Gerry B's Book Reviews

Shining in the Sun, by Alex Beecroft

 

 

A superbly written coming-out story with some very clever, unique and original differences.

Story blurb: Damn it, a man shouldn’t always have to be afraid…

Alec Goodchilde has everything a man could want—except the freedom to be himself. Once a year, he motors down to an exclusive yacht club on the Cornish coast and takes the summer off from the trap that is his life.

When his car breaks down, leaving him stranded on the beach, he’s transfixed by the sight of a surfer dancing on the waves. The man is summer made flesh. Freedom wrapped up in one lithe package, dripping wet from the sea.

Once a year, Darren Stokes takes a break from his life of grinding overwork and appalling relatives, financing his holiday by picking up the first rich man to show an interest. This year, though, he’s cautious—last summer’s meal ticket turned out to be more pain than pleasure.

Even though Alec is so deep in the closet he doesn’t even admit he’s gay, Darren finds himself falling hard—until their idyllic night together is shattered by the blinding light of reality.

 About the author: Alex Beecroft was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the Peak District. Alex studied English and Philosophy before accepting employment with the Crown Court where she worked for a number of years. Now a stay-at-home mum and full time author, Alex lives with her husband and two daughters in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.

Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has lead a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800 year old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I love stories about British, upper middle-class characters. For one thing, they have a style that is both charmingly stodgy and dauntless at the same time. Never mind that that temerity is born out of a seemingly artless smugness because therein lies their charm. That said, author Alex Beecroft has captured this artlessness to perfection in her latest, 14-carat nugget, Shining in the Sun [Samhain Publishing, May 3, 2011]. Moreover, she has cleverly contrasted it against an artful beach-bum and petty hustler, so right there you know this is going to be a good read.

Ptolemy Alexander St. John-Goodchilde [you have to love that name] is the young bourgeois: very wealthy, very shy, and saddled with an over protective, domineering mother, and a devoted fiancé. Like every young entrepreneur, however, Alec (his preferred name) likes to get away from his family and the old stock portfolio to spend a month on his yacht, typically named The Lady Jane—a good, solid middle-class name.

Fate had other ideas, however, for when his expensive auto, a Morgan Roadsters, breaks down in a small seaside village he is unexpectedly encountered by a copper-haired surfer god, who—in Alec’s eyes—emerges from the sea like the male version of The Birth of Venus.

Darren is the product of a neglected childhood, abandoned by his father and raised by his grandmother, and as she is now ailing he is taking care of her. To make ends meet, so to speak, he sells his body to rich men with the justification that this is a reciprocal-type of love; they want his body and he wants their financial support.

I must mention here, as well, that Alec’s “chat-up” with Darren, on their first encounter, is one of the most original seduction scenes I have ever read. Alec is so painfully shy and inexperienced, and so unconsciously turned-on by this Coppertone Adonis, that he is pathetically charming about it—so much so that you want to hug him and say, “Just do your thing, baby”—which is what the author intended, I’m sure.

Which segues me into my next point. This is writing at a very sophisticated level. Fundamentally it reads effortlessly, the descriptions are evocative with a creative twist, and both the story line and pace flow along quite nicely. However what really stands out, without being obvious, is the control that makes it a clever story—as apposed to being clichéic; which, with this sort of a scenario could have been. Rather, the characters are complex because of their simplicity, as is the story line, and a happy ending seems only right to cap it off.

This is a superbly written coming-out story with some very clever, unique and original differences. Highly recommended. Five stars.

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Read an excerpt from Nor All Thy Tears by Gerry Burnie, scheduled for release in hardcopy and e-book formats, July 2011.

A bittersweet story of love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of big sky country, Saskatchewan.Sheldon Cartwright is a young, handsome and gifted politician with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career in ascendance as well, and given all this the sky seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad from rural Ontario.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the display of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end, male prostitute with a male lover—a hulking and psychopathically obsessive killer—who has recently been declared murdered when a body is found in his burned-out apartment.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime, and the stage is set for a political downfall in spite of Cartwright’s valiant efforts to salvage it.

