Four m/m stories with a historical flavour by Stormy Glenn, H. C. Brown, Anna O’Neill, Aleksandr Voinov.
(I’ll only be reviewing 3 of the stories, as the Poisoned Heart, by Anna O’Neill is a time-travelling/paranormal story, so doesn’t qualify for review here.
Review by Erastes
My Outlaw by Stormy Glenn
After getting injured and losing his horse during a cattle drive, Daniel Branson is ordered to ride the stagecoach back home. Little does he realize that it will put him in the hands of the notorious outlaw, Black Bart. And the handsome outlaw has plans for Daniel that don’t involve holding him for ransom!
Quite a simple erotic story, cowboy Daniel is captured by the handsome Black Bart and Bart proceeds to sexually abuse Daniel, bordering on rape, without caring or not whether Daniel is that way inclined and of course Daniel loves it.While you might roll your eyes (like I did) and think this is yet another “rape turns to love” stories you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this one as the twist caught me by surprise. Well written–not exactly a ton of historical context, but hot, funny and touching at the same time. Three Stars
Forbidden by H.C. Brown
England 1075—Sir Renoir Danier finds himself in an intolerable situation when he is ordered by King William to marry an elderly Spanish countess. Five years earlier, he met the great love of his life, Sir Sebastian. This deeply sensual dark angel taught him all that a man could give to another. Renoir became a slave to his erotic punishment. After a month of bliss, Sebastian sailed to Spain. Will he return or leave Renoir with a shattered heart?
First of all I have to say that I didn’t like the faux olde worlde English, which was used not only in the speech, (Mayhap it is best) but unforgivably–in the narrative! (He oft’ wondered). It’s a difficult line to walk, I know, but back in 1075, the protagonists would not be speaking any kind of English that we would understand, and I prefer to see speech patterns indicate a sense of antiquity rather than sticking in random “antiquated” words that actually wouldn’t be used until a much later time. (for example, mayhap is from the 16th century.) It’s a personal dislike, but prithee don’t forsooth and nuncle me. It’s horrible.
However what really let the story down from the beginning was the appalling research, or more to the point, lack of it. The thing reads like fanfic of Kingdom of Heaven crossed with George RR Martin’s Westeros saga. The facts in the story were ludicrous.
El Cid was NOT the Spanish ruler. Not at any time, and although he conquered several cities and took them for his own fiefdom, that wasn’t until much after the time when this story is set–he didn’t rule Spain. There was no Spain as we know it. Just warring fiefdoms, and a fight to rid the country of the Moor. In that light, it was bloody unlikely that the cream of Spain’s knights were in England training for a tournament. William the Conqueror had only been in charge for 9 years, and I can’t see him welcoming a load of heavily armed Spaniards in.
In another light – Knight’s tournaments did not become an international event until the 12th century. Cologne (as in perfume) didn’t exist, and there was no way to spray it onto someone! Ye earlie atomiser! There are many other problems, but there’s no point listing them. The whole thing was full of holes.
The trouble with erroneous facts in books that call themselves historicals is that they are self perpetuating. I’ve seen this happen in hetereo-historical fiction and it drives me insane that we are seeing this kind of thing happen in gay historical. If one author writes a thing, another believes it, passes it on and I’ve seen readers say that they believed a thing just because they’d seen it written about so many times. (for examples, see Georgette Heyer.) “if it’s written about it must be true.” er. no.
The sex is hot, if mildly implausible (sex on a galloping horse) and that’s the best thing I can say about this one. Two Stars.
Deliverance by Aleksandr Voinov
William Raven of Kent joined the Knights Templar to do penance for his sins. Formerly a professional tournament fighter and mercenary, William is brought face-to-face with a past he’d thought he had escaped.
Quite the most historical of the three stories that I read. There’s a good feel of time and place, deft mentions of the organisation of the Templars and other factions without being too info-dumping and the characters, particularly William, are real-life men of their time, not 21st century insertions. He’s a man riddled with guilt for his homosexual activity, and it’s realistic angst in that time and place. Not only is he in danger of being punished by the Templars (being expelled from the Order would be the mildest of punishments) but it’s impossible to separate law and faith in the 13th century, and Voinov, sensibly doesn’t try. Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but to take out either part of the equation would unbalance the story. This is a time when the seven deadly sins were as real to these people as the ten commandments.
Another touch I liked was the mention that it was less monstrous for William to have sex with servants or prostitutes – there’s the whole “the penetrated is a lesser man” stigma which was very real, and by being the top to Guy–a nobleman, a knight– William feels he dishonours him.
The sex when it comes is very nicely done, hard, muscled knights wrestling with each other, I was reminded forcibly of the nude wrestling scene in Men In Love, although with men who matched my memory of that scene, not the rather flabby and pale actors that really acted it out. A good ending too, in my opinion, taking into consideration the time and place–although other readers might feel short changed. Four Stars
Overall two of the three stories get a thumbs up, and if you enjoy Edo-period Japan, you’ll probably like this anthology, it’s just a shame that the one story brings its score down one star to Three.