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BLOG TOUR – EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: “Semper Fi” by Keira Andrews

Boys in our Books welcomes Keira Andrews to discuss her new book “Semper Fi” and to share an exclusive excerpt. And enter the GIVEAWAY to win your own copy of the book!

One of the challenges of writing a historical novel is to make the characters realistic to their era while still keeping in mind the modern mores of readers. Of course realism can be a challenge in writing contemporary books as well. For example, many Swartzentruber Amish have dentures by the time they’re in their twenties due to a lack of dental care, but that’s one detail I decided to fudge for the sake of romance in A Forbidden Rumspringa. (Dentures just aren’t sexy!)

When I read The Merchant of Venice in grade nine, I was shocked to discover that the villain Shylock simply wanted to be repaid the loan he’d given, along with interest. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me (and of course it was perfectly reasonable!). We discussed the play’s rampant anti-Semitism in class, and I’m glad we didn’t read a sanitized version. This was the way of the world in that time period. If we erase the past, as some have tried to do with books such as Huck Finn, how can we learn from it? But maybe it’s easy for me to say that coming from my place of white privilege.

 

Historical accuracy and realism meet romance

In my new WWII-era novel Semper Fi, one of the historical elements that made me wince was the way Marines talked about the Japanese. Anti-Japanese racial slurs were the norm in America during WWII, and I only debated briefly about whether or not I should include them in the flashbacks to Cal and Jim’s experiences in the war.

Marines fighting in the Pacific were in a life and death struggle with their enemy, and they didn’t pull their punches when it came to their language. For me to do so simply didn’t feel right. I wanted to depict the reality of war as best I could, and racism was sadly part of that. Slurs are used sparingly, but to eliminate them wouldn’t have been authentic.

Another challenge I faced was how to give my Marines who go from friends to lovers after the war their happy ending. For me, an HEA is a necessity as a reader and a writer. What does happily ever after look like in 1948? Can two men have a life together and raise a family?

 

The war is over. The battle for love has just begun.

As Marines, Cal and Jim depended on each other to survive bloodshed and despair in the Pacific. Relieved to put the horrors of war behind him, Jim went home to his apple orchard and a quiet life with his wife and children. Knowing Jim could never return his forbidden feelings, Cal hoped time and an ocean between them would dull the yearning for his best friend.

But when Jim’s wife dies, Cal returns to help. He doesn’t know a thing about apple farming—or children—but he’s determined to be there for Jim, even as the painful torch he carries blazes back to life. Jim is grateful for his friend’s support as he struggles with buried emotions and dark wartime memories. Then Jim begins to see Cal in a new light, and their relationship deepens in ways neither expected. Can they build a life together as a family and find happiness in a world that would condemn them?

 

Discover how love finds a way in Semper Fi:

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OGTY67O

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1120558834

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id930202997

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/semper-fi-5

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/484996

 

Excerpt

1942

“I’m beginning to think they’re out of boats.”

Jim kept his gaze forward and whispered, “What?”

As they marched on in close order drill in the gray afternoon, backs ramrod straight, legs striding in unison to the DI’s cadence, Cal didn’t turn his head either. “The only reason they could possibly have for marching us around this much is that we’re walking to Japan.”

Lips twitching, Jim fought a smile. “Right through the ocean, huh?”

“Yep. This rain is just a warm-up for the real thing.”

“Plaatooon, halt!” Tyrell bellowed.

The men staggered to a stop, their rifles clattering together. Jim blinked the rain out of his eyes and waited to find out why Tyrell had stopped them. It could be safely assumed that the recruits had done something wrong. As always.

From the corner of his eye, he could see Tyrell slowly stride down the column of men, eyes sharp like a predator stalking its prey. Jim prayed he would pass Cal by just this once and pick on one of the other recruits. Not that Jim wished them any harm, but he hadn’t gotten to know them. Everyone knew that once their six weeks of training was through, their platoon would be scattered throughout the Corps. No sense in getting attached.

But it was different with Cal. As much as Jim wanted the time to go quickly so he could officially be a Marine—and not stuck in this purgatory—he dreaded the day he would no longer have Cal at his side to raise a sardonic eyebrow or give him a hand, strong and sure, when he struggled at the top of the climbing wall during PT.

“Forrrward march!”

As they set out again, it happened so quickly that Jim wasn’t sure if Tyrell tripped him or if Cal had unluckily stumbled. Jim could only catch the edge of Cal’s rain poncho for a moment before Cal sprawled forward in the mud, crashing into the man in front of him, who staggered but remained upright.

“Plaatooon, halt!”

Shouldering his rifle, Jim sank to his knees beside Cal, who sputtered, wiping mud from his face as he glared up at Tyrell looming over them.

Tyrell narrowed his gaze on Jim. “Recruit! On your feet!”

The words were out before Jim could stop them. “He could be hurt, sir.”

Jim had grasped Cal’s shoulder, but Cal shook him off. “I’m fine.” He hissed under his breath as he moved to his feet, “Get up!”

Clambering up as well, Jim stood at attention once more, eyes on the helmet of the man in front of him. They waited with bated breath for Tyrell’s next move. The freezing rain pelted down, and all else was silent. Jim tensed from head to toe, wondering if Cal was hurt. Cal seemed to be standing fine beside him.

Finally Tyrell spoke. Instead of his usual red-faced roar, he addressed Cal with an eerie calm. “This is what happens when you don’t stay in step, recruit.”

“Yes, sir.” Cal’s voice was flat.

“You’re filthy, recruit.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Get out of that disgusting uniform.”

Cal hesitated. “Sir?”

With a swift intake of air, Tyrell unleashed at full volume. “Did I stutter? You’re a disgrace to this platoon! You’re not fit to wear that uniform, so get it off! On the double! Down to your skivvies!”

From the corner of his eye, Jim watched as Cal stripped, awkwardly shifting his rifle from arm to arm since he couldn’t dare put it down in the mud. He hopped on one foot as he struggled to yank off his trousers over his boots. Jim clenched his fists, pressing his arms to his sides.

Once Cal stood at attention again, Tyrell inspected him. He barked, “Pick up those revolting pieces of clothing. You think I’m gonna carry them back to the barracks for you?”

Cal did as he was told, balling up his uniform and tucking it under his arm. “No, sir!”

“Forrrward march!”

They were off again. Jim caught glimpses of Cal’s chest, the dark hair scattered across it matted down by the relentless, icy rain. As they marched on interminably, Cal began to noticeably shiver. Jim wanted to give him his own poncho and tell Tyrell to go to the devil, but knew it would only make things worse.

When they finally returned to the hub of the base, Marines laughed and hollered at Cal, whistling and breaking into a ribald song. Jim could see the stony set of Cal’s jaw as he ignored them. They were finally dismissed for an hour to write letters, but Cal headed straight to the head.

Although he was eager to write home, Jim followed. The empty shower room was large and open. Still in his muddy boots, Cal dropped his gear and clomped over to one of the showers and turned on the water. His soaked white briefs clung to his buttocks.

For some reason, group showers always made Jim strangely bashful and uncomfortable, even back in high school phys ed. He’d seen Cal and all the other recruits naked by this point, and didn’t want to be labeled a prude. Yet there was something about the sight of Cal in his boots and see-through skivvies that made Jim flush and turn away.

He realized Cal needed dry clothes, and hurried back to the barracks to retrieve Cal’s spare khakis and towel. When he returned, Cal still stood beneath the spray of water, his legs parted and arms braced against the wall.

Jim croaked, “Cal?” He cleared his throat. “You’d better get dressed. Tyrell’s likely to call off the personal time any minute and get us marching again.”

With a nod, Cal turned off the water. A crooked smile lifted his lips when he saw Jim holding his spare clothes. “Thanks.”

As Cal bent to unlace his boots, Jim made himself busy at the sink, scrubbing his hands even though they didn’t need it. In the chipped mirror, he glanced at Cal toweling dry and dressing. When Cal swore under his breath, Jim turned around. “Okay?”

“Damn buttons.” Cal had on his undershirt, but struggled with his uniform.

Jim stepped closer and realized Cal’s hands were shaking. He reached out and covered Cal’s fingers with his own, wincing when he felt how cold they were even after the shower. “Here. Let me.”

Although clearly wanting to argue, Cal lowered his arms to his sides. Jim inched closer, but found his own hands clumsy as he tried to fasten Cal’s shirt in the opposite way he was used to. “Wait, this’ll be easier.”

He moved behind Cal and reached around him, pressing against his back as he pushed each button through its hole. Cal seemed to be holding his breath, and didn’t move a muscle. When the last button was through, Jim stepped away and slapped Cal lightly on the back. “There you go. Ready for action.”

Cal mumbled a reply, his face flushed. Jim was relieved the shower and dry clothes had done the trick, and that Cal was warming up again.

 

Giveaway!

Comment on this post by Tuesday, November 18 at midnight EST for your chance to win the title of your choice from my backlist. Please include your email address. Good luck!

