Gerry B's Book Reviews

Frost Fair – “Erastes”

Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing 

Five stars

In 1814, the River Thames froze solid in one of the coldest winters on record; tradesmen and society all flocked to the Frost Fair – the last ever to be held on the ice. Against this chilly backdrop, the printer, engraver and fiercely independent Gideon Frost struggles; not only to keep his business afloat, selling his body to men when he must, but also to hide his growing attraction to a wealthy customer: the gentleman Joshua Redfern. Redfern is a man out of Gideon’s class and very much out of his reach. When disaster strikes, Gideon is forced to make a decision which will affect his future: will he choose love, or independence? Frost Fair evokes a bitterly cold London winter as Gideon tries to find the heat of love in his heart and his life. Written by Erastes, author of the widely acclaimed “Standish” and “Trangressions”, the latter the first in a new line of m/m historical romances published by Running Press.

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A definite read for those who enjoy well researched, and well-written historical fiction, romance and a gay perspective. 

Review by Gerry Burnie 

“Frost Fair” by noted author ‘Erastes’ (Cheyenne Publishing, 2009) is a love story set against the backdrop of Dickensian London and the frozen Thames River, in 1814. This intriguing setting includes a carnival on ice, described by diarist John Evelyn as a “bacchanalian triumph,” thus completing the atmosphere for a superb, period romance. Moreover, Erastes populates this ‘unique happening’ with a fascinating array of characters: a handsome, honest tradesman; a kindly and loving patron; and a glib, wealthy cad. 

Fiercely Independent tradesman, Gideon Frost, is a talented lithographer and printer struggling to make ends meet (no pun intended), even if this means occasionally selling his body in the courtyard of the venerable old St. Paul’s Cathedral—an interesting and historically accurate juxtaposition—and the equally intriguing street called “Lad Lane.” Beset by bill collectors, Gideon receives a lucrative commission from a wealthy gentleman-of-leisure, Joshua Redfern, who is secretly enamoured by this beautiful, young artisan. Unknown to Redfern, Gideon is equally smitten by him as well. Meanwhile, as a result of a “Little Ice Age” (c. 1770-1800), the Thames River froze solid to the delight of tradesmen eager to make a pound-or-two—Gideon included. It also attracted the curious of all classes, including one, Finbarr Thouless. 

Now, one of the solid pluses of this novela is the well-developed cast of characters, and Finbarr Thouless is no exception. Delightfully ‘slithery,’ he is portrayed as a two-faced, self-centred, foppish cad with a vitriolic vengeful streak. Moreover, given the fact that he exercises considerable sway over Redfern, it does not bode well for him and Gideon. I hasten to add that there is nothing formulaic about this story, for it offers several twists right up to the ending; which is both surprising and gratifying at the same time. That, however, is for the reader to discover for him or herself. 

Of particular interest to me, as a writer of historical fiction, is the authentic depiction of the ‘frost fair.’  This rare occurrence first came to my knowledge through Helen Humphries (“Frozen Thames”), who dramatized this phenomenon with colourful vignettes—including accounts of birds falling from the air cocooned in a coating of ice. Therefore, from my point of view a bit more descriptive elaboration would not have gone amiss. However, the story does move along delightfully with no unnecessary dawdling, whatsoever. 

Not to be overlooked, either, is the stunning front cover art by Alex Beecroft—herself ‘no slouch’ as a writer. Coincidentally, my next scheduled review will focus on her novel “Captain’s Surrender.” 

“Frost Fair” is a definite read for those who enjoy well researched, and well-written historical fiction, romance and a gay perspective.

January 25, 2010 - Posted by | Gay historical fiction

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