Winners of Kendall McKenna’s The Final Line Contest

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Good morning all!  Here are the winners of the e-book drawings from Kendall McKenna and MLR Press are:

The Final Line: Sally -n- Sean (which is perfect!) halliday.sally@yahoo.co.uk
Pick of Recon Diaries title: Ilona F. felinewyvern@googlemail.com

Thanks to all who participated!  We have had wonderful comments and a great time.

Review: The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5 The Final Line

Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood returned home after a tour of duty that saw him injured and a case built against the civilian security forces that operated overseas.  Now an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. Corey is suffering from PTS, and is drinking heavily in his off duty hours to help him sleep through the night and the nightmares that arrive as he falls to sleep.  One night at a local bar, Corey comes to the aid of a woman being targeted by some local drunks.  When her friend arrives to take her home, Corey meets a man that is smart, compassionate and wakes up his long slumbering libido.

Sean Chandler, an actor and a musician, walks into a dive bar expecting to find his neighbor who called for a ride. Instead he finds himself tossed into the middle of a drunken mess with one man standing between his friends and a group of angry drunks. He watches as the Marine easily handles the situation and then helps him walk his neighbor to the car.  One ride home lands Sean squarely into Corey’s life, as friend and perhaps even romantic partner.  Corey is less than communicative, but Sean sees immediately that Corey is having problems, starting with alcohol.  But Sean also sees the remarkable man who is in so much pain and in need of his help that nothing will stop Sean from doing  what he can to see Corey on the path to sobriety and mental health.

Corey is also suffering from memory loss.  Something awful happened during his last tour of duty and an investigation has been opened up to uncover those responsible for civilian deaths and the following coverup. Corey’s memories are the key needed to unlock the truth.  As the investigation draws closer, Corey’s memories gain power.  Will the truth put Corey on the path to recovery and love or will the truth be his downfall?

When is 5 star rating not high enough? The answer is when you have a book like The Final Line in front of you to review.  This is really one of the most exemplary examples of military fiction that I have read in quite some time.  Add to that fact that given the overwhelming number of soldiers returning from their tour of duty with PTS, traumatic head injuries as well as physical disabilities and an infrastructure unable to handle all their needs, it becomes not just a beautifully written piece of fiction but a timely one as well.

Corey Harwood is the focus of this book, unlike the previous stories where Marine Staff Sergeant Jonah Carver and former Platoon Commander, Kellan Reynolds were the main characters. In those stories, Corey was a young soldier just learning the reality of his job, a reality that only comes with the first tour of duty.  This is our first introduction to  “baby Marine” Corey Yarwood in Brothers In Arms:

PFC Corey Yarwood of Slayer-Two-Three sat cleaning his gear, listening to the bullshit his fellow Marines were spouting. He laughed in the right places but didn’t contribute much. Jonah always felt a sharp twist in his chest when he saw Yarwood. The kid resembled Kellan. Jonah had thought Kellan looked young all those years ago, but Yarwood—Yarwood looked so young, he made Jonah feel old. Kendall McKenna. Brothers in Arms  MLR Press LLC.

From baby faced, inexperienced Private, we watch Corey age and grow into a seasoned warrior injured in battle, returned to the States for training in Fire for Effect (Recon Diaries #2):

Jonah’s features split into a grin. “Yarwood,” he greeted, extending his hand.

Corporal Corey Yarwood approached, dressed in full utilities including the eight cornered, billed cover. He’d changed since Kellan had last seen him. Corey was the same height, but he held himself a little taller. He seemed broader in the chest and shoulders. Two years had matured Corey, that much was obvious. He’d still been boyish, when Kellan had met him. Now, he was unquestionably all man.

Corey grasped Jonah’s hand and shook it briskly. They pulled each other in for the ultra-masculine, back-slapping hug of the alpha male. Corey was smiling wide when he stepped back, his eyes shone as he looked up into Jonah’s face. He released Jonah’s hand but now stood gripping his bicep.   Kendall McKenna. Fire for Effect . MLR Press LLC.

By the second book, Corey has returned home a veteran Marine with First Recon getting ready to deploy for his third mission overseas.  Experienced but still young enough to harbor a crush on his idol, Jonah Carver.  This is also where we start to get our first indications that all is not well with Corey, when Kellen asks about his injury:

“How’s your head these days?”

