RELEASE DATE: 8th March 2016
BLURB: Sergeant Connor Finley and Sergeant Shawn Weller are dedicated soldiers working covert ops for Shadow Unit — a joint Uk/Us anti-terrorism task force. Partners in the field and out, they had been through hell together for the last four years and made it through standing side by side. But when their latest undercover op to bring down an arms dealer plunges them into a world of drugs, sex and violence, Shawn must literally get in bed with the enemy in order to complete the mission. And Connor is forced to watch, helpless, as his partner is broken into pieces. Will love be enough to put them both back together or will this be their final mission?
Warning: Contains scenes of drug use, graphic sex and realistic situations
Connor cut himself off as Shawn let out an angry yell and swung a wild punch at him. Connor was forced to release Shawn’s wrist to avoid his partner’s fist, which would have caught him right in the face. He stumbled back a step, hitting the refrigerator, nearly losing his footing on the items strewn about on the floor. Just as he straightened up, Shawn grabbed a coffee mug off the counter and hurled it at Connor’s head. Connor dropped to a crouch and the mug smashed into the refrigerator.
Keeping low, Connor went at Shawn like an American football player, ducking under his partner’s arms and catching him around his middle. Shawn’s back hit the edge of the counter and both of them slid to the floor. Shawn’s fists began pummeling at Connor’s arms and chest as Connor got Shawn first onto his back then flipped over onto his stomach, straddling his waist. Shawn tried to buck him off, yelling angrily and Connor was amazed at the strength the desperate craving for the heroin gave him.
“Please, Connor, please,” Shawn pleaded with him, breathing hard. “I just need a little bit. Just a little and I’ll be fine…”
Connor quickly pulled the syringe out of his pocket and used his mouth to pull off the cap, which he spit out onto the floor.
He swallowed hard. “I’m so sorry, mate,” he said, voice rough, then injected Shawn with the sedative.
“I need it, Connor, I need it…” Shawn mumbled as his eyes closed moments later, succumbing to the effects of the sedative.
Connor slid off of Shawn’s body then, slumping against the counter next to him, his face in his hands, gutted to the core by what had just transpired. A lump formed in his throat as he lifted his head and looked at his partner, lying there unconscious. Shawn’s face was drawn, flushed and wet with sweat, battered and bruised with dark circles under his eyes that had looked at him with such pain and desperation.
Shawn was the strongest, bravest man Connor had ever known, now reduced to this broken soldier before him.
All because of duty and loyalty to his unit and his mission. For the first time Connor feared that Shawn had been shattered into too many pieces to ever be put back together again.
His chest constricted at the thought, the grief and anger inside him suddenly too much to contain any longer. He grabbed for Shawn’s hand and held on tight as he broke down, the first sob tearing through him. He cried for Shawn, who was fighting a battle he might not be able to win and he cried for the two of them, wondering how they’d survive if Shawn didn’t.
He cried until there was nothing left inside him, until his eyes ran dry and his throat burned. He gathered Shawn into his arms then and held him tight, wishing he could take his place, but instead willing every ounce of strength he had into him, the only thing he could do.
RELEASE DATE: 6th September 2016
Connor floated in a haze of pain and unrelenting heat.
As if from a great distance he heard Hamid asking him the same questions again and again, heard himself whisper his name, rank and service number again and again, his throat raw from thirst and screaming.
But Connor wasn’t there, in that room. He was on a beach in California with Shawn, lying on the hot sand, the bright sun shining down on them, turning their skin golden brown. He could smell the salt of the ocean, hear the cries of the seagulls overhead. Their motorcycles were parked up on the road above the secluded, deserted cove they had discovered on their road trip south.
Shawn was kissing him endlessly, his hands roaming over Connor’s warm skin. Connor pulled Shawn closer until his partner’s body blanketed him from head to toe. Eventually they let the kiss gentle and end. Despite the heat, Connor was in no hurry to end their embrace, nowhere he’d rather be than in Shawn’s arms.
