General John Mitchel and his favorite pilot, Gabriel Sanchez, served together as comrades and brothers-in-arms for more than twenty-five years. They followed the warrior’s path: honor first, and service, and the safety of the tribe. Their own needs for love and companionship were secondary to the mission. Retirement from the army, however, proves challenging in ways neither expected.
When old warriors retire, their armor starts falling away, and the noise of the world crowds in. That changing world sets up longings in both men for the life they might have had. After years of loving on the down-low, the idea of living together in the light seems like pure sweet oxygen to men who have been underwater a little too long. But what will it cost them to turn their dreams into truth?
**Extra long review ahead... refrain from throwing tomatoes, please...**
This review is probably not going to be a popular one. Among my friends, the vast majority not only loved this book, but they 5-starred it and put it on their favorites lists. However, this book... it really rubbed me the wrong way. So much so that I stayed up for hours after finishing it, thinking it through in my head.
It isn't a big spoiler that this book contains cheating in it. It is one of the first things revealed in the plot so I don't feel bad about putting it out there. Now, I want to make something clear- cheating is NOT a hard limit for me. Some of my favorite books contain an element of cheating in them and I think, if done correctly, cheating can be a powerful plot device. Yes, I think that everyone deserves to find love and happiness and sometimes that can be a messy affair. I get that. However, the way that the cheating was handled in this book really made my blood boil.
Cheating for me gets a bit harder for me to stomach when it has been happening over the course of a long period of time and, here, Gabriel has been cheating on his wife with John for over 25 years. The affair started one month into their marriage. Now, for me to be able to rationalize this from the main character's point of view, there has to be extreme feelings of guilt or remorse. I wanted Gabriel and John agonize over the fact that they were deceiving Martha, Gabriel's wife. Remorse should be the MINIMUM of what they both should be feeling, because, let's face it, that level of deception is a really, really shitty thing to do to another person. Instead, I was shocked at how little Gabriel and John cared about the fact that they were having an affair for so many years. They acted like it was their right and their privilege to have this affair and are peeved with Martha's anger about the whole thing. They treated her like an irritant and were incredibly dismissive of her feelings.
John stared at the back of her head, and Martha turned around and looked at him. She put her hand on a chair and pushed it toward him, an unmistakable invitation.
He sat down, nodded to Juan, who studied the tabletop.
"I thought, since you might be spending more time in the future with my children, we should get to know each other a little better."
What? "I'm always happy to see you Martha."
Imagine this: You are a woman who just realized that the man who you have been married to for 25 years has been cheating on you the entire time with someone who he claimed was just his best friend. When you see the guy again, he says, "I'm always happy to see you." The BALLS on that man. If I was that woman or if that woman was my friend, I would have slapped John across the face. People claim that Martha acts like a bitch in this book- I think she was incredibly generous. I would have been way, WAY meaner to the person my spouse was having an affair with.
One pivotal scene in this book is when John and Gabriel realize that Martha told their kids about the affair.
"So you have been dating my dad for, like, over twenty-five years? Even before he met my mom? That means you're homosexual, right? Because you're not married. But my dad, he's bisexual, because he had me." Martie pointed to her chest. "I made a note on my Facebook wall that my dad was bisexual. Lots of my friends think it's cool..."
This response from Gabriel and Martha's kid makes me respect Martha even more. The response from Martie shows that however she found out about the affair, she isn't angry at her father. I can't even imagine that types of things that Martha would have wanted to say about Gabriel to her kids, but it sounds like she stuck to the facts. However, John and Gabriel are not pleased because Martha let their little cat out of the bag and not on their timetable.
"I wanted a quiet divorce. I never thought Martha would throw this in my face, make it public. I should have lied when she asked me, but you always said lying backfires, and I wouldn't have felt right about it. About denying what was going on."
"You mean, make you and me public? To the kids?"
He nodded. "I wasn't quite ready for that... "
Gabriel, how about what Martha was ready for? Ever think about that? Not everything is on your timetable!
It occurred to John for the first time that this was going to hurt. That he had something to do with what was happening, that he had some responsibility for those people.
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THAT THIS HAD OCCURRED TO YOU?! How utterly and completely self-involved are you? You didn't realize that by participating in an affair spanning 25 years with a married man with two kids wasn't going to be all rainbows and sunshine?
Gabriel took the kids out to supper so Martha could have a few hours to herself. John hoped she was using the time to take a nap or have a couple of margaritas and talk about what assholes men were with her girlfriends, rather than looking for a hit man.
BLOOD ----> BOILING. This isn't some guy blowing Martha off for a date that it is appropriate to say, "Oh just have a drink and a nap and talk about woman things." I would be paralyzed in bed, paralyzed with grief and overwhelming feelings of betrayal. It is the fact that John and Gabriel keep minimizing this and writing off Martha's feelings that got me.
They show very little sympathy for Martha, and it just ruined the characters for me. I just was angry at them and couldn't even be bothered to care that they were having a happy life together. For me to root for their happy ending, I needed to view them as kind, compassionate people. I know they were very sweet to Kim and Billy but I still viewed them as selfish in the end. Now, I'll repeat- It wasn't the affair in itself, it was the John and Gabe's behavior and attitude about it that bothered me.
Aside from the affair aspect of the book, I had some other little issues. I'm surprised that no one else was bothered by the fact that the two more gentle, fem-y characters, had the butchy, "manly" characters defending them all the time. I felt like Kim and Billy were treated more like children (Kim was a graduate student, for pete's sake), and like they couldn't make decisions for themselves. I'm not saying that they couldn't use the love and support from John, Gabe, and Billy's father, but I felt like all the power was taken out of their hands and placed into hand of the MEN. It irritated me. I felt like Kim and Billy weren't treated like adults who had equal say.
I also didn't love the "violence is the answer" mentality.
Is there anything that I liked about this book?
Oh yes, for sure. I know I went off on a huge rant here but I still liked Sarah Black's overall writing style. I think that if this book had been approached a bit differently, it would have been a big hit with me.
