Amazing depth to the characters, their emotions and the plot! I felt this one long after I finished the book. This author is not new to me though this is the first time I read her books under this pen name. It’s her first f/f and I find that so difficult to believe because this was a solid story any angle you look at it. It’s set on a small naval base in Japan and focuses on characters that are all military police. I read a lot of military romance and this was my first military cop read.
It also has the distinction of having rather difficult theme matter too. I guess this will serve as a warning for those with triggers and sensitivities, but this story tackles the subjects of rape, abortion and sexual harassment and intimidation in the workplace.
Whewboy yep, it was a rough emotional ride, but managed to convey emotions, difficulties, triumph, fear, loss and hope within balance. And while it is not my first f/f romance (not that I’ve read many), it is one of the best one that I’ve read.
The story opens with MA3 Kim Lockhoff stuck between a rock and a hard place. She is the main topic around the water cooler, the butt of raunchy jokes and comments, and rumored to be knocked-up by the boss. Suddenly, she’s That Girl- the slutty one that will sleep with anyone to get ahead in the ranks or just to get some. Unfortunately, the rumor regarding the boss are true and her boss is threatening her to get rid of the evidence that he cheated on his wife and fraternized with a jr. ranking sailor. Not one person on the base will back her if she claims the truth- that she was raped because everyone at that party saw her tipsy and leaving with the man plus she has been the party girl since she got there.
MA2 Reese Marion is asked by her friend and immediate superior to throw an arm around Lockhoff and find out what’s going on with her since evidence is pointing toward the fact the woman got herself into trouble with Stanton and might decide to fling some accusations around to cover her own butt. And Reese has a real attitude about women like that. But then she gets Kim’s story and she believes it. The woman’s troubles are nothing like she imagined and strike too close to home. Reese becomes the only support Kim has because there is no one who Stanton hasn’t rallied to seeing things his way. For the first time in years, Reese lets another person past her emotional walls and into her heart. They have a hard fight on their hands, but they will fight it together.
This is one of those stories that feels very insular- the settings are small, the cast is small and the plot doesn’t have a ton of stuff going on. The author couldn’t have set the tone better for a woman feeling fearful, isolated and alone so that I was right there in Kim’s world from the start. This is definitely a story that could have been subtitled ‘things aren’t always what they seem’. The focus is on Kim’s problem with Stanton, her initial conflict and then attraction with Reese, and the quietly intense build up to the end.
The romance is tender and cautious because of the past rape situation. They take stuff slow and get up to some sexy times, but I liked that it felt the appropriate time, level and just enough draw-back to work with the context of the story. More time is spent establishing the relationship on platonic level first and then the other, but it works. Not the story to pick if you’re looking for some scorching heat.
On a side note, I felt the author did her homework. The backdrop and setting felt pretty authentic to me like I really was with a group of Navy MPs on a naval base with their daily routines, situations, regs and protocol- official and non-official.
To wrap it up, this was an emotionally tough read and not one for the fast-paced action/passion lovers, but still not lacking in tension or romance for all that. I would recommend this one to f/f contemporary romance lovers for sure and for those who are dipping their toes into this niche genre for the first time.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.