Corey’s fingers lifted to his temple in what looked like an unconscious gesture. “I have a pretty good scar but beyond that, I healed up fine.” Kendall McKenna. Fire for Effect . MLR Press LLC.

But the truth is Corey is far from fine, and he is already drinking to excess.  By the time we meet up with Corey again, he has become Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood  and is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course.  He is having difficulty sleeping, he has lost his memory of certain important events, and untreated PTS is steadily pulling him into a downward spiral. And that is just part of the beauty of this series and this book.  Kendall McKenna has given us a powerful portrait of a Marine, honor bound to the Corp and its codes of behavior, from his first tour of duty to a seasoned Instructor.  It’s realistic and its has all the authenticity I have come to expect from a Kendall McKenna story. I believe in Corey,  I believe in his attitudes towards the Corp and service.  And because of that unquestioning belief, I felt every moment of his pain, every second of his despair, and finally his joy as he starts on the path to recovery.

In some respects, this story is less a romance, than a study of a veteran who is dealing with PTS, and that makes it not only emotionally compelling but timely as our media is full of stories of our soldiers returning to society, unable to cope with their physical injuries and emotional trauma. It is not enough that a writer is familiar with military terms and uses them in a story.  It is the understanding of the soldier mentality, or in this case what it means to be a Marine, an identity so indelible that it is written on their cells.   Ask any one on a street in the US, what it means to be a Marine, and you can expect an immediate answer, whether it be “Semper Fi” or “once a Marine, always a Marine”. It is quite simply a never-ending brotherhood.  To understand and be able to ground their stories and characters in the Marine culture is an achievement that few authors manage.  Kendall McKenna is one of those who reach that level of accomplishment in every story she writes.  If you have read her guest blog , then you will understand how her family and past history has contributed to this knowledge.   But I am convinced that it is something more, something else, a special talent that allows an author to go beyond knowledge and history to extend real emotion and a mental framework into their characters that bring them fully alive on each page of the story.  Corey Yarwood is that powerful, compelling creation that moves beyond the page and into your hearts as a real person.  We invest ourselves emotionally in Corey’s situation and yearn for his recovery as much as those around him do.

Another terrific element of The Final Line is the fact that McKenna helps to educate the public about PTS without standing on a soapbox.  This is Corey’s first meeting with a doctor from the Warrior Clinic:

“I’m guessing it’s the nightmares and insomnia that are causing you the most trouble?”

“Yes, ma’am. Doctor Goldman gave me a prescription for that. It’s only been a couple days but so far, things seem better.”

“Good. That’s really good. You’ve reported only one anxiety attack. By taking care of the sleep issues and coming here, you’ve probably headed off more frequent and more severe episodes, so that’s also good.” Doctor Ingram paused and Corey wiped his sweaty palms on the thighs of his jeans.

“You’ve reported no flashbacks and no hyper-vigilance, but I’m willing to bet you have very mild symptoms and just don’t recognize them.” The doctor canted her head as she regarded Corey closely. “Do some of your memories seem more vivid that others? Do you lose time? Several minutes where you don’t know what you were just doing? Are you uncomfortable in crowds? Do you feel aggressive if you don’t have a wall at your back and all exits in view?”

Corey sat in stunned silence for several moments, mouth hanging slack as he stared at Doctor Ingram. “I don’t lose track of time,” he managed through his tightened throat. “But all the rest? Yeah.”

And that is just some of the symptoms associated with PTS and through Corey, we watch as he tries to deal with them first on his own, and then with the assistance of others, including doctors.  It is truly an eye opening experience if you are unfamiliar with the disease, and McKenna gets us right into his head and mind frame. Then multiply Corey by the thousands and you begin to  understand the hurdles the young men and women are facing as their return from duty and try to reintegrate into society.

Along with Corey, McKenna also gives us a military investigation into a war crime where civilians were killed and an coverup of that event at home.  Both Jonah Carver and Kellen Reynolds are back as part of that investigation and Corey’s memories hold the key to exactly what happened overseas and who was responsible.  This portion of the story is as enthralling as everything else going on around our main character.   It just as easily could have been one of those “ripped from the headlines” plot lines, but again this section has the same authentic feel as all other aspects of this story.  Trust me when I say your heart will just ache by the time this book is done, and not just for Corey. McKenna has given this its due diligence and it shows.

