Review: Raised by Wolves 3. Treasure by W.A. Hoffman

Gay buccaneer historical adventure/romance. The third novel in a series chronicling the adventures of Will, a disenchanted English Lord, and his beloved matelot/partner, Gaston, an exiled Frenchman, set among the buccaneers of Port Royal, Jamaica, in the 1660s. In this volume, the men ponder the true definition of sanity and the necessity of compromise in the name of love while contending with the arrival of Gaston’s father, their potential inheritances, the political machinations of Will’s father, Henry Morgan’s ambition, a bounty upon their heads, unwanted brides, and an unexpected child.

Review by Sally Davis

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a Howard Pyle image on the cover of a novel about buccaneers! This 19th and early 20th century artist is responsible for a lot of our most enduring images of the period, his style being instantly recognisable. Very good choice.

I’m a big fan of the late 17th and early 18th century, a time when boundaries were being pushed in all kinds of interesting ways and the building blocks of modern thought were slowly and painstakingly being laid down. Great leaps were being made in science, politics, philosophy, medicine and man’s relationships with God. The buccaneers society of the 17th century was one of the more fascinating experiments, arriving at a form of democracy and satisfying emotional needs with formal same sex unions, and proving its worth over many decades. Any novel set in this era should make at least some attempt to address some of the above, but in additon, Hoffman takes a long hard look at how those unfortunate individuals suffering from mental illnesses were treated both in and out of society.

The amount of research that went into this novel is plainly to be seen. It is even written in a period appropriate style – the narrator’s voice and the descriptions of Will and Gaston’s life on Negril reminding me of Robinson Crusoe. I’m not familiar with ancient Port Royal but would lay money on the street names and distances between points being spot on. Ship names too and the over all progression of events on Morgan’s ramshackle expedition to Maracaibo were comfortingly familiar.

But this is fiction too. Will and Gaston, both noble, both emotionally damaged, one dangerously psychotic, tread a fine line as they attempt to negotiate with local government, other buccaneers, unwanted wives, much wanted babies, puppies, the sudden arrival of Gaston’s father and his interference in their affairs and the discovery that Will’s father, who appears even more psychotic than Gaston, has put a bounty on Gaston’s head. Add to that their involvement with Admiral Morgan’s expeditions and that’s a lot of plot to cover. It’s as well that this book is long – 550 pages.

Most of the first 400 pages are taken up with family matters, as described above. Will has an alcoholic and very pregnant wife, Will’s sister, Sarah, is pregnant, Gaston’s father wants a reconciliation and he also want Gaston to marry. All these stresses and strains need to be juggled without pushing Gaston into a violent episode of madness. A combination of love, laudanum, coercion, Platonic philosophy and BDSM is prescribed, to no avail, leading them to take ship to join Morgan for the last 150 pages.

There is a lot to like here but I struck an overwhelming snag – I just couldn’t warm to the narrator. I wanted very badly to like Will but I found him manipulative, reckless, smug and selfish. The personality fitted very well with the period and some of his attitudes, particularly his brutal contempt for women, rang very true. But he displayed little care for those he professed to love, even endangering Gaston. He knew he was putting them in danger, had plainly made a habit of it, but accepted their help as his due. Also, I found the continual discussions between the lovers, their adherents and enemies somewhat tedious. The reader is told huge amounts, some of the conversations go over the same ground time and again, and the action is crammed into little snapshots between. I feel that if the book had been red penned down to a tidy 400 pages with a bit more emphasis placed on buccaneering it would have been worth an excellent 4.5 stars. As it is, it’s good – 3 stars – but I feel no urge to read the 4th in the series. However, I will read the first, hoping that all the exciting military stuff happened in that one.

Author’s website

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New Titles added to The List

We apologise for the slight break in reviews, I’ve been unwell, and the other reviewers have been ill or busy in other ways, we’ll be resuming soon.

In the meantime, here’s a list of the titles added to The List in the last month.

