The Final Line (The Recon Diairies #3), Kendall McKenna
Publisher: MLR Press, LLC
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Military, Psychological – PTSD, Brain Trauma, Investigation
Length: 330 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
“I had men in two different locations.” Corey repeated what he’d been saying ever since that fucked up day. “I was with the group that had the greater need. I wasn’t derelict.”
Corey took one of Sean’s hands and pressed his palm flat to Corey’s chest, beneath his dog tags. “Feel that?” he asked breathlessly. “Feel how you make my heart race?”
Corey Yarwood is twenty seven, he’s been in the Marines for nearly seven years and he takes his career and the code of the Marines seriously at all times. Corey has been through a few things in his life – his relationship with his girlfriend Kathryn broke down when she worked out he liked men before he did, he’s had two tough tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – a kidnapping, deaths, injury, reports, promotions and medals earned all a part of his life-to-date. As well as this, Corey has always had a huge crush on his old Top, Sergeant Jonah Carver, which was never going to be reciprocated and he knew this. Corey is now permanently based at Camp Pendleton as the newest instructor for the Basic Recon Course, training recruits wanting to join Marine Recon. But Corey hasn’t come through his tours emotionally unscathed, and while training at Camp Pendleton is a lot better than being on another tour, it still means having to deal with trainees going into situations he has been in himself – firing weapons, dragging trainees out of water half-drowned, night-time excursions as if they are on tour, and all things recon training –
Whitfield outlined what the Marines could expect to endure over the next twelve weeks. Corey knew that no explanation could ever come close to accurately describing the hell of the Basic Reconnaissance Course.
Corey now lives in the Bachelors Enlisted Quarters on base and he has been drinking again. He stopped for a while when Jonah Carver spoke to him about it, but it’s hard. The alcohol is self-medicating against a number of events that won’t let go, particularly his lack of sleep, his nightmares and a building emotional storm –
“Are you drinking again, Corey?”
Fuck. It was trying to keep Jonah’s respect that had convinced Corey to stop drinking the first time. “Can’t sleep if I don’t,” he said, teeth clenched and voice raw.
Corey has a stash of alcohol on base, he knows it’s not good to be drinking so much and alone. To avoid suspicion he goes off base to a bar sometimes, and it’s on one of these occasions that he helps a woman who is doing the same thing as him – drinking to forget – who gets harassed by some drunken men. Her friend comes to pick her up and rather than being a girlfriend the friend is a man. A very attractive, well built, good looking man named Sean who Corey likes the look of straight away. Some of the hoons from inside the bar decide to carry it on outside. Corey shows them it’s not a good idea – without losing his cool – and earns a ride home from an impressed and likewise attracted Sean.
Sean Chandler is multi-talented. He has a degree in performing arts, he’s modelled, he acts, sings, has played off-Broadway and appeared in various TV shows, as well as doing voice work. Currently he has a gig working a few nights a week playing guitar and singing at the bar where Sean helped his friend, Aimee. When he drops Corey off he asks him to come and see him play over the weekend.
Corey is visited by Jonah Carver and Kellan Reynolds to be informed that an incident during Corey’s last tour in Afghanistan, Ghazni Province specifically, is being further investigated. That the Afghan Government is not accepting the NCIS investigation into events. J.A.S is now involved, which means Kellan, Jonah and their staff are involved. As well as the new investigation, one of the Sergeants at Ghazni, Michael Nygaard, has been accused of beating his girlfriend to death whilst drunk. When in custody he points the finger at the Corp, and at Corey, accusing Corey of making him do things he didn’t want to in Ghazni and stating he didn’t know what he was doing to his girlfriend because of PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain Injury.) In the meantime there are occasional questions asked if, perhaps, Corey did do/knows more than his reports stated. Corey is always consistent in what he says but new questions raised by the investigative team show that Corey doesn’t remember a part of the events, he has a holes in his memory. He is having nightmares, anxiety attacks, a couple of panic attacks, is socially isolating himself, is hyper-vigilant and not coping as well as he could. And to find that a part of his memory to do with the day in question is missing does not help.
The Final Line has several story arcs going on – the re-opening of an investigation into Ghazni Province, with all the Marine legalities involved. A civilian murder case that is intertwined and running parallel to a military investigation, one that has the defence and the prosecution wanting to get hold of or discredit Corey Yarwood. A Marine placing dishonour on his unit, on Corey Yarwood, trying to get off a murder charge through a mental health loophole any way he can. Corey coping as a new Staff Sergeant with potential Recon Marines relying on his guidance and observations through a tough course; whilst battling the myriad symptoms of PTSD and investigations, which exacerbate things for him. Jonah and Kellan are also in the background through the investigation, which could be adversarial, but it’s Jonah and Kellan and they are good at what they do. They also know the calibre of Marine that is Corey Yarwood. And there is also the relationship developing between Corey and Sean when Corey is not in a good headspace –
“I don’t know,” Corey muttered. “Christ, you really shouldn’t be wasting your time with someone as fucked up as me.”
