Review: A Strange Love by Georges Eekhoud

A very early gay novel, originally published in 1900, by a Belgian writer with the first English translation in 1908, set in 19th Century rural Flanders. A gay count returns after years abroad to an isolated uptight community where his love for a peasant boy brings furious attacks by fanatic and bigoted villages whipped up by the girl he spurned. The count’s gay education of his peasant boy includes the history of the boy-Emperor whose lover voluntarily joined him for beheading. This pioneer work of fiction was among the first novels to focus unapologetically on gay relationships and the author, a distinguished Belgian literary figure, faced legal prosecution for this book. Georges Eekhoud (1854-1927), a Belgian poet and novelist, became known as the editor of the Antwerp Precurseur, from which post he passed to the position of literary critic of the Etoile Belge.

Review by Erastes

I had to do a bit of research on this book, because it predates pretty much all of the gay fiction I know of, and I simply hadn’t heard of it, so I’ll talk about that before I do the review.

It was published in 1899. Eekhoud is the premier literary figure of the age in Belgium and very famous. He was well-known for his pieces describing peasant life, such as Campine. He wrote in French, and there is a free copy of the book–in French–on the Gutenburg website for those who might prefer to read it in the original. It was titled Escal-Vigor and I’m not sure how the title changed to A Strange Love. It–like many other books–was prosecuted in court but there was a literary swell of support, and Eekhoud was acquitted without a stain on his character. Shame more books didn’t get the same support!

The story concerns the young Count Henry Kehlmark who comes into his inheritance at quite a young age, and who is more than a little spoiled. This doesn’t make him a monster, but it does make him the kind of young man who wants to do what he likes. He lives quite a wild life and then suddenly he decides to retire to his country estate taking with him his housekeeper Blandine, a young woman with whom he had a brief affair in his youth, and Landrillon, his manservant. It is there, whilst being introduced to the neighbourhood, he meets and falls  passionately in love with Guidon, the son of the local burgomaster.

You can see by the illustration on the cover how this ends, which is badly, but that’s no real surprise, as far as I know Maurice was the first (and only for a long time) which dared to give gay men a happy ending. The story itself, while quite simple, has a lot of themes, such as the nature of loyalty, ambition, and what is true friendship. There’s (possibly) the first faghag in Blandine–who loves Henry to distraction, so much so that she stays with him, despite knowing that she’ll never have him, even before she finds out his true nature.  She is, however, angry at the way Guidon has usurped her as his best friend, and is alarmed at the gossip in the village–which is inflamed by the disloyal Landrillon. But when Henry explains it all to her, (with a rather disturbing confession that he lusted at one point over pre-pubescent boys but got control of this problem) she accepts him for what he is, and vows to stand by him, and will be friends with Guidon.

What I liked about this book was the way that Henry was no longer ashamed of his predilictions. He’d spent years hiding his nature–trying to “pass.” Making jokes about men like himself, pretending to leer at women with his friends and thinking he was truly alone in the world. But he came to terms with himself and his feelings and when he meets Guidon, he sees it as fate, something that was truly meant to be. Guidon was not an innocent that he had corrupted, but a man with similar desires. The ugliness is all perceived by the outside forces. The priest who wishes to destroy Henry, the dismissed servant, the woman (Guidon’s sister, Claudie) who wants Henry for herself.

This ugliness reaches a head, with the final chapter of the book, and it’s clear who the real monsters are.

The language is rather hard to take, and I wonder how faithful the translation is. It’s a curious blend of slang and thees and thous. It’s rather over flowery but not a difficult read because of that, just a little smirk inducing at times. Luckily there’s little conversation between Guidon and Henry because I couldn’t have taken much of the earnest declaiming. Even the huge argument that Blandine and Henry have is exquistely formal.

The edition I have is the plain green cover version, also found on Amazon, and the preface is most peculiar. It doesn’t give any indication as to who wrote it, and it’s almost as impassioned as the book itself, resorting to hyperbole and many many exclamation marks. It’s worth a read, but isn’t exactly instructive about the book, the time of its writing, or much about the author, prefering rather to bang on about how worthy the book is and how many other gay writers came before and since. The facts about the book I had to find elsewhere!

I can’t give it a high mark, because to the modern eye, and certainly compared to Wilde or Forster the prose doesn’t hold a candle to them (although the French itself might be beautiful, so if you do read it, let me know) but it’s an important book in the genre and if you get a chance to get hold of a copy and are interested in the development of gay literature then it’s worth seeking out.

Amazon UK      Amazon USA

Review: A Faint Wash of Lavender by Lucius Parhelion

Post World War Two finds Laguna Beach in its heyday as an artists’ colony. Tony runs his uncles’ Grocery store in the town where a man of his bent can hide among the eccentrics who call the place home, including his Aunt Cora, who’s in charge of this year’s Pageant, where denizens of Laguna Beach recreate great art.

Tony’s carefully laid out life is about to take a hit from old army buddy Ben, who comes and stay while he sorts out his life. Tony doesn’t have a problem helping out an old friend, but this particular old friend comes with pitfalls. Ben is Tony’s type, and always has been. When Tony and Ben are asked to participate in the Pageant, they’re thrown into each other’s arms, literally. Will Tony be able to keep Ben in the dark about his ‘lavender’ tendencies, or will Ben himself have a few confessions that are sure to knock Tony for a loop?

Review by Erastes

Right off I’ll say that Parhelion hasn’t yet struck a bum note with me, and this is no exception. Somehow Parhelion manages to write cleary, beautifully and believably about post-war eras and settings that not many authors are dealing with.

On the surface this is a simple enough story, Tony meets up with old ex-regimental mate Ben who he served with in the Second World War. Tony knows that he fancied Ben during the war, on top of the hugely strong bond they made fighting side by side across France and Germany but he thinks that–at the distance of a few years, and knowing that Ben is planning to become a missionary within a religious sect–he can have a good visit with his friend and send him off again, without revealing his feelings. The problem is that Tony is living in the artist/performance neighbourhood of Laguna Beach and this is the underlying subtext of the book.

Without this clever subliminal subtext it would just be a case of best friends realising they want each other, but it’s made much more because of it. It’s a social group Tony feels comfortable with when he’s alone–the faint wash of lavender relates to the slight swishiness of his aunt’s friends, some more obvious than others. But when Ben arrives, Tony is concerned that Ben will pick up on the lavender tint of his friends and put two and two together.

