Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Special Forces #1 - Soldiers (1980-1989) by Aleksandr Voinov (Vashtan) & Marquesate

All the reviews I've read of this one said the exact word to describe this series - EPIC! I must agree. This love story is absolutely, well, EPIC! there simply isn't a more suitable word. I have NEVER read anything like it, and I do think I ever will. This is the absolute best, most amazing, unique love story I've ever read. So really, giving this one 5 out of 5 stars is unacceptable. There should be another standard for grading a book of this magnitude (lets settle for now for 10 out of 5 stars, OK?). 

This story is NOT typical in right about anything and everything. Which is another reason it's so special (besides the name ;)) 

Think about any violent and disturbing act you rather NOT read in a love story and it's probably there.. no spoilers, none needed, use you imagination and prepared to be SHOCKED every time the main characters manage to take you to a higher level of disturbed (which will be a prime adjective in this review.. and it's not the only word I'm re-using, forgive my inadequacy..). 

This book, or rather, the series, follows two Special Forces agents, Dan McFadyen a Scottish SAS agent and Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada a Soviet Spetsnaz Vympel agent. They meet on a dark alley in Kabul, Afghanistan and it's only gets darker before you start (slowly slowly...) seeing the light. 

This is no "love at first sight" kinda book, or one of those books where the couple falls for each other before you can even realize what's to like about each of them. Vadim and Dan might be extremely attracted to one another but they mostly HATE each other with a vengeance for right about half the book (each with his justifiable reasons). So when I say this is a "slow burn" kinda book I REALLY mean it. While there were a lot of violent and disturbing interaction between the two of them, seeing little by little how their hate changes to trust and finally to love is something to behold and it's exactly what makes this book so heart breakingly beautiful with all the brutality in it..

While the both of them start the book with hatred, the reader's reaction to the both of them is no better, which is another thing which makes this book so different from the "average love story". Both Vadim and Dan aren't even likable, really. I started the book hating Vadim while kinda liking Dan and understanding his hatred for Vadim (hey, I hate him too!) then, leaning more about Dan, I started to dislike him as well (though he says he's 'straight' he's no womanizer to put it mildly..), the plot continues and my hatred to Vadim turns into something else, I find that I don't really forgive him but I'm starting to like him, maybe a little.. while thinking Dan is SUCH an ass. Then somewhere along the line I just fell in love with both of them and screw it all to hell :D 
Now all that's left is for them to find the words, time and place for their love which always seems too far out of reach.  

EPIC. I said that already, right? because there is no other word/s that can begin to describe, explain or even give you an idea of what this one is about. It's about two guys that find love in the most unexpected place while being enemies who can never let anyone find out about them. It's enough that being gay in the army is a bad idea.. being gay lovers while playing in different teams is A LOT more difficult. Playing this dangerous game for almost 10 years? (which is the span of this book) yeah, almost impossible, well, impossible unless you're Dan and Vadim.. 

While this book is BRUTAL in so many aspects, it's also TENDER in the most beautiful and heart breaking way. There's this scene when Dan separates from Vadim (as it seems for about year) and leaves him a bag full of goods (mostly first aid materials). I was just bowling with tears with each item Vadim took out of the bag. I felt so stupid crying but every item was another way Dan shows Vadim he cares even if they both won't say the words. I don't want to spoiler so I won't write any more examples, but there are SO MANY instances where they show how much deeply they care about the other with only actions, no words, non spoken at least... But don't think for an instance that what I wrote in the past few sentences diminishes the first sentence in this paragraph - this book is absolutely BRUTAL. In the way it breaks your heart in two, yeah, but also and mostly with the way they treat each other (both in the physical and mental sense), remember my "warning" - Think about any violent and disturbing act you rather NOT read in a love story and it's probably there.