I read an interview with Sarah Black after I finished this book in which she says, "...as a character, I know Martha pretty well. I know her back story and I know why she married Gabriel and I know what she is up to. I don’t particularly like her or share her values, but I still carry a very strong sister-feeling for her. What I didn’t realize is waiting for book 3 for Martha to plot her revenge doesn’t help explain her in this first book." Yes, I got that sense that the author didn't like Martha... at all. I guess in a future book the character of Martha is further explained and I would eventually see her as something other than a victim, but I didn't here. I can only base my feelings on what I read.
**Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
grampers demonstrating that you're never too old to get down.
spent all night thinking about what to say about this one.
never wrote a word.
so i'm just gonna go do an off-the-cuff thing and see what happens, right?
this is an amazing book.
but subtly, mind. not so much with the extravaganzas, this one.
just quietly, relentlessly, utterly awesome.
not only do you get vivid and natural portraits of at least six people you didn't know before you started, you love them by the time you're a third of the way in.
so much so that when someone you really, really should be sympathetic towards does something vile to them, you want to set her on fire with your eyes.
and even she was painted naturally, completely, and with a generosity of spirit that you only see in real characters with real depth.
though i wanted her to be cast into the gullet of sarlacc like boba fett, i had to admit she, uh, ...rather had a point.
man, what writing.
cozy, measured, beautiful writing. so smooth and graceful you barely notice it's there at all. the sensation of being a voyeur was particularly intense, here—because the language flowed and flowed, never calling attention to itself, yet limning the edges of powerful imagery that still lives in my mind a full day later.
so damned good. the voice was so damned good.
mature. assured. accomplished.
trustworthy. i could trust this voice not to piss me off, even though the story began nowhere near where i had assumed it would. even though the hero's best days were far behind him when i met him—
—or so i thought.
don't expect a typical MM romance. it's a romance, but wonderfully subverted to serve the purposes of a larger theme—and a more important one.
what it means to be yourself. to be the product of your experience. to be a warrior.
to be a father.
what it means to be brave. to be no longer young.
and to not.
oh, fuck me in the face, chilrenz—you must read this one today.
Sarah Black is one of my favorite authors -- and because of that, I needed time to write down a complete opinion regarding this book. It was because almost throughout, I was uncomfortable with the set-up (which unfortunately, wasn't covered by the blurb). I could use spoiler tag -- but this time, I won't. So just fair warning ... this opinion WILL contain spoilers.
OH, AND THIS REVIEW WILL BE LONG!!!!
Let's start with my issue first, shall we...
When I pre-ordered the book, it was a combination of a Sarah Black's book and the blurb that said "served together as comrades and brothers-in-arms for more than twenty-five years; after years of loving on the down-low..." which, in my head, translated into established relationship for a quarter of century (although probably kept as secret). I thought, this, THIS, was what I was looking for.
I wasn't prepared for the fact that in those twenty years, Gabriel (the Horse-Lord) was married and had kids, while still continuing his long-term affair (secretly) with his General, John. Oh, sure, they tried to stay away, but it only lasted about a month after the wedding. Which meant that Gabriel has cheated on his wife for the whole time they were married.
Oh my, how uncomfortable I was with this...
Since this was written from the men's perspective (John, to be exact), it was easy to sympathize with them. It was easy to think that their love story was the "true love", that they belong together, that Martha (the wife) was only an obstacle. It worked for me when I read "Brokeback Mountain" when I wasn't introduced with the concept of happy-ever-after in male/male romance. But nowadays, I wanted my romance to stay away from cheating/adultery factor.
I can totally understand Martha being angry and vindictive towards Gabriel and John. My GOD, this man cheated on her for the whole time they were married!! In real life, if Martha was my friend, I would probably help her find a way to get the best lawyer and to strip away everything that Gabriel and John had.
Martha didn't sign up for this. She could've find someone else who loved her and worshipped her, if she wasn't married to Gabriel. I couldn't understand how one reviewer called her a "bitch". To me, what Martha did was quite rational. Why should she felt compassion for two men who had cheated behind her back for almost two decades?! I know I wouldn't.
.. and this was my issue throughout. Because these men wasn't even portrayed as feeling guilty. Nope. Not at all. They were now together, loving and caring, and it felt so good and wonderful, because FINALLY, FINALLY, they could live in the open as loving men. Even gaining sympathy and support from members of the military and they were going to be interviewed by "Out" magazine.
I know that LGBT community doesn't have the same opportunity to publicly declare their love for one another. However, the thing is, for me, being gay (or lesbian, or bisexual, or trans*), doesn't give someone a free-pass card to hurt someone else in process.
Having said all that, DESPITE all that, I loved the story for the MAIN plot: in which John and Gabriel worked their way to finally be together as well as helping John's nephew Kim (and Kim's friend, Billy) who became victims of abusive instructor who dated these young men. This one, I wholeheartedly loved. I enjoyed how the men planned their 'attack', like during war-time, to bring down this bastard. Their fight was also helped by Billy's father, a bull rancher who loved his gay son.
I loved Kim, the nephew! He was like sunshine and rainbow rolled into one. He stole every single scene he was in. I would love to read his book one day.
And of course, Sarah's writing was still beautiful. The love between John and Gabriel was palpable and beautiful and lyrical -- which helped me NOT to DNF this, when I was so uncomfortable with the set-up I mentioned above.
This could've been a 5-star read, if it wasn't for the adultery issue. But as much as I hated the premise, this book captivated me, and I couldn't give it low star rating. Which shows you how good Sarah Black is....
This is one of the best contemporary M/M romances I've read in a while. Because it is real. There is drama, but not melodrama. Every character in here is three-dimensional, even (at least in one tiny sliver of time) the villain of the story. There is deep abiding love between two mature men who are navigating difficult waters, but who have shared one heart for decades.
The Horse-Lord is Gabriel, who flew an Apache helicopter for years and is now a lawyer in a firm that does a lot of pro-bono work. The General (and 3rd person POV character) is John, a man who by the end of his long and stellar career worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and who is finding it harder than he expected to adapt from military command to teaching apathetic college students. They've loved one another, in stolen moments, for decades. In the DADT military, they could never be out, so they worked their love in around the edges of the rest of their lives and watched each other's backs.