It’s an interesting look at a burgeoning gay community, although too brief, I felt. I got the impression that Parhelion was going for, that of men who were allowing themselves to be a little more obvious in what they deemed a slightly safer environment, but the characterisations of the lavender washed themselves were a little too thin for me and smacked of stereotyping. I don’t think this was at all Parhelion’s aim, but the time allowed, given the length of the novella, didn’t give any possibility of seeing them in anything but 2d. It’s a shame, because that’s rather the crux of this sub-plot, that Tony feels comfortable in this mildly outre atmosphere, but is also struggling with the fact that as a manly man he should be ashamed of his friends. But as we don’t see his friends that much, this fact falls a little short.

Tony and Ben are depicted beautifully. The dialogue hits notes that seem just right, not too girly and not too porn-slanted. The way they eventually confess to each other that they are pretty sure they are gay is believable. And the device (the pageant) where Tony has to admit to himself that he hasn’t lost any of his yearnings for Ben is well done. There’s an amusing line about The Last Supper which made me snort tea through my nose, too.

The rest of the story is so readable, it’s hard not to gush. I wish I was more of a literature teacher so that I could dissect Parhelion’s style and work out what they are doing that’s so right, but I can’t. If you haven’t read any Parhelion, start here and then I guarantee you, you will seek out all the others. I don’t know who you are, enigma that is Parhelion, but keep on doing what you’re doing. (although, give us a novel, one day, please?)

Author’s Website (out of date)

Buy from Torquere Press

Review: Test of Faith by Aleksandr Voinov and Raev Gray

July, 1187: Saladin has defeated the Crusader army at The Horns of Hattin. Thierry de la Tour Rouge, a Templar Knight, has survived only to be taken prisoner by the Saracens. Stripped and tied like an animal to the pole of a tent, Thierry fears torture in the attempt to break his faith. Abdul Basir is French by birth, a convert to Islam and an advisor to Saladin.

Thierry has been bought for him and while Abdul owns him, he cannot guarantee that Saladin will spare Thierry’s life. In the spirit of acceptance and forgiveness, Thierry chastely kisses Abdul, hurtling them both into a clash of faiths and a contest of wills. One man motivated by the fulfillment of a long-lurking fantasy and the other by the need to keep his faith intact. They come to show each other mercy, kindness and trust—enough to reveal their desire for one another. As Saladin holds the fate of Thierry’s life in his hands, can Abdul keep this honorable crusader safe?

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS
Review by Sal Davis

Normally I would start with comments about the cover but that can wait. Instead I need to warn that this is quite a short book and I can’t really talk about the things that interest me most about it without giving away some really major spoilers. So I’m turning my review upside down. This has an excellent plot, it is set in a fascinating competently researched period of history, the characters are interesting and their situation compelling. I enjoyed reading it but it has some issues that might not suit other readers. If you want to read it and don’t want to be spoiled I’d stop reading this now if I were you.

And NOW I’ll talk about the cover for a bit to act as a spoiler buffer.

There was no cover on the review copy and I didn’t bother to look it up before reading it. That was a pity because it’s an attractive piece of work, richly coloured and nicely layered. I’d like to see a larger version some time because I’m guessing a bit, but I think there’s a distant landscape of the Holy Land overlaid by two male profiles, an early illustration of Jerusalem from the Madaba Mosaic and a period correct sword. After that it would be no surprise to discover that the story is about the Crusades. It’s a very lovely image, complementing a story that, while a good read, is just as bleak and hopeless as those dreadful conflicts were.

Thierry, a knight of Britanny, is captured at Hattin and given to Abdul Basir, once also of Britanny but now converted to Islam, who plans to indulge his desire for revenge on the Christians who expelled him by taking it out on Thierry’s body. Naturally things don’t go as planned and Abdul discovers not only that he would sooner have a willing lover than a victim but that he wishes to keep Thierry safe in his arms. The only way he can do this is by persuading Thierry to abandon his faith and embrace Islam but Thierry refuses, preferring immediate death to what he considers to be heresy and eventual consignment to hell. The decision made, they find peace together before Abdul hands Thierry over for execution.

Issue number one – that one of the protagonists dies, and that it is known that he will die for a good part of the story – would be a deal breaker for people who like their romances with at least a HFN. I found the tragedy of it quite satisfying in a morbid way. It would have been too easy to have Thierry give in to Abdul’s urging, abandoning his faith for love. As it is, what happens is true to the characters and the period. Speaking of which, the research is meticulous.

The other issue is stylistic. The point of view is 3rd person omniscient – the reader can see into both characters’ heads. It seems as though the two authors role-played the characters as the POV flickers from one to the other. I know that this ‘head hopping’ is unusual, but it didn’t bother me too much as I’ve been used to reading role-played fiction. There were occasions when I had to re-read a sentence and adjust my expectations of who was speaking, but that didn’t detract, too much, from the story. However there was one thing that gave me pause, and I believe that this is also due to the role played nature of the piece. The emotional atmosphere of the story is heightened right from the beginning, despite a good batch of ‘telling’, but once the two characters start to interact the needle whizzes off the chart. Thierry’s fear, his agony of thirst, Abdul’s rage and anticipation of Thierry’s defeat are on a very high note, and this sense of passion is sustained through much of the story. But at the end, at what should be the emotional climax, the style becomes quite cool and detached and is ‘told’ again. I must admit that after the skin crawling emotions earlier in the story I felt a little shortchanged. It’s possible this was deliberate – an indication that Abdul was feeling so much that he was in shock. It’s also possible that it was deliberate so not to take anything away from the last three paragraphs of the story [which I thought were fantastic and which I am NOT going to spoil].

Stars – yes, I enjoyed the story, the history, the period details, the bravery of killing one of the protagonists, very much. But … the head hopping! Only 3, I’m afraid. But a very appreciative 3!

Raev Gray’s website

Aleksandr Voinov’s website

Buy from eXcessica (ebook)

Buy from Lulu (print)

Review: Game of Chance by Kate Roman

When the young Duke of Avon takes a back exit at a masquerade ball, expecting to find like-minded players to share a high-stakes game of cards or dice, nothing can prepare him for what he finds. But in the arms of mysterious Lord Donahue, Sebastian finds this new game is more pleasurable than anything he anticipated…

Review by Erastes

A short review for a short story. I hadn’t read any Kate Roman before but I’m very appreciative of the time she took to set up what is really a wham bang thank you Sam plot. The story begins nicely and doesn’t rush to immediately tell us that our protagonist is homosexual. He’s a gambler and he’s come to a masque ball (always a sexy setup) to have a game of cards or dice. He hears rumours of back rooms where the real action takes place and whoops we have a delicious misunderstanding and a great place for much shagging in the Marsh.