What I liked –
The PTSD is written and developed well. The characterisation of Corey Yarwood, a young career Marine, doesn’t falter as a result. Corey does seek out counselling, not just once and then it’s all fixed either, and I’m here to tell you the counselling was spot-on. I am incredibly impressed with the handling of the matter – including erectile dysfunction. It most definitely can be a symptom of anxiety and chronic stress. That Sean has to take Viagra to help something that no man in his twenties wants, but under certain circumstances sometimes has to. And the affects on a partner. This is the only MM fiction book I have read where it is mentioned –
“So I’ve got about twenty, thirty minutes to get you turned on?” Sean asked from the seat on his ottoman, running his palms up and down his thighs. Corey’s heated blood chilled at Sean’s words. That’s what he’d been afraid of. “I’m already turned on. I’ve been turned on since I got here. I can’t get any more turned on,” he said slowly and carefully, making sure Sean understood.
“My head is fucked up and sometimes it fucks up my body, too. That pill just lets my dick catch up to what my brain already knows.”
The investigative process is so well done – the line of questioning, the thought put into the legalities – both Marine and civilian – right through to the end and the final report/conclusions. Nothing is left to chance.
There are some graphic parts to this book. None of them gratuitous and all were right for the subject matter. Nothing was glossed over.
Corey and Sean are a great couple. There is no insta-love. No one is needy. Both Corey and Sean have careers they take seriously and they enjoy, and they both support one another in their goals and choices. I liked that Sean is a bit more artistic, and that Corey finds that sexy, that Sean finds Corey’s masculinity sexy. I’ll be honest, at first I struggled with Sean being so aware of coping strategies for anxiety, panic, and so understanding of the mess that Corey was in. I thought that he might just be too good to be true, but as the book progressed it felt right and it was just who Sean was – a laidback, nurturing, deeply caring, empathetic soul. He saw so much in Corey, a young Marine who had been/ was going through hell and was suffering as a result. He takes late night calls from Corey helping him to calm down when he would wake from a nightmare, or he couldn’t sleep. Sean’s voice helped ease Corey and his guitar strumming in the background also calmed him –
“Corey, stop and take a breath,” Sean said sharply.
Corey gasped, finally refilling his lungs with precious oxygen. “Sorry.”
“You’re running, Corey,” Sean said. “You’re trying to make it sound like you’re doing me a favor, but you’re running. You promised me, Corey. Now stop it.”
Corey couldn’t remember anyone ever throwing the bullshit flag on him like this. “You’re right. Okay. You said you didn’t know what this thing was or where it was going. But do you really want this? Is this the direction you really want to go in?”
“Yes,” Sean answered without hesitation.
“I guess I don’t understand why.” Corey’s confession twisted his gut. He couldn’t figure out why Sean would even put up with this shit, but he was grateful Sean seemed to want to stick around.
“I can’t believe you just said that,” Sean muttered, his annoyance palpable. “Corey, tell me about your goddamn nightmare, and don’t clean the story up thinking you’re protecting me. I want the unvarnished truth.”
Corey gave an exaggerated growl. “I’m gonna be so pissed off if this keeps me from getting laid again.”
Sean huffed a quiet laugh. “Stubbornness is what’s going to keep you from getting laid,” he said quietly.
Likewise, Sean is grateful that Corey never tries to keep him in California. He doesn’t pull the possessive or jealous card on him when he’s out of town or may have to take a job in New York.
The romance and eroticism built perfectly for the characters. They had to work for their relationship. It took a while for them to be intimate. And the word intimate is how I would describe every scene with them, not just fucking. The kissing was off the charts and the sex, when it occurred, smoking hot
Corey’s balls tightened, lifting slightly toward his body. He was close. He wanted to share this with Sean. Corey lifted and pulled back, reaching between their bodies and taking Sean’s hard cock in his hand. Sean gasped into his mouth as Corey stroked him several times, trying to coordinate the rhythm of his hand with his hips.
“Yeah,” Sean gasped….
“Fuck, I’m close.” Corey buried his face in the sweaty hair behind Sean’s ear. He stroked Sean’s dick and felt him shudder and quake beneath him. “I wanna feel you come against me,” he murmured into Sean’s ear.
Sean’s body arched and tightened against Corey, arms and legs wrapping more firmly around him….
Corey felt Sean’s cock swell just before the first wet splash of fluid landed on his fingers.
“Oh, fuck, I’m coming,” Sean gasped.
“Fuckfuckfuckfuck,” he chanted
“Just like that,” Corey smiled against Sean’s ear, still stroking his cock….
All the story arcs build and gradually enmesh perfectly resulting in a well paced plot and believable characters and situations. Every part was tied together. I was glad to see where Corey finished up and that he found someone very worthy of him.
Nothing I didn’t like.
This was a well written book with a well developed plot and wonderful, sexy, meant-for-each- other main characters, both of whom I fell for. Everything has a purpose, the sex to story ratio is just right and the romantic and tough parts all synced well. I have enjoyed all books in this series so far and The Final Line was another great read. I look forward to the next book now. I’d also like to send a shout out to Master Sergeant Whitfield. I know Captain Hirata will be a popular secondary character but I loved MS Whitfield. Once again Kendall McKenna hits the mark perfectly. I loved this book and I loved the main characters. Corey is put through the wringer but he handles it in a believable manner. He is one strong person, particularly as he does take professional advice and accepts the help of a great guy in Sean. It was nice to see Jonah and Kellan again, they have minor roles and do not take over what isn’t their book, just the way it should be. I highly recommend The Final Line for M/M military lovers and lovers of good story telling in general.