There's a chapter in which Vadim meets this couple who live together as a Dom and sub. The whole scene was kinda bizarre but not really because of the sex, but because of how he meets them and what his real objective is while he's in their company. As I was reading it I was wondering where it will take Vadim and consequently how what he witnessed but also his conversations with them will translate into his relationship with Dan.The surprising thing for me was that seeing how it affected Vadim and influenced what happened between him and Dan made me somehow understand BDSM for the first time. I'm not sure how to explain it, but I don't usually "get" the intensity, the obsolete roles that are being "played" but maybe because Dan and Vadim are so intense as it is, not to mention when it comes to one another, I could see something I've never seen / read / realized before. I"m not sure if I'm making any sense or if it will make sense to anyone who've read this book but I'm just saying that it made me see things really differently even if I've read BDSM before. 

The last part in the final chapter was absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. Yeah it was, mmm, well, disturbed? obscene? at certain points, but if you made it to the ending, you can't be shocked of Dan and Vadim. This is exactly who they are, what they mean for each other and there is absolutely NOTING they won't do to/for/with each other. 
Let me say it just one more time - yeah, they are EPIC together :)  

I'm surprised I managed to read fluently the end of the last chapter, my eyes were literally running with tears. I cry like that in real life when someone dies! I don't really shed tears, I have this one stupid tear that clings to my bottom lashes and needs to be swept so it won't feel heavy on them, but I can't remember when I cried, really cried, and I'm not just referring to crying over a book but crying in general, in real life. This book just chewed me and spat me raw leaving me this mess of emotions I rarely feel and mostly think I CAN'T feel (I might read a lot of Romance but I'm quite cold in real life). 

I will admit it took me a while to get into things in this book mostly because the beginning is quite difficult to read and accept the main characters aren't that likable. But as the story continues you just try and figure out when will they meet again, what will happen and it's really difficult to put down. 

I only have one complaint about this book and it's that Vadim and Dan's POVs aren't distinguished enough. You can read one paragraph of Vadim, then the next one is of Dan and it takes you a minute to realize it's Dan now and not Vadim. There is no "pattern" you can follow to which POV it is. Maybe that's another thing that makes the reading a little bit slower than a book with one POV or a more distinguished POV pattern (separated by *** / chapters).

This is a MUST READ for anyone who has no problem with M M Romance. I know a lot of people don't feel as comfortable reading gay novels, I accept that. I have my "issues" with certain genres, but if you're not squeamish about gay sex scenes and can take a different kind of love story (a really violent and bloody one as it is..) finish whatever it is you're reading and delve into this one. 

*   *  *

One last thing before I sign off, which is the most important thing actually :P Where can you find this book and the next in the series! 

Aleksandr Voinov and Marquesate published this series for free on their website. You can read them as an HTML (on Marquesate's website, navigate the part on the left). There used to be a .epub version of this one in Aleksandr's website (unavailable now) I converted it to .mobi so I can read it on my kindle and it was a really good file (there is a table of contents and though from right about the middle the page number is inserted in the middle of the text when you get used to it it's not that bad). 

If you've been around here for a while you already know I can sometimes be a little obsessed with cataloging, order etc.. So I couldn't help myself and I made .mobi files for the rest of the series. They are really good files with table of contents and all :) so if you're interested just contact me and I'll send them to you.

Yeah, I wasn't kidding ;)

Additional Details: Kindle Ebook, 870 pages, 10-19 August 2014 / On GoodReads
Special Forces by Aleksandr Voinov (Vashtan) & Marquesate is a MM Romance series telling the EPIC love story of Scottish SAS soldier Dan McFadyen and Soviet Spetsnaz soldier Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada. It was published on the authors' websites as a free novel in parts between July 2006 - April 2009 and can still be found on Marquesate's website (as HTML), Aleksandr decided to remove it from his website awhile ago. [ If you're interested in the second and third part in MOBI format please contact me. I made MOBI files from the HTML published on Marquesate's website. ]

Special Forces is the epic story of a Scottish SAS soldier and a Soviet spetsnaz soldier. Two enemies who meet in the line of duty during the early days of the Soviet Union’s last war in Afghanistan. Behind enemy lines respect and finally love grow... but that’s only the official version. 