Roman describes things well, and I’ll definitely have a look at her back catalogue and see if there are any other historical hiding away there. Within the space of this small setup, she leaves us in no doubt as to where adn when we are in time, wigs, coloured heels, our protagonist is a proper “macaroni” even though he doesn’t actually have any idea of his predictlictoins when it comes to me. Don’t worry, there’s someonewaitingin the wings to explain mattersto him. The sex scene when it does come—no pun intended—is again, nicely drawn out and uses enough of the historical colour to prevent us thinking that this could be set in any time at all. It’s graphic without being overly so, and will get you tingling in places that you like having tingled.

I don’t normally recommend such short stories, as i do think they are over-priced for what they are, and would prefer to have them as an extra in a novella, or ina collection of that author’s others tories, but I liked this one a lot, and it kept me amused for fifteen minutes or so and has introduced a writer to me who does her research. Four stars.

Author’s website

Buy from Torquere Press

Review: The Station by Keira Andrews

Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster secretly watched stable master Patrick Callahan mastering the groundskeeper, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death, Colin speaks up in his defense, announcing that he, too, is guilty of “the love that dare not speak its name.” Soon they’re both condemned as convicts and shipped off to the faraway prison colony of Australia.

Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale and is determined that no one will scale the wall he’s built around his heart. Yet he’s inexorably drawn to the charismatic Colin despite his best efforts to keep him at bay. As their journey extends from the cramped and miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must build new lives for themselves. They’ll have to tame each other to find happiness in this wild new land.

Review by Sal Davis

April Martinez has produced an enticing cover to draw readers into this Australian set story. The dry washed out colours and the stockman and cattle set off the faces that depict the two protagonists. The models have been chosen with care too, showing the belligerence of one and the soft bemusement of the other.

The Station is a coming of age story, told from the point of view of Colin Lancaster, a privileged, somewhat fragile lad who is cossetted by well off and over anxious parents. Home schooled, lonely Colin develops a childish crush on hunky head groom Patrick which causes him to follow the man around and help out in the stable. The relationship that develops is innocent enough but is ruined when Colin catches Patrick rogering one of the gardeners. Colin is transfixed by the sight, realising that he wishes it was him and that this is a very Bad Thing.Afterwards he avoids Patrick completely, hurting his feelings and setting up the situation for oodles of angst later. Yet Colin still adores Patrick and when Patrick is caught in flagrante, he tries to save his life by claiming to have committed the same crime. Off to Australia they are sent and so the adventure begins.

I’m a bit torn about this story. On the one hand there are historical inaccuracies that shook me right out of the narrative. [Graduation from school, really?] But on the other I enjoyed the plot and some of the secondary characters rock. Sadly, I was less engaged by the two protagonists. Colin struck me as very bland and accepting of all the horrible things that happened to him. Patrick, still cherishing a broken heart from a previous relationship, came over as an opportunist and an ass.

There’s a lot of telling in the story, maybe the author wanted to avoid over-dramatising it? However it all hangs together pretty well and ends in a suitably romantic way. If you can ignore the little bits that make history wallahs go ‘eh?’ and just enjoy the emoting you’ll be fine. I’d be inclined to give it three stars plus another half for the unusual Aussie setting.

Author’s website

Buy from Loose-ID

Review: The Shakespeare Conspiracy by Ted Bacino

TWO QUESTIONS HAVE ALWAYS PLAGUED HISTORIANS:

HOW COULD Christopher Marlowe, a known spy and England’s foremost playwright, be suspiciously murdered and quickly buried in an unmarked grave — just days before he was to be tried for treason?

HOW COULD William Shakespeare replace Marlowe as England’s greatest playwright virtually overnight — when Shakespeare had never written anything before and was merely an unknown actor?  Historians have noted that the Bard of Stratford was better known at that time “for holding horses for the gentry while they watched plays.”

The Shakespeare Conspiracy is a historical novel that intertwines the two mysteries and then puts the pieces together to offer the only possible resolution.

Review by Erastes

This is a very well researched and meticulously thought out book. I was in awe at just how much work Bacino has put into this, with foreword, and massive appendices.

It’s obviously massively researched and he’s clearly looked up every single point that he’s writing about, from plague to theatres to politics. I have to give Bacino a standing ovation simply for the work he’s done here with a foreword and a huge appendix But..

The trouble is — it’s not really a novel. This book is really going only to appeal to historians, because those wanting an immersive novel are going to find the style jarring–as I did.

It’s more like a docu-drama. I haven’t read “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote but I would imagine that this is the style he used–an omniscient narrator taking the place of any of the characters’ points of view.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with pure omniscient narration–it’s a style I much admire but while it works for Thackeray and for Dickens and the like, it really doesn’t work here. In the same way as Thackeray does in Vanity Fair, Bacino takes the place of a rather confiding narrator who behaves rather like a history teacher interrupting a video his class is watching. You are never allowed to relax into the storyline because every paragraph or so “history teacher” butts in and starts telling us a load of back information such as religious or political aspects—from the birth of Protestantism to the destruction of the Armada, to spy rings and exact wordings of many laws.

So, you’d think that those with a love of history would lap this kind of thing up, but I tend to feel that the facts we are presented with are already so well known from myriad incarnations of the Tudors on stage, screen, and book, historians are already going to know most of this. I certainly did.

Considering that the appendix (which takes up a good 20% of the size of the book) goes through every single historical point in every chapter with “FACT:[...]” or “FICTION:[...]” We could easily have had a novel-style book rather than a semi-text book and if one was interested one could look in the appendix for the facts, but because we are told once in the book that this was so and then once again in the appendix it really felt like we are being preached at. The way the facts or fictions are presented are rather patronising, to be honest. If anyone has watched “Horrible Histories” will know that after every sketch, the narrator, a rat, comes on and says “It’s TRUE- the Romans really did wash their clothes in pee.” Or some such validation, and this book has the same tone. Trouble is Horrible Histories is actually for kids. So I did feel a little talked down to at times while reading this. As regards to the FACT or FICTION issue, he could easily have just kept it down to the things he invented, and taken it as read that we’d assume everything else was fact related.

Here’s an example:

From the book itself:

Sir Francis Walsingham was known for his booming, threatening voice that seemed even more frightening when he lowered it to a softer tone. He had headed the Royal Intelligence Service (a euphemism for the spy network in England) for almost twenty years. He was quickly becoming the architect of modern espionage. As a fitting reward for his “unswerving” service”, Queen Elizabeth had named him England’s first Secretary of State in 1573—a position not quite structured yet – giving Francis the opportunity to do pretty much as he wanted with the position. He had the reputation of being the archetype of Machiavellian political cunning with tentacles to fathom out the smallest detail in the country. He knew he was courted and needed by everyone.

