Review: Lessons In Desire by Charlie Cochrane

Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 2

With the recent series of college murders behind him, Cambridge Fellow Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, if only he can persuade Orlando Coppersmith to leave the security of the college and come with him. Orlando is a quiet man who prefers academic life to venturing out into the world.

Within the confines of their rooms at the university, it’s easy to hide the fact that he and Jonty are far more than friends. But the desire to spend more time alone with the man he loves is an impossible lure to resist. When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they’re staying, the two young men are once more drawn into the investigation. The race to catch the killer gets complicated by the victim’s son, Ainslie, a man who seems to find Orlando too attractive to resist. Can Stewart and Coppersmith keep Ainslie at bay, keep their affair clandestine, and solve the crime?

Review by Erastes

I have to say I dislike romance blurbs with questions, because due to the restrictions on a HEA, the answer is pretty much answerable at the first page, but that wasn’t going to stop me enjoying Charlie Cochrane’s second outing with her Cambridge Fellows, as I had enjoyed book one immensely.

Right from the word go she had me hooked, as Jonty and Orlando’s banter made me smile–I love the way that Orlando is shocked at the very idea of going AWAY for a holiday–and how Jonty loves to tease him. After all, the man nearly freaked out at eating outside of Hall in the first book.

Jersey then, seems a very suitable compromise. English enough to be reassuringly familiar, but with enough of a tang of France to give a flavour of being “abroad.”

The charm of Cochrane’s writing, specifically with this series, is not reliant on action, gun fights, car chases and explosions, but takes you back to a time where life was slower, where you changed for each meal, where life was regulated by the gong, manners and polite conversation.  Cochrane does this so beautifully that to there are scents of such classics as Rattigan’s Seperate Tables or The Raj Quartet. (Both would have been improved with a repressed gay love affair of course.)

Their time on the beach brought tears to my eyes, to be honest, because I was raised by the seaside and I miss doing all those simple things like throwing seaweed, exploring rock-pools and terrorising crabs. Cochrane knows her Jersey, having been there many times, and the scents and the sounds of the place fairly bounce from the page.

I love the humour in Cochrane’s work too, Jonty often puts his foot in it, causing Orlando to storm off in a huff, it’s gentle, English humour but it made me giggle a lot, and I had a smile on my face for a lot of this book. Orlando’s reactions to Ainslie’s attempted seduction was priceless.

All this and a murder mystery too, which I’m saying nothing about in case I spoil it.

What I like about the series is that Cochrane doesn’t give us everything at once. Orlando is like a nervous virgin–and although he’s participated in much with Jonty he hasn’t consummated their love affair entirely. More of the men’s backstory is revealed and slowly the relationship takes tiny steps forward, or perhaps three steps forward and a couple back.  Readers coming to the Cambridge Fellows wanting pages of graphic monkey sex will be disappointed, but readers who enjoy a slow burn and exquisite knife-edge sexual tension will appreciate it hugely.  Cochrane can do no wrong.

Buy:  Samhain Bookstore (ebook & paperback)   Amazon UK Amazon USA

Review: The Handsomest Man in the World by David Leddick

In the shadow of the 1954 nuclear bomb tests on the Bikini atoll, two sailors begin a tender, passionate affair that will carry them all around the USA: to San Francisco, Manhattan, Fire Island and Washington DC. The lovers learn, with fumbling hands and lips, how to satisfy one another, but the erotic heat of their sexual explorations is matched by the tension of their dangerous situation. Can their forbidden love withstand the relentless hostility of the Eisenhower years?

Review by Erastes

I couldn’t find a decent blurb for this book, and the one above, garnered from Amazon doesn’t do this book justice at all. It makes it sound like an erotic novel, and although there’s a lot of sex, it’s not described more than “he entered me and came quickly” — on that sort of level.

What the book is is an entirely entertaining and delightful read, in a raconteur style–that is, as if the narrator was sitting in a bar and telling you the story of the first love of his life, rather than writing it down.

The blurb also hints that there’s a lot of external conflict, but really there isn’t, so anyone expecting the lovers to be cowering under the bed from the police will be disappointed. The conflict comes mainly from Fred (Bill–the narrator’s–handsome man) being “not homosexual” and about 50% of the time that he makes love with Bill, he regrets it so much afterwards that he starts saying how much he hates him, hates him “making him do it.” (which is, of course, entirely unfair as it’s pretty damn obvious that he wanted to do it at the time!)

The love affair lasts a lot longer than you’d expect, and for the most part, when Fred isn’t beating himself up mentally for being queer, it’s a touching and convincing love, and succeeds even through separation and long distance while Fred is still in the Navy after Bill leaves. What’s really touching is the affection between the two of them, and had they met in the 90′s perhaps they’d have had more of a chance together.

I loved the descriptions of the ’50′s most particularly, you get a real feel for ’50′s America–and most particularly New York–as the couple settle down in their tiny twin-bedded apartment in Greenwich Village. It’s beautifully described, the clothes they wear (mainly from Brooks Brothers) the places they go to socialise (they don’t mix with any other gays, although there must have been some kind of gay scene, hidden away) and their outings to areas around New York not yet spoiled by holiday homes and over tourism. Leddick does the raconteur style cleverly, and it’s the little touches like “Oh we probably stayed somewhere in some little town” or “I can’t remember what we were wearing, no tee-shirts, as they were still considered underwear.”  Details of misremembered facts really emphasize that this is someone telling you the story, straight from his flawed memory.

It does, as you can imagine, have a bittersweet feel to it throughout, because this is a tale of a man’s first homosexual relationship–and first love is one we all remember probably through more rose-tinted spectacles than it deserves.

I did feel a little sorry for Bill at the end, because he felt the lack of love in his life, despite having a few serious relationships after Fred, and it left me with a little lump in my throat.

Author’s Website

Buy:  Amazon UK Amazon USA

Review: Paxton’s Winter by T. D. McKinney

Review by Leslie H. Nicoll

Rancher Paxton Terhune has lived a cold, lonely life for three hard years. A lynch mob took his lover, hanging him in front of Pax. A corrupt mine owner put a price on his head, chasing Pax from his own lands and into the high country. But Zane Steadman, a bounty hunter sent to bring Pax in, sees more than the outlaw’s tarnished reputation.

Trapped by an early blizzard, Zane thaws the winter gripping Pax’s heart. But now the mine owner wants to take away the new love Pax has found, robbing him of Zane’s warmth and hanging the bounty hunter just for siding with him.

