Gerry B's Book Reviews

The only Gold, by Tamara Allen

A masterfully constructed  historical-fiction-romance. Highly recommended.

Story blurb: Jonah Woolner’s life is as prudently regulated as the bank where he works. It’s a satisfying life until he’s passed over for promotion in favor of newcomer Reid Hylliard. Brash and enterprising, Reid beguiles everyone except Jonah, who’s convinced Reid’s progressive ideas will be the bank’s ruin. When Jonah begins to discover there’s more to Reid than meets the eye, he risks succumbing to Reid’s charms-but unlocking the vault to all of Reid’s secrets could lead him down a dangerous path. Losing his promotion-and perhaps his heart-is the least of Jonah’s difficulties. When the vengeful son of a Union army vet descends upon the bank to steal a government deposit of half a million dollars during the deadliest blizzard to ever sweep New York, Jonah and Reid are trapped, at odds and fighting for their lives.

  • Winner of first place for Best Setting Development in the 2011 Rainbow Awards.
  • Winner of first place for Best Setting Development in the 2011 Rainbow Awards.
  • Winner of third place for Best Gay Novel in the 2011 Rainbow Awards.
  • Winner of third place for Best Writing Style in the 2011 Rainbow Awards.

Available in e-book format – 980 KB

 ***

Review by Gerry Burnie

I love period stories, especially those that emphasize the rigid but qualitative standards of the late 19th-century middle class. These were standards that had evolved over the centuries to accommodate living in large groups in a civilized fashion. There is something comforting about them—solid—and Tamara Allen has captured this ambiance with remarkable insight in The Only Gold [Dreamspinner Press, 2011]

The story revolves around Jonah Woolner, a quintessential practitioner of 19th-century, Victorian standards, right down to the ‘proper’ attire for a gentleman of commerce. Of course, he has the right job for it at the Grandborough Bank of Manhatten, as Assistant Cashier (equivalent to an assistant teller, today). Naturally, having been a good ‘company man’ for fourteen years, and some months, Jonah quite naturally expects he is in line for the Head Cashier’s position. Imagine his disappointment, therefore, when he is passed over for an outsider—and also his opposite in many ways.

It is not that Reid Hylliard is a radical, far from it, but compared to Jonah he certainly appears that way. He is an innovator, though, and so Jonah and he clash at almost every turn as a matter of conviction. Nevertheless, Jonah remains in his assistant’s position out of loyalty to the company—fearing that Reid’s innovations will bring it more harm than good. At the same time he is forced to accept some of Reid’s innovations, and begrudgingly discovers that they are not as bad as he had feared; i.e. getting to know the other employees socially, and finding that they are quite pleasant and generous people.

The tension between Jonah and Reid has been described as a dance, i.e. “one step forward and two steps back,” as one reviewer, “Sirius,” put it, and this says it all very well. It is the masterful study in human interaction between two strong-willed individuals that makes this story so interesting and credible to read. Moreover it is prolonged throughout the story, and so there are no ‘quick fixes’ here.

Then comes the real catalyst, the “Great Blizzard” of 1888, reputed to be the worst storm in United States recorded history, and as is sometimes wont to happen, Jonah and Reid are thrown together in such a way as to challenge the way they think about many things—including their feelings for one another.

Some reviewers have criticized the pace, claiming that the first half dragged with too much detail, while the last third contained all of the action, but I didn’t find this a problem. The relationship between Jonah and Reid is a complex one, and needed to be developed before the action had its full impact. Therefore, I don’t think I would have handled any differently, myself.

This is truly a masterfully constructed and delivered historical-fictionn-romance, and it comes highly recommended from this camp. Five bees.

***

Visitor’s count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 21,420

***

Introducing the characters from my forthcoming novelComing of Age on the Trail

Cory and Reb are fictional characters, of course, but this photo struck me as being particularly representative of the two. Firstly, because it is a candid moment in the lives of two, actual young cowboys, on the trail or during a roundup, and because of the unmistakable tenderness portrayed.

There can be no doubt they care for one another by the way the older boy is holding his young friend (lover, perhaps). Likewise, the younger lad appears completely at home in his arms [note the open shirt and the bold display of skin]. It is evocative of the affection of an eronomos (older lover) toward his erastes (younger love interest).

***

 

If you haven’t done so before, do drop by the InnerBouquet website.