He was also hated by everyone.

(He was the inspiration for the line that would someday be written into the play Measure for Measure: “it is certain that when he makes water his urine is congealed ice.”)

Now – from the appendix:

FACT: Queen Elizabeth did name Sir Francis Walsingham to be England’s first Secretary of State in 1573. Sir Francis was the head of the English spy network. Historians frequently name him as the architect of modern espionage.

FACT: Shakespearean quote: ““it is certain that when he makes water his urine is congealed ice” “Measure for Measure” Act III, scene 2

As I said, the appendix takes up 20% of the total of the book (according to my Kindle) and all it does is mostly repeat what’s already been said. There are no citations, either, which I sort of expected with this level of “this is actually true.” We are just expected to take the author’s word for it.

The reason an omnisceint narrator worked so well for Thackeray and Dickens and the like was that they were presenting the narration from a closer perspective than this. From their time, or a few years after the events they were writing about. And anyone doing an omniscient narrator today would also use this device, narrating the book as a person who knew the characters or was involved in the events portrayed. But Bacino’s narrator – who is more than likely Bacino himself – is narrating this from a perspective of 21st century man, so the terminology is jarring: Marlow has “mesmerizing ways” Marlowe is “cute.” Comparisons to money—such as Wriothley’s payment of £5,000 to sever his engagement are compared to million pounds it would be in “today’s” money, which again, instantly reminds us we are reading a history book, rather than living a story with the characters. Lord Wriothley is referred to as “the poster boy for the homosexual movement” which is from the narrator’s pov so it’s not quite so bad—but then that same lord actually says later: “Her [Queen Elizabeth I’s] new Commission makes it really just a police state, doesn’t it?” which is gah-wrongness on so many levels.

But I can’t discommend this book, because of the sheer volume of work that has gone into it. I complain daily about authors who can’t be arsed even to open Wikipedia for the most basic of facts that can be found in seconds, so I’d be a hypocrite indeed to moan about someone who has done this level of research.

It’s just that—just because you do the research you don’t have to tell the reader about every single aspect of it. (Are you listening Dan Brown?) I prefer to be shown, not told.

Without all the infodumping, the story is amusing and enjoyable, Shakespeare’s portrayal being particularly funny as a real thicko. I can’t say that the conspiracy theory convinced me, though.

There are a few historical oopsies too–one being people drinking tea(!) a good hundred years before this was possible. This surprised me seeing as how much research had gone into the rest of the book.

If you can take the history professor on every page, and you like this approach then you’ll enjoy this. It’s well-written, fantastically well researched (even though I don’t agree with some of the “FACTS”) and I hope that Bacino goes on to write more. The story hangs together well, the conspiracy is well done and probably adds to the canon of Who Wrote Shakespeare. It’s just that I prefer a novel, with history blended in rather than a documentary with the presenter stopping the action every few minutes to tell you stuff.

Author’s website

Buy from Author’s House

Lee Benoit’s Book Swap

I have a paperback copy of His Master’s Lover by Nick Heddle that I’d be willing to ship to an interested party.

Also, I would be happy to share a PDF of the anthology I edited, SOMEPLACE IN THIS WORLD, which includes my 1930s historical short “Pack Horse,” if you think it’s appropriate (most of the stories in the antho are not historical).

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Gerry Burnie’s Book Swap

Five downloads of “Two Irish Lads”

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Leslie Nicoll’s Book Swap

Poisoned Ivy by Scot D. Ryersson
The Arsenic Flower by Scot D. Ryersson
Hidden Conflict by Alex Beecroft, Mark Probst, Jordan Taylor, and E.N. Holland
The Painting by F.K. Wallace
Kindred Hearts by Rowan Speedwell

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Alex Beecroft’s Book Swap

Poisoned Ivy by Scot D Ryersson
Deadly Nightshade by Victor Banis
Faster than the Speed of Light by Parhelion

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Charlie Cochrane’s Book Swap

I have a print Downtime (autographed!) by Tamara Allen, which is dead heavy so I’d only post to UK.
Also have Victor Banis, The Man from CAMP (three short novs)

In return I’d only want print books, but would be happy not to have anything in return.

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Weetzie’s Book Swap

I have a copy of Eromenos by Melanie McDonald to swap for… um… anything, really!

Not exactly historical, but I also have a copy of Magic and the Pagan by Shayne Carmichael

Both paper, good condition and I’m in the UK if that helps!

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Josh Lanyon’s Book Swap

One Download of each of my historical novels:

Snowball in Hell, Out of the Blue, The Dark Farewell, and This Rough Magic.

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Kate Cotoner’s Book Swap

ebooks:
Fall of a State by Kate Cotoner
Lion of Kent by Kate Cotoner and Aleksandr Voinov
Enslaved by Kate Cotoner
Pasion’s Dream by Kate Cotoner
The Puppet Master by Kate Cotoner
The Silver Knight by Kate Cotoner
The Year Without Summer by Kate Cotoner
The Imperial Cat by Kate Cotoner

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Becky Black’s Book Swap

Paperbacks:

James Lear: The Back Passage
James Lear: The Palace of Varieties
Mary Renault: The Charioteer
V.B. Kildaire: The Desire for Dearborne
Charlie Cochrane: Lessons in Love (Only prepared to swap that as I have the whole series on Kindle instead of paper books. Love those so much.)

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Michael Mandrake’s Book Swap

One download of

The White Rajah by Tom Williams

 

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Erastes’ Book Swap

Kindle: (you’ll need to have a kindle to swap)
Samurai’s Forbidden Love [Katana Duet]  by Jarun, Silapa
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Sins of the Cities of the Plain by Jack Saul
Missouri by Christine Wunnicke
The Master by Colm Toibin
Last Gasp (PDF) by Erastes, Charlie Cochrane, Chris Smith, Jordan Taylor

PRINT
Frost Fair by Erastes
Mere Mortals by Erastes

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Michael Holland’s Book Swap

I would gladly give away five copies of my ebook, Journey to Angkor, in exchange for other ebooks I’m interested in.