Pax won’t allow that to happen again. There comes a time when a man has to make a stand and declare “enough’s enough”…even if it means a gun fight to the death…

This is another book that will go on my “meh” list. I read it, it was mildly entertaining while I read it, but in three days, I probably won’t remember much about it. Sigh…

The synopsis (above) gives the gist of the story, so I won’t go into much more detail. The first two-thirds of the book (it’s a novella, about 33K words) takes place while they are trapped by the blizzard in a line cabin, so basically that part is all about Pax and Zane getting to know each other and ultimately embarking on their sexual relationship. The actual story doesn’t really get going until the last third and as a result, it felt rushed, confusing, and poorly developed. Lots of characters appear but they aren’t much more than names on a page. Pax and Zane come up with a plan to deal with the corrupt mine owner, then the plan changes, then it changes again—no reason is ever given for all these changes—so ultimately it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Somehow everything works out and Pax and Zane ride off into the sunset, like all good cowboys do. The End.

The story takes place somewhere out west—I’m thinking Colorado since they talk about Denver and silver mines. It is sometime in the past since they mention slavery and the Civil War. A reader looking for interesting historical detail will be disappointed—I was.

This is a story that has been told many times before, so the author needed to do something to make it new and fresh. I imagine she thought that having the main protagonists be gay lovers was the new twist but in my opinion, it wasn’t enough. If the writing was better or the story was more artfully told, the thin plot might have been salvaged but unfortunately, it wasn’t.

I’m giving this book 3 stars because it wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t very good, either. It was just…meh.

Link to Amber Allure to read an excerpt and buy the book.

Review: Awakening by Terry O’Reilly

Review by Leslie H. Nicoll

Jonathon Carver, a young Puritan school teacher, meets the handsome Nathaniel Morgan, master cooper. He comes to recognize the longings he has had all his life as desire for the love of another man. Nathaniel provides that love.

Their love must be carefully guarded as they live in Colonial America at the time of the call to Awakening of the Puritan spirit. Knowing that the penalty for their love is dire, they strive to keep their affair secret.

Desperate for a way to resolve their situation they devise a bold plan that could free them to be together as they desire. But, can even their great love for one another overcome the structure of the society in which they live?

History tells us that the Puritans lived simple, strict lives; people did not engage in activities for fun, nor did they marry for love. Imagine, then, what happens when two men look at each other and Cupid’s arrow pierces their hearts. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Jonathon and Nathaniel in Awakening by Terry O’Reilly. The book caught my eye because I enjoy colonial American history and the location is a town I know well—Newburyport, Massachusetts. All of these elements have great potential, but unfortunately, the author fell short enough times that overall, the book was a disappointment.

The story itself was fairly simple and straightforward without a lot of twists. I don’t want to say too much lest I give too much of the plot away. Suffice it to say, Jonathon and Nathaniel were very sympathetic characters and I came to believe in their love. I wanted them to be together, but I, like they, realized the reality of the time and place in which they were living. This was the biggest strength of the book—painting the picture of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles they faced to be friends and lovers.

While Jonathon and Nathaniel were well-drawn, the rest of the characters came off as very two-dimensional: mean brother, stern preacher, sympathetic Indian, and so on. I think this is a reflection of the author’s skill as a writer—he has potential but he needs to work on his craft. The sex scenes were colorful and had some passion but most of the other writing was wooden and flat. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what happened to Jonathon and Nathaniel—without that hook, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to finish the book.

I also think there was a missed opportunity with the setting of Newburyport. All the reader really knows is that there is a wharf, tavern, cooperage, school and of course, the ever-present meeting house, but that’s about it. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more description of the town which would have added texture and complexity and made for a more interesting reading experience.

The story ends on a perfect bittersweet note and then…is totally destroyed by the Afterword. For this, I am going to blame the editor, not the author. Editor, where were you with your big blue pencil to X this out completely? Why did you let this stand? Readers, take my advice and stop when you see “Afterword.” Don’t read on, don’t turn the page. The only valuable bit of information (besides some details about the author’s life, which more appropriately should have been included in an author bio) is the revelation that the story is based on real people and drawn from letters and diaries that the author found in the trunk. If this is, in fact, true, it makes it even more of a shame that Jonathon’s and Nathaniel’s story wasn’t more expertly told because, truly, they deserved better—in that life and this.

Click here to the visit author’s website, which includes an excerpt from the book and links to purchase it at various ebook retailers.

Review: Pure Folly by Madelynne Ellis

Review by Leslie H. Nicoll

When Alastair Romilly de Vere accepts a dare to spend a night in a haunted folly, it’s not the prospect of a ghostly presence that he finds daunting. Alastair is desperately in love with his cousin’s fiancé, Jude, the man who is to be his companion for the night; an attraction that he dare not confess.

When a spirit trapped within the folly takes possession of Jude seeking to end a century of torment, can Alastair face his fears, in order to save the man he loves? For only by surrendering his body, will he win freedom for them all.

pure follyA folly is a small ornamental building with no practical purpose; in Pure Folly, the structure is on the de Vere estate, abandoned and supposedly haunted. It is described as a Greek Temple but it has three towers with a magnificent view. I am not familiar with temples with towers but…whatever. The premise of Pure Folly is that Alastair de Vere and Jude Levenson have, on a dare, agreed to spend a night in the building. Alastair is terrified of the place and has been since he had a bad experience there when he was seven. However, he has the hots for Jude and that passion is forcing him to overcome his fear of ghosts. It turns out that, unknown to Alastair, Jude has the hots for him and sees this as the ideal opportunity—and potentially last chance—to make his move before he becomes engaged to Alastair’s cousin Charlotte.

And thus begins the story. The men settle in with their picnic basket and many bottles of wine. Alastair is in mental agony—wanting to confess his love for Jude but afraid that in doing so, he will lose Jude’s friendship. Jude, for his part, seems sort of oblivious and doesn’t pick up on any of Alastair’s hints, although it seems he is telegraphing his feelings rather blatantly.

They decide to explore the building. Apparently it was built by Alastair’s great grandfather and used as his private retreat—and of course, it hides his secrets. Down in the basement they find great-grandpa’s man cave and guess what! He liked men! He liked looking at them, he liked drawing them, and presumably he liked fucking them, although the great love of his life, Linley, seems to have been a cock tease extraordinaire.

Now, this is the part where the story took a wrong turn for me, and never really recovered. See, Alastair is worried that if he confesses his feelings for Jude, Jude will think he’s a disgusting pervert and will have nothing further to do with him. However, in the man cave, Jude is very interested in great-grandpa’s sketch books and the art on the walls. Don’t you think that Alastair might have taken that as a hint that, um, perhaps Jude is open to the idea of a little man-on-man action? Instead, Alastair, who, in one of his ruminations has revealed to us, the readers, that he knows he has homosexual inclinations, is the one who runs from the room, horrified at what he is seeing. Huh? It just doesn’t make sense.

