Gerry B's Book Reviews

Secrets of Lake Simcoe: Fascinating Stories From Ontario’s Past, by Andrew Hind & Maria Da Silva

This is Canadian history that needs to be preserved as part of our culture and heritage. Three stars.

Blurb: A lively book illustrated with archival photos, Secrets of Lake Simcoe is a valuable addition to local history collections and provides a refreshing way for anyone to view what some consider to be Canada’s sixth Great Lake. At the heart of central Ontario, Lake Simcoe has played an important role in the province’s history for hundreds of years. Today a popular destination for pleasure-seekers and cottagers, it helped open up the region to explorers and fur traders, settlers and entrepreneurs. The lake has secrets aplenty and this book offers a selection of stories of dramatic episodes from the lake’s past. There are shipwrecks, stately resorts, vanished industries, forgotten forts and even murder most foul.

About the authors: MARIA DA SILVA has always had a passion for history and ghost stories. ANDREW HIND is a freelance writer who lives in Bradford, Ontario. They are co-authors of several other titles in the Amazing Stories series, most recently Rebels Against Tories in Upper Canada 1837.


Review by Gerry Burnie

*This is not a GLBT book.

Having grown up and spent most of my entire seventy-three years around Lake Simcoe, Secrets of Lake Simcoe: Fascinating Stories From Ontario’s Past by Andrew Hind and Maria Da Silva touches a nostalgic part of my heart.

As the authors point out, Lake Simcoe is an ancient lake—being the remnant of a giant inland sea that once covered the area—it has figured into nearly every aspect of eastern Canada’s history; from Pre-European times to the present. It is also known worldwide as a tourist destination for vacationers and anglers—being dubbed the “Ice Fishing Capital of the World.”

In an attempt to make it more palatable for the average reader, Hind a Da Silva have taken an anecdotal approach to the history; an approach I agree with to a certain point [a discussion on this point later]. They have therefore avoided the “great blight of academia” by giving the characters and events some personality and colour. History, after all, isn’t merely the dusty facts, figure and dates that most scholars would have us believe. Moreover, even the all-too-often named players (kings, politicians, generals and such) had some interesting quirks about them.[1] For example, John A. MacDonald had the parliamentary pages all trained to bring him a tumbler full of gin in the House of Commons, because it most resembled water.


And now to the book: There are fourteen different topics covered, in more-or-less chronological order, from “Fort Willow and the Nine Mile Portage,” c.1812, to “The Briars Resort and Spa, 1977.[2] Fort Willow was a revelation to me. I am well acquainted with the official version of the 1812 war, of course, but not the part that gravitated north to Georgian Bay. So for day-trippers this fort may make an interesting outing—see Secrets of Lake Simcoe for the location.

The Ghost Canal” might also prove interesting for folks visiting the Newmarket-Holland Landing area, where the evidence of this canal is still quite visible. It would be a great way to get the kids interested in history, and Ontario history in particular.

Not all Victorian characters were paragons of virtue (not even the Old Queen herself), and “A Real Rogue: Joseph Anderton” was a prime example of roguery. Moreover, he was also the (now) City of Barrie’s first mayor, and so you can draw your own conclusions on that. Oh, and like modern politicians, he got away with it.

And then, there is “Murder Most Foul in Morning Glory.” As I mentioned above, anecdotal history is fine provided that the facts are more-or-less correct. However, in reference to the so-called “Morning Glory murders,” I take issue with some of the stated facts.

To state my case, my great grandfather, James Burnie, owned and operated the Morning Glory Inn from c.1863 to c.1870. In fact, my grandfather, Alfred Burnie, was born at the Inn in 1869. William Sager acquired it after this, and only operated it until is burned c.1872-73. From childhood discussions with my grandfather, prior to his death in 1949, I was aware of the “murders” well before the discovery of the bones in 1971.[3] Moreover, his version of the couple’s disappearance was very different from the one related here. However, that is perhaps understandable since both versions are based on hearsay.

Apart from the foregoing, to the best of my knowledge there was never a “hamlet” named Morning Glory in the area. Certainly there is none marked on the attached map dated c. 1878[4] [see map]. The property surrounding the Morning Glory Inn was a formidable swamp; the properties to the west and south were all farmlands, and there were no “businesses” per se—in particular no “general store” or “a sawmill situated on the nearby creek.” There was a brick yard near Virginia, but it was operated by A.E. “Ted” Arnold.

Unfortunately this lowers the book’s rating from a four or five-star classification to a three, but I still want to recommend this collection of historical anecdotes for the rest of it. This is Canadian history that needs to be preserved as part of our culture and heritage. Three stars.

[1] See my discussion “Canada has a colourful and interesting history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered,”

[2] The Briars estate was originally built in 1840, but the resort and spa dates from 1970s.