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April 24, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2, by W.A. Hoffman

An inriguing era, colourful setting and endearing characters. Enthusiastically recommended.

 

 

 

 Story Blurb: Buccaneer adventure/romance. The second of a series chronicling the relationship between an emotionally wounded and disenchanted English lord and an insane and lonely French exile, set among the buccaneers of Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1667.

Publisher’s blurb: Part two of an epic four part “love story for men” set amongst the buccaneers of Port Royal during the infamous Henry Morgan raids. It is the story of the relationship between two lonely and scarred men as they attempt to find happiness and peace through love and friendship. With adventure and romance, this chronicle explores questions and themes of gender, sexual preference, societal acceptance of homosexuality, survival of childhood abuse, and how to build a lasting relationship in a world gone mad.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have been watching the Raised by Wolves series for quite a while, Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2 [Alien Perspective, 2007] by W.A. Hoffman is the first that I have read. To begin, I like the swashbuckling genre of buccaneers and pirates, and the romantic setting of the 17th-century Caribbean. Moreover, the author has done a fine job of describing both of these in colourful detail so that the reader becomes immersed in the story—the way a good historical-fiction should do.

And for those who enjoy character-driven tales, Will and Gaston’s are both engaging. Will is a romantic who lives and loves to the fullest. He’s also a keen observer of humanity, and seeks to understand the complexities of human nature, particularly when it comes to Gaston, who is the victim of a damaging past. In Gaston’s case it is not an easy quest, for he also suffers from a kind of madness that has been with him from birth.

It is here, however that the story suffers a debilitating set back. Will’s deeply held convictions regarding the human condition seem strangely anachronistic for 17th-century European thinking. After all, Europe was an exporter of human misery in the 17th-century, especially to the Caribbean. Moreover, as a previous reviewer has already pointed out, Gaston’s medical expertise seems anachronistically modern as well.

That said, Will and Gaston are still delightful characters, and perhaps even more endearing because of their very human foibles. Wills’ first person narrative also contributes to this, and adds some charming elements—such as saving a supporting character from being pressed only to find out that he doesn’t like him very well.

The secondary cast are all well-developed and interesting, too. The difficulty with introducing a large number of supporting characters is the risk of cluttering the story line, but here Hoffman has managed them all quite well, and made them all distinct as well.

An intriguing era, colourful setting and endearing characters, and altogether an enjoyable read. Enthusiastically recommended. Four stars.

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Chronicle the First Part 1: The Lost Boy (The Noricin Chronicles) by Mark Sheldon

A charming and witty tale

 

 

Story blurb: Dan Regal has always been alone, having been left on the steps of an orphanage when he was only a baby. He has never had any visitors, nor made any true friendships with the other children at the orphanage. Aside from this utter, inescapable aloneness, Dan Regal is an entirely normal, unremarkable young boy.

But all of that is about to change…

On Dan’s twelfth birthday, he receives a visit from a mysterious stranger, a man by the name of Nevar Loeren, who claims to be the Principal of a school for children with special gifts – and he says that Dan has the very gifts they seek. The mysterious Mr. Loeren then vanishes before Dan’s very eyes, leaving him to doubt his sanity. But this will not be the last young Dan sees of the enigmatic stranger. Little does Dan know it, but he is just about to find out that he is part of a world he never even dreamed to be possible – and that he is anything but alone in that world.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

At first blush Chronicle the First Part 1: The Lost Boy (The Noricin Chronicles) by Mark Sheldon [Mark Sheldon, 2011], is a hard story to categorize. It is, I understand, not intended for younger readers, and yet it is written in a style that would be more appropriate to such an age group. Even some of the characters’ have juvenile names, i.e. Tommy Tuttle.  So, superficially, one might be tempted to set it aside as being immature. On second thought, however, that would be at the cost of overlooking a very talented writer; a marvelously witty sense of humour; a charming story; and a fresh approach to adult reading.