The InnerBouquet mission is to spread the word about & celebrate LGBT ARTS, CULTURE & ATHLETICISM from past to the present. The site features bios, reviews, critiques, interviews, photos, news, videos, songs, poems, etc. – all related to the contributions of LGBT icons world-wide. On a personal level, the InnerBouquet founder and creative director, David-Paul, in his “FlashBack Diary” reveals poignant moments from his gay journal.

***

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. You make the numbers grow!

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Galley Proof, by Eric Arvin

An insightful, witty romance by an insightful, witty author

Story blurb: Fiction writer Logan Brandish is perfectly happy in his peaceful small-town routine with his best friend, his cat, and his boyfriend—until he meets the editor of his next book, the handsome Brock Kimble, and the lazy quiet of everyday living goes flying out the window. Faced with real passion for the first time, Logan becomes restless and agitated, and soon his life and his new manuscript—a work in progress he’d always thought would be completed—are in a shambles.

But as Logan is learning, you can’t always get what you want… at least not right away. To take his mind off the mess, he takes a trip, but even the beautiful Italian, um, scenery can’t keep his thoughts from his erstwhile editor for long. Logan just might have to admit there are some things you can’t run from.

Available in e-book format – 380 KB.

About the author: Eric Arvin resides in the same sleepy Indiana river town where he grew up. He graduated from Hanover College with a Bachelors in History. He has lived, for brief periods, in Italy and Australia. He has survived brain surgery and his own loud-mouthed personal demons. Eric is the author of THE REST IS ILLUSION, SUBSURDITY, SIMPLE MEN, WOKE UP IN A STRANGE PLACE, and various other sundry and not-so-sundry writings. He intends to live the rest of his days with tongue in cheek and eyes set to roam

***

Review by Gerry Burnie

Eric Arvin is a ‘friend’ on my Facebook page, and I frequently delight in his off-the-wall-type, ribald wit, and so I was pleased to see it present in Galley Proof [Dreamspinner Press, 2012], his latest in quite a long list of titles.

The topic–writers and writing—is a natural for any author, but it is not without its risks. It’s like ‘talking shop’ to someone who is not in the field, and readers of course are not. There is a twinge of this in talking about ‘writer’s block’—which I personally believe doesn’t exist[1]—but Eric rather skilfully avoids this by focussing on the personalities and their interactions.

The main character, Logan Brandish, is surprisingly conservative for a writer, with his ‘suburilicious’ cat and equally conservative boyfriend, Curtis. But since nothing ever remains constant for long, enter the rakishly handsome Brock who—like most alpha males—instinctively wants to dominate Logan ‘because he can.’ The methodology is fairly typical, as well; i.e. by attacking Logan’s self-confidence through his creation—most writer’s Achilles’ heel.

Logan’s reaction is fairly typical as well, almost trite, for he dumps Curtis and succumbs to this hunk’s manipulation like smitten spinster; eventually ending up in his bed. However, I hasten to add that it is Eric’s skill and wit as a writer that makes this seems fresh and above all entertaining.

It is not without its insights, either, and like his witticisms these are embedded like bonbons throughout; asides and observations that either make you smile or think.

It is the first of Eric’s novels that I have read, but I hope to be able to get around to others in the future. Four and one-half bees.

News, etc.

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 21,035. Yay!!

***

Introducing the characters from my forthcoming novel: Coming of Age on the Trail

Since I write historical fiction, many of these images are vintage photographs with a story of their own.

He [Spencer – the main character] then turned his back on his aristocratic family and set about making a new life among the hardy Canadian colonists. For a while he tried his hand at farming in Upper Canada, but hearing rumours of rich gold finds in a place called British Columbia, he sold the farm and boldly set out with a good horse and a pair of pack mules for the three thousand mile trek across country. To orient himself for the journey west of the Mississippi, he first steered south through the populated northern states, and while in Chicago he encountered a roguish cowhand by the name of Jason “Jaycee” Collins. Collins appeared roughly the same age as Spencer, and from the rakish angle of his Stetson he had the same precocious nature as well.

“Where y’all headin’, Brit?” he asked when he saw Spencer’s Bowler hat.

“I don’t believe that’s any of your business, Yank,” Spencer was quick to reply, “But if you must know, I’m on my way to British Columbia to search for gold.”

Collins remained quite unfazed by the terse remarks, grinning lopsidedly and offering his hand. “No need t’ take offence, Brit. It’s just my way o’ talkin’. Where I come just about everybody has a handle ‘sides their own. So what trail are ya takin’ west?”