[3] I was privileged to see the bones before they were sent to Toronto, and what I recall is that the man’s femur bone came well above my knee. Ergo he must have been an exceptionally tall man.

[4] Illustrated Historical Atlas of York County, Toronto: Miles and Co., 1878.


The manuscript for Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky goes to the publisher Monday. It has been three years in the making, and so it is a very satisfying time indeed. It has also taken me about ten years to learn how to create a composite photo using Photoshop. The cover design to the left is the result. The publisher was originally scheduled to design the cover, but I was concerned that their image of the main characters might not be the same as mine. These two lads are as close as I could come using stock photos. They were acquired from CanStock, which has the best collection I have found to date. The book should be ready for lat July, 2011.

Two Irish Lads is also scheduled to be released in e-book format in July. Amazon has quoted me a price of $350 – $375 to convert the ms to Kindle format. Why, I don`t know. It`s their exclusive format, and so it means more sales for them. However, Maple Creek Media has a price of $149 which includes a Nook formating as well. It also includes sumitting the finished product to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They also have a very good publishing offer, so you might be interested in checking them out.

Visitor count to Gerry B`s Book Reviews: 11,459

June 26, 2011 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Historical period, Military history, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Vagabond Heart, by A.J. Llewellyn

A fascinating step back in time to war-time Hawaii

Blurb: Gay prostitute Tinder McCartney thought he had it made in WWII Honolulu…until true love and an attack on Pearl Harbor turned his life upside down.

Tinder McCartney is the only gay male prostitute working in Honolulu, HI during World War II. Like the 200 female prostitutes who live and work on Hotel Street, he services the armed forces drifting in and out of the islands. His life and work are controlled by the local police, yet because the cops don’t think that there can be that many ‘depraved’ men wanting the comfort of another man, Tinder is not only busy, but often in danger.

Living by very strict rules enforced by the police, Tinder cannot own or drive a car or bicycle, can’t ride street cars or be seen in the company of other men. He can’t visit bars or restaurants or swim at Waikiki Beach. Savagely attacked by two men one night, he is rescued by a local businessman, Jason Qui, the son of a Chinese immigrant and a former New England missionary.

Jason is not Tinder’s usual type. But Jason offers to protect and house him. It seems like the ideal business arrangement until Tinder’s Vagabond Heart can no longer handle the arrangement… and then on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbour is attacked, turning the entire world upside down.

Available in e-book format from Total E-Bound Publishers, and in Kindle format.

About the author: A.J. Llewellyn lives in California, but dreams of living in Hawaii. Frequent trips to all the islands, bags of Kona coffee in the fridge and a healthy collection of Hawaiian records keep him refueled.

A.J’s passion for the islands led to him writing a play about the last ruling monarch of Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani. He has written a non-erotic novel about the overthrow of her kingdom written in diary form from her maid’s point of view.

He never lacks inspiration for his male/male erotic romances and has to pry his fingers from the computer keyboard to pursue his other passions: collecting books on Hawaii, surfing and spending time with his friends and his animal companions.

A.J. Llewellyn believes that love is a song best sung out loud.


Review by Gerry Burnie

Although A.J. Llewellyn has over fifty novels out there, Vagabond Heart [Total E-Bound Publishing, 2010] is the first I have read. It certainly won’t be the last, however.

The plot is somewhat unique, inasmuch as it deals with a male prostitute as a romantic lead. Moreover, the story is set in 1942 Hawaii, just before the Pearl Harbour invasion—an era that is particularly nostalgic for me—and this is where AJ shines.

His bio states his passion for Hawaii, and it certainly comes through in his almost palpable descriptions of Hawaii’s history, culture, beauty and grottiness of Hotel Street. Indeed, it is some of the finest descriptive writing I have encountered to date.

And speaking of “history,” special mention should be reserved for the fascinating history of prostitution in war-time Honolulu—in particular the (US) government’s sanction of it (within certain, ridiculous constraints). In this regard, the hypocrisy of government is almost as palpable of Mr. Llewellyn’s excellent descriptions.

The characters are all well developed and interesting as well. Tinder is very much a boy of the 1930s and 40s; meaning, when he found himself up against it he simply found a way to cope. I know the trait, because the 1940s was my era as well.

The girls’ lives could have been a little more developed, but since they were only minor characters this is a value judgment at best.

The native boy, Lauro is quite believable inasmuch as bisexuality seemed to be quite acceptable so long as marriage—as in “one man and one woman”—took place down the line.

Jason Qui came across as just a bit too ideal, and I thought the scenes with him were somewhat ‘pat,’ but once again that is a value judgement that may or may not be shared with other readers. Likewise, I found the sex scenes—while not overwhelming—a bit repetitive toward the end.