Is there a romance here?  Absolutely.  As with all her other characters, McKenna gives us another realistic, relatable character in Sean Chandler.  He is interesting, compassionate and a true equal for Corey.  There is no instant love here but a relationship that has to be built around real issues that have to be dealt with.  Corey has to learn to communicate better and Sean has a front seat in learning what it means to be a Marine, especially a Recon Marine.  It is a wonderful, believable and ultimately loving relationship that McKenna creates between the two men, emotionally satisfying for both the reader and the couple.  How I love them both.  You will too.

From character study to military investigation to war crime to the building of a loving relationship, The Final Line has it all and then some.  It is exemplary as an example of military fiction as it is m/m romance.  I cannot begin to recommend this story highly enough.  It is such a remarkable book, so timely and alive in personality and culture, that I continue to shake my head in amazement.

Run, don’t walk, and pick this up.  If you are new to the series, start with Brothers in Arms and continue forward until you reach The Final Line.  And then spread the word too about a series all will want to read and men that all will want to embrace.

Cover Art by Jared Rackler.  The covers for these books are as powerful as the stories within.

The Recon Diaries books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events taking place: ReconDiariesBanner2 Brothers In Arms (Recon Diaries #1)

Fire for Effect (Recon Diaries #2)

The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3) Book Details:

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Published July 4th 2013

Guest Blog – Kendall McKenna and Book Contest!

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ReconDiariesBanner2 Today we are lucky to have as our guest Kendall McKenna talking about her latest release, The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3).  To celebrate its release, we are giving away one copy of The Final Line and one copy of any other Recon Diaries title to a person who comments either today or tomorrow.  So don’t forget to leave a comment at the end of the post.  This is an incredible series and The Final Line is one of Scattered Thoughts Best Books of the Year: The Final Line Hello! My name is Kendall McKenna and I write M/M Erotic Romance novels and novellas. I’m going to talk about my U.S. Marine characters, and give away some free e-books, so let’s have some fun! Thanks to everyone for joining me today! On July 4th, The Final Line, my fifth novel – #3 in The Recon Diaries – was released to great reviews and a lot of excitement. This is the story of Corey Yarwood, who readers have watched grow up during the first two books in the series. Corey falls in love, has some hot sex, but also struggles with Post Traumatic Stress. That’s one of the hallmarks of The Recon Diaries, a hot romance woven together with a realistic military situation.

That’s actually what I do, as an author. My specialty, if you will.

My journey into writing love stories about U.S. Marines is pretty direct. I have never served in the military, but I have worked in law enforcement. There is a lot of crossover. Quite a few of my family members left the military to become law enforcement officers. I grew up in San Diego, where there are more Navy and Marine Corps bases than there are schools. Okay, not really, but almost. You get the idea. Growing up and into my late 20s, I was very close to my maternal grandfather. He had served in the Marines during WWII, and had been one of the founding members of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. This all mixed together to become an extensive knowledge base and understanding of all things military, quite specifically, the Marines.

When I got all grown up, I noticed how inaccurately both cops and Marines are portrayed in books, movies, and on television. I desperately wanted to read good books about these characters, that didn’t have glaring errors or clearly indicate that authors had no military knowledge at all. You can tell from my books that military personnel have ways of thinking and speaking. As a sub-culture, they have a language of their own. I understand all of this, and can tap into it. I’ve explained before that it’s a lot like spending your first ten years in another country, speaking English as well as the local language. If you move to the U.S. at the age of ten, it becomes the language and culture you most closely identify with, but you can still access everything from your first ten years.

That’s just one piece of the puzzle, though. My characters are very crucial to my stories. I would say they’re more important than my stories, but I know many would argue. In any event, people who thrive in the military culture, have certain personalities. They also go through a process of socialization and conditioning while in the military. What this means is that military characters have to be created in a specific way for them to be realistic. First of all, they’re emotionally reserved. They aren’t overly talkative, especially when it comes to their feelings. They tend to prefer actions over words. They possess an inclination to ‘protect’ their loved ones from the ugliness of their professional lives. They need something pristine as an escape, so they attempt to keep the two halves of their lives separate.

Anyway, I first tried writing military characters and military themed stories, because I believed I could do it better than in some of the things I was reading. And I’m not just talking in the m/m genre. It’s a widespread issue. So, I sat down and wrote. I edited, I re-wrote. And I wrote again. I went out and found editors and beta readers who I knew could be very critical and push me to be better. I wrote, they corrected me, and I re-wrote. I grew from simple stories of 2,500 words, to my sweeping 100,000 word epics.