Moffie by Andre Carl van der Merwe – 1970′s South Africa

The Men of Buckshot Ranch: Jay by Xondra Day – 1880’s Montana

The Egyptian Slave by Alcamia Payne – Ancient Egypt

 History’s Passions-Stories of Sex before Stonewall – Various

By Honor Betrayed by Alex Beecroft – Age of Sail

Half a Man by Scarlett Blackwell – post WW1

Gladiators 4: The Next Generation by M J Manly – Ancient Rome

The Russian Boy by Neil S Plakcy – 1912 Europe

Butterfly Dream by Dave Lara and Bud Grundy-WW2 concentration camp

Rendevous at the Palmeraie by Jay Starre – 18th Cent Marrakesh

Falling in Love with the Enemy by Katrina Miller – 19th century America

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse – 1960’s America

Christopher and his Kind – Christopher Isherwood – 1930s Berlin

The Gladiator’s Master by Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe – Ancient Rome

Leopards in the Garden by Nathaniel Burt – 1920 France

An Idol for Others – Gordon Merrick – WW2

Landscape Memory by Matthew Stadler 1914 San Francisco

Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade  Justin Spring

Lions and Shadows by Christopher Isherwood – 1920s

Quatrefoil  James Barr 1946 America

Valiant One by Jay Hughes – 13th century england

Review: The Lilac Tree by Marion Husband (short story)

The Lilac Tree is a short story included in Marion Husband’s short story collection “Six Little Deaths” dealing–as the title suggests with the subject of death.

The only gay historical story, The Lilac Tree, is a reminiscence of an elderly man–in a care home, or rented accommodation, being looked after by non-relatives who has nothing much but memories to bring any sunlight into his life. A child asks him an innocent question, and although the answer to that question is “no” it triggers bittersweet memories of a fleeting but intense first love with an officer in World War One.

Husband’s writing is always a delight to read, and this is no exception. It creates an atmosphere with the lightest of touches, says just enough and no more. We are taken from the old man’s life:

me, in my slippers and cake-crumbed cardigan

and transported, by the smell and sight of lilac, to that love affair, long long ago:

He waited for me beneath a lilac tree, the cigarette between his fingers sending its frail grey wisps of smoke to the pale blue sky.  He smoked cigarettes until there was nothing left of them except the stain on his fingers and when he kissed me the taste was pure tobacco.

For a short story it packs a punch, although one expects the sadness, it doesn’t make it any less poignant. The saddest part was the young man living his life and still remembering this as such a vivid memory. I wanted him to have more vibrant memories to erase it.

There are five other stories in the collection, and all are beautifully written, and for the price this is well worth getting and reading again and again.

Author’s website

Buy at  Amazon UK      Amazon USA

Review: A Devil’s Own Luck by Rowan McAllister

William Carey has played many roles in his thirty-two years of life. Though born to privilege, he fled his disapproving family and, purely out of spite, devoted himself to a life of danger and infamy. William never thought twice about his self-destructive behavior until he met a passionate woman who showed him how to harness his rebellious nature and return to London, his family, and society as a respectable gentleman of fortune.

But William’s beloved wife is six years gone, and with her his joie de vivre. William devotes his days to the pursuit of empty pleasure until the night William’s brother asks a small favor by which William meets a young man who ignites a spark in him he’d thought long extinguished.

Stephen is fiery and passionate, handsome and mysterious-exactly what a fallen devil needs to stir the ashes of his heart. Unwilling to lose that spark now that he has found it again, William devises a scheme to claim Stephen for his own, but Stephen is beyond reluctant, with another benefactor and secrets he will not share. William will need more than cunning to win Stephen’s trust and love. He’ll need all the luck he can get.

Review by Erastes

This had an interesting premise, if a little bit tropey—personal companion being “lent” by someone to the main protagonist in exchange for a debt/hate and loathing inevitably turn to lust and then lurve—but I found it hard to get past the opening chapters to find out this much.

The opening I found very stodgy, and the exposition was hard going as it was almost entirely exposition. The beginning chapter was a bit bloated and made the mistake so many books do of explaining so much about the protagonist in one lump instead of just Getting On With The Story. We are told so much and not shown it, when the first section of infodump could have been handled with just one conversation between the rakish William and his pompous brother Horace. In fact it was a good 11 Kindle pages (hard to tell with ebooks!) before a fact popped up to make this possible a different kettle of fish to so many stories set in London 1820.

Sadly, the first chapter goes on in this vein, telling us so much that I began to find it rather tedious. We are told about William’s wife, Williams’ “secret house (which bizarrely he lets his brother’s carriage drive him to) where also bizarrely his his servants, Stubbs and his wife, live and then, when the second chapter opens, he’s at the opera and we missed out on the Stubbs interaction!

The second chapter doesn’t open any more promisingly. We are told how he had

“regretfully informed each of them (three women of easy virtue nicknamed the merry widows) that he had family matters to attend to, they had whispered promises in his ears and ghosted fingers across his body at every possible opportunity.”