Briefly, Daniel Regal has lived pretty much his entire life in an orphanage. He is an average boy in every respect, but on his 12th birthday he is attacked by the resident bully, Tommy Tuttle, and at the time he thinks how satisfying it would be if he could “just set Tommy on fire”. To his utter surprise, the bully is engulfed in a ball of flame.

He is next visited by a suave and mysterious man, Nevar Loeren, who tells him that he is far from average. In fact, he is a “Norcinite,” a group of people with special powers, and invites him to attend their school, Snisnar, to train him to control these powers. There he will learn to move objects with his mind, create protective shields, control his own thoughts and read the minds of others. Since he has few options in the world, and would have to submit to frequent episodes of mind control if he refuses to enroll, he eventually decides to go.

From there on in, his life is changed, and he develops a friendship with Mike and Shelley who become a triumvirate, a working team who care for each other.
However, At Snisnar Dan begins to have nightmares, and is in fact attacked on several occasions by an unseen enemy. Apparently, at one time, there was a group of Norcinites who believed they were superior to the lesser race of Commen (the Old Race), and wanted to eliminate these and those Norcinites who married Commen and their children—i.e. those who did not directly descend from Steven Noricin—the founder of Sisnar.

Key to getting to bottom of all this are some cryptic puzzles that Steven Noricin left behind, and knowing something of how Mark Sheldon’s thinking works—from postings on his Facebook page—I suspect there is quite a parallel between the two.

The quibbles I have are minor. Yes, I did find the story somewhat under developed at this stage, perhaps a bit rushed as well, but it is the first of a 12-part series, and I am sure it will gain depth as the other parts unfold.

Altogether I found it delightfully refreshing, and it took me back to when I sat in a fence corner of our family farm reading about wizards and villains. Enthusiastically recommended. Four stars.

News: I am currently rewriting Journey to Big Sky for re-release as Nor All Thy Tears: A Canadian M2M Romance. Scheduled for re-release in July 2011.

Two Irish Lads is being formatted in a Kindle version. Watch for a launch date.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | Fiction | Leave a comment

Silver Saddles: The Dakota Series #2, by Cap Iversen

A fun read.

 

 

 

This week’s review is rather short. After spending all day Thursday and Friday travelling back to Canada, I arrived home to find that technical reasons prevented me from getting online until a few hours ago. My apologies.

Publisher’s blurb: Dakota Taylor, the gay gunslinger, is back. Here, Dakota leaves his lover Bennie on the ranch for a short trip into town. But as he heads home, somebody tries to use him for target practice. Soon Dakota finds himself two hundred miles from Bennie, with no chance of returning until he finds out who wants him dead—and why.

Review by Gerry Burnie

Having read Arson: The Dakota Series by Cap Iversen, and enjoyed it, I then went on to find (not that easily done) Silver Saddles [Alyson Books, 1993].

In this tale, gunslinger Dakota Taylor is now happily partnered with Benjamin Colsen, whom he met in the first of the series, and all is well until he get’s the news that his mother has passed away at the family’s homestead. After hearing this news in town he is ambushed on his way home, and discovers that someone has posted a bounty for him, dead or alive. When he recovers from his injuries, he sets out on a nine-month odyssey to find out why someone would hate him enough to go to all this effort to see him dead.

To this point it is classic western fare, i.e. good guy v. bad guy(s), but then the author takes off on a flight of fancy that is both complex and incredible at times. It is the sort of thing that requires not only tight writing, but also tight control of the characters and events that are galloping all over the place. In this regard Iversen does quite well for the most part, and almost pulls it off…that is, almost.

Fundamentally, the story suffers from too many characters doing too many things, as well as a plot that is too clever-by-half. Still, having said that, if you read it as being a “let’s pretend the West was like that,” it is a fun read and an evening’s entertainment. Three and one-half stars.

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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