He smiled up at Shawn, more content than he’d been in the last month. But his smile slipped slightly when Shawn looked down at him with a serious expression.
“Thank you,” Shawn murmured.
“For what?” Connor replied, confused.
“For putting me back together. For saving me.”
Connor swallowed hard at Shawn’s heartfelt words. He rubbed a thumb across Shawn’s cheekbone. “That’s what partners do.”
Shawn turned his head to the side and kissed Connor’s palm. “And I’ll always be there for you, Finn, whenever you need saving. I swear. Never doubt that and never give up.”
Never give up…
Another bucket of ice water hitting his overheated, aching body shocked Connor from the peaceful memory.
He gasped, his right eye opening fully, the left one nearly swollen shut. With effort he lifted his head. Hamid grasped his bruised jaw and squeezed hard. “You may have resisted answering my questions, but you will be unable to resist being my final human test subject,” he sneered, shoving Connor’s head to the side.
Hamid turned to his men. “Get him down! I want him in a containment room!”
Kashif released the leather strap holding Connor’s ankles in place as Ahmed disappeared behind him. A moment later the chain suspending him from the ceiling was released, sending Connor’s bruised and battered body crashing down to the floor. Too weak to move any of his limbs to break his fall, Connor couldn’t help the groan that escaped his lips as he landed hard on his side. He lay on the concrete like a crumpled rag doll.
Kashif and Ahmed unlocked the wrist restraints before hauling his body up by his arms. Connor cried out, his shoulders in sheer agony. Ignoring Connor’s pain, the two men dragged him from the room, Hamid close behind.
They went down the hallway and turned right, Connor’s legs and bare feet scraping against the floor, trailing behind him. Connor tried to keep his fear in check as they emerged into a larger area with six individual sections. Rooms, actually, but with clear Plexiglas walls, each containing a hospital bed and various pieces of medical equipment. It was difficult to see out of only one eye, but straight ahead and further down, Connor saw what appeared to be the main laboratory area with six or seven men in white lab coats holding test tubes or looking through microscopes.
Ahmed and Kashif pulled Connor into one of the containment rooms, unceremoniously tossing him on the bed. There were restraints attached to the metal frame and the two men quickly secured Connor’s throbbing legs and arms. His limbs burned and trembled now as circulation returned, his arms and fingers on fire as the blood rushed back into them.
As Ahmed and Kashif exited, Hamid entered, accompanied by one of the men in the white lab coats. Connor was not surprised to see the scientist was Chinese. Hamid had obviously been recruiting from one of Pakistan’s few allies.
Hamid held out his hand. The man gave him a syringe halfway filled with an amber liquid.
“I’ve wasted too much time with him,” Hamid told the other man, speaking in English. “We cannot risk discovery. I want everyone informed we are relocating immediately. The neurotoxin and antidote are to be prepped and packaged for transport.”
The scientist bowed. “Yes sir, I will see to it.” He hurried from the room.
Hamid stepped up beside the bed and looked down at Connor. He held up the syringe for Connor to see, as he pressed the plunger slightly, several drops of the amber liquid running down the needle.
“This is the final, most potent strain of the neurotoxin. As yet untested,” Hamid informed him. “So rest assured, your death will not be in vain. You will be providing valuable scientific data,” he sneered, pressing the needle against Connor’s skin.
For the first time Connor spoke directly to his captor, his voice raspy but strong. “My death was never going to be in vain. I will gladly give my life to protect my team.” He swallowed with difficulty and stared hard at Hamid. “Taking me was the worst thing you could have done. Because they will stop at nothing to find me. And you.”
Hamid glared at Connor as he stabbed the needle into Connor’s arm. “Then I shall let them find you. Or at least your corpse.”
With a triumphant smile, Hamid pressed the plunger, sending liquid death racing through Connor’s veins.
