Gerry B's Book Reviews

A Life Apart, by Roger Kean

Superb writing, refreshing break-though plot, and bang-on history –

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a life apart - coverStory blurb: 1884—Deep in the Sudanese deserts a crazed religious fanatic spawns violent bloodshed.

In Victorian England Edward and Richard enjoy a blessed life at home and at their elite private school for boys, and with prospects of army commissions ahead.

But then a dreadful secret and a woman’s greed tears them apart and destroys their comfortable world. Even though their love is forbidden, for Edward there is no other in his life but Richard, and for Richard a life without Edward is unbearable.

Has fate determined that they must lead their lives apart?

As members of the British force engaged in a doomed bid to save heroic Gordon of Khartoum, besieged by the frenzied armies of the Mahdi, Edward and Richard, cruelly separated by events, and ignorant of the other’s presence, are thrown into their own desperate adventures as the conflict rages on around them… 

One an officer, the other a lowly cavalry trumpeter, both find Muslim allies willing to risk all to see them through… Two lovers far from each other in a hostile world of enervating heat, unforgiving sand, rocky wastes, but also burning passions—will the young men overcome the ordeal of a life apart to achieve their dream of a destiny together?

Front cover art and design by Oliver Frey.

About the author: Film-maker, journalist, publisher, Roger Kean (also writing under the names Roger Michael Kean and Roger M. Kean) has written about subjects as varied as the utilization of electronic publishing techniques for pre-press, video games, and gay life in London. His published books include histories of the Roman Emperors, Byzantium, Ancient Egypt, and pirates. Fiction includes five boys’ adventure stories available from Smashwords, and two for Kindle on Amazon, Storm Over Khartoum and Avenging Khartoum.


He now divides his time between website design and writing gay-themed novels with illustrations by his lifelong partner, the artist Oliver Frey (a.k.a. Zack). Their first collaboration, published by Bruno Gmünder, Boys of Vice City and its sequels, Boys of Disco City and Boys of Two Cities are available as ebooks in various formats and in print from Amazon. The fourth in the series, Boys of the Fast Lane will publish in the summer of 2013.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A Life Apart, by Roger Kean [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, January 11, 2013] can be categorized by several genres: historical fiction, historical, gay romance, and even young adult. It is also a refreshingly different story set in an exotic and somewhat uncommon setting.

The story opens on Edward and Richard Rainbow, purportedly twin brothers, and also students at the prestigious Benthenham College in England. Their relationship can be described as ‘loving,’ both in the ethereal and physical sense, but such “dirties” as transpired between them are always couched in euphemistic language—i.e. “hardness,” “bitties,” or “stiffness,” etc.

Indeed, Richard and Edward are utterly charming adolescents, and Kean has done quite a good job of portraying them as normal, mischievous and inquisitive schoolboys, who indulge in the “dirties” as naturally as they play soccer or go swimming.

However, an unexpected and devastating revelation emerges from the past, and because of it Edward is ripped from Richard’s arms and his family.

a life apart - mahdistsSkipping forward, Richard has received his commission to the army, and England has become caught up in Egyptian affairs to protect its financial interests and the Suez Canal.  Consequently, it is also drawn into a vicious guerilla war instigated by the Islamic cleric, Muhammad Ahmad, who has declared himself ‘Mahdi’ (a messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith).

After considerable bloodshed, the English decide to withdraw from the southern regions, including the Sudan, and Major-General Sir Charles Gordon is sent to oversee the evacuation of Khartoum. In the process, however, he becomes isolated and trapped by the Arab and Mahdist forces. A relief expedition led by Sir Garnet Wolseley is sent to rescue him, but due to several delays they arrive too late to save Gordon. At the same time, however, it is the perfect opportunity for fate to reunite Richard and Edward, and Kean takes full advantage of it.

The writing is superb, the plot is refreshing, the description is vivid, and the history is bang-on. Five bees.

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I’ve been censored:

I’ve been censored by Huffington Post! The article dealt with “Female Board Directors Better At Decision Making: Study…” [see:http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/25/female-board-directors-decision-making-study_n_2951084.html“]

My comment was “I am so damned weary of the press perpetuating this myth of male/female differentiation. The right person will always make the best decision regardless of gender. To appoint either on the basis of gender is not only contrary to common sense, it is also utterly stupid.

I realize this crap sells papers to the non-thinking, but it is also an unmitigated bore to anyone who has moved past this manufactured debate. Please do move on!”

This is what Huffington post had to say: “This comment has been removed. Most comments are removed because of an attack or insult on another user or public figure. Please see the guidelines here if you’re not sure why this comment was removed.”

I guess I shouldn’t have criticized the press!”

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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. I`ll have another great find next week, so hope to see you then.

March 25, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | 2 Comments

Allegiance: A Dublin Novella, by Heather Domin

A skillful mixture of intrigue, action and romance, set in the charm of Ireland –

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allegiance - coverStory blurb: 1922. William Young is an MI5 informant, using his working-class background to gain the trust of those deemed a threat to the Crown. Tiring of his double life, William travels to Dublin for one last assignment: infiltrating a circle of IRA supporters. But these “rebels” are not what he expected — and one of them, a firebrand named Adam with a past as painful as his own, shakes William’s uncertain footing to its foundation. As the crisis in Dublin escalates, William treads a dangerous path between the violence in the streets, the vengeance of the Crown, and the costliest risk of all — falling in love with the man he was sent to betray.