Gabriel, who always yearned for a family, made the decision to get married fifteen years earlier. His attempt to be a faithful husband couldn't withstand how he felt about John, and they continued to be lovers, in secret from both the military and his wife, since then. Gabriel is aware that he did his wife wrong in this, but the marriage has given him two half-grown kids whom he loves dearly.
John has for the last few years been single-parent to his sister's adopted son Kim, who is now in college, but living in a studio in John's garage. Kim is gay, an artist, and a bright, vivid, light-hearted presence in his life. He's a wonderful character, adding a bright dash of color to scenes and pushing John into seeing options he might never, from his ex-military closet, have considered.
Even in retirement, life and love still aren't easy for Gabriel and John. Things become even more tangled when Kim is physically abused by a man he's dating, who is also one of his professors. For both John and Gabriel, an attack on someone they love is a signal to take action, and even if the General and the now-lawyer have slightly different approaches, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this.
In the midst of this complexity, one thing becomes slowly clearer - that, through no real fault of their own, they've lost decades that they could, in an ideal world, have spent together. And now that they're out of the military, and the world has changed, they are reluctant to squander more time, loving each other only in snatches of precious hours. But the way to move forward, in the face of family and careers, while protecting those they love, is less clear. Being together will have costs, and these two strong, complex men must decide how many of those costs they are willing to pay, and how far they must go, to have the life they deserve.
None of these characters are perfect, but they all are true to themselves. John and Gabriel are steady, honorable men, (other than in the wrong they've done Gabriel's wife all these years.) There is a lot of warmth in this book, some good plot and drama, moments of humor, and deep love. It will leave you with a subtle ache, to think of how much the prejudices of society stole from the lives these men could have had. But it will also give you a touch of hope that Kim and the other young people in this story may be able to live and love, in whatever way they choose, out in the sunshine. Highly recommended
I have difficulty wording these thoughts and choosing a rating because of Martha’s treatment in this story which rather overshadowed the excellent writing and could not really let me settle in and enjoy the story.
From the very beginning of this story John and Gabriel were said to be men of honour. Their thoughts and deeds were bound to the warrior philosopher code and they were surely honourable men. So how come such honourable men so ably betray a partner, a friend, a wife for twenty years or so. Is that honourable? To my book it isn’t, no definitely not. So it was then hard for me to buy everything else I am being sold about these two. Especially when, the everything else includes their lack of remorse, their lack of empathy towards Martha, the portrayal of her as the inconvenient third and such lines as:
“It could happen,” John agreed. “She could get married again.” “She will,” Gabriel promised. “Just to prove that she’s still beautiful and desireable.”
My response – Well f*** you Gabriel
I could not balance the above against the sadness and injustice of their living in the closet or DADT because a bad deal does not justify betrayal sustained over such a long period of time. So than please do not have the temerity of acting surprised or hurt that the injured party is angry and vengeful.
The only ray of light and colour in all this was Kim, who made me smile.
I have to be honest - I would have loved this book. I loved John and Gabriel (or I would have loved Gabriel, because I kind of hate him right now), I loved two strong warriors who wanted nothing else for many years but to be together and who had been sacrificed so much by being in the Army. I really loved that the story takes place mostly in their after army years and John is 52 and Gabriel is 48, no matter what older characters still do not appear that often in mm fiction.
I loved the fact that John chose to become a college professor and Gabriel chose to become a lawyer, because seriously not all army vets chose to become body guards or other "physical" professions. Nothing wrong with those professions of course, it is just the impression it often gives me that army vets choose not to use their brains and that is just so very not true.
My god, loved how very protective John was about Kim and the strategical thinking they used to fight the bastard who was abusing the students. Loved that storyline. Loved Kim and Billy, want Kim to be in another book.
And of course I loved her writing - the guys together were gorgeous on page on so many levels.
So in my mind most of her books are graded even higher than five stars.
Why this one gets three stars only you would ask? See there is Martha, and sadly this book now joins the long list of the books where I dislike how female characters are treated.
Note, the next part of the review would be mostly a rant, feel free to ignore.
So you see Gabriel chose to get married all those many years ago and trust me, I get the gay man choosing to do what society requires and would never judge him for that. I get it.
Here is what I do not get, especially if the author wants me to believe that Gabriel is a good guy. Why not take a slightest part of responsibility for destroying Marta's life?
Nope, not once. I mean, John pays a lip service to acknowledge that they really committed adultery once or twice, but Gabriel? Guess what Gabriel, I wanted to punch you in the face and multiple times when you had a nerve to decide that you would vet whoever Martha would choose to marry. That's none of your freaking business anymore, do you get that I wonder? Yes, you did betray her, yes, because of you she lost her best years to be loved as she so deserved.
I follow Sarah Black's blog more or less regularly and I remember that she wrote that she was worried that in her new book the readers will sympathize with the woman too much. I never talk about the author in my reviews, but I think it is about a writing process, not the author as a person, so I am going to say it.
Is that why the narrative takes so much pain to NOT make them take any real responsibility for what they did??? Fear that woman would be sympathized with too much? I am just so unhappily surprised right now.
If Gabriel went and ask her for forgiveness, acknowledged his fault, no matter what her reaction was I would have not had that visceral angry reaction.
Yes, he succumbed to the pressures of the society, and I understand it (as much as I can of course). NO he did not have to continue hurting her for twenty five years. Do not tell her that you are gay or bi, but for crying out loud, divorce her when you know that you do not love her anymore. Not five years, not ten, twenty five???
I actually have zero problem with cheating in romances per se, but it all depends on how it is handled. I want the characters to learn something about themselves, to become better people after some self examination.
Gabriel, well, I wanted to punch him in the face as I said before, repeatedly.
And yeah, totally get what Martha did, but his sanctinomous speech about not giving her money? Guess what, nothing that you would give her would bring those years back.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I couldn't like either MC. Especially Gabriel. In the beginning, he was just there. So oblivious, no conflicted feelings about his past actions, just a martyr complex that gave me no chance to like or respect him.