Today I will be reviewing the first two books in the Shadow Unit series by Jamie Lynn Miller. The first book BROKEN SOLDIER was released in early March of this year. It has made quite an impact on Amazon Stats and is currently $1.99 on Kindle. However, the paperback version is approximately $10.00 and would be an awesome stocking stuffer. The second book ROGUE SOLDIER was released only a couple weeks ago – so the stats are still cooking away at Amazon. Can they keep up with the demand for these unique works? It will be hard to say. Let’s examine each book individually before chatting with the author.
I don’t mind telling you that I almost fell into the trap of pre-judging this series at the get-go. As readers of m/m romantic fiction we each know what we like. For instance I don’t find the book premise of “shifters” very appealing. Maybe that is because I have never given one a chance. Although I can’t get enough James Bond, the idea of reading a book full of nothing but “jar heads” is not how I want to spend my time.
However, I am a fan of Jamie Lynn Miller’s previous works so I chose to give the “Soldier books” a shot (no pun intended). At first it was “Command this and Alpha Leader that” just the kind of stuff I expected. However, I continued to read and discovered that Jamie was setting the scene for a group of tightly knit soldiers facing almost certain death with only their wits and the emotional bond with their fellow squad members to keep them alive during their covert missions.
BROKEN SOLDIER paints a quick but thorough portrait of five strong and diverse personalities working both independently and as a unit to successfully complete their mission. The main characters of Connor and Shawn are immediately catapulted to the forefront of the book. The dynamics between these men are explosive yet heart-wrenching. The love they feel for each other is put to the test when Shawn willingly goes undercover and becomes hooked on Heroin for the sole purpose of taking down a “Drug Lord” who just so happens to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons available for quick sale to the highest bidder.
As we see Shawn losing the fight against a Heroin addiction, his lover and teammate Connor (also undercover) monitors the sad situation – helpless to stop the horrific events that are unfolding. I read with amazement how Jamie blended a story of love and helplessness within the context of covert military operation. My heart was in my throat the entire time I devoured this book. Without giving too much away, allow me to say that the final portion of this book demonstrates how only unyielding love and patient support can make our broken soldier whole once again. This was an awesome read from start to finish. BROKEN SOLDIER was chocked full of the romantic suspense I have come to appreciate. Thank you, Jamie!
ROGUE SOLDIER is the second book of the Shadow Unit series. There was a nagging doubt that this book could possibly “top” the intensity of the first installment. However, I was (to put it mildly) pleasantly surprised yet again. We have the same team on a new mission in a desolate locale. Shawn and Connor are once again front and center in a tale of intrigue, suspense and the long-forgotten demons of Shawn’s life before joining Shadow Unit and discovering the protective love of Connor Finley. This book reminds us of the difference between healthy, nurturing love and toxic lust. Shawn grapples with feelings of hatred and suspicion as he is forced to work alongside an “ex” with a personal agenda that literally puts the lives of Shadow Unit in jeopardy.
Will the love of Connor again save Shawn from the echoes of his past? In a unforeseen turn-of-events we find that it is Shawn who must do battle to save Connor from almost certain death.
Jamie Lynn raises the bar with this book. My heart was pounding and unshed tears obscured my vision as I chomped away at this book page by page. It confounds me how her next book of the series will rival these two. However, Jamie Lynn Miller will doubtlessly find a way.
Since the goal of Gareth’s Corner is to provide a unique opportunity to provide you with a featured review along with an up-close interaction with its author, it is my pleasure to welcome Jamie Lynn Miller to our humble home ………..
Gareth: Hello! Welcome my friend …
Jamie: Hey, Gareth. Wow! What reviews!
Gareth: Jamie, I am so happy you’re with us today.