Back upstairs, Jude makes a very bold move and gives Alastair a neck rub. That’s all that is needed to open the floodgates (neck rub vs. a man cave full of sex toys…I won’t even go there) and before you know it, true love has bloomed. Of course, we can’t get to happy ever after right away, so cue scary music…suddenly a ghost story happens. I think the ghosts had something to do with great-grandpa and Linley and exorcising their evil spirits from the building but it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as what came before so I didn’t pay much attention.

Once we got past the ghosts, the story wrapped up with a very quick and pat ending which was decidedly anti-climactic.

Now, if this review makes it sound like I hated the book—I didn’t. The writing was quite good and there was lots of very erotic sex, nicely described. I buzzed through it two hours or so (it’s a novella, about 30K words) and did go back and re-read the initial seduction scene a few times—yes, it was hot. I was just disappointed that the author had set herself up with the golden opportunity for some really fun action in the man cave (and hey, it could have been really kinky, if that’s the route she wanted to take) and instead, wasted it on a silly ghost story that seemed shoehorned in and not nearly as interesting as the living, breathing men she had created.

Would I recommend? If you are in the mood for some hot, steamy mansex and have a spare $4.15 (₤2.49) for the ebook, then sure. If you like your sex tamer and not too explicit, then you should probably give it a pass.

NB: Despite my use of modern terminology in this review, the story takes place circa 1840 and the author is careful and faithful to the time in terms of language, dialog, and descriptions.

Available at Total E-Bound Publishing

Review: Black Butterfly by Mark Gatiss

With Queen Elizabeth newly established on her throne, the now elderly secret agent is reaching the end of his scandalous career. Despite his fast-approaching retirement, queer events leave Box unable to resist investigating one last case…Why have pillars of the Establishment started dying in bizarrely reckless accidents? Who are the deadly pay-masters of enigmatic assassin Kingdom Kum? And who or what is the mysterious Black Butterfly? From the seedy streets of Soho to the souks of Istanbul and the sun-drenched shores of Jamaica, Box must use his artistic licence to kill and eventually confront an enemy with its roots in his own notorious past. Can Lucifer Box save the day before the dying of the light?

I’m leaving Lucifer Box’s second installment (The Devil in Amber) on The List, but I’m not going to review it, because it’s rather too paranormal. However this is more spy-like with no paranormal aspects, so it fits the bill.

Like The Devil In Amber, this book jumps forward in time, and we meet Lucifer at the end of his career. He’s feeling a bit sorry for himself and mourning his lost youth (and he’s worked his way through quite a few of those in his life, let’s be honest)  and feeling a bit of an old crock. It doesn’t help when the equivalent of Miss Moneypenny, tells him that she prefers firm cock, when he tries to chat her up.

However, you don’t keep Lucifer Box down for long. Following a trip to his favourite sleazy watering hole he’s off on the trail of the beautiful and exotic Kingdom Kum (yes, really, the names are part of the enormous fun of this series of books). The trail leads him all the way around the world and back again, and pretty soon, despite his aging limbs and failing eyesight, Box is back on form, and I’m very happy to say that he ends the series on an “up” as it were and a jaw dropping moment.

I thoroughly enjoyed this installment, in fact I thoroughly enjoyed all three books. Box is a thorough reprobate and you can’t help but love him to pieces, because an unrepentant anti-hero is such a delicious rarity.

If you love puns and silly humour, if you love James Bond but think that Bond definitely misses out on a lot of action by ignoring bell-hops, rent boys and the like, then you will love Lucifer Box.  Give him a go.  I’m only sorry that Gatiss has only done three. It’s a clever plot to do them in three different eras (Edwardian, 1920s and 1950s) but I hope that he’s tempted to go back and fill us in on some of the cases that Lucifer teases us with – because I for one want MORE please!

Lucifer’s website

Buy:  Amazon UK Amazon USA

Review: Paragon of Animals by J S Cook

A year after serial killer John Whittaker’s reign of terror was brought to a swift and righteous conclusion, London finds her streets darkened with the blood of innocents once again. Disfigured bodies with vile, ritualistic markings are turning up at an alarming rate, and the police are at a loss to apprehend the killer, who always seems to be one step ahead of them. Detective Inspector Phillip Devlin of Scotland Yard is having problems of his own. Having fallen for his younger constable, Freddie Collins, Devlin finds that leading his double life is often more complicated than he’d originally thought. But for now he must set aside his worries, as he is called on once more to catch a killer and expose the perpetrator of this latest threat to his beloved city.

Review by Erastes

This is the sequel to A Cold Blooded Scoundrel which I reviewed last year.  I was a little trepidatious setting out with this book, because I’d been disappointed with the ending of Scoundrel, but Paragon of Animals picks up the ball from Scoundrel and doesn’t disappoint at all.

Inspector Devlin, a man more set in his ways than someone mired in concrete,  is having to deal with a great deal of change. Not only is he now living with the nice-but-dim Freddie Collins, (“for reasons of economy” as he repeats to anyone who suspects him of something worse) but he has a new boss, and worse, he’s being forced to move offices as Scotland Yard moves from the eponymous yard to the Norman Shaw building (where they reside today) at the Embankment.  Then he’s thrown yet another macabre and gruesome case that no-one else wants. Add to that rivalries with his peers, a friend gone missing, and Freddie who’s behaving oddly, life is stretching Devlin just as far as he can be stretched.

Devlin is a marvellous invention, and you may see glimpses of other notable detectives in his work, but he’s his own person for all that. What’s wonderful about him is that he’s entirely obsessed, a little like Samuel Vimes in the respect that he eats, sleeps and breathes his work–and when a case really occupies his mind, he finds it hard to see the world around him.  This makes him deliciously real and you find yourself wanting to thump him, because – like Vimes – it does his personal life no good at all.  He’s no Mary-Sue. He doesn’t look at cigar ash and know that it was dropped by a Chinaman returning from Shanghai with a parrot and a taste for peppermints. He just glares at cigar ash (again, like Vimes) and wishes clues were of more use.

The plot in this is much tighter than Scoundrel, and the ending particularly is much neater and works better for the genre.  Along the way, Ms Cook drags all kind of scents across our path, beautiful and dangerous renters, macabre women with filed, pointed teeth, child abusers and clubs of very questionable taste. Like all good detective stories (and believe me, BOTH Scoundrel and Paragon are just that, good detective stories) you’ll not guess the culprit and are likely at the end to be wondering about many loose ends that aren’t tied up.