Spencer was quick to back down, as well. “I’m not sure, yet,” he admitted. “That’s why I’m here to find out.”

 

***

Catch me if you know how, By Travis Morgan: This book teaches computer forensics to any level computer user. You do not need to be an intermediate or advanced computer user to understand this book or to know how to implement any of the procedures. It’s very easy to navigate, with clear screenshots as examples.[2]

Available in e-book format.

***

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

 

On behalf of the authors reviewed here and myself, thanks for dropping by! You make it all worthwhile.


[1] I believe you can write your way out of it if you just keep writing. Something will eventually click.

[2] This blurb was provided by the author. Gerry B’s Book Reviews has no connection with it whatsoever.

February 19, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

A eulogy for Steve Walker, a renowned Canadian artist and illustrator (1961 – 2012)

Since the Canadian media has so far failed to recognize the passing of a renowned Canadian talent, I have taken it upon myself to write this eulogy for a man I didn’t know, but whom I admire greatly for the following reasons:

Although I did not know Steve Walker personally, or even professionally, I think I would have liked him.

In his biography he comes across as a shy, unassuming person–as most extraordinarily talented people do–for in his own words,“I have always been inclined to let my work speak for itself, believing that should I need to explain it, I have perhaps failed.”

He was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and although his artistic talent was recognized as early as the first grade, his primary ambition was to be an actor, i.e.:

“Despite my artistic talent I was determined to be an actor “when I grew up”. At the age of nineteen, I moved to Toronto, Canada to study theatre at university. Four years later I graduated from university, moved into my own apartment, and embarked on a career as an actor and, of course, waiter.”

It was about then that he discovered his sexual orientation, which seems to have been an evolutionary process as apposed to a revelation—a not uncommon occurrence.

 “I remember feeling a strange sense of elation upon having survived childhood, a rural environment, education, and the knowledge that my sexual orientation, (which was never a mystery or problem to me personally), would forever cause some people who never met me and would never know me, to hate me and others like me.”

However all this was about to change in the 1970s when the term “A.I.D.S.” started to circulate around the gay community, not only in Toronto but around the world, and so he turned away from acting in an attempt to “find a cure for the hatred, fear, and ignorance that surrounded so many young men around the world as they lay in hospital beds and drew the last breaths of unfinished lives,” and so he began to paint.

Never having painted before, he nonetheless taught himself and began creating paintings, not about gay or homosexual men, per se, but about the things all human beings share.

“Themes of love, attraction, hope, despair, loneliness, the beauty of sky, the perfection of a horizon, the power of a person touching another were given life on pieces of canvas. I created images that came from a place of truth. I tried to make sense of and give order to a world that seemed to know neither.

“It simply never occurred to me to paint about themes in any other context than that of my own life as a person who happens to be gay. I had never had a problem relating to work created by heterosexuals in a heterosexual context. Why should I create paintings whose context was anything other than the truth of my life as a gay man?”

From there he began to display his works in gay restaurants and bars around Toronto—I remember very distinctly seeing some of these at the “Les Cavaliers” club on Church Street (now the “Gay Village”—and in a short while he was exhibiting and selling his work in high end mainstream galleries throughout North America, and reproductions of his work throughout the world.

An epilogue in his own words,

“I see my work as a documentation, an interpretation, a crystallization of singular moments rendered in line, color, light, shadow, using a hundred brushes, a thousand colors, and a million brushstrokes. I strive to make people stop, if only a moment, think and actually feel something. My paintings contain as many questions as answers.

“I hope that in its’silence, the body of my work has given a voice to my life, the lives of others, and in doing so, the dignity of all people.”

***

Requiestat in pace, Steve Walker. I mourn your passing as a gay man; as an admirer of great talent; as a Canadian; and as a person.

[See also: “Elisa – My reviews and Ramblings” for and excellent tribute]

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The German, by Lee Thomas

A masterful study of human nature. Highly recommended –

Story Blurb: At the height of World War II, a killer preys on the young men of a quiet Texas town. The murders are calculated, vicious, and they are just beginning. Sheriff Tom Rabbit and his men are baffled and the community he serves is terrified of the monster lurking their streets. The only clues the killer leaves behind are painted snuffboxes containing notes written in German. As the panic builds all eyes turn toward a quiet man with secrets of his own.