Jamie: Wouldn’t have missed this for the world. As you know, Gareth, I have a small bakery business on the side. So, I couldn’t help but prepare a few doggie treats for Miss Hattie. [Sets a container on the coffee table]
Gareth: Well, thank you … Unfortunately, Hattie is in Atlanta visiting her uncles Thom and Eric for a couple weeks. Scott and I are driving down tomorrow to pick her up.
Jamie: Awesome! I’m sorry I missed her …
Gareth: Well, she will love these homemade cookies. The trick will be to keep Scott away from them in the meantime.
Jamie: I’m a pet lover too. I’ve had cats nearly my entire life. So you adopted Miss Hattie?
Gareth: Although it feels as if she’s adopted us, I got a call from my friend Dianne who was a volunteer for one of the local animal shelters. She knew that my dog Hemingway had died several months prior. So she contacted Scott and me and asked if we would foster a reddish-golden retriever until a permanent home could be found. We reluctantly said “yes”. Hattie moved in that day and the rest is history …
Jamie: That’s wonderful. How lucky for all of you.
Gareth: She’s quite a character.
Jamie: So I can tell from your Facebook posts!
Gareth: Jamie, I have so many questions about the Shadow Unit series that I am dying to ask.
Jamie: Ask away – that’s what I’m here for! LOL!
Gareth: How did you get the idea for writing The Shadow Unit series?
Jamie: I’ve always loved TV shows and movies about cops, paramedics, firemen and soldiers. My tagline for my writing is “Men in uniform…and out”. So far I’d written about all of those except the military.
We have a local TV channel here in Chicago that shows nothing but retro reruns. One night the stars must have aligned, for I caught an episode of Combat and an episode of Starsky and Hutch (my favorite one where Hutch is forced to take heroin) and bam! I suddenly had an idea for a new book! So that’s how Sergeants Connor Finley and Shawn Weller were born, and the first storyline, where they go undercover for a covert op mission and Shawn ends up getting addicted to heroin.
Gareth: How is this a departure from your usual subject matter?
Jamie: I felt I’d become a little stagnant in my writing. I’m all about “hearts and flowers” first-time romance with some angst thrown in. I wanted to challenge myself, and a military setting seemed like the way to do it. Just by its very nature covert ops work is dark and dangerous. No room for hearts and flowers. I also wanted to write an already established couple, which I’d never done.
In the end I surprised myself by how dark I went for Broken Soldier. I didn’t know I had it in me! LOL! Not that there aren’t lighter moments between Shawn and Connor, but this book (and Rogue Soldier) are definitely romantic suspense and not contemporary romance. I want my readers to constantly wonder if my heroes are going to survive to the end of the book.
I feel very accomplished as a writer now, after Broken Soldier and Rogue Soldier. I threw down a challenge to myself and I succeeded. And my readers took a chance with my new format and I’m thrilled to say that Broken Soldier has been my most successful book to date. Rogue was just released, so I’m waiting to see how it does, but things are looking good! I’m already plotting out Book 3. 🙂
Gareth: What was it like to do research for this series? The action and dialogue is written in such a seamless fashion that it was obvious that you did more than use old episodes of the A-Team and 007 movies as templates for Shadow Unit.
Jamie: Thank you! That really means a lot. For research I read several best-selling novels that were written by former Navy SEALs and other covert op military organizations. I wanted to get a feel for how members of these teams worked, communicated, the equipment they used, how they executed raids on terror cells or arms dealers, etc. and who better to learn from than men who actually took part in covert missions?
That gave me a basis as to how I wanted Shadow Unit to function, their structure, their overall mission of a combined US/UK anti-terrorism task force.
For Broken Soldier I also watched several documentaries on heroin addiction/withdrawal and did medical research on it as well.
After that, Google was my friend for both books. I did research on Kuala Lumpur, the Triad, arms dealing, India, Pakistan, various terrorist organizations, biological weapons etc.
Gareth: In your opinion and experience, how vital is research of subject matter?
