Title: Captain Harding and His Men
Author: Elliott Mackle
Cover artist: Ben Baldwin
Publisher: Lethe Press
Amazon Buy Link:Captain Harding and His Men
Genre: recent historical/gay fiction/thriller
Length: 180 pages/62000 words
Rating : 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: New adventures of Joe Harding and his fellow officers was more exciting for me than the first book
When a C-130 bound for Southeast Asia explodes on takeoff at remote Wheelus Air Base, Libya, handsome, hard-charging Captain Joe Harding instinctively realizes that the cargo list—“medical supplies and radio tubes”—was faked. When Joe’s newly-married workout buddy does a swan dive off a fifth story balcony in downtown Tripoli, Joe refuses to accept the semi-official verdict: suicidal depression. And when Joe’s tennis partner, the son of the American ambassador, decides to celebrate his eighteenth birthday by appearing unannounced at Joe’s BOQ door, the potential difficulties of their love-match must be addressed––seriously and without delay. Continuing the adventures and misadventures begun in Elliott Mackle’s award-winning “Captain Harding’s Six-Day War,” Joe and his fellow officers and airmen contend with a highly decorated but sexually abusive wing commander (who happens to be Joe’s boss), a closeted Pentagon official fighting to save his career, a CIA agent who may be an imposter, and shipments of British weapons that fall into the hands of anti-royalist rebels. When a kidnapping goes terribly wrong, Joe must fight for everything he holds dear: duty, honor, country and love.
I reviewed the first book in these series “Captain Harding’s Six Days War” here and since I really enjoy this writer’s work, I jumped at the chance to review the sequel. As blurb tells you we meet Joe Harding again and as blurb also tells you he has his plate full dealing with the various issues in his professional life which is mixed up with his personal life, him being an officer of US Army stationed in Lybia. What blurb does not tell you though is that almost from the first pages of the story the book is very action packed, IMO more than the first one and Elliott Mackle in my opinion can write action really really well. I actually wondered whether to classify this story as mystery as well, but then decided that thriller would be more appropriate (I can see how opinions may differ on this one of course). Regardless, no matter how you classify it, maybe you just want to think of it as action adventure, since it is fast moving, well paced, exciting and fun.
I also thought that this story portrays really bleak (but realistic IMO) portrayal of conspiracies and cover ups where some army officials and politicians mixed up together. I mean, the writer does not portray almost anybody involved as evil – some good men and women may have thought that they were serving their country while participating in some things in this story, but it felt at times that I am reading extremely well written newspaper article about something that really happened. At the end the writer also tells us about the real life story which served as basis and was reimagined to portray some stuff in this book. It was bleak, but in a sense it reflected my world view quite well – I tend to think that power and money tend to corrupt a lot of people and goes to their heads really fast. I guess but for the main characters and some secondary characters I would have been in a bleak mood at the end of the story. I think that for all my cynicism I still want to be reminded that good (not perfect, just good in the normal, ordinary way) people who are not afraid to stand up for what’s right when push comes to shove really do exist in the world. I think Joe Harding is a very good reminder of that :)
I realy liked Joe in the first book, but in this one I liked him even more. He is human, he does make mistakes. Actually most characters in the story make mistakes, but I really liked that Joe seems to feel compassion to his fellow service men and women even if they screw up. Well, there are some screw ups or more like cover ups that Joe does not feel like forgiving, but I seriously doubt that anybody would feel the inclination to do so.
Funny, I actually thought that in this book Joe became a bit more open with his feelings. I did not think that it was over the top and thought it was very well handled, but of course everybody should decide for themselves. I still would not call the story a romance, but I thought that romantic elements were more visible and yes, Joe does have sex with his romantic interest in the book while he is almost but not quite eighteen. Loved how that was handled by the way – really loved it. Their desires for each other, the sex so far from being perfect and still their love for each other showing in actions and words -I really really loved it.
The writer managed to sell me the real potential between Joe and Colton in so few scenes that they had together. I also really enjoyed his friendships with Jeff and Hall, even if one of those friendships included a need for mutual sexual relief. I bought all of it. Same as in the first book, in Joe’s and some of his friends everyday struggles we see how gay soldiers tried to serve and still have companionship in the army and how much harder it was for them to do it than for the straight soldiers. The secondary characters are all very flawed actually and the writer still managed evoke sympathy from me.