Joe Evans is 20 years old and the youngest member of the 2e Régiment Étranger d'Infanterie (2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment) of the French Foreign Legion. Joe survived eleven months of grueling training but as he puts it "he'd prevailed." As an unemployed school dropout in his native England he did not have much of a chance for anything in life - no hope, no future. But he was now part of something bigger. "He'd become someone. He was a soldier." Joe joins his regiment in Nimes where he meets his Sergeant - Henri Roux. Sgt. Roux is French Canadian and all military - a man of few words but of action. Joe has managed to hide the fact that he's gay very well until the moment he meets his new Sgt. At first sight Joe falls hard cursing his fate - his Sgt Roux is "perfection." While on jungle training with his regiment Joe rescues his Sgt. Roux from a fall and gives in to temptation. Much to his astonishment his Sgt. takes decisive action in response. And so they begin their clandestine trysts from military base to Paris and back, where Sgt. Roux mentors Joe in many things, continuously challenging and teaching him and Joe experiences, learns and grows and along the way begins to proudly accept who and what he is - soldier and man.
This is a gem of a short story.
If you are familiar at all with Marquesate's work you will recognize the style immediately - writing that is passionate, meticulous in detail, rich, textured and multi-hued. You will also recognize her ability to write and communicate a multi-dimensional character (Sgt. Roux) all the while ascribing an economy of dialogue to him and through the point of view of another (Joe). Sgt. Roux is a man of few words, yet he is not hidden from the reader. He jumps off the page and the words he does speak deliver a powerful punch.
Joe: "I wanted to be someone."
Roux: "Someone who was tough and an elite soldier, or someone who wasn't a fag?"
If we are using gem stones as an analogy for the quality of this story, then enigmatic Sgt. Henri Roux is a sapphire - deeply rich in colour, exuding elegance and demanding respect. Despite his taciturn exterior he houses a wealth of emotional depth that is slowly revealed to us.
The character of Joe is not in the least overshadowed by Roux - he is a diamond-in-the-rough. The most precious of gems. He does not chip or break easily and holds his own in this story. He may be young and inexperienced on many fronts, but he is also intelligent, courageous and is willing to take chances in order to experience, learn and grow. As a reader, it is very easy and natural to feel compassion for Joe. It is also not difficult to want Joe to have everything he needs and deserves in life - and this most definitely includes his Sgt. Roux.
Marquesate has done it yet once again!!! A wonderful short story that has a richness and depth usually found in a full-length novel, yet masterfully achieved in some 30 pages that, without doubt, leave the reader wanting more!!! Thank you Marquesate!
Twenty-one authors, including Marquesate, have donated their works through 20 stories to the I Do anthology and I plan on reading all of them. If you haven't purchased this anthology, I encourage you to do so NOW.
ALL profits from the sale of I Do will be donated to the Lambda Legal Defense to fight Proposition 8 in the California Supreme Court in support of marriage equality for all. The added bonus is that you'll be treated to some great writing and stories by some equally great authors.