I actually like this approach, because 1. I know the author is planning more in this series and 2. because that’s life. Life isn’t neatly tied up, and although several of the murders are solved – there are things left for us to ponder about, and if I’m still pondering about a book days after finishing it, then that’s a big success for me. It also leaves things open for books to come, which makes me happy too.

Let me put a big read flag out here, because it has to be emphasized. THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE. So take that on board, and all it implies. Be warned.

Cook’s research is impeccable, it’s hard to believe that she’s not English, and it’s even harder to believe that she doesn’t live in 1890 London. Her depth of description (often very visceral, and loaded with sights and smells) is impressive and you are never jolted out of that dark, miserable city that Devlin inhabits.

I wouldn’t say it’s entirely necessary to have read Scoundrel before reading this, but you’ll probably enjoy this more if you did. But it can be read as a standalone.

If you like Victorian murder mysteries, I’m sure you’ll like this. Annoyingly, there are no copies – other than second hand – from UK Amazon but I recommend that it’s worth hunting down if you can.

Buy: Amazon UK Amazon USA

Gay Historical Submission Calls

Torquere Press

Taste Tests are mini-anthologies consisting of three or more stories ranging from 3000-7000 words each for a total of 10000-20000 words. Monthly themes are posted on the Taste Test submission page, along with deadlines and links to our general submission guidelines. Authors may submit a single story to any open theme, or submit a set of stories as single author collection, suggesting their own theme. Single-author collections will be published concurrently with a regularly scheduled monthly title.
Please send all submissions to submissions@torquerepress.com care of Lorna Hinson with Taste Test (theme title) in the subject line. This line pays our standard royalty rates, split equally among all authors (co-written stories receive a single payment divided between the co-authors). Please follow our general guidelines for formatting and cover letter information. If you have questions about the suitability of any story or need clarification on our guidelines, please email Lorna at ldoone@torquerepress.com

Currently seeking submissions for:
Chain Male – Publication date September 2009, submissions due 6/17/2009 (Knights on white horses. Squires in chains! Saracens who want to show Europeans how to bathe, among other things. Bring on the knight.)

Scared Stiff – publication date October 2009, subs due 7/15/2009 (Sexy spooks? Ghosts with something extra to stick to you? Heck yes!)

Men in Kilts – publication date November 2009, subs due 8/12/2009 (Celtic barbarians, modern day commando hotties. Highland fling me, please!)



Wrap Me Up – Erotic Holiday Tales
Edited by Eric Summers
Deadline: May 15, 2009
STARbooks Press is going to release its first Winter Holiday-inspired anthology, and you can be a part of it!
Do you like to sit on Santa’s lap? Are there eight things you wish you could do to your boyfriend during Hanukah? Does Kwanzaa give you the urge to commune with nature? Or, do you just like to write about people who get horny over the holidays?
There is no limit to the possibilities. Your stories can take place at the North Pole, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, or the Continent of Africa, just to name a few locales. Your characters may be Maccabees, Wise Men, Tribal Elders, Romans, Greeks, or Elves, just to give you a few ideas. Let your imagination roll and think outside the gift-wrapped box, and give us your hottest holiday story. Have fun and give our readers the gift that keeps on giving, so they come back for more.
I am seeking well-written stories that are erotic, not just pornographic. There are no limits to the possibilities or scenarios. All we ask is that writers be creative, have fun, and offer our readers something fresh and new. And, humor is always greatly appreciated! I want well-developed characters and plots, believable and accurate situations (even if it is fantasy or science fiction, it must make sense), and settings, along with internal consistency. All characters must be over 18 years of age.
Feel free to query me about the thinking you may have about a story for this anthology at eric@starbookspress.com.
thanks,
Eric Summers
Submit your query to eric@starbookspress.com in the body of an email – no attachments please. Include a short bio, your name, postal and email addresses and a five-paragraph excerpt of your story. Indicate whether or not your submission has been previously published and, if so, where and when. You don’t need to sell your story in the letter; your work will speak for itself. If your query is accepted, I will be in contact with you about submitting the complete work. The end product should be no more than eight pages of single spaced 12 pt. type. Occasionally, novellas are accepted, but they must be exceptional. Be sure to edit and proof your query.
Sloppy or poorly written stories will not be considered, replied to, or acknowledged!!!

Review: Those Who Cherish by Jamie Craig

Exiled to an abandoned presidio in southwestern Texas, Father Alonzo Vargas is accustomed to being utterly alone except for his white donkey, Angelica. He is also fully acquainted with the corrupt and rotten sheriff, John Cullen, the man responsible for his semi-permanent exile. When he finds a victim of the sheriff hanging upside down from a tree, he immediately cuts the man down and vows to nurse him back to health.

Ben McKinnon has never done anything to cross Sheriff Cullen—except defend the land he inherited from his father. The land Cullen covets. He’s surprised when the exiled priest makes it clear that he will not only be a nurse, but will also become Ben’s ally in the fight against Cullen. He’s even more shocked when he realizes he doesn’t just want Father Alonzo as a friend. Ben cherishes the other man’s mind, his body, and his heart.

But Father Alonzo is not a free man. And if Sheriff Cullen has his way, they will both be dead men.

Review by Erastes

Priestly love has always been something that appeals to me, has done since I first read The Thornbirds, or possibly before, so this theme, coupled with Jamie Craig’s writing was something to look forward to.

Right from the start this book grabbed me–I’m not a huge fan of western stories, but this was obviously not just another tale of cows, campfires and round-ups and the description in the first few pages (I’m a description whore) pulled me in, making me feel the desolation of the prairie/desert, the ominous wheel of the vultures overhead and the baking sun.

Father Alonzo is a good man and a dedicated priest. He’s a little trammeled at being posted 30 miles from anything with nothing much more than a donkey for company and the constant threat of Indians, but he trusts in the fact that God has a plan for him.

Jamie Craig’s characters, I’ve found, are never two-dimensional. They leap off the page straight away. I don’t need to be shown Alonzo’s description to get inside his mind, and Ben is perfectly introduced too.

I admit to being a little confused as to why a priest would have his posting ordered by the local bad guy, though – I was under the impression that the postings were ordered by the Vatican, through a network of communication? But I’m not sure, I’m not an expert in Catholic episcopal organisation of 19th century America!

I particularly liked the way that Ben “came out” to Alonzo, and the way that Alonzo dealt with it.