This all would have been better as showing. Added to the fact that William has—when entirely alone and: in order:

Chuckled to himself
gave a small wicked smile
Shivered in mock revulsion
Gave a self satisfied grin
Shook his head
Stroked his chin
Shuddered
Smiled sadly
Shuddered (again)
Grinned a little (in a graveyard)
Grimaced (again)
Groaned and adjusted himself
Smiled in spite of his discomfort
Grimaced in distaste (again!)

I seriously fear for his sanity—or his safety because anyone spotting him GURNING the way he is would consider him possessed. All this in just over one chapter. I wish authors would use their observation and see how people behave when they are alone. They don’t groan, smile, grimace etc etc. Not normally, at least and this just makes him look like a loony.

Then when he does seek out the man he wants to get some letters back from – guess what? There’s oodles of more DESCRIPTION. I can honestly say that by this point I was screaming at the book, wanting some actual showing, a conversation – anything. Not just page after page of description. In fact the entire scene of him arriving at the club and seeing his quarry, all of this is dealt with in description. It’s just too much.

However, when eventually something starts to happen it turns into a solid readable erotic romance which I’m sure that readers of the genre will like–and it does improve so much I’m kind of wondering how the beginning wasn’t clubbed by the editor.

The main protagonist, William, is just the kind of hero I like, a bit morally ambiguous, with a dark past who is street savvy and has feet in society and the mean streets. I didn’t mind the instant-love reaction he has to Stephen, because he’s been alone, playing the dissolute loner, for a long time since he lost his much-beloved wife. Despite the stodgy start, I found myself eventually really wishing him well and 80% through the book actually worrying how this would be achieved, despite knowing that it would.

Stephen could have been presented as a weepy wailing omega, but he isn’t. He’s fiesty, angry and prickly–William calls him his hedgehog and prefers him prickly to anything else.

There’s secrets which are (quite rightly) not revealed until the end, and by that point I was totally enjoying the book.

Technically there were a few issues, the editing isn’t top notch, American boo-boos here and there like “block” and “whiskey” and “gotten” but I have to say that despite the doughy beginning I enjoyed reading this and if you like a very erotic gay Regency, you’ll like this a lot.

Details about Rowan McAllister

Buy at: Dreamspinner Press

Review: Midnight Dude by Various

18 wonderful stories by 18 talented authors. A cornucopia of gay themed short fiction and a showcase of the talent of the authors at AwesomeDude. Most of these stories were written specially for this anthology, whilst just a few are favorites from the site. There is something for everyone: from fantasy and stark realism, to War stories and sports, humor and pathos, angst and passion. (the review refers only to the two historical short stories within the anthology)

Review by Jean Cox
“Midnight Dude: Selected Readings” is an anthology of stories, two of which are historical.

“Some Enchanted Evening” by Tragic Rabbit: A love story to die for. Set in a decaying country house this intense and atmospheric story will pull the reader into a world of the liminal.

“A Flower In France” by Bruin Fisher: War’s brutality and how that can touch those who experience it is graphically illustrated in this moving story.

I’d read Bruin Fisher’s contribution to “I Do Two” and enjoyed it greatly, so was looking forward to this one. “A Flower in France” tells the story of an English Tommy who finds an unexpected sympathy for and empathy with one of the enemy, against the backdrop of WWI trench warfare.

On the positive side it illustrates the author’s variety; the light hearted tone of “Work Experience” is here replaced by serious notes for a serious subject. The hero, Godfrey, is complex and interesting—I wanted to find out a lot more about him—and his wonderful pragmatism shines through. He’s typical of the wartime generation who just got on with things without grumbling. There are scenes of great power and great tenderness in this tale and some particularly powerful images.

On the negative side, the story could have been three times as long; the development, especially of the post war scenes, felt rushed. I kept thinking there was a novella length (at least) story to be told, with the WWI part as the prelude.

Bruin Fisher can write very well—I’d like to see him really develop a longer story.

“Some Enchanted Evening” is set in both early and mid twentieth century America. The author, Tragic Rabbit, has an elegantly descriptive style; the prose was absolutely breathtaking at times, which is in keeping with a story that feels more like a fairy tale than the average gay historical short. The ghostly aspect of the second half of the tale adds to the air of mystery.

Christian’s slow awakening to his feelings in 1910 is contrasted with that of Thomas in 1962, observed by Christian’s spirit. The interaction between ghost and human, which could risk appearing absurd, is well depicted, as is (generally) the contrast between the two eras and the similarity of the young men’s experience.

