Review by Erastes
From the blurb: In the Regency underworld, two covert Bow Street Runners discover mutual passion. Viscount Trent, renowned ladies’ man, has admired William Hall as furtively as Mr. Hall has lusted after the viscount. Only the affection for his mistress, Miss Anna Shaw, held Trent back from acting on his attraction, but William’s allure proves too strong. A determined woman, Anna is unwilling to give up her lover to—gasp—another man.
What’s a man to do when forced to choose? Keep them both of course, if he can make it work within the harsh strictures of London society. Jealousy and mistrust run rampant as his lovers vie for Trent’s interest in and out of the bedroom, the billiard room, the stable, the parlor…
When the current investigation threatens Trent’s life, will his lovers’ animosity work against them, or will they join in more ways than one?
I am on the fence with this book, I have to say. There were times I enjoyed it and times that I wanted to throw it on the fire.
That being said, let me say that it was quite an enjoyable read, eclipsing a few of the other “gay regencies” I’ve read quite adequately and could have been really good except for said annoyancies.
But let’s get organised.
The Cover. Ick. The cover was “corporate” Ellora’s Cave but in no way represented the subject matter whether it was male love OR a Regency Romance. The man with the towel (I’m fairly sure modern-type towelling-type towels weren’t around till after the Great Exhibition but I could be wrong – I do enough bleeding research without typing “history of towels” into Google!) seems to be looking in horror at where his bits used to be and the woman in the Victoria Secret black lace teddy seems to be as horrified. The one concession to an historical novel is the carved dowel on the bed. As a m/m reader it would not encourage me to buy it. As a historical reader: ditto. The blurb was pretty decent, but I found the “gasp” irritating and amateurish, it’s also not accurate as Anna was all for it, sensible girl.
Good. Regular readers will know how I hate to flounder around in some vague time-miasma with an historical, so I was pleased to see “London, 1802” as a starting date for this book. Good. An interesting period, rather too interesting for gay men – but with a lot of stuff going on at home and abroad.
The writer had obviously done their research. Several times I thought I’d seen an anachronism but on checking the facts (Thames River Police, founded in 1798 – Smugglers Proliferating because of the war, the word ogle which came into use a good century before this book) I was happy to be proved wrong and to find that the author had done the work. The period detail is there, deft little mentions of ladder-back chairs, uncomfortable coaches, and the like – enough to keep a feel of the period without info dumping or preaching.
The characters though, let this period feel down, big-time. They – like so many other characters in historical novels – are more akin to modern men in speech patterns particularly. In an age where it was almost a scandal to say “Damne” in public, I simply can’t see upper-class men saying “Jesus” “shit” and “fuck” – even to each other. Hell, I could be completely wrong – but we don’t know, and I consider it to be unlikely. I wish writers would attempt to keep to the language of the day – I for one would find it a lot sexier. I think female writers do this to show how “manly” their men are, but it doesn’t work for me.
There were also modern phrases: “Lord , save him from jumping Trent right now!” and “….wanted the complete package” and “ He didn’t want to share. Period.” (anachronistic AND American!) were but a few that leaped off of the page and made me squirm.
Also, centimetres weren’t used in England (we are still fighting them off even today), and “cum” wasn’t used at all until the 20th century, although “come” was. Silly errors which jar a reader and can easily be avoided.
But again, we come back at last to the almost total refusal to acknowledge that the 19th century was the most dangerous time statistically – to be a homosexual man. These men kiss in the street and the Bow Street Runners send them into a den of homosexuals to find smugglers, which seems odd that they would ignore one crime over another. The mistress doesn’t care, the servants are all deaf and blind, apparently. This does improve later in the book – and they start to acknowledge the danger, but it feels pasted on.
As for the plot, it’s decent enough – meaning there actually is some in between the long (and admittedly hot at times) sexual scenes.
But gah – did I get bored with all the cock throbbing… These men seem to have erections the entire time, and seem unable even to talk to each other or think of each other without thoughts of poking the other one up the “ass”. Even playing billiards by himself causes William to have “cock twitching” I am minded of Xander in Buffy “Hey, I’m 17. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.”
I didn’t like Trent, the Viscount, too much. He was a bit of a selfish git (leaving Anna, his mistress, unsatisfied at one point) although he behaved better with William, his male lover, but I never really warmed to him. He really did want it all his own way. I liked William a lot better, as he was wonderfully jealous and even attempted to let Anna hoist herself with her own petard when she started behaving irrationally. But I liked Anna the best (people faint as Erastes cheers for the woman) as she made the best of a bad situation, without being written as the bitch or the woman in the way.
I couldn’t warm to the names much either, Faith, Brandon, Trent – it was all a bit Buffy-ville, but then that’s just me and my antithesis to “romance” names. I know that some people like them.
But all in all, it gets a moderate thumbs up. The research is sound, but the period feel slips here and there. Ellora’s Cave published this one, and I am guessing that they don’t yet have a specialist editor for historicals with a good Brit-picking head. I’d read another by Ms Venton, as she writes well.
If you liked M J Pearson’s stories, you’ll like this book as much, if not more.
Buy: Ellora’s Cave