For its length (around 120 pages) this certainly does a lot, it has adventure, a burgeoning friendship, relationship, and some truly spine meltingly erotic sex. As usual with books of this length that I enjoy I find myself frustrated because I greedily want more; want to know about Alonzo’s past with Cullen, about Ben’s upbringing, want to see Ben being taught to read, want to know how Alonzo’s going to deal with the future… I want the whole thing, really, and this teases us with so much other aspects.

That being said, it’s a perfect perfect short read and one I’ll be getting out to read again and again, I’m sure.

I can’t imagine how a writing collaboration works, I couldn’t do it, but Jamie Craig (a collaboration between Vivien Dean and Pepper Espinoza) does it perfectly. I don’t know how they work it, but there’s never any discernible join–all I can imagine is that they’ve worked together for so long that they know exactly how the other person thinks. It certainly makes them uber-productive, and they while they continue to write historicals as well as contemporaries, I’ll always be a fan.

Author’s Website

Buy from Amber Allure

Review: Rainbow Plantation Blues by Robert L Sheeley

In 1850, Jonathan Thomas, a young, personable, and aristocratic Southern gentleman, has returned to his antebellum home from an Ivy League school in the North. His father is dying and Jonathan is sole heir to the family’s lavish, prosperous, and renowned Rainbow Plantation. While up North, two major revelations had seriously shaken his self-image. His exposure to Northern abolitionism had permanently shaken his outlook on slavery, the South’s “peculiar institution.” Worse, he had begun to believe he might be a sodomite, a most wretched creature reviled by the customs of nineteenth-century American society

Review by Erastes

The book begins in a familiar fashion, the heir to the estate returns – upon his father’s death – from travels abroad and mixing with people in North America. I was expecting him to storm in, disgusted with the owning of other humans, so I was pleasantly surprised when he didn’t.

BTW – I didn’t know whether his name “Jonathan Thomas” was a deliberate joke or whether it was one of those sad accidents and that a John Thomas doesn’t mean the same in America as it does in the UK, but it did make me laugh.

He is conflicted, but he’s a lot to be conflicted about–his homosexuality, and his desire to repress it and have a “normal” life, the pressure on him to marry and continue his family’s line, his relationship with his father, his missing (presumed dead) sister, and his attraction to, not only a man, but a “sub-human” – Kumi, a handsome black slave he used to play with when they were both young boys. I was impressed with this being brought up. Jonathan isn’t a “crusader” (thankfully) and when he does begin to realise that his way of life is wrong, he makes a decision that seems very real – and broke my heart, too!

The book covers a lot of issues, and I think that’s part of my problem with it, it tries to do too much in not enough space. With a book that wants to cover this breadth of topics it really needed to be at least twice as long because much was glossed over and not given enough time to develop. The pace seems breathtaking and I found myself going “hang on, his mother’s dying and he’s doing this?” or “shouldn’t he be mourning?” and (in the case of the love story) “What!? they’ve not said two words to each other!”

On that point, the love story is one point that doesn’t convince. We are told that Jon loves Kumi but we aren’t shown it. Other than a couple of stilted conversations and an short voyeuristic sex scene, there’s nothing in the book (and there was the opportunity) to show the development of the relationship. I think readers will feel cheated at this lack, and annoyed that so many other issues stepped in the way, and because of this, the ending left me a little baffled.

Editing wise, the self-publishing leaves a lot to be desired, but this could be dealt with if (and I’d like to see this happen) a publisher were to take it on–there are two new publishers concentrating on “writers of colour” and this would be a good addition, dealing with a subject many would find uncomfortable.

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book, and that’s not true – I did. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about the era, I loved the “shock” that comes towards the end and I learned a few new words (sockdolager being one.) It’s clear that Sheeley has done the research necessary. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this time of history. It’s just a shame that the little flaws let it down.

Author’s Webpage

Buy at Amazon USA, Amazon UK Barnes & Noble

Review: False Colors by Alex Beecroft

Review by Leslie H. Nicoll

False Colors, by Alex Beecroft, is one of two books recently released by Running Press in their new line of m/m historicals (the other is Trangressions, by Erastes). Two more books are scheduled to be released in the third quarter of 2009. I have read both False Colors and Transgressions and if these are indicative of the types of books Running Press will be publishing, we fans of the genre are very lucky readers, indeed.

False Colors is Ms. Beecroft’s second historical novel and like her first, Captain’s Surrender, it takes place during the time when the British Royal Navy ruled the seas and half the world—-the golden “Age of Sail.” The story opens in 1762 with Lt. John Cavendish receiving his first captaincy and an assignment to stop the Barbary Corsairs off the coast of Algeria. Alfie Donwell signs on as his first lieutenant and it is clear from their very first meeting that Alfie has eyes
for John. But it will be a long time, ie, the whole book, with lots of adventures and misunderstanding in between, before they get to the point where they are able to negotiate their relationship and realize how they feel about each other.

Because John and Alfie spend so much time apart, the book is very much about their individual journeys to discover who they are—-until they have come to this realization, they can’t really be together. It’s an interesting dynamic and Ms. Beecroft handles the character development skillfully, having both men grow and mature from page to page. John’s growth is fueled by some particularly horrific situations in which he finds himself, as well as working to cast off beliefs ingrained into him from his youth and family life. Alfie, on the other hand, matures by falling in love with another man (although he never really falls out of love with John). As I enjoy character studies, I found Alfie’s portion of the story to be a bit more engaging but really, we’re talking “great” and “greater”—minute gradations of difference in excellence.

There’s a cast of secondary characters who are extremely well-drawn. In particular, I found myself going back and re-reading the parts of the story that featured Charles Farrant, Captain Lord Lisburn. He’s the Captain of the Britannia, the second ship in the story on which Alfie serves. He’s attracted to men and knows it but has done the things “required” of him to deny his homosexuality, including marrying, fathering children, and undergoing various “cures” from his physician in an effort to treat his “perversion.” All of this has created a man who is now, in his forties, angry, repressed, frustrated, and cruel. But he can also be kind, tender, and even loving, and flashes of this come through, when he lets down the wall he has so carefully built around his feelings. Of all the characters in the book, my heart ached the most for Charles and I wished his life could have been different. He deserved more than he got.