This is such an unusual story I can forgive the overabundance of contemporary references (brand names, chart songs) for the 1962 segment, which contrasts with a lack of the same sort of references for the earlier segment. However, like “A Flower in France”, “Some Enchanted Evening” rushes to its conclusion; the ending would have been better had it been at the same pace as the rest of the story.

Overall, I came away with the feeling that both of these would have benefitted from a harder copy edit, which could have transformed a pair of good stories into excellent ones.

The issue with both stories’ endings might have pulled the final star rating down, but the overall quality of the writing (and the fact the anthology contains at least one non-historical story which alone would justify reading the book) deserves four stars.

Awesome Dude Website

Buy the book

Review: Most Wanted by Barbara Sheridan (short story)

 

 

1894: Boston born and bred Tim Dwyer doesn’t relish the thought of giving up Eastern comforts for life in the rough-and-tumble West. But when he finds himself with with no job, little money, and no place else to go, he accepts a position at his cousin’s weekly newspaper in the Indian Territory. When his cousin and his new editor cook up a roving reporter assignment, Tim learns that spending a mere week in the life of U.S. Deputy Marshal Jon Sauvage won’t ever be enough to satisfy his needs.

Choctaw lawman "Savage Jon" Sauvage has spent his entire adult life content with chasing wanted men and taking his pleasures wherever and however he can. But once he’s roped into letting a big city reporter tag along with him on a manhunt, Jon soon suspects that Tim Dwyer might just capture his heart.

Review by Sally Davis

Another nice package from Dreamspinner. Not sure I mean that quite the way it sounds. I’m a big fan of covers that do more than say ‘oh hi, look, nude males, this means it’s m/m :)’ and this one does that, establishing a Wild West theme and that one of the main characters is a lawman with a nicely posed model. Another nice touch is that the background seems to be area appropriate tall grass prairie too so here’s a yay for cover artist Catt Ford.

The story is quite short – 40 pages – so it’s no real surprise that the blurb is, more or less, the entirety of the romance plot. But the interest is in the little details – the contrast between John’s life in Arkansas and Tim’s in Boston and the way the two are brought together.

John is the archetypal strong and dependable type, valued for his abilities and trusted in the local community despite his Native American heritage. He is usually very discreet about his inclinations – the one time he gives into temptation becomes a major plot point. Tim is small and artistic and, frankly, a little girly. He is not welcome in his family home and is now homeless following a falling out with his sugar daddy. His classy aunt and her chief surgeon husband invite him to join them and their children at a family celebration in the town where John lives.  From the moment Tim and John lock eyes at the railway station, their fates are sealed!

I enjoyed the story, but with some reservations. For a start, in some places the story read very much like a sequel with references to incidents that seemed as though they should be important plot points but that weren’t strictly anything to do with the story. Also, society seemed to be astonishingly liberal. I know that the Choctaws were one of the Five Civilised Tribes and that they had a history of intermarrying with settlers, but I was a little surprised at how completely John and Tim’s cousin Star both seemed to be accepted by the people in their town and by the posh folk from back East. I think it’s great to have stories with a greater ethnic diversity and for all I know the people in those days were a lot less lacking in prejudice than I anticipated, but it didn’t strike true to me that nobody in the story seemed the least bit concerned. However this was a short story about the beginning of a relationship between two very different characters so perhaps it was wise to concentrate on the difficulties involved for gay men rather than complicating matters by trying to address the issues faced by interracial couples as well.

As a short sweet romance it works quite well but I don’t think it will be one to read again.