I can't rate this because I didn't hate it, and it was better than okay, but I really didn't like the main characters so I can't say I liked the book. I will say the author did a great job of staying true to each character. They all felt so real, and their actions made sense for who they were.
Kim was beautiful, wise, and funny, the one bright spot in this story. I didn't like how John treated him like a child, though. He was in grad school!
Gabriel did have some funny lines but they seemed out of place with his character or maybe it just irritates me when someone I don't like tries to be funny.
I'm agree with the other reviewers, stop with the fashion and food commentary
There's so much to love about this book. In a genre (romance) where youth and beauty are damn near fetishized, we have two protagonists who have retired after long military careers. Fifty-two and forty-eight years old. I can't begin to say how positively that colors my impression of the author--she strode right out on that limb, no fucks given, and it was brilliant.
The cast of secondary characters in this story sprawls around like a pile of puppies, and that's sort of how I felt about Kim and Billy and the Ho-Ho sisters and juan and All. Those. Artists. A puppy pile, squirming and wriggling and occasionally tugging each other's ears before they all collapse in an exhausted heap in John's garage. And i loved it. There was genuine affection and a little conflict between them, and it never felt forced or like they threw in some extra characters just to round out the cast. They were John and Gabriel's family.
The plot is a quiet one, dealing with the end of a marriage, the beginning of a life after the military, and a series of episodes of violence committed by a predator. It's laid out methodically, just like John laying out the evidence he collected on the assaults. It culminates in a showdown at Ho-Ho's, which, come on, is a way cool place for a book to have it's climax.
I'd recommend this to anyone, but especially those who want a smart and sweet story with lots of love to go around.
The best. Full. Stop. Everything you could ever want is in here - an amazing romance spanning many years, two very distinct men full of courage, honor, and sacrifice, phenomenal dialogue, outstanding secondary characters...I could go on. The General and the Horse-Lord easily outpaces it counterparts in the true romance department. It is rare an author can write a story and make you feel the level of ease, comfort, and companionship that is between two people. That seamless transition between love and lust and genuine liking with respect. So frequently one eclipses the other. Here all are equal. I was thankful there were not a lot of sex scenes (and what there is seems very tame) because this was a story about a deep and true love - and that is how it remained. Kim and the way he talked was hilarious - but each character had depth over so many areas even he is not the standout.
Just freakin' fantastic. If you have not picked this one up - you really have too. It is so positively affirming of what it means to have the courage to do the right thing and to be true to who you are. Even if it takes a while to be fully that person in all ways.
Huge huge props to the author. Horse Lord refers to the Rohirrim from Lord of the Rings. As such all I could think about in relation to Gabriel is Theoden's speech(in the movies) before the Battle of Minas Tirith:
"''Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden! Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter! spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!''"
And my picture of how these two were in battle was so complete. It was literally right before my eyes.
Edit: I should point out that this does deal with infidelity. I know that is a deal breaker for some. It is not glossed over, however Gabriel's wife is not given a ton of time in the book so you can see her viewpoint either. To me it was not a bother because of the DADT and what Gabriel ultimately wanted (which was a family - so he didn't have a hidden agenda or anything).
This was a difficult book to rate. I liked a lot of things, and others, not so much. For starters, this is not my favorite book from Sarah Black. I have my favorites, and this one isn’t one of them. I also wanted to be fair in my review of this book even though I was coming with some bias. Without giving information, I have some baggage with infidelity. And I couldn’t take it lightly because I know how destructive it is.
I do want to mention that what I liked most about this book was Kim. I loved him! I loved his bedtime stories. His firm belief in the power of love. I also loved the way John and Gabriel analyzed strategy for bringing down Kim and Billy’s abuser which at times ended up being classically John Wayne. That aspect of the story, the story of Kim was my favorite part of this story—no doubt about it.
What I liked the least was the amount of fillers or word padding. I loved the personal touches and humor, BUT the amount of unnecessary backstory and descriptions of food, clothing, etc. well, they just plain bored me.
On the technical side, if there’s one thing that Sarah black can do is write. Her words are a delight to the senses. She also fleshes out her characters very well, physically and emotionally. We really do get to know these characters. We get to know their virtues. John’s dedication and discipline. His code of honor and loyal dedication to Country and Gabriel. Gabriel’s adoration to John--to the point he named his son after him – and in that’s an example of weakness and indulgence because no matter the love, the action of naming his son for his lover was crass and insensitive. That’s not counting that these two men tend to see in black and white. They are men of action. They can be intransigent and stubborn. They might even be curmudgeons, probably because of that strict military way of life and/or because of their age. I also think that when the safety net provided by that military way of life was gone the delicate façade that they had maintained for decades started to crumble, and thus, the end of the marriage. It has to be very difficult to try to adapt to another way of life after you have dedicated your whole life to the service of others with only what they called their “occasional grace notes” as consolation. I’m sure, though, that for Martha those were NOT graceful notes, occasional or not. They were plain infidelity no matter how romantic and beautifully told.
There’s a lot in this book that shows Martha as an unsympathetic character, but it did seem self-serving. We do want to justify our character’s behavior. We do want them to remain heroes, but the question remains did it have to be at the expense of villainous Martha, the scorned wife? IMO that really wasn’t needed because the love these men shared was really a love story, and it was beautifully described. The yearning and loneliness. The waiting to be with the person you love year after year. I find myself feeling sympathetic to these men even against my will because Sarah knows how to tug at your heart strings. My romantic heart can feel the joy of their reunion and completion. BUT my soul feels the sorrow that Martha never experienced that.
You see, it wasn’t only Gabriel and John who lived a lie, Martha did too unknowingly. Monetary compensation or not, that’s the blurry grey of this story.
This is not a review. It's a response, a reaction.
I found this book to be didactic and tendentious. It was also somewhat tedious when it came to the formality of the dialogue and stiffness of the prose. The Jory-ness was a bit wearing as well; the ABC family special of it all.
