Mere Mortals, by Erastes
Orphaned Crispin Thorne has been taken as ward by Philip Smallwood, a man he’s never met, and is transplanted from his private school to Smallwood s house on an island on the beautiful but coldly remote, Horsey Mere in Norfolk. Upon his arrival, he finds that he’s not the only young man given a fresh start. Myles Graham, and Jude Middleton are there before him, and as their benefactor is away, they soon form alliances and friendships, as they speculate on why they ve been given this new life. Who is Philip Smallwood? Why has he given them such a fabulous new life? What secrets does the house hold and what is it that the Doctor seems to know? Trust acclaimed author Erastes to tell a moving story in the field of gay historical romance.
About the author: Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in the area where this book is based. Author of seven books and twenty short stories, this is her third full-length novel. A Lambda award finalist and keen lover of history, she began writing full-time after leaving the legal profession finding it stranger than any fiction.
Review by Gerry Burnie
When it comes to man-on-man, historical romance and adventure, the name Erastes invariably comes to the fore, and her latest creation, Mere Mortals [Lethe Press, March 23, 2011] is perhaps her best effort yet. It is in my mind, anyhow, and I’ve read and reviewed many of her novels and short stories in the past.
The first thing one notices about this novel is the subtlety with which the story unfolds, and the leisurely, measured pace that is so in keeping with a nineteenth-century theme. For example, the story opens with a coach ride through the countryside setting, and with this clever device the reader is invited aboard to see it for him/herself, i.e:
“There was nothing here to write about, or so it seemed. After so many years spent at school in the well manicured quadrangle and playing fields of Barton Hall, this new landscape seemed empty, untidy and bleak. A light mist covered the land as far as the horizon, little more than a thin vapour, but it was enough to drain all colour from the scene passing by the carriage window. I gave a wry smile. Colour that mainly consists of bleached dead reeds, brown ditches and brown muddy pools
“Since leaving Yarmouth the coach had travelled slowly north, following the coast road, such as it was. The coachman had warned us passengers that the roads were bad at this time of the year and he wasn’t wrong; more than once the three of us – for that’s all there was, travelling in the filthy weather – had to alight, braving the vicious biting wind to assist the coach out of one of the larger ruts we encountered. Even inside the coach with the curtains drawn, the wind sliced its way through any small gaps in the woodwork.”
Ergo, in one deft stroke the author sets the tone, the pace, the theme, as well as introducing the narrator and some of the characters. This is writing at a very high level of the craft—almost a textbook example—and it is why Erastes has earned the respect she enjoys.
Mere Mortals is very much a Gothic story with the requisite manor located on a bleak mere, secret passageways, sphinx like servants, and a handsome but mysterious master. All of them playing their parts delightfully, as do the three boys. There is tension, too; plenty of it. Tension that is velvet-wrapped in mystery. It permeates the atmosphere but never becomes blatant or oppressive until it surfaces near the end; when the secret of Bittern’s Reach is revealed.
If you are a fan of M/M romance, historical fiction or Gothic tales, all superbly written, then Mere Mortals is bound to please on all counts.
Be an alpha reader: Read an excerpt from my in-progress novel, The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia, an M/M light comedy and adventure tale, and add your comments at the bottom of this page, or email them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.