Details of my book can be found on this page:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/60445

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

JS Cook’s Book Swap

Am willing to swap ELECTRONIC VERSIONS of:

Inspector Raft Series 1: Willing Flesh by JS Cook

Inspector Raft Series 2:  Rag and Bone by JS Cook

As You Despise Me by JS Cook

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Eve’s Book Swap

Eve has the following epub books to swap:

- Counterpoint: Dylan’s story by Ruth Sims
-  A Promise of Tomorrow by Rowan McAllister
- The Lion of Kent by Aleksandr Voinov and Kate Cotoner

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Jon Wilson’s Book Swap

“I have paper copies of the following:

Hold Tight by Christopher Bram
Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram
Almost History by Christopher Bram
The Boys on the Rock by John Fox

A Hundred Little Lies by Jon Wilson

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Nan Hawthorne’s Book Swap

Nan has a special request:

I want to borrow any m/m historical, text to speech enabled ebooks only.

Cambridge Fellows 1 – Lessons In Love by Charlie Cochrane
Cambridge Fellows 2 – Lessons In Desire by Charlie Cochrane
Cambridge Fellows 3 – Lessons In Discovery by Charlie Cochrane
Cambridge Fellows 4 – Lessons In Power by Charlie Cochrane
Cambridge Fellows 5 – Lessons In Temptation by Charlie Cochrane
Cambridge Fellows 6 – Lessons In Seduction by Charlie Cochrane
Cambridge Fellows 7 – Lessons In Trust by Charlie Cochrane
Cambridge Fellows 8 – All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane

Frost Fair by Erastes

Beloved Pilgrim by Nan Hawthorne.

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

Lee Rowan’s Book Swap

Ransom by Lee Rowan
Winds of Change by Lee Rowan
Eye of the Storm by Lee Rowan

Mother Clapp’s Molly House by Rictor Norton

A Summer Place by Ariel Tachna

Mary Renault’s “The Persian Boy”(1972)and “Funeral Games”  (1980)

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What to if you want any of these books

REPLY to this post with suggestions of what you have–it doesn’t matter if you’ve already had a post on the community, you can also offer your books on the replies. The owner of the post will then choose what they want (probably will take a day or so) and then I’ll connect the two of you and you can arrange your swap or gift.

The Ides of Pride Rainbow Book Swap!

Welcome to the inaugural year of the Ides of Pride Rainbow Book Swap, and thank you for thinking of participating!

Here’s how it works.

I will post, throughout the day, posts from readers and writers who have books they wish to swap for a different book.

Books can be paper or electronic. The only proviso is with ebooks, they are a ONE OFF LEND from your device, such as the Kindle function. I do not support file sharing.

If you like any of the books, make a comment on the post and give your offer (you can offer a selection) while indicating the book you would like. e.g. “I would like to have Standish–I can offer At Swim Two Boys by J O’Neill, Regeneration by Pat Barker or Downtime by Tamara Allen”

The person who “owns” the thread, e.g. the person offering the books then comments and accepts the books they like. When all the books on that thread are taken, I’ll close the thread by putting THIS SWAP IS NOW CLOSED at the top.

I will then contact both parties via email and you can then correspond to arrange the swap yourselves via post or by email.

Now, I don’t know how it’s going to go–it’s a bit of an experiment, but I hope it works!

I will push the boundaries a little to include historical paranormals, to give a bit more variety, so gay historical time travel and shifters will be allowed on the community–for a little time!  Lesbian historicals are also welcome today.

So, I’ll be posting the first swap soon, and thank you again!

(this is also the place to ask questions)

Review: The New World by G.S. Wiley

Toby’s life is simple and uneventful. He spends most of his time working alongside his brother at the Blue Boar Tavern, welcoming travelers and serving locals. Occasionally, he indulges in illicit, illegal liaisons with men he knows he will never see again. When an old friend, a man who left to make his fortune as one of King George IV’s “redcoats,” returns in time for Valentine’s Day, Toby is forced to make a choice between his past and his future, and between his safe, quiet life and adventure beyond his imagination.

Short Story (5k)

Review by Erastes

And that’s about it, actually. Once you’ve read the blurb there’s not really any great point in reading the story–short story blurb writing is an art in itself and needs not to reveal the entire plot.

I was disappointed with this because I, like the reviewer of Kindred Hearts, had really loved that title, and I would have also given Kindred Hearts five stars. So I was looking forward to this, thinking it would be another little gem like that one.  But it was not to be.

But as this is GS Wiley and we know that Wiley can write, it is nicely written, and the description is true to the era, pre-revolution 18th century England, there’s a real atmosphere, andI liked Toby and felt his dissatisfation with his lot.It just doesn’t really deliver the way a short story should and therefore I can’t really recommend you spend even $1.99 on it, because as I said at the top, if you read the blurb there’s not a lot else there for you–sadly. Get Kindred Hearts instead.

Author’s website

Torquere Press

Ides of Pride Rainbow Book Swap!

PLEASE – even if you aren’t going to participate – could you disseminate this far and wide? It would be so good to have loads of people involved

The economy is biting us all– more and more I see people say they can’t afford to buy the book they’d like to buy.

SO!  Let’s cock a snook to the economy. (Non Brits may need to look that up.)

I’d like to have an “IDES OF PRIDE BOOK SWAP on Speak Its Name (www.speakitsname.com) on the 15th of June.

It’s a simple idea. If you have a gay historical book that you would like to swap for something you haven’t read – be it electronic or paper, EMAIL ME (erastes@erastes.com) with the details and I’ll put up a post for you

It can be your own book, or simply one you have in your collection. Of course you are welcome to include more than one!

NOW. I’m NOT advocating file sharing here–but the Kindle allows one transfer of each book on your device, so it’s perfectly legal and hopefully it will bring in more readers for you and for all of us — and the readers will be able to discover things they might not have usually tried. Publishers will allow a certain amount of downloads too, so you could use those.

People who want that book will then answer the post with their own swap–or a selection of what you’d like to offer, and it will be up to the original poster to choose which one they’d like. Let me know, and I’ll match up the swap.

It’s like Noel Edmonds’ swap shop. But gay. Oh. OK. That analogy doesn’t really work, as that show was already extraordinarily gay. (see picture) I don’t know WHAT Cheggers is doing with his hand.

Please please please join it–would be fun to make this an annual event–and it will certainly help people get hold of books they can’t afford. You can swap as many books as you like–and don’t renege, or you won’t be allowed to play next time.

Erastes
Gay Historical Fiction
www.erastes.com

Problems with The List

I don’t know if it’s the recent server update but half the List has disappeared and I’m in the process of putting it back (this will show me that I need to save the html version on a daily basis…) so if your book and review link has disappeared – that’s why – and I’ll try and put it all back.

