Beyond Duty

Desert Isle Keeper

Beyond Duty

SJD Peterson

Peterson fans should be delighted with her newest couple, two career Marines who are on the verge of retiring just as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is about to be revoked in 2011. Of all the writers of gay romance who have a handle on what love really is, Peterson outshines them all.

Gunner Sergeant Gunther Duchene and Special Ops Sergeant Macalister Jones have spent 22 years keeping their relationship secret while being deployed around the world serving their country. Giving the appearance as two best friends and buddies, they’ve bought a house and spend all their time off together whenever they can.

With their time in the military coming to an end, they are beset with questions about the future. At age 42, what will they do to keep busy? Should they tell their family and friends about their gay relationship? If so, how will others take the news? Should they get married or at least pledge themselves to each other? The questions just seem to keep on coming with answers difficult to decide.

As they see their comfortable life dissolving into an uncertain future, Gunny and Mac must rely on their years of friendship and love to get them over the bridge and into a life they will be as happy living as they have the previous decades. They must also decide on what impact their coming out will have on themselves and everyone near and dear to them.

On the surface they’re both over six feet tall with granite muscles, quick reflexes, and military haircuts. They both understand and relish the discipline and precision the Marine Corps has used to shape them. They also understand and respect the chain of command. And most importantly they are proud to serve their country, and are proud of their military achievements.

But Peterson never creates cookie cutter characters, and adeptly depicts the seemingly similar two men as unique individuals. Gunny is the worrier and long-range planner of the two. He controls the money and made it possible to own the house. He sees both sides of the questions they ask about coming out: He knows many of their friends will abandon them, and he wonders about some of the family members.

Mac is the more volatile and playful of the two. He relishes playing games like Call of Duty online with teenagers and showing off his sniper skills even though he usually gets beaten and then storms away angry at the game. He’s the guy who’s the center of action when they walk to the neighborhood bar, telling stories and generally making friends at the drop of a hat. As far as retirement, he hasn’t thought through what he’ll do but he’s positive he wants to be out and proud doing it.

What Peterson sets up is the interplay between two men, like any independent heterosexual couple, who’ve had decades to reconcile their differing personalities to the daily grind of military life and who now face a new frontier. Readers know these men (or men like them) and will immediately be concerned with how they negotiate the changes that must be made.

This is the ultimate love story because it isn’t about immediate attraction or falling in lust with the good-looking stranger across the room, but is about the real happily ever after. Gunny and Mac are tough, resilient, disciplined men, who are truly in love with each other. So making the next decades happy will take just as much negotiation, sex, and love as the last decades have.

Peterson has outdone herself with this book. I hope there’s a sequel about how Gunny and Mac make all their planning work out.