Islands by Samantha Kane
Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Conlan, United States Navy Seabees, knows he’s not in Kansas anymore when he steps off the launch at the small island of Ile Dorée and sees gorgeous Frenchman René Dubois waiting for him on the dock. The year is 1943, the place is the Pacific and the world is at war. Free from the censure of the military, Gabe has an explosive affair with René. But when the world intrudes, Gabe denies René and tries to forget the best sex of his life.
The only westerner on his small Pacific island, René is desperately lonely. When the tall, lanky American steps onto his dock, René knows his life will never be the same. He teaches Gabe how to make love to a man and, unexpectedly, falls in love. René will brave prejudice, Japanese Zeros and Gabe’s reluctance to find love at last.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I finally pulled this out and I remember why Samantha Kane is such a great author. This story is set in the 1940s and revolves around an isolated island in the south pacific. The writing here is what sells the story so completely. The characters and setting are well crafted and enjoyable to read while the pace is quick and the story ends even as you want more. But really the writing is incredible. The prose is well chosen and the descriptions lush, tangible. I can easily imagine the scenes, scents, tastes, and sounds of the story with the few chosen words offered. The setting and backdrop surrounding the war are accurate but distant, the focus is on the men’s connection, their romance, and the time period so this may not be a meaty story but it’s totally enjoyable.
Gabe Conlan of the US Navy is dropped off on Rene’s island with the mission of getting the Frenchman to agree to let the US build an airstrip and hospital on the island. This base is essential to their campaign against Japan, yet Rene’s agenda is not as clear. Their chemistry sparks from the instant they meet and the tension only builds as Gabe works to ignore the attraction that’s dangerous to his career and chosen life. Yet Gabe can only resist for so long and when he does give in, both Rene and Gabe are surprised by the connection and emotion that appears. Set against the backdrop of war, neither man expects a happy ending but they can certainly hope for one.
Gabe and Rene are great characters as the story follows their romance; told in third person from mostly Rene’s perspective, though Gabe has his moments as well. The characters are well developed and nicely portrayed. Although they have sex a lot, the focus is never on that exclusively and the emotion portrayed in their interludes is important to both men and the story. Gabe’s reluctance to give into his desires creates a nice tension while Rene’s surprise at the depth of his own love gives an edge to what could have been a sappy character.
The setting is also wonderfully described and crafts a great backdrop. The island atmosphere and unique culture and people feel authentic and offer some nice texture to the story. Similarly the details involving the war are also used sparingly but well as it keeps the tension high and reminds readers that a happy ending is unlikely, yet the light touch to separation, death, war, and pain keeps this aspect easy. So readers don’t have to worry that there is anything depressing or angsty about the story, instead the focus is on the two men and their relationship with some nice background texture.
The last thing I want to touch on is the great descriptive quality. I could imagine the 40s glamour of Hollywood but on an island. I could envision the scenes so well – especially of the men smoking postcoital. The sounds, tastes, smells, and feel of the island from the crisp water to the muggy heat are shown so incredibly well. The descriptions aren’t lengthy details but instead conveyed with a few choice words and prose. I was pretty impressed and it reminds me why Kane is such an engaging and good author.
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