It was okay. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't love it like everyone else did. I finished it. It was readable and there are a few lovely elements but it's a little saccharine and the plot is indistinct.
Plus, I did not particularly like the way race was dealt with in this book. I think I need some multi-cultural reads to wash the annoyance off.
**3.6 Stars** The more I read, the more the book grew on me.
I felt the deep connection the men had. The love they kept buried for 25 years due to life in the military.
I know some will have issues with the fact that the men carried on an affair, one of them being married, for many years. But, to me this was a case of love winning out over time, laws, and a different generation.
One thing I didn’t like was the fade to black sex. But it was fun seeing men in their late forties and early fifties feeling as randy and sexy as men in their twenties!
I had this on my TBR for a very long time and am happy I had a reason (Bingo challenge) to knock it off my list!
This is the second book by this author I've read. This was a little better than the first, but not by much. Ms. Black is able to write quite lovely prose. Her descriptions are vivid and the style is flowing. However I just don't really like her characters. John and Gabriel didn't ring true to me. Neither really acted like the parts they were playing. John was not all the believable as a general/professor and Gabriel was not all the great an attorney. Kim was supposed to be a grad student and acted far more like a 16-year-old.
I guess what really bothered me was the weak plot line. It just didn't ring true. College professors don't go running around pushing a sexual abuse case on their university. I know the author tried to justify it, but it just was not realistic.
I also REALLY REALLY REALLY HATE all the clothing descriptions. Why is it necessary to know every second of the time what everyone is wearing????? Maybe once or twice to define a character, but please tell me: HOW does it advance a plot to tell in detail what color strips are on John's and Gabriel's ties???
But for those who care: This morning I wore basketball-length shorts, black with blue and white trim, to the gym for my work-out. Then after showering, I wore khaki-colored cargo shorts with an old tee that said "Hog's Breath Inn. Better to have hog's breath than no breath at all." Tomorrow I'm going to wear business casual to church. Probably navy blue slacks with a pink button-down and a blue and white striped tie. I love wearing my penny loafers. (Sorry, I don't have a penny in them). Of course, they are maroon. Goes so well with the slacks and the shirt. However since I will be wearing the usual blue and white choir robe (I'm the organist) no one will know, unless they see me arrive early or leave late. Hopefully this satisfies those who were just dying to know.
General John Mitchel and Horse-Lord Gabriel Sanchez have been in love for almost 25 years, through most of their military career, though they were very discreet and kept their “relationship” hidden. Things were much different for gays in the military back then, and John and Gabriel didn’t feel they had any other options.
Present day, they have been retired for a little over a year but still see each other when they can. Gabriel is married with two children, 9 and 14 years old. While he genuinely feels he tried his best to make things work for his family, he has always been unable to forget that John holds the number one spot in his heart.
There are a few things going on here. One is Gabriel’s pending divorce from his wife, Martha, who does not take it very well, and quite understandably so. Gabriel does recognize Martha’s pain and suffering, but is simply unable or unwilling to live the lie any longer. Martha then turns vicious and vindictive, wanting to hurt John, rather than Gabriel, as much as his actions have hurt her, using their infidelity against him.
The other issue is the fight John and Gabriel have taken up for John’s nephew, Kim, who was beaten by a boyfriend who just happened to be his professor at the same university where John taught. There is much more to this part of the story, and it intertwines with their other issues when Martha is shown a way to make John (and Gabriel) pay.
This story is very well written, and I really enjoyed this author’s style. I found myself feeling very sad for John and Gabriel through most of this story for them having to hide throughout their careers and losing out on 25 years they could have had together. You could easily feel how much they loved and meant to each other.
On the other hand, I was torn with feeling bad for Martha, who seemed to be getting a really unfair shake with the whole deal, and their kids, who now had to deal with understanding the changes taking place with their parents. The story moves along at a nice pace for the most part, but the end happens somewhat abruptly. I found myself again feeling Martha was a little left out and would have liked to have seen more closure in that area. I’ll definitely be looking to read more from this author.
General John Mitchel served his country his whole life. Living the life of the warrior honor, service and the safety of the tribe always came first. His need for love and companionship were reduced to stolen moments and fragments of memories with his beloved pilot Gabriel Sanchez also known as the Horse-Lord. For twenty-five years they served together and loved each other on the down-low.
Now, nearly a year after his retirement John is still trying to adapt to his new life. A life without wars and fights, without the army and his fellow warriors, or so he thinks. There is at least one constant in his life now, those little moments he shares with his friend and lover. Those stolen moments from Gabriel’s family where they both can be the men they truly are.
When Gabriel announces his divorce everything changes. Now John sees the opportunity to claim what he’s always wanted and never even dreamt of having. A life with his one and only love, a life where loneliness won’t have first stage honors, where he won’t have to sleep and wake alone, but shared happiness with his Gabriel is a possibility.
Oh I truly loved this book. This story is one of war outside the military, outside in our world where honor and dignity are not a given, where people will use every low move they got to get what they want, where things are not as simple as a mathematic equation. And this book has so many, many characters to love and adore.
John is such an incredible man; at his fifty-two years old he will find out that life is a constant battle. Now he has to fight for his own wants and dreams, for a place where loving the love of his life will be alright. He will have to fight for his family and his values more than he did when he was enlisted and in the middle of flying bullets. At fifty-two John will learn to love himself and literally change his views of what he can claim and how open he will be.
Gabriel the Horse-Lord and right hand of the General for way too many years. What a character, what bravery and passion and fierceness. How very lovable on all accounts and how very sad on some.
This pair was simply perfect together and their adaptation through their new life was just plain beautiful. In the end I had the vision that they would reach eighty years old and still fight side by side in perfect harmony, the fear of all their enemies.
Another beautiful character here was Kim, John’s adoptive son. In this book Kim has a battle of his own to fight along with his fellow wingman Billy. They are victims of an abusive man and while their parents will of course jump to the rescue they will deal with this matter in their own way, and such a beautiful one it is. Very brave characters indeed.