~

 

After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” You can find out more about Keira and her books at her website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

28 comments on “BLOG TOUR – EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: “Semper Fi” by Keira Andrews

  1. Barbara
    November 12, 2014

    Congratulations on your new release I’m looking forward to reading it.!
    Definitely adding this book to my TBR pile. Looks fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kim W
    November 12, 2014

    This sounds really good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jenf27
    November 12, 2014

    I loved Semper Fi!! Thanks for the post and a chance to win a backlist book.

    jen.f {at} mac {dot} com

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Antonia
    November 12, 2014

    Looking forward to reading this! Thanks for the post and the giveaway!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Antonia
      November 12, 2014

      oops – forgot my email! amaquilante(at)gmail(dot)com

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Karen E.
    November 12, 2014

    Thanks for the givaway. kleverman@yahoo.com

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Waxapplelover
    November 12, 2014

    I have a love/hate relationship with historicals. I love when they are done realistically but hate how it was hard to have a HEA during many time periods. I am so glad that you like to give HEAs, because I frankly have a difficult time starting a book if I know that there is a bittersweet ending. Also, though it might offend the more PC people out there I’m glad you kept the pejorative and racist language in the book. During that period of time it would not have been unheard of for people to utter them. In fact, since there were internment camps in the US, that just tells you how far the anti-Japanese sentiment was at the time.

    Thanks for the chance to win! Waxapplelover (at) gmail (dot) com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keira Andrews
      November 14, 2014

      I’m right there with you — I need my HEA, or at least HFN. I definitely think there’s a way to make a historical realistic while giving readers what they want.

      And yes, definitely a strong anti-Japanese sentiment during WWII (to say the least), and I think especially for soldiers it would be anachronistic for them not to speak the way people did in that era.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

      Like

  7. debby236
    November 12, 2014

    Love men in uniform.
    debby236 at hotmail dot com

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kelly Jensen
    November 12, 2014

    No, dentures aren’t sexy, but I’d love to see someone write a book where maybe they are? (Careful what you wish for?) Semper Fi looks like my kinda read. Thanks for the chance to win. s1simka at hotmail dot com

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sandy
    November 12, 2014

    Sounds great – I can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lynn Fredrick (@FredrickLynn)
    November 12, 2014

    The excerpt has me really excited for this book and I’m glad you didn’t hold anything back to keep true to the story. I grew up with a grandfather who was in WWII so I appreciate the authenticity of it.

    fsteph55(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keira Andrews
      November 14, 2014

      Thanks so much, Lynn! I think there’s a time and place to fudge details, but with war I feel like it’s such important history that I wanted to make it all as accurate as possible.

      Like

  11. Barbra
    November 12, 2014

    Loved reading your blog. I’ve read some fantastic reviews of Semper Fi. It’s now on my TBB list. Thanks for offering a book from the backlist. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Carolyn
    November 12, 2014

    I don’t think it’s wrong to include the uglier side of humanity when writing any story, whether it’s historical or contemporary. However, I think there’s a chance to have that attitude refuted in the story, whether to have someone be called out for it or to show it in a way that makes it clear how wrong those attitudes were. No matter how we think people are, there has been and always will be those who stand up for human dignity. Sure, racism, bigotry, sexism, etc. were “acceptable” all through history, but not everyone was just acting like it was just fine to have those ideas, so it doesn’t feel at all anachronistic when I see people in stories going against the so-called norms of a time.

    Thanks for the post, and the giveaway!
    caroaz [at] ymail [dot] com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keira Andrews
      November 14, 2014

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Carolyn! I absolutely agree that there’s a place for challenging the attitudes of the day in an organic way. Taking Huck Finn as an example, Jim is totally a sympathetic character, so even though Twain used the language of the day, he wasn’t condoning how Jim was treated.

      Like

  13. Onyx
    November 12, 2014

    Thank you so much Keira and BIOB. A Forbidden Rumspringa and Semper Fi are both high on my to-read list! This giveaway is seriously the best.

    philomena404(at)gmail(dot)com

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jen CW
    November 12, 2014

    Thanks for the great post and the chance to win one of your books. I’ve heard so many great things about your books lately; they’re all on my wishlist now.
    jczlapin(at)gmail(dot)com

    Liked by 1 person

  15. H.B.
    November 13, 2014

    Great post. Thank you for the giveaway! I’ve recently read A Forbidden Rumspringa and loved it. I’m looking forward to giving more of your books a read.
    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Jbst
    November 13, 2014

    Congrats on your latest release. Your books are so varied.
    strive4bst(AT) yahoo(Dot) com

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Christina
    November 13, 2014

    This looks like a wonderful book and I’ve been wanting to read The Chimera Affair for a while now. Thank You!
    christina (DOT) mcaul (AT) gmail (DOT) com

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Lisa G
    November 13, 2014

    Loved the excerpt – definitely want to read this!
    lgrant1@san.rr.com

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Keira Andrews
    November 14, 2014

    Thanks to BIOB for having me, and to everyone who’s commented! :)

    Like

  20. jill w
    November 14, 2014

    Your books are such good reading. I really appreciate how believable your writing is. Keep writing and I promise to keep buying. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Juliana
    November 16, 2014

    Congrats on the new book!
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Keira Andrews
    November 20, 2014

    And the winner is…Karen E.! Thanks so much to everyone who entered. :)

    Like

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