Review: Willing Flesh by J S Cook (Inspector Raft Mysteries #1)

When a series of bizarre murders occur in London’s notorious East End, Scotland Yard’s Inspector Philemon Raft is called on to solve the crimes, but even he is powerless to explain why the victims are displayed in public places — or why the killer insists on drilling burr holes in their skulls. With little to go on except the strange red dust found on the victims’ palms, Raft must scour the city looking for an explanation. Aided only by his newly-appointed constable Freddie Crook, Raft’s investigation takes him into London’s most dark and dangerous places, where human predators wait to devour and destroy.

But Raft has an even bigger problem: a casual acquaintance is blackmailing him, and what she knows about his secrets could tear Raft’s life to pieces

Review by Erastes

This is a grown up murder mystery. Don’t go into without an ability to read unpleasantness. This is Victorian London in all its gothic nastiness where life is extremely cheap and grotesque is the name of the game. In fact grotesque would be a good sub-genre for this, but that’s not an insult. This faces the dark, dingy and seedy London of the 1880′s head on and finds it covered it gore. If you liked The Alienist this will be right up your dark , cobbled street.

I’ve read JS Cook before and I know her from the internet. She is, although some of you will find this hard to countenance, even more obsessed with total accuracy than I am. She’s a perfectly nice looking woman who you would not think capable of experimenting with “Kensington gore” and fake paper mache skulls to see how brain and blood might spatter across a wall. She’s Dexter, but without the irritating habit of wrapping people in clingfilm. She takes her crime extremely seriously, and that echoes beautifully in her creation of Inspector Philemon Raft.

He’s a dour obsessive with a keen eye for observation. But he’s no idiot savant or genius and good job too. He can’t look at flowerbed and know that a drunk sailor stood there before travelling to Tahiti. What he finds out he finds out either by hard graft, sending someone else to do hard graft or by outside information. In this I found him to be extremely believable because even today most of police successes are based on outsider information. He’s ably assisted by the lovely Constable Freddie Crook who is not all he seems, and a lot more besides.

I found Raft a little uneven. I like detectives to have quirks–Poirot had OCD (must have had, surely!), Holmes took coke, and so on,and in that vein, Raft seems a little unhinged when he’s deep in thought, and I liked this rather frenetic side of him, but this device wasn’t regular enough to be a quirk. He’s also mildly clairvoyant, and I haven’t let this aspect of him preclude this book from review–because he may simply be hallucinating–or it could be his subconscious helping his detetcting. It’s good that this is not fully explored because he pushes it down and that works well.

I absolutely loved the Dickensian feel when it comes to the names. They were lush and rolled around the mouth like honey. Featherstonehaugh, Breedlove, Butter and so on. In fact it’s wrong to say “Dickensian” because Cook has her own style, her own voice and although there are tones picked up from others it comes over as entirely hers.

It needed a really tough and experienced edit, though. Not for typographical reasons but because one or two facts contradict themselves and that’s a shame and spoils an otherwise good effort. For example there’s a point where a thumb injury is pertinent to the plot and the first time Raft sees it he recognises what caused it because he’s seen something very similar before. BUT later in the story it’s said “Raft had never seen anything like it.” There are a couple of these continuity problems which probably wouldn’t matter in any other genre but did in this–it just made Raft seem rather stupid, and he’s certainly not that.

Where Cook really excels (aside from her medical knowledge) is her immersive description. Every scene is 3 dimensional–from the feel of the cobbles on the street, to a musty coat on a hook, to the smell of rotting flesh to the sounds of carriages passing by the window. It’s fantastically real and very addictive.

The story itself is deep, twisty, plotty and at times you feel that all the threads are going in different directions. It’s not the sort of cosy mystery that you’ll like if you want your detective to be following one lead which leads to another. It’s more like the time of TV drama where the detective is bombarded with conflicting and confusing theories and characters and information–and none of it seems to tie up. So you need to concentrate with this book, you can’t coast and let the author hand feed you the clues.

Yes, there is a gay plotline, but it’s not at all the main theme of the book. The crime’s the thing–and Raft and Crook will have to work out their relationship in the midst of another gruesome set of circumstances, which they will in “Rag and Bone” which I’ll be reviewing later.

Overall, I highly recommend this if you are lover of gritty detective fiction. It gets a very solid four from me and I look forward to more of Philemon Raft.

Author’s Website

Amazon UK     Amazon USA

Review: The Puppet Master by Kate Cotoner

Istanbul, 1622. Considered hotbeds of sedition, the city’s coffee houses are in constant danger of being shut down by imperial command. Haluk, who runs a cafe in an old caravanserai, is more concerned with brewing the perfect cup of coffee than inciting rebellion. While storms in coffee cups rage around him, Haluk tends his clientele and waits for the right moment to tell his friend and lodger Aydin how he really feels about him.
Aydin has been entertaining the people of the Old City for three years, but still he doesn’t fit in. He hides his courtly manners and graceful charms behind the boisterous satire of the shadow puppet plays that have made him popular.  He’s not what he seems. Now he fears his past is catching up with him, bringing danger to Haluk, the man he loves

Review by Erastes

I was a little confused over the rating of this book; Torquere has it in their “Spice It Up” line, which I assumed was an imprint handling the more spicy and erotic books in their already spicy and erotic stable, but this book has absolutely no sex in it, so don’t buy it thinking you are going to get a one-handed read. It seems however, that the line is all based around one particular spice and in this case it’s sumac.

Cotoner is a master of atmosphere, and in this book she doesn’t disappoint on that score. Even though the era, the history, the politics, the location were pretty much muddy waters for me, she writes so deftly and so immersively that it doesn’t matter. The book opens with a man working in his coffee house, and stopping a fight between two janissaries. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what a janissary  is, because it’s made clear in context, and there aren’t that many writers in the genre who can do that well with no info dumping at all.

The book is told mainly from Haluk’s point of view–the coffee shop owner–with forays into Aydin’s–and I particularly like how Cotoner doesn’t make the mistake of many books of this length, to dwell entirely on the charms of the love-interest, Aydin, and why Haluk loves him. No, in fact she whets my appetite with the way that coffee shops are considered to be hotbeds of sedition, and that coffee is thought to inflame the senses–and this simple drink is causing political unrest. True facts of course, but I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this very thorough researcher.

The wonderful detail grounds you entirely in time and place. I really felt as if I had been dropped into a time that I didn’t know exactly when it was, but I was standing there watching the customers, and seeing the bright colours, the copper trays, the smell of the coffee and the spices of the suk. The setting is play-like, as it mostly takes place in one or two rooms in the same location but this works well, and for the shortness of the story, helps the totally immersive feel.

