Gerry B's Book Reviews

The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher

Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London.

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pretty gentleman - coverErotic sketches, a blackmail letter, a closeted aristocrat, his ambitious lover, and a sacrificial murder. Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London. George Rowlands, an aspiring young painter meets the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace who invites him to draw his sculpture collection and his handsome valet Gregorio Franchese. Patronised by Wallace to study at the Royal Academy, George is befriended by the aloof John McCarther, assistant to the eccentric Gothic painter, Henry Fuseli. Meanwhile, Lady Arabella Wallace becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband’s enthusiasm for his new protégé. When a male brothel, the White Swan, is exposed, Henry Wallace receives a letter of extortion in George’s handwriting. After Gregorio Franchese is found murdered, George is suspected when erotic drawings of Gregorio are discovered in his possession. Will he face the gallows? Or will self-sacrifice and truth save his fate?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The era is Regency England, 1810, and a young painter awaits his fate for the alleged murder of Gregorio Franchese, valet to aristocrat Sir Henry Wallace. Yes, The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher [Max Fincher, March 8, 2013], is chalk full of intrigue; the way a good Regency novel should be.

While he prepares for his demise, he reflects back on how it began: when, as a youth, he had been indulging in his favourite pastime of sketching, when he happened to capture the attention of the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace. How proud he had been when the nobleman invited him to sketch his sculptures, as well as his handsome valet, Franchese.

From there, Rowland is sent off to study at the Royal Academy about the same time as the relationship between him and Sir Henry bursts into a full and furtive affair – beyond the eyes of Lady Wallace, who, in spite of this, is becoming increasingly suspicious of its nature.

Things are brought to a head when Franchese is found dead, and a number of erotic drawings of him are found in Rowland’s possession. Rowland professes his innocence, of course, and quite legitimately, but to go beyond this would irrevocably compromise his lover’s reputation.

The resolution of this dilemma brings about the climax of the story in quite a satisfactory manner.

It is a captivating plot, and reasonably well written – if you overlook the editing issues. It doesn’t bode well for a story when there is a spelling error within the first three or four pages. However, these are to an extent offset by some beautifully descriptive passages of the grotty and quaint sides of Regency England, as well as the manners and mannerisms that prevailed. Three and one-half bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

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January 26, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer

A zany, over the top novel, and a delightful read.

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click on the above cover to purchase.

click on the above cover to purchase.

Story blurb: Set against the harsh reality of an unforgiving landscape and culture, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon provides a vision of the Old West unlike anything seen before. The narrator, Shed, is one of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction: a half-Indian bisexual boy who lives and works at the Indian Head Hotel in the tiny town of Excellent, Idaho. It’s the turn of the century, and the hotel carries on a prosperous business as the town’s brothel. The eccentric characters working in the hotel provide Shed with a surrogate family, yet he finds in himself a growing need to learn the meaning of his Indian name, Duivichi-un-Dua, given to him by his mother, who was murdered when he was twelve. Setting off alone across the haunting plains, Shed goes in search of an identity among his true people, encountering a rich pageant of extraordinary characters along the way. Although he learns a great deal about the mysteries and traditions of his Indian heritage, it is not until Shed returns to Excellent and witnesses a series of brutal tragedies that he attains the wisdom that infuses this exceptional and captivating book.

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although published in 2000, I first read The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer [Grove Press; Reprint edition (January 6, 2000)] some five years ago – which attest to my theory that because a novel is dated, it doesn’t render it any less enjoyable.

Indeed, like a fine wine, many novels grow into currency as the society matures enough to appreciate them.

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is a zany novel, reminiscent of the 1960s “Hippy” culture when no subject was taboo, and “far out” meant exactly that.

It is told from the first-person perspective of Shed (short for ‘Out-in-The-Shed’), a half-blood, orphaned boy, whose birth under the front porch of a whorehouse in Excellent, Idaho, sets off a journey of self-discovery over  time and across two nations – Indian and white.

The town’s characters make up a good part of the story, from Ida Richilieu – the presiding madam at the Indian Head Hotel; to the blacksmith who wore Vaseline filled gloves to keep his hands soft; to ‘something-or-other’ Dave, the town’s mentally-challenged character, who pissed himself every time he became excited.

Nonetheless, there is a compelling quest that keeps the story moving, both parenthetically and literally, when Shed goes looking for his mother’s Bannock-Indian heritage.

Not surprising, it is not what he expects to find – not ideally anyway – but the adventure answers at least part of it.

However, it is not until he returns to Excellent that the rest is revealed, and his quest is set to rest. Four bees.

A word about political correctness

A number of people have assessed this book on the basis of its non-politically-correct references to Indians and Mormons. In this regard, I found nothing that could be considered offensive to either.

In my opinion, political correctness is the antithesis of creative writing. Political correctness was an artificial construct dreamt up by a gaggle of cocktail-sipping matrons who wanted to offer ‘gentility’ to the oppressed classes. Thereby, they introduced a tyranny titles that far surpassed anything that had been in place before. Moreover, since then, it has lost any minimal relevance it may have had to become a source of division and discord.