Overall, however,  it is a well written novel, with an interesting topic and plot, and encompassing an intriguing era. Highly recommended. Four and one-half stars.


The completed manuscript of Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is presently being proofed by my good buddy, Jim Fraley, who is making good progress. Therefore, it should go the publisher by the 26th of this month.

 Interestingly, it is partially set in the 1950s and deals with male prostitution as well—i.e.

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician, with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all this the sky seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad from small-town Ontario, Canada.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an ex-con, whose body has been recently found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated, and the stage is set for a political crisis of headline-grabbing proportions. Read an excerpt:

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 11, 459


June 19, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | 1 Comment

Long Journey Into Darkness, by JW

A serious effort, but…

Publisher’s blurb: Long Journey Into Darkness is the dark tale of love and romance between cousins that turns fatal. Very Gay, Set in England turn of the century, coming to New York to start again only to be followed by the past, finding love and ………..there is however a little stage drama, murder and more. This book is intended for adults.

Available in Kindle format – 362 kb. 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Long Journey Into Darkness by JW [Amazon Digital Services] is a serious work of fiction, and because of this it deserves a respectful discussion. Otherwise, I think I would be inclined to dismiss it.

Technically it is quite well written (apart from a few typos), and for the most part the syntax reads smoothly. The ending is also clever, and certainly unpredictable. However, for my money that is about the extent of the really good things that can be said.

 The plot, if taken in a straight line without meandering and doubling back on itself, starts off sometime in the early 1900s in Princeton Place, a dreary mining town in England, where the principal character, Ethan Morris, has come to visit his girlfriend, Edna—even though we are told that he has or had a lover by the name of Robert Morris, a wealthy cousin. This is a quandary that prevails throughout the story, for Ethan can’t seem to decide whether his is gay (which he professes), or heterosexual in his close relationships with at t least three women.

Ethan is a thread-bare poet to start, but a railroad ride later his is unexplicably catapulted into the high life as he awaits passage on the “Elletania” for New York. Thus began my distraction as I tried to figure out how this came to be. Oh, there are clues when a salesman (of something) mysteriously contacts him in Liverpool, which obliquely suggested that he has somehow changed places with his shoe-manufacturing cousin, Robert.

The voyage from Liverpool to New York is eventful only in the sense of meeting a cast of secondary characters; most significantly an actress by the name of Luella Ambrose who takes an immediate liking to Ethan. Miss Ambrose is expectantly glamorous, but she is also both insightful and perceptive, and it is not long before Ethan and she become soul mates. It is not long, either, before Ethan reveals that he is gay, and that he has drowned his cousin back in Princeton Place—all of which Ms Ambrose accepts with nary a raised eyebrow.

In New York Ethan is mistaken for Robert Morris, which he accepts while staying at the Waldorf, but then he quietly disappears to become Franklin Hope, a playwright. Meanwhile, the newspapers all announce the mysterious disappearance of Robert Morris.

In his guise as Franklin Hope he meets his second female soul mate, Miss Cheryl Wilson, a typist with a seemingly permanent chip on her shoulder. Nonetheless, it isn’t too long before he reveals his turbulent past to her, as well, and once again it meets with very little shock on her part.

Personally, I found the line of the story difficult to follow to the point of distraction. I think this is because the characters were all very difficult to pin down. Yes, they were distinct, and eccentric, but they were also inconsistent. Similarly, in order to create an air of mystery (I think) the story meandered about, hinting at this and that, but failing to make a point that one could grasp onto. Therefore, rather than being mysterious it was merely confusing.

Nonetheless, I recognize the amount thought and effort that went into writing this work, and can readily say there is talent behind it. However, for now two and one-half stars.



Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 11,322

A message from Erastes re: Ides of pride book swap

PLEASE – even if you aren’t going to participate – could you disseminate this far and wide? It would be so good to have loads of people involved

The economy is biting us all– more and more I see people say they can’t afford to buy the book they’d like to buy.

SO!  Let’s cock a snook to the economy. (Non Brits may need to look that up.)

I’d like to have an “IDES OF PRIDE BOOK SWAP on Speak Its Name ( on the 15th of June.

It’s a simple idea. If you have a gay historical book that you would like to swap for something you haven’t read – be it electronic or paper, EMAIL ME ( with the details and I’ll put up a post for you

It can be your own book, or simply one you have in your collection. Of course you are welcome to include more than one!

NOW. I’m NOT avocating file sharing here–but the Kindle allows one transfer of each book on your device, so it’s perfectly legal and hopefully it will bring in more readers for you and for all of us — and the readers will be able to discover things they might not have usually tried. Publishers will allow a certain amount of downloads too, so you could use those.