Available as a free download at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view

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Review by Gerry Burnie

This being the “Irish month” of March, and although I’m a day late for the 17th, Allegiance: A Dublin Novella by Heather Domin [smashwords, 2013] is is my St. Patrick’s Day contribution.

allegiance - IRA informantsThe story is set in the period just after the so-called “Irish War of Independence” (1919 – 1921), and the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty. William Young is a MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5) Agent, sent to Dublin to infiltrate the IRA (Irish Republican Army.) He does this successfully, posing as a barkeeper at the Flag and Three Pub. There—quite in pace with the story—he meets his intended target—Adam Elliot—who is described as:

[A] bright-eyed young man, several years younger than himself, with his cap cocked too far in one direction and his grin cocked too far in the other. He was cleanfaced and well-dressed, pale brown hair curling out beneath his cap and clear skin glowing in the smoky light. Hands clapped him on the back as he approached the bar, and he smiled at each face in turn and dipped his head in greeting.

The two gravitate toward one another, partly due to William’s prompting, but there is also a genuine attraction between them. I will also mention right here, I found it quite refreshing that neither spends much time worrying about being attracted to another man. Indeed, the only real soul searching is William’s who questions the wisdom (and well he might) of falling in love with a potential enemy.

Nonetheless it happened, and I thought it was quite in keeping with the characters. Being both Irish and Catholic, I don’t ever recall going through a great deal of soul searching because I was attracted to boys. I was too busy trying to get them to notice me, or getting them off alone, so I thought the author handled this part very well.

The ending, although not overly dramatic, was quite satisfactory, and I was left satisfied. I can’t provide any details for fear of spoiling it for others, but it also had a moral to it.

As a relative novice (with only two novels to her credit) Heather Domin is a writer with a maturity well ahead of her experience. Her style is well nigh flawless, and her plot and structure are a delight to read. However, it is her understanding of the characters—both primary and secondary—that adds the charm that should be part and parcel of any Irish novel. Four and one-half bees.

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A great Irish-themed gift. Available in both Nook and Kindle formats for only $4.95

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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.

      

Thank you for dropping by. May the luck of the Irish be with you!

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Male bisexual | , , | Leave a comment

The Fallen Snow, by John J. Kelley

A touching coming of age novel –

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fallen snow - coverStory blurb: In the fall of 1918 infantry sniper Joshua Hunter saves an ambushed patrol in the Bois le Prêtre forest of Lorraine . . . and then vanishes. Pulled from the rubble of an enemy bunker days later, he receives an award for valor and passage home to Hadley, a remote hamlet in Virginia’s western highlands. Reeling from war and influenza, Hadley could surely use a hero. Family and friends embrace him; an engagement is announced; a job is offered.

Yet all is not what it seems. Joshua experiences panics and can’t recall the incident that crippled him. He guards a secret too, one that grips tight like the icy air above his father’s quarry. Over the course of a Virginia winter and an echoed season in war-torn France, The Fallen Snow reveals his wide-eyed journey to the front and his ragged path back. Along the way he finds companions – a youth mourning a lost brother, a widowed nurse seeking a new life and Aiden, a bold sergeant escaping a vengeful father. While all of them touch Joshua, it is the strong yet nurturing Aiden who will awaken his heart, leaving him forever changed.

Set within a besieged Appalachian forest during a time of tragedy, The Fallen Snow charts an extraordinary coming of age, exploring how damaged souls learn to heal, and dare to grow.

About the author: John J Kelley is a fiction writer crafting tales about healing, growth and community. Born and raised in the Florida panhandle, he graduated from Virginia Tech and served as a military officer. After pursuing traditional careers for two decades, he began writing.

John is a member of The Writer’s Center (www.writer.org). He lives in Washington, DC, with his partner of eighteen years and can often be found wandering Rock Creek Park or hovering over his laptop at a local coffee shop.

John recently completed his debut novel, a work of historical fiction set at the close of the First World War. The Fallen Snow explores the emotional journey of a young infantry sniper returning to a remote mountain community reeling from war, influenza and economic collapse.

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Review by Gerry Burnie
fallen snow - wwi collageI have done a fair amount of research into WWI (1914 – 1918), and because of it I have developed a real admiration for the young men who fought and died in unfamiliar places like Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. It was hell on earth with the “mustard” gas, the relentless mud, the rotting trench feet, and the barbarity in general, and their sacrifices should never ever be forgotten. Because of this, Fallen Snow, by John J Kelley [Stone Cabin Press, December 19, 2012] appealed to me as an appropriate memorial.

The story follows the experience of one young man from the rural uplands of Virginia to the battlefields of Alsace Lorraine, France, and back again. However, the man who left Virginia is not the man who returned; not emotionally, anyhow. For want of a better name hey called it “shell sock” back then, but we now know it as PTSD (“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”)

Complicating this even further is the fact that Joshua Hunter is also gay, which in the context of the time and rural setting was yet another source of emotional distress.