Author’s website

Buy From Dreamspinner

Review: Beloved Pilgrim by Nan Hawthorne

Not content with a life as a passive and powerless noblewoman, a young Bavarian woman dons her late twin brother’s armor and weapons and sets out to join the disastrous Crusade of 1101. She is able to pass as a young man because, as she observes to her squire, who was also her brother’s lover, “People see what they expect to see.” She learns two things on her journey, that honor is not always where you expect to find it and that true love can come in the form of another woman
Review by Yakalskovich
A book about lesbian crusaders — that sounds either like some bizarre sexploitation premise, or a massive dose of historically incorrect strangeness. Still, once I started reading this book, I found that Nan Hawthorne made it work quite brilliantly.
Elisabeth von Winterkirche is a young noblewoman living in Bavaria around the year 1100. Owing to a series of rather tragic circumstances, she runs away from home in her dead twin brother’s armour, with her brother’s former lover as her squire. Only the squire, Albrecht, know her secret. Wanting to fulfill her brother’s vow and to find their father who had joined the First Crusade, she joins a number of latecomers to the crusade assembling fist at the Melk monastery, then in Bologna in northern Italy.
Albrecht and Elisabeth — who goes by her brother’s name, Elias — join up with a number of other crusaders and pilgrims whom they will stick will, or meet again, during their entire journey. This journey turns into a journey of self-discovery for Elisabeth, from her first infatuation through the discovery of sexual pleasure to true love. Other than her lovers, she keeps her secret from everybody, taking to the knightly life like a fish to water. After a brief if lovely respite in Constantinople, the crusaders depart for the Anatolian highlands, to fight free a direct overland route to the Holy Land through the Turk occupied territories…
This book is filled with historical detail and characters that we really learn to care about. There are three problems, however, that keep me from giving it the full five stars. For one thing, Hawthorne gets many of the German names wrong; she should have asked a native speaker whether these work as place names or surnames. Unfortunately, many don’t, which made me laugh in places where I shouldn’t have.
Then, there is a very slight undercurrent of OK HOMO in the development of the main characters. They keep happening on people who keep telling them that love is love and a good gift from God, no matter what the circumstances, which would have been deeply heretic at the time, to put it mildly. Acceptance and self-acceptance comes a tad too easy to the protagonists. And lastly, there is a problem with the POV. We normally stick strictly with Elisabeth, apart from a few surprise moments when we do not. These moments increase in frequency and length after the crusaders leave for Anatolia; during the campaign and battles, we often see events from a vague third person omniscient POV in which we observe the commanders talking, whole armies moving, and strategies explained with nary a sight of Elisabeth for several pages. Also, a map would be really helpful at times.
Still, despite these little weaknesses, it is a lovely book that I enjoyed very much which makes me look forward to a potential sequel. Plot lines have been left dangling that the reader still cares about — what happened with Elisabeth’s father? Will any of them ever actually reach Jerusalem? Will they return to Bavaria and oust the usurper from the castle? This calls for a second book; and the author’s web side reassures us that it is in the works.-
Author’s website: http://www.nanhawthorne.com/

Historical Call For Submissions – Riptide Publishing

Riptide Publishing

Warriors of Rome

Help us launch our Historical Warriors line with gay and trans stories about warriors during the time of the Roman Empire. Stories can focus on Rome (from the Eternal City to its provinces), or on Rome’s enemies. Explore barracks life with Roman legionaries and their officers, or follow Germanic tribes and Gauls as they rise up against the invaders. Let us fight alongside the Persians and Carthaginians, or join forces as auxiliaries and allies with the glory of Rome.

Of course, soldiers weren’t the only ones to take up arms. Gladiators fought and often died for the entertainment of the masses. So too did slaves to earn their freedom, and simple farmers to protect their land against the Roman invaders. We’d love to hear their stories, as well.

We’re seeking historicals for this call, which means research is crucial. Our editors will only select stories that are faithful to the period in which they are set. If you use paranormal elements or magical realism, be sure they fit into the time period; conquerors and conquerees alike have their superstitions, of course, and we welcome those elements as secondary—but not primary—foci in your submissions. All levels of eroticism are welcome and erotic content is encouraged, but sex is no substitute for the plot, character, and worldbuilding we’re seeking for this call.

Length: 25,000 to 35,000 words -OR- 50,000+ words
Genres: Historical (some supernatural elements allowed)
Heat Levels: Any
Ending: Any
Orientation: Gay or trans
Submissions Due: May 15, 2012
Acceptance Letters Sent By: July 1, 2012 for novellas, July 15, 2012 for novels
Anticipated Release Date: December 2012

Submission Instructions

All manuscripts should be complete, and edited and polished to the best of your ability. Please send the following submission package to submissions@riptidepublishing.com:

  • A query letter containing the title, genre(s), word count, and orientation of your story; a one- to two-paragraph “sales pitch” (like the blurbs you see on the back cover of a book); and a brief history of your publication, if any.
  • A two- to three-page synopsis of your story from start to finish. Do not leave out the ending!
  • Your completed manuscript.

Please paste the query letter directly into your email, and attach the synopsis and manuscript as .rtf files. We have no specific formatting requirements, but please be sensible and remember that if the editor has a hard time reading your submission, he or she simply won’t.

You’ll receive an automated email confirming our receipt of your submission. Due to the large volume of submissions anticipated, we regret to say rejections cannot be personalized. If your story is rejected, please do not write the editor asking why; such emails will not be answered.

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