It’s one thing to write a series of stories that are strictly about two people falling in love. Obviously, I love a good romance. I wanted to do more, though. I wanted to write realistic, believable (yet, fictional) stories that would serve as the backdrop for the love story. It’s a commonly used technique, but I looked around for something that either affects, or only occurs to military personnel. I start with that kernel of truth, and from it I develop my own story and draw my own conclusions. It’s a really big game of what-if, for me. My characters think, speak, act and react to the fictional situations I devise. I weave the love story in and out of the fictional plot, until they’re hopefully, seamless.

Here’s how it all worked for my latest story, The Final Line. Corey Yarwood is a small, secondary character who first showed up in Brothers In Arms. He reappeared, a little older and more mature, in Fire For Effect. When it came time for his own story, I aged him and promoted him, giving him a few unpleasant experiences to make him interesting, but also to give him some baggage. I created a love interest for him who is just different enough to create some conflict, but different in ways that balance Corey out a bit.

You pretty much have to be living under a rock, these days, to miss the fact that our military veterans are battling against Post Traumatic Stress. I gave Corey a case of PTS, and was careful to realistically portray the symptoms, as well as the treatment. I didn’t make anything easy. Corey suffers, and it takes him some time to heal. Even then, it’s not perfect

Also, if you pay attention to national news, you know that there have been some incidents that have occurred, resulting in military personnel being prosecuted. I created an event that would serve as a war crime, and would feasibly lead to stateside prosecutions. What better incident to trigger Corey’s PTS?

Finally, returning vets are suffering high rates of domestic violence. I used a local incident as a jumping off point for a plot point that sets the entire story in motion. If Corey was affected by an incident in Afghanistan, others in his platoon would be as well. If Corey battles to overcome his PTS, would there not also be someone who sank into darkness following this event? And what would happen if everyone got together to cover up this event? Who would take the fall when someone set out to uncover the truth?

What really sets my books apart from others written about military characters or situations, is the authentic flavor of my narrative. I tell the story I have designed using military jargon, dialog with the cadence of military-speak, and realistic combat scenes. I drop the reader into the story and tell them what it’s like to feel the recoil of an M16. I describe the tooth-rattling, ear ringing feel of being close to an explosive detonation. I write authentic radio chatter, right down to unit call signs. I make the reader’s heart pound and their blood race, as if they were right beside Corey in combat. My military situations could happen; they’re actually possible. My Recon Marines execute real-life missions. They’re not Navy SEALs single handedly saving the White House.

I admit it! I love stories like that! But I set out to do something completely different. The rogue SEAL has been done to death. I set myself apart by going for realism.

If you have any questions about me, my background, or about anything regarding one of my stories, leave a comment, I’m happy to answer.

TheFinalLineEventPicCurious about Corey and The Final Line?

Here’s the blurb: Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. His last deployment ended in horror, but he can’t remember those events. Battling severe PTSD, Corey’s drinking is growing out of control. Sean Chandler walks into a dive bar, and into Corey’s life. An actor and a musician, Sean has the empathy and compassion to sooth Corey’s pain, and the strength to support him as he struggles to heal. Corey’s lost memories are pivotal to a civilian murder, and a military investigation. Remembering could mean salvation, or destruction. Will the truth be too much for Sean to handle?Final Line pic

The Final Line might be Book #3 in The Recon Diaries, but it also stands alone. You can read it without having read the previous two books. However, if you’re curious about The Recon Diaries, you can read more about them at my website: www.kendallmckenna.com

NOW FOR THE FREE STUFF!

You have the chance to win one of two e-books! Our hostess is offering a free e-book of my newest title, The Final Line! I am offering a free e-book of any of the three titles from The Recon Diaries! The Rafflecopter drawings below will tell you what you need to know!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30753/

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30754/

Thank you so much for joining me here, and good luck to everyone with the drawings!

Corey & Sean 1st kiss Corey with puppyMarine Corey

When is a 5 – Star Rating Not High Enough?