Along the way he meets a variety of characters, each with their own story, but only Aiden has the strength to help Joshua come to grips with himself.

I thought the author did quite a good job of depicting the battlefield scenes, although I would have liked to see them a bit more stark to reflect the reality of it, and even though I am unfamiliar with Virginia, I was able to visualize the Appalachian setting quite well. I could also identify with the insular society of his village, and with his ultra-conservative family.

I understand this is John Kelley’s debut novel, and so I look forward to reading more. Four and one-half bees.

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Announcing a new blog!

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A great St. Patrick’s Day gift. Available in Nook and Kindle formats for only $4.95

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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.

      

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March 11, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Cover Up (Toronto Tales #2) by K.C. Burn

For fans of Romantic Mysteries:

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cover up - coverStory blurb: Detective Ivan Bekker has hit rock bottom. Not only is he recovering from a bad breakup with a cheating boyfriend, he’s also involved in a drug bust gone bad. Ivan had to kill a man, and his friend was shot and is now fighting for his life. Though Ivan is under investigation for his part in the shooting, his boss sends him on an off-the-books undercover operation to close the case. The timing is critical—this could be their chance to plug a leak in the department.

Off-balance and without backup, Ivan finds himself playing a recent divorcé and becoming Parker Wakefield’s roommate. He finds it hard to believe that sweet Parker could possibly be a criminal, much less have ties to a Russian mafia drug-trafficking operation, and Ivan lets down his guard. His affection is unprofessional, but Parker is irresistible.

When Ivan comes across clear evidence of Parker’s criminal involvement, he has to choose: protect their relationship, regardless of the consequences, or save his career and arrest the man he loves.

About the author: “I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I’m a sucker for happy endings (of all kinds). After moving from Toronto to Florida for the hubby to take a dream job, I discovered a love of gay romance and fulfilled my own dream — getting published. By day, I edit web content and at night I neglect my supportive, understanding hubby and needy cat to write stories about men loving men in the past, present and future. Writing is always fun and rewarding, but writing about my guys is the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and I hope you’ll enjoy them too.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Toronto CN towerEver on the lookout for gay Canadian content, when I saw the Toronto connection in K.C. Burn’s latest novel, Cover Up (Toronto Tales #2) [Dreamspinner Press, December 2012], I was immediately interested. Unfortunately the Toronto connection was merely a generic setting, and so there was very little by way of landmarks, etc., I could actually relate to. Not a big deal, but it would have been so much more meaningful to me, as an ex-Torontonian, to see a few more reference points.

Cover Up is the second in the “Toronto Tales series, and although it is the first I have read, I do believe it would have been best to read them in order.

Gay Detective Ivan Bekker has just wrapped up a messy take down of some Russian Mafia drug dealers, during which his partner (and friend) was critically wounded, when his boss hauls him into his office to assign him to an undercover case—so undercover it isn’t even on the books. An alleged young up-and-comer in the Russian organization has advertised for a room mate, and Bekker is to take advantage of it to find out what he can about the kid and his involvement with the mob.

Inevitably the two meet and connect, but because of the secrets they individually harbour there is an invisible barrier between them. Nonetheless, Bekker finds himself becoming emotionally involved with his suspect, and more intent on saving him from the criminal element he is drifting toward than making an arrest. The angst, therefore, is the tension created by double lives they are each living.

There is a bad guy too, but since he is rather transparent from the beginning, he doesn’t really add to the tension.

Some of the things I liked about this story are its adherence to plot, rather than eroticism, and the technically solid writing. It reads very smoothly, and there are some very nice descriptive passages. The dialogue is also quite effective in giving a personality to the minor characters, “Sarge,” especially.

Otherwise, I fear the plot devices sometimes stretched the boundaries of credibility to the limit—beginning with Parker conveniently advertising for a room mate at the right time to involve Bekker. I’m not saying it couldn’t have happened that way, mind you, but the odds don’t favour it.

Still, if you are a fan of romantic mysteries, there is much in this novel to like. Three bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 45,957

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again! 

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I’m very pleased to announce that both “Two Irish Lads” and “Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky” were on the Old Line Publishing top ten selling e-books for 2012.

 Top Ten eBooks for 2012

1) The Youngest Mountain Man, by Gary Kelley
2) Something Unseen, by Stephen Hill
3) Diary of a Part-Time Monk, by J. Wilson
4) Revolutionary Rose: Boston Tea to Boston Free, by Evelyn W. Kruger
5) Two Irish Lads, by Gerry Burnie (Maple Creek Media)
6) The Trust, by Sean Keefer
7) Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky, by Gerry Burnie (Maple Creek Media)
8) The Broken Road, by Michelle Smith (Maple Creek Media)
9) Path of Shadows, by Michelle Smith (Maple Creek Media)
10) His Salvation, by Michelle Bellon

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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’ll have another great find for next week, so do drop back.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, Gay fiction | , | 4 Comments

   

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