Soldier by AKM Miles

 Soldier by AKM Miles

Blurb:

Soldier is a loner, scarred, damaged and aimless when he discovers someone is using the house on the property he has come to town to investigate. Staying to look into the situation adds more to his life than he ever dreamed possible, leaving him championing seven boys whose lives had been as ravaged as his. Suddenly his life has purpose, meaning.

The other unexpected development is Dillon. Resigned to a life spent alone, it’s hard for him to wrap his mind around the fact that Dillon returns his feelings. Every minute spent counseling and protecting the boys makes Soldier’s life richer, but it makes it hard to spend time with Dillon. Can he find a way to take his new life and make it everything he wants it to be?

 


 

Review:

Soldier is unabashedly a fantasy romance written with heavily feminine undertones that epitomizes an overly romantic, unrealistic view of two men in a gay relationship. In order to read this story you must first suspend an incredible amount of disbelief to immerse yourself within the fantasy and escapist story that bares no resemblance to reality or believable conflict. Unfortunately even once willing to go along with the author’s created world, inherent problems with the writing, plot, and characters create an overly simplistic, heavily romanticized view that offers little in the way of interesting characters and no conflict. Combined with incredibly poor writing, the lack of any discernable plot, characterization problems and lack of continuity, this book is a failure on all levels. I highly recommend you skip this book entirely and move on to something worth your time.

This story is fraught with problems from the onset, starting with poor and inconsistent characterization. Beginning with Soldier, who is introduced as a thirty-three year old military veteran, injured by a bomb during his tour of duty and thus leaving him emotionally, mentally, and physically scarred. His reaction is to retreat from the world for years. During this time Soldier goes to check on property he owns and happens to see a handful of boys and one older twenty-something living together in one of the run-down houses on the property. Soldier, being socially awkward and unable to communicate with other people, decides to stand in the woods and watch over the house with creepy stalker actions for days. Finally he’s seen and approached by the leader of the boys, Dillon.

At this point Soldier goes from almost silent introvert to an open, vulnerable, and communicative man. Soldier spends the remainder of the story talking at every conceivable point, often acting like a psychologist to the hurt and abused boys living within the run-down house. He spouts platitudes and comforts these boys, managing to reverse years of abuse and conditioning by repetitive statements such as “you’re a good boy, your parents were wrong”. While the sentiment is certainly true, the complete reversal of long standing emotional problems with simplistic statements is typical of the resolution to any pseudo-conflict that arises. As is Soldier’s heavy-handed manipulation of the situation with his sudden new found calling in life. Soldier, who remember was stalking this seemingly abandoned house without sleep, is actually a filthy rich man who wields power and money easily and without thought, all for the good of the boys and their home. There is a brief comment about Soldier’s past family as being rich but this is glossed over and not fully explored nor is his insistence on being called Soldier versus his real name, Keith Marsh, ever explained.

Soldier’s mammoth like size and Daddy Warbucks bank account from nowhere are just a few of the contradictory but overly simplistic resolutions used to clear up any pesky problems. Then there is the character of Dillon. He is introduced as twenty-five and running a kind of shelter that is subsidized by a not-so-legal arm of the Social Services. This outrageous trope will be discussed later but sticking to the character of Dillon, he’s been raped, beaten and somehow scarred during an altercation when he was younger and thus is determined to help other abused and frightened children. Admirable for sure, yet due to no income, no job, and no home Dillon must house these runaways in a dilapidated, abandoned home with virtually no clothes, no furniture, and food that has to be begged from shelters. Although the boys are never to leave the house for fear of discovery, at least he’s giving them a safe environment, I guess.

Furthermore, even Dillon has his own ugly and abused past but he immediately warms to Soldier and trusts him within hours of their introduction, even to the point of no protection sex. Supposedly the sexual sparks are flying amongst the lengthy and droll conversations about, well nothing. Dillon and Soldier talk all the time, making up the majority of the story, yet they mostly talk about the implausible shelter Dillon has created, the boys housed within, their stories and lengthy abuse recounting. There are almost no conversations about either man’s past, their hopes for the future beyond taking care of the boys, no shared experiences – instead both men cry repeatedly over the emotional scars of the boys and talk about how to spend Soldier’s money to fix up the house and actually make it a home versus a falling apart collection of walls. Both men talk at length about their feelings for each other, which stem mostly from a shared desire to better the lives of these young men, and have fallen in love within a matter of days, forming a connection that is visible for all to see. Although somehow I missed that connection as the men came across as wooden and insipid, including the exaggerated use of nicknames “honey, sweetie, baby, sweetheart“ for each other and the boys.

