Quote: The war had kept them together; peace was tearing them apart.
When I stumbled on to information about this book and series I knew it wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill Special Ops series. It was going to be real, it was going to be raw and it was going to be intense. Three things I have no objections against but I never would’ve guessed how it was all going to affect me. At the beginning my curiosity was triggered, it was war in Afghanistan and there was little joy to be found. There a Sovjet Captian named Vadim Krasnorada accidentally crossed paths with a Scottish SAS staff sergeant named Dan McFayden. There meeting was rooted in anger, violence and blood. An experience that forever changed the lives of these two men.
While the war in Afghanistan was quite a setting for a forbidden relationship to develop on it didn’t play the kind of detailed roll I thought it would. I thought it would be more political scheming and battles but instead the attention was on Vadim and Dan’s life as a Sovjet soldier and a SAS sergeant, portraying the dread and dreary of army life altered with their missions. But mostly I read about how their relationship developed from enemies, from attacker and victim, in to a relationship that had me in tears by the end of this story.
Vadim and Dan cross paths in Kabul and I must say that their introduction to each other is one of a rapist and his victim. Stark in its horror but it irrevocably fused the destinies of these two men like nothing else would. Now for some this may be hard to swallow but from that brutal moment their interaction, the back and forth display of strength, dominance, masculinity and vulnerability is a mesmerizing cadence within the story. Along the way Vadim and Dan are stripped bare of any pretence in who they are, what they feel and what they need. I was completely living each moment with them; when they go rock bottom, desperately hungering for human contact, or having a rare moment of shared joy, it created a connection that goes soul deep. Marquesate & Vashtan really took me inside their protags mind and heart giving me an in-depth understanding of what made them tick. The acts of hate are entwined with the demands of need and from there the frail connection of love grew. A love that is breathing with the darker side of emotions and a down-to-earth kind of humor.
Both Vadim and Dan emanate such a raw life force, at the beginning of SOLDIERS I didn’t even think I could like either one of them but I started to slowly fall for their power-play, for the sharp-edged dialogues interchange with inner monologues of conflicting emotions. Nothing Vadim and Dan do or say is void of their life force, that sheer will to live life knowing it could be over in a minute or the next turn of the road. Even when the war deals them soul numbing blows they pull each other through. This is what grabbed me the most, to witness a bond steeped in all the good and the bad, and see that bond weld the hearts of two strong men.
Next to the unfolding relationship the eroticism is roughly forty percent of this story, when death is all around you, sex is one of the things to do to feel alive. Vadim and Dan discover and explore all the boundaries of their carnal desires. It is voiced in the brutal and dominating encounters to the soothing and comforting side of sex. It never felt out of place for me, it made these two men all the more real. Gave their character and relationship development a truth that swept me away. The story completely center around Vadim and Dan life’s and their trials and tribulations. The secondary characters are simply passing by and they are all there to flesh out the lives of the main men. The only two supporting characters who actually stuck out and have a more prominent role is the owner of the teahouse and Ambassador Margaret de Vilde, Baroness de Vilde.
There was also action to be found but it was almost always in a situation where Vadim or Dan would be involved, never the larger picture of the Afghanistan war and this gave it a very personal feel to it. The only thing that bothered me is half way through the story it felt like it became about missions and sex hitting the repeat button. I don’t know if the writing style somehow contributed to the repetitive feel of missions and sex but it made me feel like it appealed to my stamina as a reader to continue.
Still, I continued because by that time I was so invested in Vadim and Dan as two separate men but also as a couple that I had to find out how this story would end. This lag in the story didn’t last very long though and by the last third of SOLDIERS it picked up in pace, hard choices needed to be made and suddenly the unraveling story threads were mind boggling. By the end I was in tears. I had lived, loved, hated and feared alongside these men, and though I knew this was only part one of their story, the cliff hanger caught my heart in my throat. Reading those final pages I realized the superb set-up Marquesate and Vashtan managed to dish out for their main protags and that the term ‘epic love’ was going to be justified.
SOLDIERS is a stunning portrayal of a love between two men who will dig in to your heart and never let you go. Realistic, gritty and raw are all applicable words to describe this story but so is friendship, love and loyalty. It blends in to a unique M/M story of magnitude!