The reality of these two men is dark, brutal, fueled by aggression and insane lust. Steeped in pain and killing, with death as their shoulder companion, these Special Forces soldiers meet in 1980. Their intense hatred caused by rape, revenge and torture turning into fucked-up lust and years of secret encounters in the rat-infested labyrinth of Kabul and the Afghan mountains. Time, despair and desolation smoothing down the sharpness of hatred, its venom drained with each physical encounter, the lust helping to form an understanding that only two men of the same kind can share. Enemy Mine and Brothers in Arms - on two different sides. 

This novel spans across over twenty-five years of their lives. It’s harsh and violent, but life is cruel and they just do what they need to survive. 

I truly feel like I have nothing more to add to what the authors themselves have to say about this series so I'll try and sum up my feelings - This is an EPIC love story between two enemies that started with hating each other and became inseparable. 25 years of so much heart ache I sometimes wonder how I went through it all. This series changes everything I think about romance, gay or hetero, it doesn't matter. What Dan and Vadim went through in the 25 years we are part of their lives put me out of my comfort zone too many times to count, right from the first chapter to the very ending which was beautiful and naturally left me with tears as too many scenes did (not something that happens to me very often..). 

Dan and Vadim aren't perfect, they are human and not that good or nice about a lot of things they do in the time we get to know them. I started off hating Vadim with a vengeance and generally disliking Dan yet somewhere along the line I fell for them both and wanted to see them truly happy together and it took quite a lot of time to get there through any torture possible. 

It was an EPIC ride. I truly felt changed when I finished reading it. Though I can't say that the series was perfect, it was out of this world amazing. My main issue with the series is there were, at times, too many sex scenes that in my personal opinion just made the story drag for no apparent reason, yet I don't begrudge the series for it.   

The first book in the series is the most viewed post on my blog strangely enough. Though I don't take back anything *I* wrote about this series, Aleksandr has said many times he disliked these as they were written in a darker period in his life and is very different from what he writes today and the general place he is on at the moment. He also said he was dabbling with writing more darker erotica (this book has it all..). While I didn't always like this fact, I liked the overall arc so much I just skipped those scenes. Yeah it means I skipped quite a lot in the second part but again, I was more invested in where all these experiences took Dan and Vadim and not specifically being "there" with them throughout it all. I don't think I'll even get to re-read this series as it's VERY long, and somewhat similar to Aleksandr I feel like I'm in a different place at the moment as well so reading something SO dark isn't a current fit for me. Yet still it doesn't change the strong feelings I was left with when I read these. They are still meaningful as they were back then when I read them. 

There are two more spin-off novels written separately by these authors.  
Deliverance by Marquesate and T.A. Brown (27 February 2012) ★★★★★
Tells the story of ex-Marine Matthew Donahue "Matt" and Delta Force Hubert Bozic "Hooch" whom we met in the second installment of Special Forces, both being friends with Dan and later on Vadim having a close relationship with Hooch. 
Gold Digger by Aleksandr Voinov (15 September 2012) ★★★★
Tells the story of Vadim's son - Nikolai Petrovich Krasnorada findig his HEA in Henri LeBeau. There was a sort of resemblance to the unlikely circumstances Vadim met Dan. We got to see Vadim again and see him as a father, a real father who talks to his son and gives him advice when needed which was beyond beautiful.

Special Forces #1 - Soldiers (1980-1989) ★★★★★
Special Forces #2 - Mercenaries Part One {Chapters 20-35} (1989-1992) ★★★★½
                                  Mercenaries Part Two {Chapters 36-53} (1992-1993) ★★★¾
Special Forces #3 - Veterans (1994-2006) ★★★★


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