Ernst Lang fled Germany in 1934. Once a brute, a soldier, a leader of the Nazi party, he has renounced aggression and embraces a peaceful obscurity. But Lang is haunted by an impossible past. He remembers his own execution and the extremes of sex and violence that led to it. He remembers the men he led into battle, the men he seduced, and the men who betrayed him. But are these the memories of a man given a second life, or the delusions of a lunatic?

About the author: LEE THOMAS is the Bram Stoker Award and the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of StainedParish DamnedThe Dust of Wonderland, and In the Closet, Under the Bed. Recent and forthcoming titles include The GermanThe Black Sun Set, and Focus (co-written with Nate Southard).

Available in e-book format.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie

I first spotted The German by Lee Thomas [Lethe Press, 2011] in the fall of 2011, but it is only recently that I got around the reading it. At first blush it appeared to be too dark to prompt my immediate attention—and it is quite dark in places—but overriding this is its insightful and uncompromising look at human nature, of which the gory violence is only a symptom.

In his own words, Thomas describes it this way:

Cruelty is not taught. It is as certain as a compass point. One can be instructed in the specifics of cruelty, like one can be taught to use a spoon, a knife, a fork, but even without these skills a man will still eat. 

The setting, which has been described as “richly atmospheric,” is a small town in Texas during the latter part of WWII. As small towns go, it is typically insular with tinges of redneck sentiment among the baser-class residents, and Thomas has done a masterful job of capturing this and the oppressive nature of it.

The main characters are Tim Randall, a likeable teenage boy struggling to come of age without the guidance of his father, who is overseas, and a working mother fretting about her husband; Sheriff Tom Rabbit, the town’s sheriff who reminds me of the sheriff in “Deliverance”—level-headed and not easily deceived; and Ernst Lang, a former Nazi officer who has been to the brink of death and back, and longs for nothing more than peaceful anonymity.

The gay element, though not a dominant one, is that Ernst Lang sleeps with men—not overtly but unapologetically. It is therefore a ‘gay content’ novel, and not an “m/m romance” as it has been described.

Otherwise, it is a who-done-it mystery that begins when a boy is discovered savagely murdered with a snuffbox stuffed into his mouth. Moreover, this snuffbox(certainly not indigenous to middle-class North America) contains a note written in German. And if this isn’t sufficiently bizarre and gruesome to get the whole town talking, another lad is discovered under similar circumstances. Not surprisingly, therefore, the focus turns to the small German community within the town, and specifically on Ernst Lang.

What a masterfully conceived and prolific mix this is: Two vicious murders with an obvious German connection; a small, redneck town in the midst of supporting the war against the Nazis; and a reclusive, ex-Nazi officer who is also homosexual. No wonder the author chose to take his time slow-cooking these ingredients so that the reader could savour each and every one to the surprising ending.

In addition it is a portrait of the cruelty that lurks in the hearts of men, even the “good” ones if it is allowed to come to the surface, and the tyranny of the majority to make a wrong a right.

The German is one of a handful of great books I have read. Highly recommended. Five bees.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 20,650

***

A new feature:

As a means of developing the characters in my stories I first look for an image that most closely resembles the character I’m working on. This also helps me to stay focussed on the character’s personality throughout. Since I write historical fiction, many of these images are vintage photographs with a story of their own, and so you might be interested in seeing these, too.

This first image represents Spencer Twilingate, Coming of Age on the Trail, who is the father of the main character, Cory Twilingate. In the story, Spencer is the wayward son of the Fifth Earl of Ardmore, and after several indiscretions he is shuffled off to Canada where, befitting his nature, he sets off across North America to do some prospecting in British Columbia. Along the way he joins up with a precocious young cowboy by the name of J. C. “Jaycee” Collins, and the two of them eventually form a relationship. However, given the Victorian atmosphere of the 1860s, and fearing persecution Jaycee fades from the picture to allow Spencer to marry and produce Cory. He also puts together the 40,000-acre Prodigal Son Ranch, the biggest in British Columbia.

In actuality this photograph is of a cousin of the legendary Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minter of Great Britain during WWII, and a cousin of the equally famous Duke of Marlborough. However, this rather foppish-looking cousin was a total failure as a rancher—loosing some £30,000 pounds in about five years before he returned to England.

***

The sales are in for Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears for 2011, and these are very gratifying—especially for e-book sales. Most gratifying of all, however, are the sales for my beloved Two Lads. Although I released this book four years age (March) it is still attracting readers in remarkable numbers. Way to go, guys.

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Thanks for dropping by. I hope you will come back often!