So I understand I’m being completely vague and perhaps not in a straight line of thought. That is due to the complex plot this story has. Too many things that link with each other, detail I don’t want to give because this book deserves no spoilers. All I have to say is that it’s simply perfect, a book that will be enjoyable while making you think and giving it a serious thought; a book that refers to gay military men of another generation, an older one. How were they affected by their sexuality and what it meant to them back twenty years ago, what it means to them now days and how do they see themselves in comparison to the new generation; a book that will go through the fears that inflict both generation and how they deal with them. A beautiful, beautiful book.
I had a bit of an issue with the end here of course. It felt like there was no full disclosure, or that perhaps the end deserved a bit more intel. I’m going to wonder about Juan and what was really bothering him, how did he evolved and his relationship with his father afterward. I will be wondering about Walker senior and his son, I know they got what they deserved but boy did I want to read it with all the gruesome details. I’m going to wonder about the ex-wife of course, speaking of, I am so glad that the bitch ex-wife was not given an absolution and in the end didn’t “miraculously” change and became the all compassionate and supportive ex like it happens in most books. It was so damn invigorating seeing this character; still I’d have loved a nice little paragraph with one final scene with her. What I did loved about the end was that it ended the way it began with Abdullah al Salim. That was perfect, and perhaps the promise of a sequel?
So at this point there is really no more to say but a final recommendation. Go read it. It’s a must.
No spoilers, I talk about what I found in this book, not what is actually in it.
Coolest title this year, together with what must be truly the ugliest cover. (Editing to add: this cover has now changed with the new edition!) Well, fabulous things have been known to come also in unexpected packages, and this book was recommended to me by Con Riley, and that’s usually enough for me.
And boy, does this book ever deliver, it is a scathing and fantastic swing at the Don’t ask, don’t tell.
It is a vision of the freeing of souls, the opening of minds, the possibility to move firmly into what and who you are, free to be you. To not miss out on a huge part of what is life, which is love.
This book does all that, and at the same time it is humorous, screaming-out-loud funny in places, especially where the young, crazy artistic boys meet with the two closeted-for-decades soldiers—there is a clash and a bang and so, so, so much love. Both between the generations and between the peer groups.
Then it takes a nose-dive into the mandatory angst, and I was okay with that, too.
I’m in an excerpt-kind-of-mood today, so here are some of my favorite moments:
”All you want to do when you’re fourteen is snatch up a broadsword and hack something to pieces, then find a big rock and fuck it to death.”
“John, did you see those boys at the bar the other night? They weren’t just out and proud, they were out and proud in flashing neon, you know?”
“It seems to me I’ve been missing something critical. I see that in you too. Missing the right to love. The right to make a life together.”
“’Would we have to play the gay-card?’ Gabriel sighed. ‘John, we’re gay. You know that, right?’”
“I’ll find some smoke granades. Smoke is always good to make a confusing situation a little more confusing.”
“If you ask one more lost boy to move into the house, I’m going to start building a barracks in the back yard.”
It has made me cry, and smile, and scream out loud with laughter, as anyone who has been following my updates know. It was well-written, with only three or four spelling errors. (But honestly? “Hanger” is not the word you’re looking for when talking about where to park your Apache, okay? Try “hangar”).
This story was so vividly painted that I still have an image of the house, the streets, the places they went, right here in my head. The characters were so real, so consistent with who they were that they just convinced me of the whole story. I know what the house looks like. The garage and the back yard. Ho-Ho’s food joint is a real place in my head.
Kim, oh Kim! He must be the most darling young man on the planet. I love him so much.
Honor. Pride. Love. Duty. Family. Romance. Friendship. Hate. Pain. Support. Comfort. Justice. And, of course, cheating. Yourself, your partner, your life, your very soul. Now, the only note of pain, for me, in this book, was the character Martha, who was painted out to be the villain. Well, excuse me if I go outside and barf, but she had fucking reason to be pissed off. A lot of wrong had been done to her. A lot.
That said, this book gets all the stars from me. It wasn’t the heartbreak extraordinaire that I was led to believe, going in, but it was hard. It was hard work, trials and tribulations.
It was good, and safe, and home, and happy, and sad, and terrifying, and beautiful, and more. So much more.
What I will take with me now, when moving on, is Kim. Kim and his love for his friends, his uncle, and for pink nail polish.
*** I was NOT asked to read this book by anyone, I paid for it with my own money, as I do for all the books I read, all the music I listen to and the movies I watch.
Much has been said about this book , so from me it'll just be, I liked it. I could totally relate to the men, but to Martha too. Love can and will hurt--the strength of this book is showing that it's worth it.
I feel like the odd one out as I didn't really enjoy this book. It dragged on a bit and to be honest I was bored for most the story. I also felt sorry for the wife, 25 years is a long time to be married to an unfaithful husband. The main positive was Kim, he was an interesting character.
I hated the MCs with a vengeance. This thing that made me unable to like them is mentioned in the first chapter so it's not exactly a spoiler but I'll put it in spoiler tags just in case.
There is in this book. I don't mind in romance books as a rule, but the way it was done here just... didn't feel right at all. In fact it made me kind of disgusted with the MCs. John and Gabriel had been in love with each-other for years, but couldn't do anything about it except in secret because of DADT. Gabriel took it hard and was really lonely and always wanted a family, so he married a woman and had two kids with her. So I really couldn't care less about what the MCs went through and their romance.
I liked some aspects of this book very much, others not so much.
I liked that several issues relating to being gay in America -- both in and out of the military -- were handled intelligently and thoughtfully throughout the story. I loved the MCs as well as the secondaries, who were honorable and caring and entertaining as hell. I liked that there were straight good guys, gay good guys, straight bad guys, and gay bad guys -- "good"ness and "bad"ness were not dependent on orientation. I liked that there was a straight, traditional rodeo cowboy who did his very best for his flamingly gay son even while he remained uncomfortable with the concept of homosexuality (let's face it, folks -- people who are raised in ANY tradition are likely to have some trouble rooting that tradition out of their hearts, whether they agree with it rationally or not). Oh, and I definitely like Black's professional and enjoyable prose.
