Book: Faithful Service, Silent Hearts
Author: Lynette Mae
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
This week I’m taking a look at a debut novel by Lynette Mae that chronicles the life of a young lesbian soldier during a seminal time in American history. The story Faithful Service, Silent Hearts deals with a young Army officer focused on the mission of identifying terrorists and keeping soldiers out of harm’s way, all the while trying to protect her heart and hide the secret of her sexuality during the homosexual witch-hunts of the Reagan Administration.
However, before I tuck into the overview of the story and my thoughts about it, I want to take a few minutes to talk about something close to my heart. Yesterday morning, my beloved Aunt Jackie passed away. She was 87 years old, and my siblings and I are the only family she had in the world. When I was a baby, she would give me cold coffee from a spoon, and rub whiskey on my chest to help me breathe during asthma attacks.
Aunt Jackie was at every birthday, Christmas Eve, and graduation; and she was one of only four people I asked to attend my baptism. When I didn’t think I had enough money to go away to graduate school, she told me there was no way I was going to pass up THAT opportunity, and offered financial assistance without a second of thought. The last time I saw her, she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. I leaned down and she kissed me and said, “I love you, Mother.” It didn’t matter that she was confused; the emotion was very real for both of us.
I love you, Aunt Jackie – thank you for always being there for me.
And now, back to the regularly scheduled book review: Faithful Service, Silent Hearts tells the story of Devon James, a studly young leader that very well could have been the face of the new Army. Smart, clever, and dedicated, she took on every assignment with passion and clarity. While on assignment at the Army Intelligence Center, she begins a lusty relationship with her roommate, the equally smart, clever, and dedicated rogue, Lieutenant Jillian Gray. That is, until the witch-hunt begins, and Lt. Gray’s once-promising Army career is burned at the stake.
|The Marine Barracks, Beirut,10/23/83|
Photo courtesy of the USMC
Lt. James is spared from discovery, and she continues her career, eventually hooking up with an old college friend and CIA Agent, Alex Sommers. Both women find themselves walking a professional and emotional tightrope in Beirut until members of an Islamic Jihadist movement took the lives of 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers in one act of barbarism. Among the causalities of this harrowing day was Agent Sommers. Broken hearted, and seriously wounded, Lt. James returns to the United States and finds herself both honored for her heroism, and targeted for her sexuality.
Faithful Service, Silent Hearts is a truly compelling book that takes a unique look at lesbians in the military who skirted the legal policy of 10 U.S.C. § 654, which stated that homosexuality is incompatible with military service and that persons who engaged in homosexual acts or stated that they are homosexual or bisexual were to be discharged.
For the history buffs out there, that means before President Clinton’s ‘mine is bigger than yours’ to Congress with his signing of Defense Directive 1304.26, more popularly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
It’s a pleasure to read a story about lesbians in the military that separates itself from the myriad books being released that deal with more contemporary Iraq/Afghanistan issues. This story gives us a fresh look back at the not-so-distant past, and subtly reminds readers of some of the political decisions and questionable policies that directly lead us to where we are today.
Specifically, I mean the perception of the United States abroad, the perception of women in combat, and the perception of gays and lesbians in the military.
Ms. Mae’s main character, Devon James, is well written – professionally confident, yet personally vulnerable. She is dedicated to her job, her soldiers, and her friends, but unsure how to truly give her heart away. Yet, somehow she does, despite her best efforts not to.
The love affairs are artfully developed and believable, and the friendships and professional exchanges have a depth that speaks to authenticity. The interactions and descriptions of the military and intelligence communities are simple and convincing, and delightfully don’t fall victim to cartoonish heroism or villainy.
The story is tightly written, well plotted, and free of gratuitous trips to the bully pulpit. While it contains a handful of romantic and sexual encounters, the story does not stray into syrupy romance. True, the reader wants the protagonist to find and keep the love of her life, but the story is more about a soldier walking a tightrope between two incompatible worlds.
Well, “perceived” incompatible worlds, that is…marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen have shown us time and again how truly ridiculous that perception was and remains.
Lynette Mae is one of the brash and gifted new writers strutting into the world of Lesfic. She’s talented and skillful with the insight and ability to tell a story we don’t recognize. She shows us that we can have sexy, steamy, edgy, heart pounding fiction that feels fresh and new, and far removed from the mundane.
If I were to point to one flaw in Faithful Service, Silent Hearts, it would be the pacing, which is a bit hurried toward the conclusion. Still, the overall strength of this tale outweighs that minor blemish.
If you haven’t looked around lately, the theme of ‘Women in the Military’ is becoming a hot commodity in Lesfic, and for good reason. We all love strong women and we all need heroes.
Let’s just say, they’re the new breed of tough and chewy butch with a gun – a .50 caliber, fully automatic, with armor-piercing-incendiary-tracer ammo, that is.
Lynette Mae has given readers a thoughtful, solid story, a memorable protagonist, and a happy ending that is evenly tempered with hope and loss. This is a compelling read, and one that is worth the investment in time and money. I’m giving this intelligent, well-written story a solid 5.1 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.