Saturday, February 25, 2012


Review - "Latakia" by JF Smith

Utterly fantastic take on honor and courage

Very Highly Recommended

"Courage is faith and trust, Matt."

Matt is a great guy - just ask any of his friends in Richmond.  He takes food to sick friends, works with Doctors Without Borders as a volunteer, uses his talents to help set up tracking and record-keeping for childhood immunizations.  Plays softball on a gay league.  And has a hot boyfriend, Brian, to whom he would give the world if he only asked.

When he's offered the opportunity to use his talents to assist DWB in their mission in Syria, he jumps at the chance and will be leaving for a two week assignment.  Before he leaves, he begins to have doubts about how Brian feels, especially when Brian accuses him of being distant.  Picking fights and leaves him stuck with the check for dinner, again, the night before he's to leave.

So when he's kidnapped and fearing for his life, locked in a dark room alone, he resolves the be the man Brian deserves, to never doubt him again.  And when he's rescued by a group of Navy SEALS, his relief and gratitude are immense.  Even when he's confronted with what he thinks is homophobia and bigotry by the guys that risked their lives to save him.  But then he meets and talks to one of his rescuers, Mope - Travis - and some of what he thought he saw and felt, he begins to question.  How he acts, how he views the world.  

But when he's given the opportunity to repay that rescue, to risk himself, will he?  And what will be the cost be to himself?  His relationship with Brian?  To his preconceived notions about the men who rescued him - Mope, Petey?  And will he find he has more in common with these men than ever thought possible?

I have to just out it out there.  This book blew me the f**k away. 

When I saw it in Amazon for $0.99 I thought, nice, I'll get a short story that will be a quick and hot read, based on the blurb.  But what I got was so very much more.  This is a fully realized novel, and I would gladly have paid ten times the cost for the honor of reading this jewel.

JF Smith has written a quiet, amazing and satisfying book about one man's journey of honor, courage and self worth.  Matt is a revelation - a gay man who is already whole and complete and loveable.  And when thrust into a horrible situation, not only survives it but grows so much in the process. 

There are so many themes in this book that could have gone so terribly...sideways.  The role of the military.  The men who serve our country.  Patriotism.  Honor.  Courage.  Settling for what we as gay men can get in our relationships.  And every damn single one of these issues, Mr. Smith stands at the plate and knocks them out of the stadium.

As a reader, I can see what Matt can't, or won't, and at times, that's very frustrating.  We all know that Brian is a tool, and playing Matt.  But Matt, being the gentle man he is, doesn't believe it.  So when Matt, as he grows and opens his eyes, literally and figuratively, there is a huge payoff for him and the reader.

I love where Matt landed.  The man deserves a happily ever after, and I won't spoil the story and say what happens, but it's just so satisfying.  Hopeful.  And real.

And the supporting cast.  Has there ever been such richness from what we first see as testosterone fueled muscle heads?  Travis is a man with a giant heart and we grow to adore him.  His relationship with Matt, as his friend and confidante, begins an arc I loved.

But Petey almost stole the story away from Matt.  This guy - who is initially, we think, a homophobe and idiot - has the biggest heart and, I think, the biggest pain.  I loved him by the last page and wanted this book to go on and on and never stop.

That's the sign of a good book and a fantastic writer.  When I am so wrapped up in the world they create, so immersed in the characters that I don't want to say goodbye.  I hope Mr. Smith has plans for a sequel, and I hope Petey plays a huge part of it.

They don't get much better than this.  I'm so glad I stumbled into this fine, fine work.



  1. Great review Tom. Just bought it and am looking forward to reading it.


  2. I just finished it today and I LOVED it. It was great from the start to the finish. So glad I saw you talking about it.

  3. This one looks good and your enthusiasm really comes through. Plus any book with a character named "Matt" has got to be good, right? ;) I'm getting this one. Great review!

  4. I loved the book. Its rare for me to think about a book once done but I've been rehashing this one over and over.

    Now comes the tough part...immitating some of the book in real life.