 

February 12, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

The King’s Tale, by Rowena Sudbury

Kings, knights and gallant M/M lovers –

Story blurb: Though Dafydd is the fourth son of Welsh nobility, when he leaves his home he becomes a humble woodsman in small kingdom of Lysnowydh on the sea. During a fierce storm, a stranger seeks shelter in Dafydd’s remote cottage. He is no ordinary traveler-he is Christopher, King of Lysnowydh. The wild passion that flares between them rivals the storm, and love moves King Christopher’s heart to name Dafydd Marshal of his troops to keep him close. However, love is never simple or safe when it must endure the pressures of political life. Though Dafydd proves himself in battle, Lysnowydh’s nobles protest his rise in position and power. Forces will conspire against Dafydd and Christopher, and they must endure treason, treachery, and the demands of a kingdom requiring an heir to secure their happiness together.

Available in e-book format – 592 KB

About the author: Rowena Sudbury lives in southern California with her husband, son, and their wonderful rescue dog. Her love of reading was born in the fifth grade, and she began writing soon after that. Writing has always been her passion and escape from the real world.

Rowena finds herself thinking through the minds of her characters quite often, to the point that she always has to carry a small journal with her so she can capture their thoughts and weave them into stories when she gets home.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie
One of my favourite eras for historical fiction is the so-called “Middle Ages” (5th – 15th centuries); that over-romanticized age of knights and castles of which every boy once dreamed—when they weren’t fantasizing about being a cowboy—and I was one. Therefore, when I saw the mediaeval castle and misty setting on the cover (tastefully designed by Mara McKennen), and read the blurb for The King’s Tale by Rowena Sudbury [Dreamspinner Press, 2009], I was in.

Although she has written other novels since, this is her first, and to her credit she has done her research on the period fairly well. She has also avoided the temptation to over-romanticize it, for it was nothing of the sort. Indeed it was barely out of the Dark Ages when life was “nasty, brutish and short.”

The two protagonists are Dafydd, nicely portrayed as a humble woodcutter of noble lineage, and Christopher, well portrayed as a prince and king, almost but not quite enlightened. The use of a snowstorm to bring them together is a bit trite, but it is as good a device as any other, and so they are brought together in an isolated cottage in the forest. Needless too say in a time when artificial morality had not yet become the law of the land—not even in Rome—two healthy, robust males, soon found something more fulfilling to do than twiddling their thumbs. Fair enough.

But then Christopher takes Dafydd to live with him at the castle, much to the bewilderment of Dafydd, and subsequently names him Marshal of his troops (equivalent of general in United States). It is not a politically-correct move on account of the discord it causes among his other generals, and identifies Christopher as more of an idealist than a commander, but as king he has the final say. In this case, however, it proves to be a wise decision for Dafydd is fiercely loyal to Christopher as his king and lover—reminiscent of the Theban warrior-lovers.

***

As a first novel this is a fairly interesting story, both from the standpoint of a historical fiction and romance, but it also contains the sort of room for improvement one would expect. Most particularly the plot lacks maturity (subtlety), inasmuch as several parts seem contrived to facilitate the author’s need to get to the next scene or situation, and not the reader’s logic.

For example, Christopher’s decision to take Dafydd to live with him (literally) at the castle—I mean how else was the plot going to keep them together? The coincidence of seamstress just happening to have enough material on hand (in the Middle Age’s) to fashion Dafydd a suit of clothes, and Dafydd’s ability to marshal the troops like an experienced officer. I doubt whether these things happen so conveniently in real life, either then or now, so they are bound to fly in the face of the readers’ experience.

Altogether, though, it’s a fairly good depiction of the times, and worth a read from this standpoint of view. Three bees.

News

Visitor’s count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 20,251 (We made it to 20,000 visitors before January 31st. Yay!!)

***

Boycott “Romance Writers Ink”: Romance Writers Ink has recently declared that it will “no longer accept same-sex entries in any category” in the Romance Writers Awards. The Reason: Some of the judges feel uncomfortable reading same-sex material. See the following blog for more details: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/romance-writers-ink-contest-an-exercise-in-discrimination#.Ty3VaO6vFbM.facebook.

***

The sales are in for Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears for 2011, and these are very gratifying—especially for e-book sales. Most gratifying of all, however, are the sales for my beloved Two Lads. Although I released this book four years age (March) it is still attracting readers in remarkable numbers. Way to go, guys.

***

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Without you this wouldn’t be worthwhile!

February 4, 2012 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

   

%d bloggers like this: