Release Date: September 25, 2017
Melissa Iverson is a horrible person. Kemp opens Once I was a Soldier with the death of Melissa’s very wealthy and influential father. Kemp outlines her backstory and seeming lack of desire to connect with humans around her on a dead brother and mostly absentee and hostile mother. Rejecting an idea of friendship and using sexual partners for biological release, she is contemptuous and cynical of everyone she comes across. Her father is smart enough before what seems to be his untimely death to take the responsibility for her factories and workers off of her plate but fails to provide adequately for people who have worked in their home for 40 years. Melissa only cares if she’ll have to stoop to looking for employment and how degrading that eventuality may be. She is brusque and wholly repugnant and if I were not reviewing this book I would probably have stopped reading before the action really began. Fortunately, Melissa isn’t the only character in this tale of international intrigue.
When Melissa, who previously has never been to London, starts traveling she meets Terry, an undercover British Intelligence Officer. Terry is also involved with the wife of a politician who is looking to occupy the Oval Office. Kemp weaves their relationship in such a way that puts Melissa directly in the line of fire. Terry is not necessarily a nice guy but he’s less defined than Melissa so doesn’t come off as grating. Terry and Melissa have an active sex life between themselves and with others to the point where it’s gratuitous and reads as though perhaps the author is aiming for an E.L. James kind of flavor and that author’s healthy fan-base of middle aged women with money to burn and looking to live vicariously (I say this as a middle aged woman). Some of the more sweeping shifts in the novel read as unrealistic and while realism isn’t necessary to fiction Kemp, at point, pushes the bonds of suspension of disbelief.
Kemp has a colorful writing style that seems to lapse from time to time into purple prose. The dialogue style is quite formal which I initially thought was to indicate Melissa’s breeding but the style is maintained mostly throughout the hefty 376 page work of fiction. The author is English so one would expect a certain amount of formality but Kemp, at times, hits an Austenesque level of cultured language. Despite the far reaching settings, they don’t really read as unique.
“So did she like the novel?” you may wonder. I didn’t like the start. Once the action started going there were some interesting twists. Would I recommend Once I was a Soldier? Maybe. I’d be very selective in the reader. If you like romantic thrillers I think we’re part way to a recommendation. Kemp is a talented writer and the reviews I’ve seen of his work tend to be positive but he was just not a good pick for this reader.
If you like erotica and thrillers, you may like Once I Was A Soldier by Daniel Kemp.
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