The story is carefully and thoroughly plotted. No loose ends, no characters swooping in from the wings to magically save the day. This is an improvement over Captain’s Surrender (which I enjoyed, but there were a few implausible moments in that book). Likewise, I think Ms. Beecroft’s writing has improved since her first book. She did tell me in an exchange of emails that she didn’t edit Captain’s Surrender as much as she wanted but I contend that it is not just editing differences between the two. In this book, Ms. Beecroft is more skillful in her writing and confident in her ability and it shows. Every word is precisely selected and there for a reason. It is a pleasure to read a book that is so beautifully constructed.

In sum, I highly recommend False Colors. My highest rating is what I call “the incredible sadness”—that feeling that I will never read a book again that is quite this good. Of course, I know I will but in interim I satisfy my longing by re-reading favorite parts and yes, re-reading the book. Which explains why it has taken me two weeks to write this review.  :-)

chauncey-gay-new-york3

Buy from: Amazon, Amazon (Kindle version), Sony Store (Sony ereader)

Review: Ship of Dreams by Reilly Ryan

An attraction fated to go down in history…if they survive.

Liar. Thief. Con man. James Hyde keeps these labels well hidden under the veneer of a high-class gambler. He knows how to charm his way to where the money is, and right now it’s aboard the world’s most luxurious ship, ripe for the taking. From the moment he locks eyes with Will Woods, though, James is tempted. Tempted, for once, to be the kind of man that another can trust with his heart.

Will is sailing toward everything he’s ever wanted: marriage and family. His instant attraction to James is a complete surprise—and too powerful to ignore. In his arms, Will rediscovers passion he’s kept long buried. And it tempts him to abandon the safety of wealth and position. Perhaps even his family’s good graces. All for James—a man who is only now beginning to understand the meaning of honor.

Then there’s the last obstacle standing in their way. Their ship of dreams…is the Titanic.

Review by Tara-Chan

Having been given the opportunity to read a gay romance taking place on the infamous Titanic, I looked forward to reading the story since I’m a huge Titanic junkie. See, I’m one of those who enjoyed James Cameron’s 1997 film, but I enjoyed it more for giving me the opportunity to see the ship come to life than the romance, and I also enjoyed the Titanic exhibition that came to my city several years ago. Point of the matter is that I was given the opportunity to read about some gay romance happening on this “Ship of Dreams”, and I was thrilled.

I wasn’t expecting my excitement to be broken up so quickly — in the first chapter nonetheless. The introduction was sudden, and the pacing was just way too fast. Even at the most pivotal moment of the ship’s distress, it flew by. In a way, because of the author’s writing style, the words flew past me, and by that, the whole book was actually an easy read. But I still felt like the plot was delivered to me without warning.

To be honest, after the first couple of chapters, I was really tempted to stop reading the book. But two things stopped me. I had to finish it since I started it, and I wanted to finish it just to write this review! I plodded on, and I’m kind of glad I did. See, the beginning really was the weakest part of the book for me, the middle proved to be better, and the ending was better than the beginning but not as decent as the middle.

I mentioned how the author’s writing pace was too sudden. Along with that, her characterisations of the character was quite bland until the middle of the book. In fact, I didn’t really like most of her characters, males and females included. The interactions between the characters weren’t that strong either. An example is the relationship between James and Will. Those two were supposed to be soul mates, love-at-first-sight kind of thing ala Jack and Rose. Until the middle of the novel, I felt like their interaction and relationship was really superficial and unrealistically done.

Luckily, the smutty scenes sort of converted me to accept their relationship eventually. See, that’s where Ryan’s strength lies. Her erotic portrayal of James and Will in several different scenes of the book ended up being quite steamy, and the images stayed in my mind upon reading them. The Turkish bath scene was where I started to get really into the story; actually the end of the fifth chapter was where things started to pick up and yet that was just a non-sexual scene.

Since this is a historical novel, based on an event I am quite familiar with, the question of its accuracy comes up in my mind. From reading the novel, I’d say Ryan did do her research. She penned down plenty about the doomed ship, mentioned about the people’s etiquette, the people’s mindset of that time, and the class difference from that era. She talked about the icebergs warning, about the speeding to break world records of travelling across the ocean. She even made historical references to Oscar Wilde’s “Earnest”, Benjamin Guggenheim, and John Jacob Astor.

While I commend her for putting these historical references down, I never once felt like I was aboard the mighty ship. I felt like Will, James, and the other characters were just on some random ship travelling in 1912. It also didn’t help when she had a couple of the characters (American characters) using “gotta”, “wanna”, “gonna”, and so on in their dialogue. Now I cannot prove for sure that they talked like that in the early 1900s in America. Maybe they did! But that just bothered me a bit and made me and a friend I mentioned to ponder about this issue.

All in all, I have to say that this is a fair novel. It’s something to read when I want to pass time. I believe that if the author had written it at a better pace and with better characterisations for me to like the characters, this would have been a really fantastic novel. It’s fair, but it could have been better, but I have to say that this wasn’t a bad attempt for a debut novel from the author. Perhaps in the future, her novels will be better and more of a good read than a fair one!

Author’s Website

Buy from Samhain Publishing Amazon (Kindle)

Review: Regeneration by Pat Barker

Craiglockhart War Hospital, Scotland, 1917, where army psychiatrist William Rivers is treating shell-shocked soldiers. Under his care are the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as well as mute Billy Prior, who is only able to communicate by means of pencil and paper. Rivers’ job is to make the men in his charge healthy enough to fight. Yet the closer he gets to mending his patients’ minds the harder becomes every decision to send them back to the horrors of the front; Regeneration is the classic exploration of how the traumas of war brutalised a generation of young men.

Review by Charlie Cochrane

It’s always a joy to discover an author about whom you think ‘I must get more of her books’. Regeneration isn’t the sort of book I normally read, so when I picked up a copy all my hopes were pinned on it being as good as the quotes on the back suggested. It was.

Ms Barker has an enjoyable style, tells a cracking story and treads the right side of the line of credibility with the use of real characters among her original ones. Sassoon, Owen and Graves are believably portrayed, and the names they drop into conversation seem natural rather than being forced as they often are in ‘faction’. I had expected to be most involved with the War poets, but found myself instead intrigued by Dr Rivers, a distinguished neurologist and anthropologist, who wrote about Sassoon as ‘Patient B’ in his book ‘Conflict and Dream’. Rivers’ treatment of and compassion for his patients is in sharp contrast to some of his colleagues, and a number of the ‘cures’ inflicted on the shell-shocked veterans make uncomfortable reading. If you retain any illusions about the ‘glories’ of WWI, this book will help you lose them.