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The Final LineA 5-star rating is not high enough when I am reviewing the stunning new book by Kendall McKenna, The Final Line!  The 3rd book in her Recon Diaries is emotionally powerful and absolutely current in topic.  Starting tomorrow, Scattered Thoughts is giving away one copy of this amazing book to one person chosen from those who leave comments on Monday and Tuesday.  Don’t miss out on your chance! Join us Monday and Tuesday as we welcome Kendall McKenna to Scattered Thoughts as a guest blogger and then followup with a review on Tuesday.

A Book Giveaway, Riding the Weather Rollercoaster, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So far the Washington Metro area has felt like Seattle, WA, and now we are aiming for Phoenix, AZ.  We have had close to 12 inches of rain in the last month alone, and that doesn’t seem to be letting up as we head towards the middle of July.  Really, folks, nothing like 100 percent humidity for a smokey Fourth of July.  Now the heat wave that baked the western states has hit here as well.  Temperature is rising to 98º today.  Now add to that the fact that the ground squishes with every footstep and a high humidity….well, it is little wonder I expect to see monkeys swinging from the maples at any time.  It is downright tropical outside.  Well ok, we did see a runaway red panda last week that escaped from the National Zoo (now safely back home after a trip to Adams Morgan, a very trendy place).  And a couple of teenage black bears that decided to tour downtown Washington for a suitable condo to live in.  I am betting air-conditioning and a pool were on their list of must haves!   So I am seeing a day spent inside knitting and reading on the agenda for the rest of the day.  I did get my coleus and caladiums bought on sale planted yesterday, as well as some yanking of smartweed but anything else will have to wait until the temperatures go down.

Now on to the exciting week ahead.  Kendall McKenna’s latest release, The Final Line is just out.  It is the another book in her wonderful Recon Diaries series.  On Monday, Kendall McKenna will be here with a guest blog and a book contest.  We will be giving away, courtesy of MLR Press, a copy of The Final Line to one of the people who comment on her blog and my review, which will be posted the next day.  Here is the blurb for the book:

Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. His last deployment ended in horror, but he can’t remember those events. Battling severe PTSD, Corey’s drinking is growing out of control.

Sean Chandler walks into a dive bar, and into Corey’s life. An actor and a musician, Sean has the empathy and compassion to sooth Corey’s pain, and the strength to support him as he struggles to heal.

Corey’s lost memories are pivotal to a civilian murder, and a military investigation. Remembering could mean salvation, or destruction. Will the truth be too much for Sean to handle?

So mark your calendars for July 8 and 9 for your chance to win a copy of this wonderful book!  And thank you, MLR Press and Laura Baumbach for the copies of The Final Line.  Now here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, July 8, 2013:                 Guest Blog with Kendall McKenna, author of The Final Line

Book Contest.  One copy of The Final Line will be given away

Tuesday, July 9, 2013:                  Review of The Final Line, last day to comment for the contest

Wednesday, July 10,2013:          Pickup Men by LC Chase, winner of contest announced

Thursday, July 11, 2013:             Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft

Friday, July 12, 2013:                  Fever Anthology by M. Rode

Saturday, July 13, 2013:              In Pursuit of the Bang On, Well Done, and apparently Endangered Short Story

So that’s our exciting week ahead.  I will leave you with a picture of Winston, recently groomed.  He has settled into our family as though he has

DSCN3917 always been there.  And here is a recipe for a drink to keep this hot weather in its place!  This cocktail is called appropriately Adios Motherfucker or AMF.  I have included the recipe as well as a link to the video on how to make this delicious drink.  A great way to say goodbye heatwave or  anything else to want to get rid of:

Adios Motherfucker CocktailAMF Recipe:

Scale ingredients to servings
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz rum
1/2 oz tequila
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
2 oz sweet and sour mix
2 oz 7-Up® soda

Pour all ingredients except the 7-Up into a chilled glass filled with ice cubes. Top with 7-Up and stir gently.
Read more: Adios Motherfucker recipe http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink735.html#ixzz2YHs7Z756

Review: Fire For Effect (The Recon Diaries #2) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Fire For EffectIt is two years after reuniting in Afghanistan, Kellan Reynolds and First Sergeant Jonah Carver find themselves back in the States, albeit on opposite ends of the country, trying to make their long distance relationship work. Kellan is still the CEO of Keystone Consulting. Jonah is stationed at Camp Pendleton, and looking to make changes in his career path in the Army, one to put him on course to be a Sergeant Major.  A speaking engagement in California reunites the men after another 6 months separation and a question posed to both Kellan and Jonah stirs up their  curiosity and plunges them both into an investigation.  The question asked at the conference concerns the repeated denial of Medal of Honors to  Marines killed in action in the recent wars. The pursuing investigation into those charges will lead Kellan and Jonah back to Afghanistan and changes the course of their lives.