This review does not practice political correctness, never has and never will, and will never assess creativity by any such narrow-minded constrict.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: The Great Snow Fight!: Toronto 1881

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

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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!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

January 19, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay western, Male bisexual, Mixed race | Leave a comment

Certainty by Victor Bevine

A superbly written fiction wrapped around an historical event.

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

When you’re fighting an injustice, can it be wrong to do what’s right?

Inspired by the scandalous true story that shocked a nation at the close of WWI.

With America’s entry into World War I, the population of Newport, Rhode Island, seems to double overnight as twenty-five thousand rowdy recruits descend on the Naval Training Station. Drinking, prostitution, and other depravities follow the sailors, transforming the upscale town into what many residents—including young lawyer William Bartlett, whose genteel family has lived in Newport for generations—consider to be a moral cesspool.

When sailors accuse a beloved local clergyman of sexual impropriety, William feels compelled to fight back. He agrees to defend the minister against the shocking allegations, in the face of dire personal and professional consequences. But when the trial grows increasingly sensational, and when outrageous revelations echo all the way from Newport to the federal government, William must confront more than just the truth—he must confront the very nature of good and evil.

Certainty recalls a war-torn era when the line between right and wrong became dangerously blurred.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Certainty, by Victor Bevine [Lake Union Publishing, October 21, 2014] is at once a war story, a discourse on morals and morality, and a courtroom drama rolled into one beautifully written novel.

It is based on the “Newport Navy Vice Scandal of 1919,” a 20th-century witch hunt that made headlines for its use of ‘sexual moles’ to identify and root out practicing homosexuals: i.e. Sailors would either be recruited or coerced into participating informants to entrap friends, colleagues, and civilians in homosexual activity.

Personally, I love this type of fiction that is wrapped around an actual event. Well done, it can add flesh and blood to the characters, as well as speculative dimensions not allowed in formal biographies.

In this regard, Bevine has done a masterful job of character development, from the Reverent Samuel Neal Kent to attorney William Bartlett, so that the mindset of both are readily understandable. Likewise, the mindset of the times has, I think, been properly represented.

Another note to his credit is that Bevine never attempts to moralize. Rather, he is content to tell the story as it is, and let the reader add his/her moral adjudication.

Having found nothing but plusses on the side of Certainty, I award it a full five bees on the bee’s scale. A superb read.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 75,187

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: The Great Snow Fight!: Toronto 1881

 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

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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!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

 

January 12, 2015 Posted by | Fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, M/M love and adventure, Semi-biographical | Leave a comment

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers, Eric Marcus (Contributor)

A coming out story to some, an inspiration to others.

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Click on the cover to purchase

Click on the cover to purchase

Robbie Rogers knows better than most that keeping secrets can crush you. But for much of his life Robbie lived in paralyzing fear that sharing his big secret would cost him the love of his family and his career as a professional soccer player. So he never told anyone what was destroying his soul, both on and off the field.

While the world around Robbie was changing with breathtaking speed, he knew that for a gay man playing a professional team sport it might as well be 1958. He could be a professional soccer player.  Or he could be an out gay man. He couldn’t do both.

Then last year, at the age of twenty-five and after nearly stepping away from a brilliant career—one that included an NCAA Championship, winning the MLS Cup, and competing in the Olympics—he chose to tell the truth. But instead of facing the rejection he feared, he was embraced—by his family, by his teammates, and his fans.

In Coming Out to Play, Robbie takes readers on his incredible journey from terrified teenager to a trailblazing out and proud professional soccer player for the L.A. Galaxy, who has embraced his new identity as a role model and champion for those still struggling with the secrets that keep them from living their dreams.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

At this stage in social history, when it is somewhat common for a professional athlete to declare his or her sexual preference, it is easy enough to dismiss this autobiography as just another coming out story. Indeed, some other reviewers have said as much. However, I believe this viewpoint ignores the uniqueness of a human drama, as well as an epoch in history that should not be forgotten.

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers [Penguin Books, November 2014] tells an all too familiar story of a teenager caught in the dilemma of being ‘different’ in a world of sameness – called ‘normal.’ Nonetheless, in spite of this, and carrying the burden like a hundred-weight, he climbs the ladder of success to achieve a pinnacle of success among the demi-gods of athleticism – professional sport.

coming out to play - rogersCan you imagine the fortitude, inner-strength, and yes, Gaul, it takes to achieve stardom under such circumstances? That’s what this story is all about. The message here, to both gay and straight youths struggling for an identity is, ‘stay the course.’ It is one thing to be intimidated by others, but it is a worse to be intimidated by oneself.

Coming from a mainstream press like Penguin Books, you can be guaranteed it has been made readable. Depending on your taste, therefore, it is both an interesting and inspiring story. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 75,065

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Pioneer Christmases… Before commercialism spoiled them.

 

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

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!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Autobiography, Coming out, Gay Jock, Gay non-fiction, Robbie Rogers | Leave a comment

   

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