Jamie: I think that all authors need to at least have some sort of passing knowledge about the subject they’re writing about. You don’t need to be an expert, but be aware that someone reading your book *might* be. You need to put effort into making your book as factually correct as you can. I’m crazy about research. For my firemen/paramedic/police books, I spent countless weeks in Citizen Police and Fire Academy classes, literally embedded in the law enforcement world. Plus the two Writers’ Police Academy conventions I’ve attended. And I funneled all of that knowledge into those books. And it paid off. I received so much feedback praising me for how authentic those books are.
So far the feedback on Broken Soldier with the military and drug addiction aspects has been just as positive.
Gareth: No doubt! How many books will comprise this series?
Jamie: Three for sure. I’d love to do more, but sales will dictate if folks want more of Connor and Shawn’s adventures. I certainly hope they do!
Broken Soldier is, hands down, my most successful book. Rogue Soldier was just released two weeks ago and my blog tour just started this week and the review tour isn’t until next month. So it’s too early to tell Rogue’s success.
But if you want more Shadow Unit, tell your friends to check out my new series!
Gareth: You can bet on it! Will you use Connor and Shawn as your MC throughout your Soldier anthology … or may future characters be taking center stage (i.e. A cute young eager-to-please Irishman named Liam)?
Jamie: LOL! So you picked up on Liam, eh? That’s great! That’s exactly what I wanted my readers to do. While Shawn and Connor will remain my MC’s, I can say that Liam will have a bigger part in Book Three. [wink] And I plan on introducing a few new characters in Book Three that are set up for a possible spin-off series.
Gareth: Correct me if I’m wrong … Are Connor and Shawn approximately the same age? I get the mental image of Connor as being more mature than his partner. Is that because he is – or is that do to my subjective interpretation or an expression of their diverse personalities?
Jamie: They’re actually the exact same age, the only thing similar about them! But you’re correct, I’ve always portrayed Connor as more mature. The more rigid by-the-book company man Brit, whereas Shawn is the smart ass American. I’m very glad you picked up on their diverse personalities. I describe them in Broken Soldier as “darkness and light”.
Gareth: What is the biggest challenge in writing this series?
Jamie: Getting into the mindset of terrorists, drug runners/users and arms dealers.
The research can actually get really depressing, reading about the different ways people can kill one another. I’ve asked myself more than once why I decided to write a series based on terrorism.
Gareth: I can only imagine how depressing – and tough that would be. Without letting the cat out of the bag – would you give us a brief heads-up about the next book of this series?
Jamie: Book Three is tentatively titled Hunted Soldier. This time Connor and Shawn will be dealing with a drug cartel that smuggles not only heroin, but terrorists and kidnapped young women as well. Who the leader of the drug cartel is will have a direct tie-in to Rogue Soldier. I’ll also be bringing up several issues from Connor’s past that were mentioned in Broken Soldier. In the end Shawn and Connor become the hunted instead of the hunters, fighting for their lives in the jungle.
Gareth: How long do you plan on keeping us waiting for its release?
Jamie: Well, it was six months between Broken Soldier and Rogue Soldier, so probably the same amount of time. Though if I can get Hunted Soldier out quicker I certainly will!
Gareth: Do you come from a military family?
Jamie: Yes, my grandfather was in the Army and my father was in the Air Force.
Gareth: Have you written pieces for other genres? Explain …
Jamie: Back when I first started writing fan fiction I was writing m/f het romance. But once I discovered m/m there was no going back! I’ve written contemporary romance, sci-fi and romantic suspense.
Gareth: Why make the leap to m/m romantic fiction?
Jamie: Goes back to fan fic again! Back in the mid-90’s I was happily reading and writing m/f and looking for a new story to read. I came across one marked SLASH. Back then I had no idea what that meant. I thought it meant “slasher”, like a horror story. So I gave it a shot. Well I quickly discovered that “slash” meant same-sex relationship! As in: m (slash) m. Get it? 🙂
My eyes were opened to a whole new world! I’d never thought of those two TV characters “like that” before but damn, it was HOT! LOL! I literally walked away from m/f that day and lost myself in the m/m world. That was 21 years ago and I’ve never looked back!