Fire For Effect is the sequel to Brothers In Arms and the second book in what I hope will be a long and satisfying  series.  The foundation of this book and series is Kendall McKenna’s superb  knowledge of the military in all its aspects.  When Kellan (former Captain in the Army) and Jonah speak or move forward into action, they do so with an innate authority that would come from their history serving together as well as separately in various engagements throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.  The reader never once questions anything about the combat troops movements, their gear, arms, and even how the troops would spend their downtime overseas because it feels absolutely authentic in every detail.

In fact for this reader, the book really sings when Kellan and Jonah are engaged in military action, finding themselves once  more under fire.  Here is an example:

 The paths between camp facilities were all hard-packed and well-worn from the passing of many booted feet. Everything around them was coated in a layer of fine, powder-like dust, the same pale beige as the endless sands that surrounded them.

“Damn moon dust gets into everything,” Corporal Ruhl muttered.

“Excuse me?” Kellan asked, not quite hearing what the corporal had said.

“The top most layer of sand is this fine, powdery stuff we call moon dust,” Ruhl said. “It gets picked up easy by the wind and gets into everything. We can’t keep anything clean for very long.”

“Yeah, I remember,” Kellan replied. He was brushing that sand off and out of things for almost a year after he’d returned home.

And here is  another excerpt with the men accompanying a company in Afghanistan during their investigation:

The translator expressed all of their farewells to Wasim and the Marines climbed back into their victors. Their next stop was at a combat post, which was nothing more than a platoon of Marines dug into a flat patch of dirt and rock. Even now, Marines were squaring walls of trenches with e-tools and stacking sandbags.

“Ammo restock, looks like,” Jonah mused. “MREs, too,” Kellan said, as he watched crates and cartons get tossed and stacked. Their stop was brief and they were oscar-mike again. Kellan was sure his spine was permanently compressed by the time they reached the combat post that was Gunnery Sergeant Galen Foster’s current billet. As soon as the compound gate secured behind them and the Marines began to exit their victors, Kellan carefully stepped out and stretched his aching muscles.

This COP was in what appeared to be some sort of ancient fortification. Tall walls made of mud brick encircled the entire compound. Two single-story structures stood side-by side, also made of mud brick. The original wooden roof had been reinforced with more secure metals, not unlike the hillbilly armor of the Humvees. It was primitive and austere, only slightly less spartan than the first COP they had visited. Activity buzzed around them. Marines wearing Under Armor shirts unloaded trucks, cleaned weapons, and worked under the hoods of vehicles. Kellan heard laughter and swearing, dirty jokes and most of all, complaining. Marines loved to complain.

Just by those passages alone, you get the feel of what it must be like to be in country, fighting the gritty, dusty sand, the extreme heat and cold, amidst a civilian population that just might be a hotbed of insurgents.  Everything from the language to the terminology speaks of the reality of being in the Army in Afghanistan.  Really, it’s just perfect.

McKenna’s characters are as authentic as the rest of her story.  Kellan and Jonah are such perfectly realized characters that it is easy to believe in them.  Jonah, with his cautious reserve and military respect for his uniform and traditions is still the surfer who loves to  spend his time catching waves.  And Kellan, for all that he is now the CEO of a security consultant firm, is still very much the Army Captain in the carriage and attitude that he presents to others that they instinctively call him “sir”.  But together that reserve melts under the flames of their passion for each other once they are alone.   The relationship that McKenna has created between Jonah and Kellan is just as real and human as the rest of the book.  These man have communication issues and their tentative outreaches to each other speaks of their separation over long distances.  Yet you can feel the deep love Jonah and Kellan have for  each other through their conversations and body language, so intimate an affair that the reader almost feels like an eavesdropper.

And lastly there is the subject matter of their investigation.  You can look it up your self, there were questions raised and investigations launched over the fact that fewer medals of honor were handed out to soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than there were to soldiers in previous wars.  Some pointed the finger at the racial component (more races can be counted in the volunteer Army than in the conscripted ones of the previous wars) or to the fact that women (and gays) were now serving in higher numbers as well.  In Fire For Effect, Kendall McKenna has put her own spin to these questions and come out with a remarkable story that brings to light some not so savory conclusions about the actions of the Congress and Brass on this subject matter.