Regeneration may not seem an obvious candidate for a review at this site, but the presence of Sassoon – an admitted homosexual – and Owen and Rivers – probably homosexually inclined – justify it. Not that anything more explicit occurs than slightly coded references to their past activities and present attractions. The sexual heart of the book lies in the story of Billy Prior, who carries more than one chip on his shoulder, has some sort of strange psychological condition of which we’re only given glimpses and whose war experiences continue through all three books in this trilogy.

If you’re looking for either raw or romantic m/m passion you won’t find it here, but if you’re interested in the relationships between people and like to try to fill in the gaps (rather than being told exactly what people were feeling at any given time) this will appeal. The thing I’ve taken away from the book is exactly this sensation of trying to fill in the jigsaw. Sassoon seemed to want Rivers to be a father figure, but what role did Prior have in mind for his psychiatrist? Was Owen attracted to Sassoon or was it merely hero worship? And, most intriguingly, how much attraction did Rivers feel for his patients?

Regeneration is the first in the trilogy which includes The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road

Amazon UK.   Amazon USA (Kindle)

Review: Transgressions by Erastes

transgressions1642, England: David Caverlys strict father has brought home the quiet, puritanical Jonathan Graie to help his dreamer of a son work the family forge. With war brewing in Parliament, the demand for metal work increases as armies are raised.

The fair David is drawn to his fathers new apprentice. And though his father treats them both as if they were brothers, Davids feelings toward the shy Jonathan develop as they hide their growing physical relationship. Until the fateful moment when local gossips force Davids father to banish him, to protect the family name.

Freed, directionless, and whimsical, David is eager to experience the drama and excitement of war, and follows two soldiers headed for battle, but the reality is a harsh awakening for his free-spirited nature. Seizing the opportunity to desert, David heads to London to lead a secret life, unaware that Jonathan too has left the forge in search of him. Lost and lonely, the vulnerable Jonathan quickly falls in with the Witchfinders, a group of extremists who travel the country conducting public trials of women suspected of witchcraft. Jonathan is drawn to the charismatic Michael, finally embracing a cause for truth so wholeheartedly, he doesnt recognize the dangerphysical and emotionalthat Michael represents. For the fanatic puritan is desperate to purge Jonathan of his memories of David in any manner possible….

Review by Hayden Thorne

The greatest pleasure in reading an author’s published fiction is seeing his progress as an artist from the good ol’ days to the present. Being able to say, “Hey, I knew him when…” To be followed by “Oh, how he’s grown up.” The last bit was saucy, but you know what I mean.

Erastes’ Transgressions might be the most recent book of hers to be released, but it’s one of the earliest works of fiction she’s tackled. And, yes, I knew her when…she was struggling with this puppy, once upon a time. It’s an enlightening experience, seeing her development since Standish and how this book bridges her debut and her most recent novella, Frost Fair. One can see the growth and the not-quite-there bits.

The most significant thing about Transgressions is its complexity as a historical novel. Compared to Standish (and I apologize for making occasional references to her other works, but it’s necessary in this review), Transgressions is a great deal more sweeping in its scope, given its chosen period. Even with the more important events such as the English Civil War and the fall of Charles I, we’re still treated to the smaller, more mundane day-to-day routines in the farm, in London, and in towns and cities beyond. The historical details are meticulously researched and well-used, without a single item thrown in just for the sake of showing off what the author knows. Now as I’m more of a 19th century enthusiast and know precious little of the English Civil War, I can’t argue for or against the accuracy of her period details, but knowing Erastes, I’m confident of the book’s faithfulness to the 17th century. That said, one wouldn’t really notice those period details, as they’re skilfully worked into the scenes so that they’re practically invisible, while still creating a very authentic feeling in the background.

Readers need to be warned that, given the civil war, they will be treated to very descriptive scenes of bloodshed, maiming, and death. There’s also a pretty fascinating look at the near-haphazard battle training of a ragtag group of men whose alliances are torn and who are completely at the mercy of bullies who press civilians into fighting. Those scenes are some of the most effective and most impressive to me, and what follows after Cromwell’s victory – the hanging pall of paranoia that grips England – is palpable. It’s not an exaggeration to say that one can almost smell the fear, the constant nervousness, the growing mistrust among ordinary folks. In these instances, Erastes engages all our senses in experiencing the horrors of war and the greater psychological horrors of what follows after.

As heroes, David and Jonathan are not as sharply defined along black-and-white lines as Rafe and Ambrose, but you still get the “golden beauty” and the “dark, brooding youth” (who isn’t handsome but is still attractive and is more than capable of catching one off-guard with his charms in surprising ways). Their physical attributes also, like Rafe and Ambrose, dictate their behavior to an extent, with Jonathan being the dour puritan who’s all fierce passion unleashed, while David’s the beautiful, carefree, selfish hedonist. Even their suffering while apart is somehow affected by their physical qualities as well as their temperaments. Whether intentional or no, each man seems meant to follow a distinct path that becomes almost a complement to his nature and his looks. Jonathan gets himself embroiled in a fanatical group of witchfinders, while David gets stuck in a lifestyle that’s more earthly, more sensual, yet unsatisfying.

Of the two, I find Jonathan to be much better developed as a character, with his constant internal back-and-forthing and his ability to talk himself out of things though he does need a bit of outside help toward the end of his involvement with the witchfinders. David grows, yes, but his development is much slower than Jonathan’s. He comes across to me as being too immature, selfish, and dependent, and even at the last minute, before he flees England, he rejoices at his triumph over a woman who’s been obviously wronged and yet is generous enough to let her husband go. Though her role is tiny in the book, Catherine proves, in far less scenes, that she’s the “bigger man” of the two.

On the whole, the rest of the characters are somewhat unevenly developed, with Elizabeth Woodbine being the most problematic. Compared to the other side characters or even Michael, she’s so one-dimensional and so wicked that it’s clear she’s simply nothing more than a plot device that’s meant to drive the lovers apart, like Count Alvisi in Standish. What surprised me the most is that, after David leaves Kineton, there’s absolutely no reference about her from Jonathan’s POV, given the significance of her accusations that causes the breach between the young men. No repercussions from her family, no further confrontations between her father and Jacob over David.

Haldane fares a little better, but because he’s there one moment and then gone the next, one can’t really give him much credit than as a kind of a temporary bedmate for David till the next man comes around.

As evil incarnate, Michael is very impressive. One might argue that he’s also written as one-dimensional, but he’s a sadist, and sadists really don’t give you much room for deep discussions on character development. His psychology is simply too warped, too bizarre, to allow anything else. That said, his presence in Jonathan’s half of the story is frightening and forceful yet effective. And I’m not at all surprised to see him still leaving a psychological mark on poor Jonathan well after the fact. Of all the side characters in the novel, Michael, because of his psychosis, fascinates me the most.

