Set in 2008, prior to the Obama presidency, BETWEEN GHOSTS is a powerful and moving portrayal of a male-male romance at the front line of the war on terror, seen from the perspectives of the British main characters. The novel believably conveyed the harsh conditions and conflict in the Middle East, logistics of military actions, and emotional intensity of forbidden love.
Connor is a British journalist and antiwar protester whose brother, a sergeant in the British Special Forces, was killed in the war. Five years later, Connor is assigned to report on the war in Iraq and shadow a Special Forces team led by Nat, who is haunted by the death of his teammate and best friend. Connor hasn’t gotten closure from his brother’s death and needs to know not just how but why he died. Nat feels that he and his team have enough to deal with, only brings Connor along on the least risky missions, and frustrates Connor who wants to see the action.
Connor and Nat have an instant attraction and connection, sensing something in each other that complements their personalities. Connor is easygoing, curious, perceptive, and intuitive, and has strong willpower, while Nat is hardened, stubborn, protective, and unwilling to risk his teammates’ and Connor’s lives. Connor’s easygoing nature enables him to develop a camaraderie with Nat’s team and the other soldiers at the base and gets them to open up to him and tell him their stories. He similarly persuades Nat to let down his guard by being that person Nat can be himself with, and challenges Nat’s stubbornness at the same time.
Even though they are separated when Nat is leading a mission, the romance underlies the action and drives the narrative. Their fear of losing each other to the war, to missiles and bombs or in combat, is palpable. Their stolen, lusty kisses and passionate, hot as f*** sex show the intensity of their feelings, anxieties, and desperate need for each other, while their quiet, but weighted talks express their inchoate love. I loved how every snatched moment and sex scene mattered. Connor and Nat are two of the sexiest men in uniform I’ve ever read in a romance novel, and I still can’t get their story out of my mind.
I appreciated seeing the war on terror from a British perspective. The novel didn’t glamorize the war like a Hollywood movie glorifying violence and ending with cheers and fist pumps. The British forces were often in need of equipment and resources and didn’t have access to the most updated intelligence. It was an unfortunate and frustrating reality, increased the tension and suspense of the narrative, and presented another obstacle to Connor’s and Nat’s relationship.
I loved everything about this novel–from its fast pace and gritty tone to its emotional depth. I was so impressed with the author’s writing style that I’ve been one-clicking Garrett Leigh’s back list on Amazon. I am on a mission of my own to read everything Garrett Leigh has published and very much look forward to reading her future books.
*ARC received from NetGalley for an honest review.