The plot revolves around one simple point, but it’s well done, and had me wondering who Aydin really was. (In fact, I’ve taken the fact out of the blurb which spoils the little spot of suspense in the book)

The only problem I had was that I would have liked a little more of it, but that’s my problem, not a problem with the structure of the book.  I have no recourse but to give this short novel a well-deserved five stars.

Author’s Website

Buy from Torquere Press

Review: Silver-Silver Lining by Lucius Parhelion

In 1958 meteorologist Dr. Rob Lanard is in Las Vegas to observe the effects of the first nuclear test explosions on the weather. His boss on this job is Dr. Phillip Argent. The two men share more than just their boredom on the job; they are both pitching for the same team, so to speak.

It’s not the kind of thing men of their position dare get caught at, though, and Rob and Phillip must perform a careful dance, making sure they don’t say anything that could give them away. Can a surprise day off and a storm conspire to let them get together the way they’ve been wanting to?

Review by Sal Davis

As usual I’m starting with the cover. I don’t know who designed it and, frankly, I don’t want to. It tries, but it’s a mess and does the story no favours at all. Luckily, this is a novella that can shrug off an infelicitous cover, more than holding its own just on the power of the story and quality of the writing.

In 1958, at the height of the Cold War, men associated in any way with the nuclear programme could not afford to come under suspicion of any activity that might render them a security risk. Dr. Rob Lanard, the POV character, is all too aware of this and it is interesting to see him identify the watchers and to see the safeguards he has put in place to protect his secret. Intelligent, accomplished and an asset to the programme, he knows none of that would cut any ice if it was discovered that he was a homosexual. It also makes courting very edgy and one of the joys of the book is the careful way the two protagonists sound each other out in such a way that if the other is straight the feather light come on can be easily dismissed.

Today it seems ludicrous that two men, friends and colleagues, would not dare to be in the same hotel room, even for the most innocent of reasons, for fear of arousing suspicion. So it is very satisfying that they not only manage to establish that their interests run along the same lines, but manage that much needed ‘alone’ time. The sex scene is of the ‘we haven’t much time so let’s not mess about’ variety and works very well for the characters involved.

The style of writing is snappy and sharp with just enough period colour thrown in to give it some flavour without being overwhleming or feeling contrived. For instance mention is made of the newly published “The King Must Die” as a must read. There are also some phrases that are placed just so perfectly that I read them aloud for the pleasure of hearing them said.

For the most part, the text was clean and easy to read and I only spotted one editorial problem, where it looked as though a couple of lines had been copy pasted out of order but I suspect it was deliberate and just didn’t work too well. However, there is one thing that really irritated me and that was down to Torquere again. At the end of each chapter – and at 50 odd pages did it really NEED chapters? – there was a box that said [Back to Table Of Contents]. I was just really getting into the story, reading fast and accidentally touched the box at the end of chapter 2 and – yes – was sent back to the table of contents. Infuriating! And not really necessary with a short story. /rant

Parhelion, yes. A definite re-read and I’ll be looking for other works.

Author’s website

Buy from Torquere Press

4.5 *

Review: Pleasures with Rough Strife by JL Merrow

One chilly night just before Christmas in 1922, eighteen-year-old poacher Danny Costessey comes to regret his impulse to climb a tree to fetch some mistletoe for his mother when he falls, breaking his leg. He doesn’t expect his luck to change when he is found by the furious gamekeeper who’s long hated his family. However, when he is taken to the manor house, the reclusive owner, Philip Luccombe, takes an interest in Danny rather than condemning him for his actions, and it surprises them both when that interest turns into something more.

Review by Jean Cox

Pleasures With Rough Strife is a short (around 13000 words) novella, set in the early 1920′s, a world where the aftermath of both WWI and the Spanish flu are keenly felt and the traditional deliniation of role of master and servants has yet to disintegrate.

JL Merrow depicts the world well, with elegant prose and dialogue. Not for her the clunky references to current events in order to set the era. She writes simply, cleanly and effectively – an economy with words that other writers could take note of. I love the humour in her work and the little affectionate nudges towards other stories – the appearance in this one of a butler called Standish made me smile. The origins of some of the names amused me too; I believe the author hails from the Isle of Wight, so having a character called Luccombe was a neat touch. That’s the sort of thing this reader appreciates.

In such a short story, it’s hard to discuss the plot without major spoilers, so bear with me on the sparcity of detail. Daniel Costessey poaches on the local estate, to help support his widowed mother and siblings. Drayton (the gamekeeper and enemy of the Costissey family) finds him injured and unexpectedly takes him to the owner’s house to recover. Philip Luccombe has become a recluse, pining for a lost love and being protected by his staff, including the formidable butler Standish. Two of these characters find a relationship developing, a relationship that crosses more than just social boundaries.

Plus points:

Apart from the general quality of writing, the story moves along at a good pace, the characters are well drawn, and the setting appeals to those of us who love early twentieth century England, a time of loss and wistful remembrance. Fans of hurt and comfort based stories will not be disappointed.

The depiction of era is consistent (not always something to be found in historical fiction) and the pervading sense of Christmastide, hope in the darkness, works well.

Minus points:

The lack of structure; at novella length, the tale pans out in a series of short scenes, some of them very short. This led at times to a sense of the story being a bit too fractured.

It was also a touch predictable–I’ve read a number of JL Merrow’s stories and what I’ve appreciated is her ability to produce the unexpected (her wonderful story in I Do Two is a case in point). I kept waiting for that here and it didn’t happen.

For what it is–a seasonal short–Pleasures with Rough Strife is perfectly fine and as a historical romance it’s well written. I just wish it had shown some more of the trademark Merrow touches.

Author’s Website

Buy at Dreamspinner Press

Review: Over the Mountain of the Moon by Reiko Morgan

Tetsuya, a young male courtesan, is living a life of relative safety until an unknown samurai called Jin arrives on his doorstep, bringing passion and death. Awakened to the strange paths of destiny, Tetsuya chooses to leave the only place he has ever known to follow a samurai who is on a quest for vengeance. Their heels dogged at every turn by paid assassins, Tetsuya and Jin learn to trust each other as they discover hidden truths which may get them killed before their love has a chance to redeem them both.

Review by Sal Davis

The cover of this book is absolutely stunning, even in the black and white version I saw. It’s even better in colour. Deana C. Jamroz has done Reiko Morgan proud, illustrating a key scene in the book in a powerful and tasteful manner.

The character illustrated is Tetsuya, a male prostitute at the top of his profession. Beautiful and androgynous, he is a talented musician as well as being top class in the sack, and has reached the stage where he can pick and choose amongst the clients at the inn where he is employed, though not always wisely. He has a comfortable place to live, enough to eat, good friends amongst the other workers at the inn and in the town. But all that is turned upside down when he intervenes to save a young girl from a wandering soldier and is, in turn rescued by a samurai called Jin.