All of the above combined, the genuine respect and love for the Marines, the outstanding characters and the “ripped from the headlines” subject matter make Fire For Effect a truly compelling read.  The only thing lacking was the length.  I felt that it was too short to fully develop the investigation and its resolution.  I really wanted more of the story after their return from Afghanistan and more insight into what’s next in their relationship.  I expect that a third book will hold some answers for us, I hope so.  At any rate, that is all that kept Fire For Effect from a 5 star rating.   I do suggest that if you are new to the Recon Diaries, that you start at the beginning, with Brothers In Arms.  In fact pick them both up and read them in one session.  You will love being able to read one after the other.  I can’t wait for the next one to follow.  This pair has me hooked.  I think you will feel the same.

The Recon Diaries in the order they were written and should be read:

Brothers in Arms

Fire For Effect

And don’t miss out on one of my favorites of this year, Kendall McKenna’s Strength of the Pack as well as her Nights In Canaan.

Cover art by Jared Rackler.  Beautiful cover, very hot although I am not sure that it address the subject of the book.

Review: Brothers In Arms (The Recon Diaries #1) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Brothers In ARms coverMarine Staff Sergeant Jonah Carver is a legend among the soldiers stationed in  Afghanistan and for good reason.  Jonah Carver is the Marine ideals personified, his past missions now part of Corp mystique. So Jonah is the natural choice when a high security mission arrives in Diyala Firm base, Diyala Province, Iraq.  A high level personage needs Bravo company for transportation and protection against the insurgents.  When that person is targeted and killed, a new mission is planned to hunt down the assassins and uncover the agents behind the  plot against the American military.

And that brings Jonah’s past back with the arrival of Kellan Reynolds in the task force created to investigate the assassination.  Kellan Reynolds is Jonah’s former Captain in Afghanistan.  They had one night of hot, unbelievable sex before Kellan left the Marines to become an advisor to the President and Jonah returned to his troop. Now the same attraction and sexual tension is back as though it never left.  But the joint mission requires their full attention and the resumption of their relationship takes a back seat to the investigation.

When Kellan is kidnapped by the insurgents, their mission is thrown into disarray.  Jonah and his company must risk everything to get Kellan back, not only for the mission but for their future together as well.

After reading Strength of the Pack, I had to go out and see what else Kendall McKenna had written.  The book I found, Brothers In Arms,  did not disappoint the high expectations left by Strength of the Pack.  Shorter in length, this book contains the same memorable characters and vivid descriptions of the locales that I marveled at in the previous book.  Really, this author has so many strengths I don’t know where to start.

Characterizations.  Absolute perfection.  McKenna creates these wonderful Marines, gritty, human, vulnerable and brave.  She gives them dialog to speak so believable that I swear I could hear them in my dreams and puts them through events so authentic, so real that I expected to see them appear on the nightly news.  How’s that for great writing.  These men reek of sweat, and dust, and the smell of gun oil.  They are tired, the heat is sweltering, and the enemy is everywhere.  I truly felt as though I was in the middle of the platoon in Diyala Province.

The romance is equally suited to the men involved.  Don’t expect any flowers, that ain’t happening.  But the emotions, however internalized, are as real as the men involved.  I really appreciated that.  I loved that non verbal communication thing that happened between them.  They knew each other so well that at some point, speech became unnecessary until they had the luxury of time to spend with each other, and then the sex is incendiary.

Narrative and exposition are as amazing and detailed as her characterizations.  I felt as though I was embedded in the company and knew these men as intimately as their Sergeant did.  It was both a pleasure and pain to meet and understand these men and women because McKenna made their situations as authentic as their real life counterparts.  I will say no more.

Why not 5 stars?  Primarily due to the story length.  I wish it and the resolution had been longer, I certainly wanted more.  If you are looking for just romance or erotica, this might not be the book for you.  But if you are looking for meticulous writing, beautifully articulated characters and as real a setting as any I have read recently, then please get this book and be prepared to meet a couple you won’t soon forget.  Lucky for us a sequel is on its way.  I can’ t wait, Neither should you.

Cover Art by Jared Rackler. Just as superb as the story contained within.  Loved it.

Kendall McKenna. Brothers in Arms. MLR Press LLC.