A Private Gentleman, by Heidi Cullinan
A thinking-person’s read, and one that comes enthusiastically recommended from this reader -
Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist’s house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek.
He finds the orchid, yes…but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.
Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan’s bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world—until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark.
There’s only one way out of this tangle. Help Wes face the fears that cripple him—right after Michael finds the courage to reveal the devastating truth that binds them.
Available in ebook format, only – 494 KB
Review by Gerry Burnie
I think it was the lush cover that first attracted me to A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan [Samhain Publishing Ltd, 2012], but once I got into it I found an equally pithy story inside.
Lord George Albert Westin is an opiated (my invention) recluse, whiling away his days with his beloved plants and gardens. Naturally, for a hobby like this, there is a certain quest for achievement involved, and when he hears of a rare orchid in the possession of a Michael Vallant it is enough to lure him out of his self-imposed exile.
However, Michael Valliant isn’t your average, nerdy garden enthusiast. Far from it. He is, in fact, a “professional sodomite,” i.e. a high-class male prostitute (with a procurer, no less). The explanation is that he suffered an abusive childhood–as the son of a courtesan–and this has left him psychologically scarred into adulthood.
This is the ‘launching point,’ so to speak, and the rest of the story is how these two scarred individuals find mutual ground in a complex and conflicted way.
I personally liked “Wes” and Michael. They are superbly developed with layer upon layer of complexity, and yet they are not over the top in any way. One can readily understand that a severe stutter in the 1800s was a far greater affliction than it is now, and for this Wes would want to shun society’s misguided stares and taunts.
Likewise, even with my limited grasp of psychology, I have read that self-degradation (i.e. prostitution, etc.) is one symptom of childhood abuse, and so Michael’s torment is understandable as well.
I also liked the gradual way in which the author worked them through their afflictions, although I did find some quibble with the overall pace. It was inconsistent, going from doldrums to near hectic and back again.
While I’m on the topic of ‘likes’, I give full kudos to the author for holding back on the homoerotica in favour of the superbly turned plot. It is not to say that it lacks sex, not at all, but it is nicely balanced with the story line.
Altogether it is a thinking-person’s read, and one that comes enthusiastically recommended from this reader. Four and one-half bees.
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