The year is 1883. Eduard van De Lier is a Dutchman overseeing a spice plantation on the island of Java, in the South Pacific. His obsessive attraction to dark-skinned men is just one of his many secrets. His wife Marien knows of his indiscretions, but as she’s content with their Colonial lifestyle, she stays silent.
Until a former lover of Eduard’s shows up in their parlor with thoughts of blackmail.
Reza was a crewman on the ship that brought the van De Liers to Java. During the passage, Eduard spent many a night in the younger man’s arms. Two years have passed, and the last person Eduard expects to find in his drawing room is Reza, a letter in hand that could destroy the life he and Marien lead.
Seeing Reza again ignites Eduard’s lust for his first dark lover. He hopes to retrieve the letter, either through seduction or subterfuge, and the longer Reza eludes him, the more his desire grows. But they’re on shaky ground, and before things can heat up between them, their world explodes—literally—when the unstable island of Krakatoa erupts.
Review by Erastes
It all starts promisingly enough with a delicious scene of almost-sex; I’ve read several of Snyder’s before and I’ve always liked the erotica scenes so this was a good beginning, but then I was left gasping at the mention of “an underage boy” which had caused the scandal which had young Eduard shipped to the Dutch Colonies. There was no concept of that, seeing as how homosexual acts where illegal, it wouldn’t really have mattered if the boy was 15 or 25. Not only that, Eduard’s older brother is suspected of having put the stable boy up to pressing charges! Perhaps I’m missing something of Dutch history, but surely this would have meant the boy would have been arrested.
Eduard is a self-confessed sex addict, he’s always been homosexual and his marriage is purely one of money and convenience–but it’s not until he’s on the boat to Java when he begins to be obsessed by the dark skin and the wiry bodies of the natives. Once he leaves his first love, Reza, behind, he works his way through the rest of them with enthusiasm. But he does think about it ALL THE TIME. When he’s alone, when he’s with his wife, when he’s having tea with important visitors, even as the volcano is erupting – it might be symbolic but it’s just a bit too much. Reza is repelled by him for his profligate behaviour and I don’t blame him, even after Reza spurns him, he’s “salivating” over the house boy.
Those of you looking for steamy sex won’t be disappointed, as JM Snyder writes very delicious and erotic scenes without tipping over the line into pornography–but I have to admit that the sheer size of Reza’s cock frightened me to death.
“the thick cock whose base Eduard could barely encircle with both hands.”
One hand I can just about believe, but both? I remember my mother saying that my father could put his hands around her waist, to think that a waist can be cock width is truly scary.
I can’t say I warmed to Eduard, his complete preoccupation with sex brought to mind the irritating bloke in the pub or at the party who can’t do anything but bring down the tone of the conversation with smutty innuendos and talking about sex at every available moment. Even when his world threatens to come crashing down on him, all he can think about is sex. But I think that’s actually what Snyder was working at here, and his profligate behaviour, his attitude towards his wife (he needs her a lot more than she needs him in some ways), and his selfish attitude is deliberate.
The second half of the book improves greatly, and I wish that Snyder had used more plot in the beginning, and not endless lust, because I was bored of Eduard by the time Krakatoa erupted. I would have thought, though, that at some point, some of the characters would have made a comment that, prior to the main explosion, the volcano had actually been erupting for months.
Eduard and Reza make a risky journey the three miles into the town of Anyer, and just when I was thinking that Eduard might be improving under the pressure of the eruption, he goes and spoils it all again, when Reza tells him he has a small boat and he wants Eduard to leave with him, Eduard says:
“Of course I will. Tonight. Right this minute. What a brilliant idea. If we leave now—”
Class, Eduard; leave the wife and your servants to be buried in ash, good on you.
It gets silly again after that, as Eduard denies help to a desperate mother looking for her child. Instead he finds a empty shack and hides in it, and has a quick stroke of his cock and unbelievably falls asleep. Then Reza–who had ducked off to see to his ship–finds him, and I think you can imagine what they did. Edward tops it all by this little intercourse:
“I leave with you.”
“What of your wife?” Reza asked.
Oh yes, her.
Eduard shrugged. The movement settled him closer against Reza. Marien would have to understand.
Some readers might find some of the point of view a little disconcerting, as it slides from tight third to omniscient and back again. There were also a couple of problems with the editing. Amber Allure, the self-proclaimed “Gold Standard in publishing” lets itself down with a misplaced homonym very early on (reign, instead of rein) that made me grit my teeth.
As for the eruption itself, although much research has been done, for me it doesn’t fully portray the horror of it all – the town of Anyer where Reza and Eduard head for was actually completely destroyed by a 30 meter tsunami–and the eruption went on for days. The sky didn’t clear, as Eduard notes, and in fact half of the globe had darker skies because of this event for many years thereafter. The worst explosion ruptured eardrums.
But, although the book does improve latterly–in the main, it’s Eduard who ruins it for me, as I hated him and I thought he should have been given some opportunity to redeem himself and to my eyes he didn’t.
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