I did not so much like the climax, which offered two pat and overly-easy solutions to the two main problems facing the Good Guys. The scene in the restaurant . And the scene in the Investigator General's office .
Also, even with the various crises and dramas throughout the book, I never really felt any serious jeopardy to the characters. Everything seemed low key, reasonable, and controlled to me. Those aren't bad things in general, but somehow I wanted more depth of desperation, more angst in there somewhere. Yes, I know, I'm an angst addict, so I'm biased. ;-)
Oh, and I SOOO didn't like the easy acceptance of Gabriel's moral failing, or John's acquiescence and collusion in it. Gabriel DID choose to get married, and then chose to have a long term affair with John (this isn't a spoiler, it's discussed early in the book). He had his cake and ate it, too, and dragged John into the situation with him. And this is more-or-less treated as "oh, that's too bad, now people are going to be sad". Boo on both of them. I'm sympathetic with the need to stay in the closet, especially in the days of DADT -- but not at all sympathetic about cheating. Choose your path and stick to it, don't try to have it both ways. And at least have the guts to stand up and make amends when you screw up that badly. Gabriel deserves to be taken to the cleaners by his soon-to-be ex, not for divorcing her, but for cheating on her all those years. Yes, Martha also acts vindictively at one point -- but jeez, guys, one vindictive act hardly makes up for 15 years of being cheated on!
Overall, I'm going with 3.5 stars. Rounding up to 4, 'cause many parts of the book were very nice.
eta -- I've gotten irritated enough, since finishing this book, that I don't really want to give it the credit for the 4 stars. So I'm knocking down my "real" rating to 3.4 stars, and rounding down to 3.
I love Sarah Black’s writing but this book made me so very angry over the dismissive treatment of Gabriel's wife Martha and my rating reflects that. Sarah's writing is always lovely and I enjoyed that secondary character of Kim very much but that isn't enough to save the story for me.
I can understand this story as being about the impacts of DADT on gay men and the changing world that offers them and younger gay men better hopes and opportunities. What I read was a story about male privilege in action.
Neither Gabriel or John took any responsibility for how their choices had come at the expense of Martha having the same privileges they were taking for themselves – being able to live a life of meaning with someone who loves her. But she’s just a woman, that doesn't matter.
I can only go by the author’s words on the page any promise that Martha finds love or is better treated and respected by Gabriel and John in future books is just authorly arse covering because this book can only stand on the words on the page so it is what it is.
If the author had intended to show the operation of the assumption of male privilege on a woman in Martha’s situation – I could have read that book and been on board for a strong arc of change and character development for everyone. The choices the author made in the way Martha was portrayed undermines that opportunity and sets her up as the straw villain/woman reifying villainous heteronormative society in her person. As Martha says, she deserved to be loved for who she is and not used as an incubator or to have been lied to in word and action for 25 years.
I guess, I dare to be different...everybody loved this but, me.
Man oh man.....I will start with ~
What I Liked
❤ I liked KIM, his character was written with well.
❤ I love that one was a professor and the other a lawyer, and I liked them both.
This book was just okay, I will finish this review with what I did not love~
♣I had a wee bit a trouble with the flow, as I jumped rapidly from military to civilian lives.
♣Off page smexin...I will be the first to admit that sometimes I day dream through smexin scenes as they are never my primary purpose to reading (but I like knowing they are there...on page) Each scene was sweet BUT, it felt like a commercial break took place right after it.
♣The hidden information, in the blurb~
How did I miss that ?
"General John Mitchel and his favorite pilot, Gabriel Sanchez, served together as comrades and brothers-in-arms for more than twenty-five years. They followed the warrior’s path: honor first, and service, and the safety of the tribe. Their own needs for love and companionship were secondary to the mission. Retirement from the army, however, proves challenging in ways neither expected.
When old warriors retire, their armor starts falling away, and the noise of the world crowds in. That changing world sets up longings in both men for the life they might have had. After years of loving on the down-low, the idea of living together in the light seems like pure sweet oxygen to men who have been underwater a little too long. But what will it cost them to turn their dreams into truth?"
♣I guess I should have read between the lines...Oh well...I should have figured it out "what will it cost them?....hummmm, go freaking figure...ugh...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
What a truly awesome tale this is... It deals with two retired army officers who are gay and have lived closeted lives for so long; they can now at last tentatively start to openly acknowledge their love for each other. This isn't an easy process for all kinds of reasons, but most significantly as one of them has a wife and children whom they are both determined to take into consideration.
The two main characters are beautifully balanced by a young pair of gay art students. While there is a lot of love and respect between the older and younger generations, it is fascinating to read about their very different thoughts on and responses to various situations.
I wasn't surprised to reach the end of this novel and discover that Black is a retired Naval Officer. The General is the point-of-view character and - while I'm not in a position to judge from direct experience - it seemed to me that Black didn't put a foot wrong in describing his attitudes and his actions. They were a joy to read.
In fact, I'll go one step further. Personally I'm a pacifist, but if I felt for sure that all military people were 'warrior-philosophers' like the General, then I'd hold a lot more hope for our world and our shared future. He can cherish the bright colours in his nephew's soul, and appreciate the grace notes in his own life (which include the sight of the Horse-Lord's 'ass in a flight suit'). He thinks it excellent war strategy to make a friend of your enemy, and is concerned about the healing process after war. You can probably tell by now that I really loved him.
The story of the General and his beloved Horse-Lord making a new life for themselves while not discarding their old lives - and while dealing in their own ways with an abusive professor at the university where the General is teaching political history - is utterly charming.
Loved this very mature m/m romance. I really was impressed by the realistic handling of the fact the one MC was married and had children while being in a long-term relationship with the man he loved. Both of the MCs were young in the 70s when being out was not much of an option, particularly for two men who loved their army careers. While some reviewers have complained about the cheating in the story, I find it very realistic and heart-breaking. The truth is that life isn't always a fairy tale and moral choices aren't always cut and dried. A lot of gay men have married either because they were trying to change or deny their own nature, or for family or societal pressure or even just because we all make rash mistakes. Both men were honorable and did the best they could given their own filters and circumstances.