A day or two later Jin is imperilled and Tetsuya is able to return the favour, thus beginning a relationship that takes Tetsuya from everything he knows and setting them both on a long hard road to adventure and danger. Jin, naturally, is not what he seems, and Tetsuya is far more than the pretty boy for hire that he appears to be at the beginning of the book. That they are destined to be together is established almost immediately, and that their love for each other is unwavering is one of the main themes of the story. Most of the conflict is external, gleaned from plots concerning political manouvring and vengeance.

I know nothing – nothing at all – about early feudal Japan. I haven’t even read Shogun by James Clavell. So from an historical point of view I have no idea how accurate or inaccurate is the author’s depiction of the period. This is a bit of a pity because, as I read, I frequently found myself feeling that I was missing very important points. At other times I laughed at what I assumed to be irony, then wondered if it was supposed to be funny. I found Tetsuya’s girliness and helplessness irritating. That Jin had to spend so much time carrying him around and looking after him when they were in very real danger annoyed me rather than impressing me with his devotion. In short – I just don’t think I understand the tropes of this genre of novel. I have the feeling it’s edging into yaoi territory and the rules that I am used to with western style plotting no longer apply. I also had some problems with the style. There’s a lot of telling rather than showing. In fact I had to go back and check that the first couple of pages of the book were actually part of the story because they read far more like a prologue to give unfamiliar readers some background than a novel. Production values were good, but there are some awkwardly used words, and some very clunky phrasing here and there that the editor should have picked up on.

I honestly tried to like it but it was just too different right from the beginning for me to be able to get into the story. I think that if a reader is a fan of manga or anime they’ll probably have a whale of a time with it but for me – sorry, no, it’s not on the read again pile

Couldn’t find an author’s website

Buy from MLR

Review: Gladiators #1: House of Simeon by D J Manly

Gold was the unbeatable champion of the House of Simeon but after the gods foretell his death, his master refuses to put him into the arena again. Instead, he makes Gold his trainer, and uses his body for his own pleasure.

Gold wants nothing more than to fight again. It is all he knows, and he hates the fact that people think he is a coward, hiding behind his master. He longs for a death of glory in the arena, the only respectable way for a gladiator slave to leave this world.

Samson comes into Gold’s life unexpectedly. A slave with potential to rise through the ranks, but also the first man who has been able to rouse something inside of him he thought was dead.

Can Samson make Gold reveal his feelings, or will he remain the unattainable trainer who longs for a glorious death?

Review by Erastes

The trouble I found with this, that it was like reading an episode of the TV show Spartacus. Now, I don’t know when this was written, although it was published in 2010. It may have been written a long time before Spartacus hit our screens, but it’s unfortunate in that case for the author because so much of Spartacus is mirrored here. Gold is in the place of Oenameaus, the Doctore (trainer) in the show. He’s an ex-gladiator and his master doesn’t want him to fight any more and Gold resents that, just like the Doctore does. There’s a champion, and a possible up and coming champion. There’s a resentful son. In fact there’s much that’s derivative but in a way, that’s also to be expected. I don’t suppose ludi (the gladiator schools) were that different from each other.

The story, whilst familiar, isn’t bad. It’s certainly readable and if you like gladiator stories you’ll like this. It just didn’t sing for me.

Regarding the characters, Gold is one of these characters who EVERYONE in the world wants to shag. Obviously his fans from the arena, but his owner wants to shag him too, his owner’s wife ditto, the son, every single gladiator, the house servants, even rival gladiator owners. It gave the impression that he was of more use as a sex slave than a gladiator. And frankly, I couldn’t see what everyone saw in him. We are told he’s gorgeous, but other than his black hair and hugely muscled abs (yes, they get called abs, too) I couldn’t see the attraction. Yes, he’d get people who wanted to fuck him because he was a star (albeit waning) but he was a veritable iceberg and at least two of the other testosterone laden-cut-your-head-off-soon-as-look-at-you were sighing over their oatmeal in love with him. And as so often is the case, everyone (aside from the women) have homosexual tendencies, or are entirely homosexual.

Which leads me to the girly glads. The ones who show feelings seem altogether rather romantic for the setting they are in. I’m not saying relationships weren’t formed even in such horrible circumstances,but one particular gladiator spends more time swooning and hardening over his amore than he does actually worrying that he could be dead in a day or so. The love story wasn’t convincing, either. One moment Gold is all “I have no heart” and then he’s “I love him” and there really wasn’t enough interaction between the two to give this any kind of reality. Granted they had a couple of quick tumbles, but the communication between them both didn’t seem likely to have such passionate attachment. Your mileage may vary, I know.

There’s plenty of hot sweaty gladiator sex here, if that’s your bag, but my main problem with it is that most of it was rape. You might wave your finger at me and say “oh, surely, it’s only non-consensual isn’t it?” But no. Non con = rape and the fact that a slave submits to the abuse doesn’t change it from being wrong to being “Ok for titillation.” I didn’t like the rape scenes at all, and presented as erotica, I liked them even less. I suspect, having read the first section of Book 2, this is also going to be a big problem for me.  Present the full-blown rape penetrative scenes as veiled flashbacks and concentrate on the consensual stuff, specially in a romance. Save the other for mainstream fiction.

Rating “e-taboo”—I didn’t like this, because there’s nothing here that’s taboo. No-one’s shagging goats, or their sisters. Yes, there’s rape but others would call it non-con and say slave sex was not rape. But rating it taboo simply perpetrates the idea that gay sex is naughty and wrong. Need I go on?

Language – not bad. There’s no attempt, thank goodness to go and write it in translated Latin, like the Spartacus show, and the modern speech didn’t bother me all that much. But one or two instances did — e.g “I don’t know what makes him tick.” Really? What ticked in Roman times? I could gloss over a lot of the modern language, after all if we translated everyday speech from Roman times it would of course be colloquial, but if i’d been editing this, I would have suggested phrases that suited the time.

Talking of editing, it was pretty shoddy. Typing errors all over the place, e.g. trial for trail, Gracie at least 3 times for Gracia which made me chuckle—and homonyms such as discretely and discreetly being muddled. The POV needed a lot of tightening up, too as several chapters began in third person and then slipped into first which was disorienting and annoying.

But despite my catalogue of quibbles, it was very readable, and I read to the end, gripped by the story and worrying about the characters enough to enjoy the read in general. I’m looking forward to reading the next one despite the problems I know I’m going to have with it.

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