While the relationship between Soldier and Dillon is problematic, awkward and weird, the entire plot (such as it is) is even more so. The story revolves around – again – Dillon and his pseudo shelter for the boys and how Soldier rides to its rescue. The concept is that Dillon is allowed to house these boys due to sympathetic social workers who don’t mind that he keeps them basically locked within a house with few clothes, no education, scraps of food while they sleep on the floor. Not only that but Dillon and Soldier become foster parents with a legitimate shelter while being an openly gay couple because he clearly has enough money and power to smooth the way over any potential problems. Not to worry, there are no problems that appear for these two men though. Every person they come across is accepting, understanding and helpful as Soldier rebuilds their home and the emotional stability of the boys.

The few potential characters that could offer conflict, such as Officer Jensen, turn from cynical and distrusting to helpful and accommodating within hours. Good thing no one has ever encountered an actual homophobe within backwater Texas. Except of course the numerous boys living within the house. The characters of these boys are perhaps the brief shinning light amongst the story but unfortunately the author manages to trash even them. Gom and Tommy are the only boys given any real depth and even these characters are inconsistent and changeable. Gom is alternately described as a five year old or a ten year old, and his actions swing from frightened, abused child to an almost yoda-like wisdom. His emerges from years of abuse to still be a communicative and rather emotionally stable boy who immediately believes a stranger that tells him he’s a good boy. Tommy is not much better explained but somewhat more consistent as an abused twelve year old going on an emotional thirty.

Soldier muses “do wonders never cease?” for these characters the answer is easily no. There are no conflicts, there are no lingering emotional problems, no potential legal problems, no money worries – this is the ultimate fantasy with a few abuse back stories thrown in to tug at the heart strings of readers. The dull and simplistic writing does nothing to help the situation either. There is no vitality within the characters and the setting, no energy infused into dialogue, and even the numerous dramatic emotional scenes read vapid and empty with clear attempts to manipulate the reader into emotion but fell flat with poor writing. The prose was amateurish and clunky which made reading this story very difficult and agonizing. Quick, disjointed sentences with repetitive phrases and emotions dragged a story that could have been cut to the length of a short story.

The author truly says it best when quoting the relationship of Dillon and Soldier – “pure, sweet happiness flowed from one to the other. It was sappy and mushy and so sweet it made their teeth ache.” The attempt at an overly dramatic, overly emotional and sweetly sappy romance was hindered on so many levels but mostly due to the poor execution from beginning to end. Even willing to suspend disbelief and sense of reality to delve into the author’s fantasy, there were so many jarring, awkward and obvious plot devices that this story turned into a real chore to read. If I didn’t have to finish this for review, it would have been on my DNF shelf. I appreciate a sweet romance with a HEA as much as the next reader, but I would still like it well written with fully developed characters with depth and complexity for the emotions handled, and an energy to the prose that makes me excited and wanting to read it. Sorry this didn’t even come close to achieving any of that. 

 

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3 thoughts on “Soldier by AKM Miles

  1. Too bad this one didn’t work out! Negative reviews can be so hard to write because of all the work and hope that went into the project by the author. But I’m impressed by how much time and thought you put into this review. If I were the author I wouldn’t find it easy to read, but there is a LOT of valuable information here to learn from. You’d make a great beta reader.

    • Thanks Val :). Negative reviews are not fun to write because I want to like every book I read. I want to gush about how great it is – well I want it to deserve it. So I do have this and a few others coming up that just weren’t so good, unfortunately.
      It may be negative but I support why I didn’t like it and there are always reviews that say they loved any book I hated. So it’s just an opinion.

      • You’re very welcome. I know just what you mean. My heart sinks when I get into a book and know I’m not going to like it.
        It’s bad enough when the book is badly written, but somehow it’s even worse when it’s competently written but I find it offputting for some reason. I don’t want to want to continue reading and I don’t want to write the review and I don’t want to contact the author and explain why I’m not writing the review, and it’s a thoroughly awkward situation!
        Like you said, we’ve got a right to our opinions. As long as you’ve supported your opinion with analysis (and you always do), then you can rest assured that you gave the review your best shot and treated the author with respect. I think those kind of reviews can convey a LOT of valuable information.

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