People who want that book will then answer the post with their own swap–or a selection of what you’d like to offer, and it will be up to the original poster to choose which one they’d like. Let me know, and I’ll match up the swap.

It’s like Noel Edmonds’ swap shop. But gay. Oh. OK. That analogy doesn’t really work, as that show was already extraordinarily gay.

Please please please join it–would be fun to make this an annual event–and it will certainly help people get hold of books they can’t afford. You can swap as many books as you like–and don’t renege, or you won’t be allowed to play next time.

Gay Historical Fiction

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

The Wishing Cup, by JM Gryffyn

Romance among the dunes!

Orphaned as a boy and brought up by the crusty, disapproving Edward Collins, Dr. David Jameson may not know much about love, but he makes up for it with an encyclopedic knowledge of Egyptian history and language. Too bad his job as linguist for a team excavating in the Valley of the Kings puts him right under Edward’s nose. When the discovery of a rare artifact leads to a disagreement between guardian and ward, Jeremiah McKee, the team’s American benefactor, sends no-nonsense Jake Tanner to protect his investment.

David’s disappointment at not meeting McKee fades quickly in the heat of his intense desire for Tanner, who seems to be the only member of the team to give credence to his ideas. Push comes to shove when Edward discovers the burgeoning romance between David and Jake, but not everything is as it seems. Will David and Jake find more in Egypt than sand and strife? Something that, like the pyramids at Giza, will stand the test of time?

Front cover designby Mara McKennen


Review by Gerry Burnie

Although not particularly original, The Wishing Cup, by JM Gryffyn is a charming tale set in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt; a romantic setting for a romantic novella. In this respect, it parallels the exploits of Howard Carter and his monumental discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, and I also recognized several almost direct extracts from Carter’s journal.  However, as the author has been careful to point out (correctly so), this is not intended to be accurate history, i.e., in the words of the author: “An astute reader of this novella will quickly recognize that facts about pharaohs, queens and expeditions (among other things) in The Valley of The Kings were wilfully and  knowingly manipulated.” Fair enough.

The story is told using a combination of first-person journal entries by the ingénue, Dr. David Jameson, and third-person narratives. As the story opens the expeditions has just made a discovery of a wishing cup (along with other funery items) in the tomb of Pharaoh Sherentah, but the cup bears the markings of his wife, Queen Sif-re. This cup, and certain cartouches  bearing her name, lead David to speculate that the tomb may be that of Sif-re; a theory that is contrary to popular wisdom of the day that there are no queens buried in the Valley of the Kings. It also makes him the butt of derision by his guardian and the other authorities who make up the expedition.

The expedition is being financed by a wealthy American recluse by the name of Jeremiah McKee—a sort of Lord Carnarvon—and when the sealed entranceway to a tomb is discovered he is sent for to be present at the opening. Instead, an emissary named Jake Tanner arrives in his place.

Disappointment abounds, including that of David’s, but as time goes by he develops a fascination and eventually a desire for this rugged American. The others in the expedition are not so keen, however, for Jake Tanner is not easily brushed aside, and he quickly proves to be the equal of Edward Collins. Things come to a head between Tanner and Collins when Collins discovers David kissing Jake, and David ends up with a black eye on account of it.

The stage is therefore set for a showdown and a happy resolution, but I’ll leave the readers to discover how.

The writing is well executed throughout, and the storymoves along at a steady but comfortable pace. The plot is simple but interesting, and there is a mild level of tension—especially regarding the opening of the tomb. However, I found the relationship between Jake Tanner and Jeremiah Mckee a bit hokey. Also the ending, although gratifying, was somewhat predictable. However, these reservations did  not overshadow what was a nice, feel-good story. I love a romance! Four stars.


Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 11,168

 Two Irish Lads is currently being considered for a motion picture version. Preliminary discussions are set for this month.

Two Irish Lads is a pioneer story with a difference.

It is at once a carefully-researched depiction of pioneer life in the early part of the nineteenth century, and also a love story of two men who might have lived during such a challenging time.

Sean and Patrick McConaghy are two young cousins who set sail from Ireland one St. Patrick’s Day in 1820, and after a long and eventful crossing of the Atlantic, they tackle the mighty St. Lawrence River with a band of rugged voyageurs to eventually settle in the wilderness of Upper Canada.

Here they are not only confronted by the daunting task of carving a homestead out of the vast primeval forest, but also the ever-present danger of living as a devoted couple in a world where the possibility of humiliation and death stalked them at every turn if their secret should ever be discovered.

It is a tale that also encompasses mystery, tragedy, brawling, humour and pathos, and altogether it will have you turning pages to discover what is about to happen next.

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment


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