Speak Its Name’s Best of the Year 2011

It’s been a bumper year for gay historicals, so much so that I’ve struggled to keep up with the reviews, and if it wasn’t for my small band of helpers, and Gerry Burnie who lets me crosspost some of his reviews I’d be in serious trouble. More books come out each year than I can ever review, and then add to that the back-list of books that need a review…

Anyway, things are rosy for the genre, and that’s great. More authors are trying the genre for the first time and those who try it often stick around and try it more than once.

Our “best of 2011″ picks are books that have been read and reviewed, not just books that came out in 2011. They are taken from the very small list of books that merited our Five Star rating. 

The awards are purely subjective and you may not agree. That’s not a problem, please comment and let me know your favourites that you’ve read this year.

Speak Its Name’s Best Book of the Year

Resoundingly goes to Captain Harding’s Six Day War by Elliott Mackle. Atmospheric, real, with great characters, politic and complicated plot all of which is left closed enough for us to be satisfied but open enough to call for a sequel which I’ve been told is being written. If you buy one book in January, make it this one.

Honorable Mentions go to:

The Case of the Porcelain Dog by Jess Faraday;

and

Suffer the Little Children by Tracy Rowan

Speak Its Name’s Best Cover of the Year

This was a very tough decision because the covers this year weren’t anywhere near as good as they had been in previous years. Covers overall are improving–there is less man titty on display with historicals than once there used to be–and some covers even have clothing that’s relevant to the story. However this year there was little that really stood out, although there were many “good” ones such as “Bless Us With Content” by Tinnean, “The Station” by Keira Andrews – many were generically romantic. There were some real stinkers too. I think Loose-ID came out best this year, and unsurprisingly, Torquere came out worst.

I’m going to have to do something I hated the idea of doing and that’s putting my book Mere Mortals up for best cover. I think that it’s not as bad as putting it up for best book, because the cover was entirely done by someone else–Ben Baldwin–and other than describing the characters I had no input into what he came up with. For me a cover has to tantalise and really want me to know what that cover is hinting at. Just a handsome couple of men before the background of Big Ben (or something else historical to ground it) doesn’t do that for me. Once you had read Mere Mortals you could see the entire book in the cover, but before you had read it, it was just a delicious mystery. I think with the atmospheric moodiness, the historical accurate colours and decoration of the room–it really is a stand out cover and I’m very proud to have work by this artist.

Honourable Mentions:

Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
(Cover design by Base Art Co.
Cover photograph by Jonas Jungblut.
Author photo© Rick Lieder.)

Eromenos by Melanie McDonald (artist: Megan Chapman)

According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux (artist: Anne Cain)

The Station by Kiera Andrews (artist: April Martinez)

Lion of Kent by Aleksandr Voinov and Kate Cotoner (artist: Angela Waters)

Well done to all the artists, you have helped raise the standard of historical covers, and writers–you could do worse than commission one of these artists for your book.

Speak Its Name’s Best Author of the Year

I think that accolade has to go to Tamara Allen. She may not be the most prolific of writers but I’ve read two of hers this year–The Only Gold and If It Ain’t Love and was hugely impressed by both of them. More power to your pen, Ms Allen and I look forward to what you come up with next.

Reviewers’ favourites

I asked our reviewers to name their favourites–and here’s what they came up with. Note that they aren’t all “released this year” but “read this year.”

Sally Davis:

This is quite a difficult question because I’ve read some fabulous stories over the last 10 months or so. Alex, Donald Hardy, Lee Rowan, Erastes and Charlie have made my reading so much more enjoyable.
However, out of all the books I reviewed The Only Gold by Tamara Allen was the book I read where I was smiling almost all the way through it. It pressed all my buttons – enough historical detail to satisfy without it getting in the way of the plot OR being overwhelmed by the m/m romanciness, engaging heroes, women who were not cardboard cutout viragos and extremes of danger met with gallantry, just lovely. I have read other books I enjoyed almost as much but I think Allen has the edge when it comes to taking actual historical events and making a damn good story out of them.
Jess Faraday:
Of the books I reviewed, these are the ones I’d recommend highest.
Nan Hawthorne

1.  Lessons in Love, by Charlie Cochrane
2.  Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, by Diana Gabaldon
3.  City of Lovely Brothers, by Anel Viz
4.  Counterpoint, by Ruth Sims
5.  An East Wind Blowing, by Mel Keegan

I wish I had had seven.. but so be it.

And finally, the Speak Its Name Readers’ Choice Award which was done by Poll (here) so you can see the results were fair.
The Winner was Charlie Cochrane with her last Cambridge Fellows book “All Lessons Learned.” Well done, toots.
A Happy New Year to all the readers of the blog–thank you for supporting, for commenting and for buying the books. Let’s hope 2012 is even better.

13 Responses

  1. those covers are gorgeous — and now I have a new list of TBR books. . .

  2. Credit where more credit is due. Ben Baldwin also created the cover art for “Captain Harding’s Six-Day War.” Toby Johnson designed the book itself. Lethe Press’s Steve Berman acquired and published it.

  3. Congratulations to everyone, and so very well deserved. I am humbled and honored to have competed with all of you.

  4. Cor.My flabber she is gasted.

    Well done to all the winners (including the stunning cover art for your book!).

    • Chartlie, this is so richly deserved.. you know how I feel about Jonty and orlando andd this book was simply astounding.

  5. Aww, and after I was all kinds of cranky on Twitter this morning. You all are so nice. Thank you, Erastes, Sal, and everyone. There’s no bigger compliment or reassurance than to be thought of as good when you are up against the best in your genre. It makes me strive all the harder to keep up with you guys.:D

  6. You convinced me! Elliott has a new reader, now. Thanks for all the hard work you do, and all the interesting reveiws you produce. All the best for 2012.

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