Review: No Flag by Liz Borino

For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive,” but can they handle what “alive” means together?

Cover Design: Natasha Snow

Captain Mike Kelley does not ignore his intuition, so when sexy bartender Will Hayes captures his heart, Mike embarks on a mission to win him over to a Domestic Discipline relationship. Will accepts with one caveat: Mike must promise not to renew his army contract.

Mike agrees, until the army invokes the stop-loss military policy to involuntarily extend his commission and send him back overseas, rendering him powerless and threatening everything he and Will have built. Will, left alone to cope with a new café, must rely on the support of old friends who may no longer be trustworthy.

A horrific terrorist attack on Mike’s outpost changes everything, leaving them both at a loss.

Mike awakens in a hospital with a devastating injury and no recollection of the attack. As the only survivor, his memory may be the key to national security. Mike struggles to cope with his injury and Will struggles with his new role in Mike’s life.

For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive.” Will has Mike back rather than a folded flag, but in the aftermath of war, can they rebuild the life they had before?

Exclusive Excerpt:

Bar Meeting

December 30, 2010

Mike Kelley strode into T&J, the hottest gay nightclub in Philadelphia, or so the online tourist guide told him. Mike had nothing to compare to the loud music fueling the couples on the dance floor, but the energy put a smile on his face as he sat down at the bar. If he was honest with himself, the energy was only a part of the reason for his smile. Since Obama introduced the bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell earlier this month, Mike finally felt free to express his true desires without fear of being dishonorably discharged.

“What’ll you have?” the bartender—Will, according to his nametag—asked, meeting his eyes quickly.

You, Mike thought. God, first night on the town and I’m already drooling. “What’s good?”

“Guess that depends on what you like. We have draft beer and top shelf everything else.” The bartender tapped his pad of paper.

“Give me whatever you do well.” As soon as the words left his mouth, heat rose in Mike’s face. But even if he thought of a correction, the bartender smirked and turned around, giving Mike the opportunity to evaluate his rounded backside, which his light jeans hugged perfectly.

A few minutes, or seconds later—Mike lost count while watching the man’s ass—the bartender placed a sidecar in front of him and asked, “Are you new here?”

“Yes, I’m stationed at the army base,” he responded. “Name’s Mike.”

“Welcome to Philly, Mike. I’m Will. Word of advice: If you tell too many people to give you what they do well, you won’t end up with drinks very often, and people around here grossly overestimate their skill level.” Will straightened up. “Enjoy your night and let me know if you need anything else.”

Mike watched him serve the other customers, and every so often their gazes met, making Mike’s pulse race all over again.

“That’s Will.” A man with a high-pitched voice sat on the next stool.

“I know. He introduced himself,” Mike said.

“Well, isn’t that friendly of him,” the man commented. Mike did not need to glance over to know he rolled his eyes. “Oh my Gawd, your tattoo is fabulous.” The guy grabbed Mike’s arm to get a better look.

Mike yanked it away. “Thank you.” Fabulous was an interesting word to describe his chain tattoo with two dog tags to commemorate his fallen comrades.

“Did you serve or just know people?”

“Returned from my second tour in Afghanistan two weeks ago.” Mike shut his eyes when the man let out a wistful sigh.

“Sam, leave him alone,” Will commanded.

At the change of tone, Mike’s eyes shot open, and a satisfied smile creased his lips. Easy men bored Mike. He doubted that would be a problem with Will.

“Own the new boy?” Sam challenged.

“No, but the new boy is too much of a man to babysit you. Get lost.”

Sam half-sighed, half-groaned as he stood. “Hope to see you on dance floor, boy. I’d love to show you what I can do.”

The twiggy man sauntered off, shaking what Mike guessed were supposed to pass for hips. “Thanks,” Mike directed toward Will.

“You looked like you were in pain, a common reaction to talking to Sam.” Will nodded toward the dance floor. “Got a question for you. You served in the army. Why did you need me to tell him to go away?”

Mike shrugged. “I would have gotten around to it eventually. I was trying to think of a nice way.”

“Nice is overrated in this town. Nice men get hurt.” Will’s hazel gaze never wavering from Mike’s.

Smiling, Mike replied, “Says the bartender taking the new guy under his wing.”

“Oh, Mike, you’ll regret mistaking me for nice. Want another?” Will pointed to the nearly empty glass.

“Yeah, you were right.” Mike drained the last of the liquid. “You…I mean, it…is good.”©

Read another Excerpt here.

Warning: Violence, death, drugging, homophobic slurs7

My thoughts

I said this recently and I cannot repeat it enough: we need more stories about veterans, their families, and life after deployment. Liz Borino gives us this story in No Flag.

Borino gives us a love story amidst the drama of coming home permanently injured. Will and Mike have a slightly different relationship as Mike is Will’s Dom.

Most of their story is told in snippets of the past as we wait to see how life will change after Mike is caught in an IED explosion. This pre-bomb journey is realistically told as Borino takes us through communication of consent, safe sex, expectations, and the reality of military life. I really enjoyed Mike and Will’s process and of course the romance and heat.

Borino adds a subplot I’m not really sure was needed. I found it to be a distraction. It is a story that needs to be told, but the trauma of Mike’s situation is enough.

As for how the story ends…I am still thinking about it. I am a disabled veteran and recovery does not happen as quickly as Mike’s does. Borino might be using literary license, but everything else is so realistic that the speed surprised me. To my fellow veterans, I want to say that it is okay if your recovery does not happen as quickly. This is fiction and every journey is different.

Instead focus on the fabulous relationship Borino has created between Will and Mike. The respect shown to those family members who end up “serving” with us. I love No Flag for showcasing a healthy D/s relationship amongst military life.

I received a free copy of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

 “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.” at no additional cost to you.

Further Details:

Publisher: Nine Star Press, 978-1-64890-287-1, 7 June 2021

Series: After Everything, Book One; Settings: Philadelphia, PA, U.S.

Word Count: 67100

SC: No diversity across the board

© No Flag by Liz Borino © 2021 All Rights Reserved

Promotion materials provided by IndiGo Marketing & Design.

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