Frank Loveless, the hapless protagonist of Boersema’s novel, may be the poster child for John Lyly’s quote, “The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war”; despite being an admitted coward, seducer and habitual liar, Loveless often comes out on top in this amusing story of one man’s accidental success in war.
Loveless’ story, told as a found memoir after he disappears in 1992, relates how he began his career as a callow youth in 1968. Graduating from a lackluster college career capped with a misadventure in the Bahamas, Loveless is shanghaied into the military by his disapproving father and shipped off to Vietnam. His inexplicable ability to bed any woman he wants lands him in hot water—getting his orders switched from a cushy desk job to infantry grunt, to begin with—but he keeps landing in glory. Awarded numerous medals and accolades due to cowardice and incredible luck, Loveless nevertheless finds a way to mess things up, usually through his efforts to sleep with virtually every woman to catch his eye. Despite Loveless’ extensive laundry list of faults, Boersema makes his protagonist endearing, mainly through his unflinching honesty on the page and the cheerful charm with which Loveless lives his life. The wry satirical edge with which the story begins—a lengthy anecdote opening with a can of beans and ending with Loveless’ first medal—wavers throughout the story, as the author seems unsure at times whether he’s telling a serious story with a comical protagonist or vice versa. Still, despite the uneven tone, Loveless as a character remains clear, and his adventures are entertaining throughout, even when foreshadowing toward Loveless’ future adventures becomes heavy-handed.
An engagingly flawed protagonist and a grounded sense of reality make Boersema’s novel a smooth, fitfully thoughtful entertainment.