Tuesday 30 March 2010

DIK Challenge/ MM Challenge Review - Islands by Samantha Kane

I'm reviewing this as part of both the DIK Challenge and the M/M challenge.

Blurb -
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.
In keeping with January and February I've chosen a book from another DIK lady, Islands was one of Renee's picks.

I usually steer clear of historicals mainly because I read them until I was sick of the genre in my twenties. However, I am quite interested in stories set during World War 2, maybe because the history is more recent.

There were things I loved about this story but I also had a couple of niggles.

Things I loved first.

The prose is lush and there's a real sense of being on an island in the South Pacific. I can completely picture Ile Dorée, and René in particular is very clear in my head.

The love scenes between the two men are hot and beautifully written, especially the first seduction scene between the two men. There was a clear sense of almost a mating dance, that both men had to be cautious until they were each certain of the other. Being in Gabe's point of view for this moment we are aware that he knows he's being seduced.
"Christ, they were done with dinner. On to dessert, apparently."
Gabe is drawn to René but he's also wary. Gabe is in the military, whilst René is a civilian; Gabe has so much more to lose if things go wrong.

The relationship between the two men develops very quickly. I can (somewhat) accept this because of the time the story is set. People take more risks and chances with their lives during a war, they have to grasp what happiness they can and take it while it is there. However, there were a couple of times when I felt the characters had thoughts that they weren't in a position to make after only knowing each other a few hours.

In a way my main niggle relates to this. I wish the story had been longer, that Samantha Kane had been able to take more time in exploring the relationship. This is a complaint I find I often make about m/m stories. Just the feeling that there is so much more story there to be told. The main parts of the story are there - boy meets boy etc. But I think if the story could have been longer I would have loved it even more. Maybe we would have also had the opportunity to find out more about Watson (a secondary character) and have a greater insight into what he thought about René and Gabe. The focus of the story (rightly so, given its length) remains tightly on the main characters, and whilst the story and epilogue satisfies, I wish there had been an opportunity to develop the story further.


Chris said...

I've avoided this one because of it being a historical, but since I've found myself reading a few more historicals lately... hmm.

Renee said...

Cool, you read Islands! :-)

Oh, man, if only Sam Kane had 300 pgs (avg. novel length) to develop this story.

You are so right. This is such a rich setting, and there is so much that could have been explored re: island life, secondary characters, and Rene and Gabe's relationship.

My favorite thing about Sam Kane's writing in general is how well she conveys the connection between the protagonists. I really hope she writes more m/m in the future!

Chris: I really liked that this historical was based on a location and time period that we don't usually get in historical romances. It really felt fresh. Hope you get a chance to read it!

KC Burn said...

Well, it sounds good, although I usually avoid reading m/m historicals, simply because I much prefer a happily ever after, rather than a happy for now ending.

It's sometimes hard to suspend disbelief to imagine that male lovers in most historical time periods are able to end up with a satisfying happy ever after. That said, I'm sure love finds a way - maybe this one would be a good way to test the waters!

Tracy said...

I think that this being set in the 40's really was different for me than most historicals. I'm not normally a huge fan of regency m/m historicals (though have read some and loved them). This one though I really liked after reading Renee's thoughts on it.

Glad you mostly liked it. :)

LesleyW said...

Chris - I'm not usually an historicals fan but I liked this one.

Renee - That's my main complaint - it wasn't long enough! Which I guess as complaints go isn't a bad one.

KC - This did have a happy ending. It was possible because of the Rene's circumstances. If Samantha Kane ever wrote a follow up about Watson I'd definitely get it.

Tracy - thanks. :)