And if you must know, the story was about Mulder and Skinner from The X Files. 🙂
Gareth: Explain to me what ‘fan fic’ is.
Jamie: Fan fic is where you write your own stories based on TV characters, movie characters, literary characters or even boy bands. Basically you’re playing in someone else’s sandbox. You take already established characters and run with it. The point of fan fic is to create stories you know you will never see on the actual TV show or in a movie. And a big part of that is same-sex relationships, be it gay or lesbian. I mean, seriously, have you ever seen Starsky and Hutch?? There was so much attraction between those two it nearly set the screen on fire! But the TV show would never go there. So we fans went there for them! You should see the millions of stories about Kirk and Spock, too. 😉
I wrote prolifically in fandom for a long, long time. A lot of professional authors would never admit they got their start in fan fic, but I’m proud of it. Fangirls and fanboys are HARSH in their feedback on stories. They will tear you apart. I truly believe that I became a much better writer with my time spent in the tough fandom environment.
Gareth: I’ve never understood fan fic – thanks for clearing up the misconceptions I had.
Jamie: Not a problem. What did you learn from reading BROKEN SOLDIER and ROGUE SOLDIER?
Gareth: Most of all … I learned never to ‘judge a book by its cover’ so-to-speak. That is why I can’t wait to read HUNTED SOLDIER! Furthermore, I am going to read a few shifter books. Hopefully, a veteran author who is no stranger to that subject matter will agree to join us on Gareth’s Corner next month or so.
Jamie: Sounds like a plan! Gareth, I’ve always wondered who you and Scott met. Was it love at first sight?
Gareth: LOL! It was ‘something’ at first sight. Not sure if it was love, though. We are both from North Georgia. My favorite place in the entire universe (as I know it). I am from just outside Atlanta … and Scott from a city called Athens not far from the South Carolina border.
When I was in my late teens I became involved rather heavily in the BDSM life. However, I always gravitated to strong men who appreciate the emotional tie that binds a Submissive to his or her Dom. I believe the ties of emotional connection bind more tightly than any chains or rope.
There was a gay bar that hosted BDSM nights twice a month. The guys you tended to meet were the leather doms with anger leaking from their pores. Then there were the college twinks who came just so they could visit the mysterious world of BDSM. I think they expected guys who beat other guys mercilessly while they restrained them on a leash. I don’t know what was in their heads. I do think it surprised them to see regular people like this college Freshman who gravitated toward ‘something different’ than mere meatloaf and apple pie.
Then one night a tall man – about my age sat at the bar beside me. I introduced myself and he said he was a student at The University of Georgia. I may have otherwise left it at that. However, there was something in his eyes that I couldn’t avoid. We spent that whole night just talking and drinking Ginger Ale.
We exchanged numbers and he called three days later. He said he had to work up the nerve to call. Well, I was over the moon! We went out on a second date and a third and a forth … I introduced him to BDSM. I actually trained my Dom. He is the luckiest thing that ever happened to me, Jamie.
Jamie: You got married a couple years ago?
Gareth: Yes. I tell people we’ve been married one year – but had an 18 year engagement!
Jamie: LOL! Beautiful …. Gareth, I have so enjoyed being here with you this afternoon. I hope to visit, again.
Gareth: There is no doubt that you will be back. Besides, you still haven’t met Hattie. Lets keep in touch.
Jamie: I can’t wait to ask you to read the third book!
Gareth: I hope that you will buy the ENTIRE Shadow Unit series! A special thank you to our guest Jamie Lynn Miller and my bosses at Three Books Over The Rainbow and all our readers …. Jamie’s links are listed below and please visit me at http://www.akagarethowens.com
Until next time on Gareth’s Corner – so long my friends!