The first book I've read by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt was "Unhinge the Universe", which is also a Historical MM Romance novel from WWII. Yet the only thing in common, for me, was how brilliant it was, how much emotion it drew from me. I am Jewish. WWII has a certain meaning for me. Yet the word "Jew" was almost never mentioned (maybe only somewhere in the beginning), it wasn't about that which I liked, I've read enough about the Holocaust, and frankly I'm less inclined to read fiction concerning what happened in this horrible war, there are enough REAL stories to be told (though there are very few who are still alive to share them).
This story gave me a sense I don't think I ever had about how this war felt for someone from the inside who hates every moment of it. A German, a commander, in charge of prisoners of war. In a sea of insanity, hatred and violence, some people maintain their humanity. That's Armin for you. Simply a man. I had so much respect for him, for who he is, who he didn't allow himself to become and how much he valued his morals of protecting others even at the risk of his own life.
They meet for the first time when Mark came to Berlin from the US prior to the war to compete in the Olympic games as a Fencer. They shared one steamy night together and then went on their own way. It was obvious for Armin that war is nearing and also that his homosexuality will cost him his life and so he gave up on Mark. I'm not sure how much Mark knew about his sexual orientation but what he felt for Armin was something he never experienced before. Though they walked away from one another, they still remembered with fondness the time they shared, though they never expected to meet each other again, especially not the way they did - Mark a prisoner of war and Armin the commander of the camp (or rather a castle) occupying other British and American prisoners of war.
This time around it's even more difficult for Mark and Armin to keep their mutual interest in one another and yet acting on it is purely madness. Though Armin is in charge, Homosexuality will still get him shot, and when a SS officer comes to "check" on Armin and his castle, their situation becomes even more complex, and yet they manage to build something between them in the little time they DO spend together. It was pure oxygen in a poisonous land, even for me as a reader. The interaction between them, and not only that, the whole situation in the prison and the human and compassionate decisions Armin made in favor of his prisoners was heart warming and even sweet. All I could ask is for him not to be hurt in the end, for everyone around him who is not Mark to realize what an amazing person he is, and how much he was willing to do to make sure everyone and I mean everyone would be as safe as a war can allow.
I loved everything about this book. It was impossible to put down, though I did (when life interrupted..). The romance was sweet and crushing at the same time, it seemed impossible and yet somehow I had hope, maybe because of the way Armin managed everything around him I hoped for "fair", for some opportunities for them, for happiness in the most hopeless time and place.
A MUST READ. Though it's Historical MM Romance I don't think it matters AT ALL if you're into either Historical novels, Romance, and more specifically MM Romance (truthfully there aren't a lot of sexual scenes), it's simply a heart breakingly beautiful story about the worse time for men to find companionship and I dare say even love.
Additional Details: Kindle Ebook, 313 pages, 30-31 May 2016 / On GoodReads