- Paperback: 340 pages
- Publisher: MLR Press (October 19, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1934531030
- ISBN-13: 978-1934531037
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,369,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Esprit de Corps Paperback – October 19, 2009
The Amazon Book Review
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Top Customer Reviews
World War I flying ace Captain "Bat" Bryant is furious enough to lash out when a sneaky mechanic attempts to blackmail him following his lover's death in combat. Unfortunately, his angry reaction leaves his would-be blackmailer dead. American pilot "Cowboy" Cooper witnesses the incident and says he'll help Bat out--for a price. Unable to think of anything else to do, Bat is forced to agree to Cowboy's scheme.
"Out of the Blue" was without a doubt my favorite story in Esprit De Corps. Josh Lanyon has a knack for writing heroes that aren't quite what I expect, yet I end up liking them. That's especially true of Cowboy, who seems so self-interested but turns out to be something more than he seems. The historical atmosphere is well done, and the aerial battle scenes are exciting. If you like gay historical stories, you will like "Out of the Blue." Guaranteed.
"Islands" by Samantha Kane
Frenchman René Dubois loves his island home, Île Dorée, and its people. He's determined to protect them no matter what. Then Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Conlan of the United States Navy Seabees arrives, wanting to build an Allied hospital and airfield on the island. René doesn't really want to agree, but he does want Gabe, and Gabe feels the same way. Will they be able to be together, or will the war destroy everything they hope to build together?
"Islands" is a quick, hot story. Gabe and René come together almost immediately, but there's no magic wand solution for their issues: Gabe's career, the times they live in, and the war. While the ending felt a bit too happy given the times, I liked "Islands" quite a bit.
"Coming Home" by Victor J. Banis
Mike lives in San Diego during the Sixties, and his favorite weekend pastime is picking up Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. In his mind, variety is the spice of life, and one night stands are great. Then he picks up Doug, a Marine who's different from the others somehow.
"Coming Home" is a bit difficult to describe. The narrator, Mike, isn't the type of character I usually like. He's all about sex and variety, which is fine but not usually not so good for a romance. The story is quick, and very graphic. Some readers might not care for the language or descriptions of sex. At one point, Victor J. Banis throws a major curveball that seems to derail the whole story. The sweet, hopeful ending served to cheer me up a bit, however, despite the dark turn.
"Big Diehl" by George Seaton
After graduation, Big Diehl (who goes by Diehl for obvious reasons) is determined to get away from his hometown, and his father. He drives to Casper and enlists in the Army. He also meets some kind lesbians at a bar, who take him in and give him work until he's called for boot camp. Will the Army give Diehl what he needs?
"Big Diehl" isn't really a romance. If I'd been reading a gay historical anthology rather than a romance anthology, I wouldn't have been bothered by this. Unfortunately, the story ends up seeming out of place. That said, "Big Diehl" is an interesting story of finding yourself and coming to terms with the past. Diehl's a country boy at heart, with simple tastes and simple needs, but he knows if he stays in his hometown his life will go nowhere. He meets several potential love interests in the story, but it's never quite right. While I was disappointed with the ambiguous ending and lack of romance, "Big Diehl" isn't a bad story. I just felt it belonged in another anthology rather than this one.
On the whole, Esprit de Corps is a varied anthology featuring servicemen from World War I all the way to the present day. Readers who like military stories will find a lot to like here. Not all the stories were my cup of tea, but I think there's something for just about everyone in Esprit de Corps.
Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed
"Out of the Blue" by Josh Lanyon - 8/10
- Some excellent writing. Here's an example: "A crust of frost sparkled on the ground like broken stars and a hint of cordite drifted on the breeze." I just discovered Lanyon pretty recently, and I'm impressed.
- Well-formed and interesting characters.
- Intricate and all-encompassing WWI details. The historical setting is depicted very well. I found the air battles particularly intriguing.
- Kind of sad. Lots of secondary characters get killed in the course of the story (but I wasn't terribly attached to any of them), and the ending is very open. WWI wasn't really a Happily Ever After kind of time, though.
"Islands" by Samantha Kane - 9/10
- The sweetest, most romantic of the 4 stories. It's the only one with an ending that I think qualifies as an unequivocal HEA (although when I squint and hold my tongue just right, I can imagine the others as HEAs also).
- More detailed sex scenes than the other stories. I didn't DISLIKE the sex scenes in the others, but these ones are the most emotional in the book.
- Fairy taleish setting. Even though the story takes place during WWII, the action is set on an island where sexual orientation is not an issue.
- I found the ending a little abrupt. There's a long span of time between the end of the novella and the beginning of the epilogue, yet the characters behave as though almost no time has passed. (The island has a timeless quality, though, so I was able to forgive this rather easily.)
"Coming Home" by Victor J. Banis - 8/10
- Easy, conversational tone. I wondered for the first few pages whether I was reading fiction or something more along the lines of a memoir.
- Some really funny exposition. This is an early favorite of mine: "Insects start doing it too, when they think the end is near, but I don't do bugs. Ever try to give a bedbug a [bj]? Marines are way better." This is the first story I've read from Banis, but I think I'll read more.
- Again, I found the story kind of sad overall. There's a turn in the relationship that's pretty disappointing for the narrator, and when the other guy returns from Vietnam, he's changed in a fundamental way, as were most men who fought in `Nam.
"Big Diehl" by George Seaton - 7/10
- Good examination of the changes that military service can bring about in a person. There's also quite a bit of ambiguity in Diehl's mind as to what his overall attitude is toward the military--a trait I've seen before in real life.
- Covers a time span of about 6 years really well in a (relatively) small amount of space. I often find large skips in time awkward in writing, but Seaton does well here, especially for a novella-length story.
- Some descriptions of Diehl's beginnings are rather horrifying. He rises above his origins, of course, but I didn't enjoy reading the scenes that take place in his hometown. (They are well-written, though.)
- The most depressing of the 4 stories. This one provides a good look at the modern "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and the horrors exercised upon servicemen whose sexuality is discovered. I was pretty down for several days after reading this, but it's not Seaton's fault; he simply portrays the military life as it really is for gay men.
Overall comments: I thought all 4 of these stories were good. I found a couple of them too depressing to really LIKE all that much, but the writing throughout is top-notch. This is one of the best overall anthologies I've ever read because it really says something; although the stories are connected by little other than their military/war subject matter, they complement one another beautifully. And the dedication, written by a man in the United States Navy, is breathtaking and perfectly encompasses the emotion behind the book's content.