Soon their relationship starts to deepen in ways neither expected. Can they build a life together as a family and find happiness in a world that would condemn them?
With Veteran’s Day almost upon us, I can’t think of a more appropriate time to recommend you discover this poignant and heartwarming novel Semper Fi by Keira Andrews, author of A Forbidden Rumspringa. A richly layered saga of a love that begins on board a rickety train bound for Parris Island in the year 1942, the story continues through the war years and ends in 1957. All the social upheaval, all the National milestones that came with WWII, it’s all here, bound up in an intimate tale of the struggle for love and family.
From the moment we encounter these men on the train, we know that these men are remarkable. These characters exude a vitality perfect for their ages while brimming over with an authenticity of the times and the impact that Pearl Harbor had upon the nation. Young men were eager to enlist and serve their country, a naive enthusiasm that is quickly dispelled by their Drill Sargent and the rigors of boot camp at Parris Island. Keira Andrews has done her research for the history and minutiae incorporated into the story are factual while overlaid by the emotions and physicality of their situation and the times. We experience “the breaking down to build up” that goes on in boot camp. It’s humiliations, pain, and hardship that have to come before the rewards that the men go through. And throughout it all we feel the bonds growing into place between Jim and Cal. This deep emotional attachment that forms soon includes the readers in its intimacy and scope which translates well when the story moves into 1948 and Jim’s small home town.The characters of Jim Bennett and Cal Cunningham, both from New York but separated by social status, wealth, and self knowledge, are men who will capture your heart with their struggles and journey towards a loving relationship that must always be secretive and unacknowledged by those around them.
The author has chosen an unusual format here. Each chapter includes two different time perspectives. One in the “present” 1948 and Jim’s Clover Grove Orchard in upstate New York, then it returns to 1942 and the start of Jim and Cal’s relationship and journey through WWII. I hate to call this a flashback because it doesn’t feel that way. More a turn of a prism that incorporates the whole of someone’s life journey. A twist of the crystal and another facet comes into the light before turning once more. We start out in 1948 as Cal arrives at Jim’s farm. Then its 1942 and they are meeting on a train to South Carolina and training camp. Each chapter moves the story forward in each time frame. Far from being disjointed, this format serves to bring balance and a deep sense of history to the scenes occurring in 1948. The men in 1948 are still trying to deal with the devastating emotional and physical aftermath of the war. The men of 1942 are so young in outlook and naivete, a viewpoint that is eroded by war time experiences full of blood, horror and death. And the reader is there with them …on the beaches, in the sweltering jungles of the Pacific, and the pounding bombardments of artillery fire from both sides. And it all happens so gradually, while interfaced with scenes from the present, that we don’t even realize at first that their pain and suffering has become ours as well.
Another important element of the times and story? The need for homosexuals to stay hidden even as they search out like individuals in situation after situation plays out again and again here. The desperation and hunger that is found in the darkness and anonymity for people like Cal comes across the pages with a realness that almost hurts. Cal has always know he was “queer” and the implications that it has had on his upbringing and outlook. Jim? That’s a far more complex and hidden aspect of his personality, one he doesn’t deal well with. For him, his feelings are a “sin”. Their situation is fraught with peril, full of subtle touches and emotional support and the joy of discovery and the pain that arrives as well makes this story one you won’t soon forget.
There is a mystery to unravel, believable children to win over, and always a relationship in flux between two characters we have come to love. I can’t recommend this story enough. With Semper Fi, Keira Andrews now has two books in Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words “Must Read” Top Lists of 2014. This story will tug at your heartstrings while making our past and the sacrifice of so many young men feel immediate and haunting. Pick up both stories today and start your journey with this remarkable author.
Cover design by Dar Albert is as lovely and haunting as they story itself. A top cover any way you look at it.
Sales Links: All Romance eBooks amazon Semper Fi
ebook, 320 pages
Expected publication: November 11th 2014 by KA Books