This is a very entertaining read but also intelligent and thought provoking.
This was a really enjoyable read. I liked that the guys were a little older and let's be honest, a bit stuck their military ways. It's not a terribly smutty book, lots of fade to black. The story telling and conflict were pretty tight and kept me well enguaged. I did wonder at the ease of the marriage break up. The kids seemed more well adjusted than I'd anticipated. The ex wife less so. I guess some of the novel felt a little cookie cutter neat. However, this did not detract from my enjoyment in any way. Great secondary characters too. It was a very pleasant read.
Sarah Black knows how to deliver some great, nuanced writing and storytelling. Add to that wonderful characters, and you arrive at this heart-felt and entertaining story.
We have two ex-military guys who met in the 1970’s and worked together on the battlefield, well into the days of DADT. During his service, John, an army general, was known for his diplomatic and engineering skills working towards rebuilding war-torn communities. And Gabriel, a hot-shot helicopter fighter pilot, head of the ‘Horse Lord’ squadron, always had John’s back. Two upstanding, committed, highly respected guys.
For more than twenty-five years Gabriel and John kept their love affair secret to protect their careers, and now, newly retired from the military, they’ve reached a crossroads in their relationship. Only those who lived it would know and understand how deeply the DADT policy affected LGBTQ military men and women in service to their country.
Still, I did have an issue with Gabriel’s decision to get married knowing that he would continue his relationship with John. He might have thought in the very beginning that he could break it off with John, but their connection is so strong, it proved to be impossible. This deception colored my feelings for Gabriel in the beginning of the story. It’s only the author’s gift for weaving these characters, their families, and lives into my heart that allows me to give in… we all make mistakes, we’re all sometimes pushed to do things that we’d rather not, given the circumstances at hand. We’re only human. In a way John and Gabriel failed each other for all those years, and it’s remarkable that they are able to keep their love alive after so much hiding.
So I came to love Gabriel and John together. But it’s not just because of them and the love they give each other, it’s what they give to their children and John’s adopted nephew, Kim. And here are some additional sweet characters. I absolutely fell in love with Kim, so vulnerable and yet comfortable in his skin, vibrant and full of life and love.
“He’d come whirling across the green grass, his arms outstretched like wings, and he’d announce his soul looked like a butterfly and was full of beautiful colors."— John recalls Kim as a child
Kim is so giving— the care he shows Juan, Gabriel’s son who is having a tough time with his folks’ split, and Billy, a young friend battered by a malicious pedophile, shows a maturity beyond his age. He is an old soul.
Much of the story revolves around John and Gabriel’s fight to bring to justice this predator who targets teenagers and very young adults. It’s fun to watch them strategize how to fight this evil in their community.
Loved this, it is such a satisfying read. And fortunately, there is a sequel to look forward to.
For this review, give-aways, author interviews, and much more:
This review will contain spoiler and a long rant...
It was a very matter-of-factly told love story about an established couple which hasn't been officially together and out because of military careers. The depths of the mutual affection was very palpable and there were many phrases that were simply beautiful and poignant. The cast of characters was very well chosen and brilliantly done for the most part. I especially liked Kim - the flash-backs in John's point of view to his childhood were so very engaging.
Why not 5 stars? The misogyny and the cheating. I didn't appreciate the portrayal of Gabriel's wife of 15+ years (and mother of his two children) as a selfish and vindictive bitch, because she didn't show understanding and was able to embrace Gabriel's coming out. What irked me here the most is, that it was ignored that the main hurt for her was not about Gabriel being gay (hard enough to swallow that alone) but his ongoing 25 years of relationship with his "best friend". Being told that not only was she never "the one" for her husband, no, she had to learn, that he had a relationship with his "the one" already when he met her and married her. She was second choice at best from the beginning. This is devastating news! And to then subtly portray her as a mean bitch, who puts revenge before her children's well-being, someone only caring about ruining her husband's lover no matter the cost - someone who belonged in one group with the violent and amoral people who beat up gay boys and are corrupt.
And why? Because she gave a true statement about Gabriel's cheating. She didn't make the rules. He knew the rules. He broke the code of conduct here, but she is the monster because she told the truth about his cheating. And the condescending comment of John that "she will only regret her actions when it is too late for them". Really? Her doing is so wrong, that even the evil witch herself will have to concede how wrong she was?
And "Gabriel will not forgive her". Wow. I mean, how can you even go there? He cheated on her and lied to her for the whole time of their long relationship and marriage. He basically had a second spouse for the whole f*cking time, and he will not forgive her???
There was no positive aspect about her character in this story - she was clearly part of the evil crew, and I so don't appreciate this.
It is an ongoing motive in m/m and I hate it. I have every sympathy for gay people, cannot even imagine how difficult coming out can be and so on. But this doesn't mean that they get a free pass at everything. And this kind of double standard is disgusting. Had the other spouse been a woman we would have spit in her face and thought Gabriel to be the douchebag from hell.
Therefore I deducted 2 stars from the rating for an otherwise well written and enjoyable book.
OMG, what to say when my heart is so full of this story. I swear this is one of the most romantic stories I have ever read! For the author to accomplish that when the story starts (after an introductory flashback) with a couple who have already been lovers most of their adult lives is truly amazing in my experience. Yes, I'm gushing, can't help it.
Both John (the General) and Gabriel (the helicopter pilot) had made plans for careers after the military. What they hadn't worked out was how they could have an ongoing relationship in civilian life when Gabriel is married with two children. Their careers and deployments would no longer cover for their time together.
Watching them work through how they can be true to themselves, their loved ones and each other is interwoven with a suspense plot (something Sarah is particularly good at) involving attacks on young gay men by an instructor at the University. Many times I felt myself holding my breath, worrying how they would work it all out.
But of course, with much soul searching about coming out and hard work on the investigation, they manage to lay the groundwork for their future together, along with the help of many supporting characters who play a huge role in their lives. Put simply, I devoured this book floating on a cloud of euphoric awe at the author's ability to weave such a beautiful story.