Tobias, given the significance of his role, leaves me a little unsatisfied. He spends most of his time off-scene, and when his story finally unfolds, it’s near the end of the book as well as the end of his place in everything. We’re given a few glimpses into his mind, and those tend to happen after he and David suffer from a momentary falling-out. Yes, there are hints of a secret because he refuses to talk about his past while David’s always been open about his (for the most part, anyway), but we’re never given the full view till his last scenes, and his background’s packed in one chapter, almost like an afterthought. In fact, the resolution to his relationship with David feels a bit rushed or forced, so much so that while I understand that Tobias’ story is pathetic and realistic, not admirable – that he deserves readers’ sympathy – I find myself feeling a little cold toward him in the end. There just seems to be too little done, too late, in his situation, which is a shame, because I really wanted to feel for him, knowing that too many gay men in that period suffered the way he does.

There are a few problems involving lie/lay and loath/loathe in the text, but the presentation is very clean, and these issues didn’t detract me from enjoying the book. On the whole, I’m very impressed with Erastes’ efforts. There’s a definite growth in her skill as a writer with regard to world-building (or rebuilding in the case of historical fiction), but it’s far more evident in her atttempts at creating memorable, effective characters. One can see, despite some of the problems I noted (which seem worse than they really are when laid out in detail like this), an earnest effort at writing complex people with their individual stories shaded in gray. Emotions run high, but they’re more muted compared to Standish, less operatic and certainly more reflective of the mature restraint that one can see in Frost Fair. Seeing Erastes’ progress as a serious artist from book to book makes me wonder about – and look forward to – her next offering.

Buy the book: Amazon.com

Review: Mark Antonious deMortford by G.A. Hauser

Handsome Mark Antonious deMontford had been raised on a farm in Newbury, England, unaware of his parentage until his nineteenth birthday when, during a visit to London, he encounters a world of wealth, intense sexual appetites, and an Italian by the name of Francesco. Francesco Cavalla is bold and fearless. But the powerful bodyguard who lives by the sword is also a slave to his heart. Abandoned by a former lover, stranded in a foreign land, Francesco loses himself in London’s red light district where he spends his nights drowning in taking and giving pleasure. Then he meets Mark, a man who needs so much, and who he can deny nothing. Mark and Francesco begin a journey of discovery, which takes them to new heights of passion. But when an unexpected turn of events threatens to reveal secrets that mark them for death, the two men are faced with a decision. Abandon one another, or truly embark on the quest of a lifetime.

I have to say that this was one of the funniest (unintentionally) books that I’ve read for a long while. There was nothing I could take seriously, because the entire thing read like it had been translated by someone who didn’t speak English as a first language and had done their research (if any) with movies.

The main character, the bizarrely named Mark Antonious deMontford is the ubiquitous “innocent” who has been gently raised on a farm in Newbury and who is taken to London to meet some cousins. He is immediately sexually predated upon by everyone in the house, and his reaction is … well, none, really. The mother, the father, the son and even the 15 year old daughter (who he spurns for being a child, but that’s obviously for the American censor rather than for any realism) make passes at him and in 3 of the 4 cases, suceed in doing anything to Mark they want.

I nearly stopped on page one because right from the first paragraph the facts were wrong:

During the final year of Queen Anne’s reign of England, Antonio Vivaldi astonished audiences with his miraculous Four Seasons…”

I don’t remember any time when Vivaldi came to England and surely the most cursory search on The Four Seasons should havs shown that it was not composed until 1723.

One fact, I thought anyone can make mistakes – It’s all right, so I moved on. Only to find on the next page “brownstone houses” in London. Then there’s mention of polo ponies, pooftahs,  gaslight in 1713(!) performances of operas that couldn’t have happened, streets in the wrong locations, places mentioned-like Mayfair-that didn’t even exist… the list goes on and on.

I say bizarrely named, because it’s never explained why he’s got such a peculiar name. He’s the illegitimate son of a travelling singer called Elizabeth Jones and a rich and powerful Venetian politician called Marc Antinous Caeserni. So where the deMontford comes in, (as he would have been called Jones) and why he’s Antonious and not Antinous, is just never explained. I have to say that it was not the only thing I was baffled about.

I won’t waste much time on the characterization because there really isn’t any. We are told that Mark is beautiful–so beautiful that every single person, male female eunuch and child wants him immediately–but other than his green eyes and velvet skin and interminably mentioned long hair, we get no idea of why he’s so irresistable. He wavers from disgust at his mother’s fall from grace (while fucking everyone in sight) to fury at his father’s abandonment, so much so he behaves like a positive psycho.

The secondary characters are no better, unable to think with anything but their gonads once they’ve set eyes on Mark, and unable to speak in anything but the most appalling stilted prose.

Here’s an exchange with his cousin who he has just met, and who comes to his room.

“You lovely thing. Why have they kept you away from us for so long?” Richard closed the gap between them and dug his left hand into Mark’s long hair.

Mark swallowed down a dry throat. Could he have been right then?

“God, you are glorious. I must have you!” Richard pressed against his length. “Don’t say no, it isn’t polite.”

Then there’s this whole theme running throughout the book about Mark having to be reminded to eat with his knife and I really didn’t get this at all. It was the fork that was the new innovation at this time, and although had been around for a while, it was still considered an affection and wasn’t generally used except by the rich. Also, the forks generally had only two tines, so  this passage:

Mark sat straighter and realized he’d forgotten to use the knife.  He cursed under his breath and grabbed it, trying to remember how to use the darn thing. Let’s see, scoop? No. Oh, that’s right, use it as a wall to fill the fork.

I wouldn’t make such a big deal about this, if the author didn’t, but this is brought up at least four or five times and I was entirely baffled. Why doesn’t he know how to use his knife? Then I realised. This is an American author, and the Americans tend to use their knife rarely and the English use both knife and fork.  This makes this passage highly amusing, particularly so as you couldn’t mash the food against a two tined fork. Without knife or fork I can only imagine he was eating with his fingers in Newbury.

Factual errors aside, I found this a painful read. Had every fact been correct I would still have found it so, because the prose is so dreadful throughout. Having worked with Linden Bay Romance myself, I find it hard to believe that that company edited it, as the pronoun confusion and often bizarre sentences need red-penning. Badly.

To make matters worse, if that’s possible, there’s literally no sex in the book. Oh yes, Mark has sex with just about everyone he meets, but it’s almost closed door sex, so briefly described that I can’t even recommend it as a wank book.

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