Gerry B's Book Reviews

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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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!

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

Taboo For You by Anyta Sunday

As lighthearted twist on ‘love thy neighbour.’

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

Sam’s freaking out. He’s 30 in three weeks. And what has he done in his twenties? It’s pretty simple math: nothing exciting at all. But hey, he has three weeks right? Maybe that’s just enough time to tick his way through a 20s Must Do List . . . 

Luke’s freaking screwed. He’s come out to his family, and his friends. Except there’s a certain someone who doesn’t know yet: his neighbor of 7 years. Who also happens to be his best friend. Who Luke needs to tell the truth, but he just . . . can’t . . . seem to . . .

Jeremy’s freaking over-the-moon. It’s the countdown to his 15th birthday, and his goal is simple. No matter what, he’s going to spend heaps of time with saucy Suzy. But first he needs to get his over-protective, no-girlfriend-’cause-you’ll-get-her-pregnant parents off his back. And what better way than pretending he’s gay?

Sam, Luke, and Jeremy. Three guys who have a lot of history together, and a lot of future too—

—well, if they can sort out their issues, that is.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have often ruminated on the fact that GBLT stories, by and large tend to be depressingly angst-driven, and a little levity would be a pleasant change. Well, Anyta Sunday must have heard my words, for Taboo For You [Smashwords, June 2013] is as lighthearted as a walk in the park on a sunny day. In fact, the only thing remotely dark about this novel is the title. Indeed, there is no ‘taboo’ that I could see.

Sam, the main character, became a teenage father to his son Jeremy before his age of reason. Nonetheless, he has taken his responsibility of single parenthood seriously, and so now is fifteen years later.

However, as Sam approaches ‘the big three-o’ he is beginning to feel his age; that is to say the good times he has missed, and so he creates a list of things to be experienced before the clock strikes twelve.

One of these is to experience ‘kinky’ sex, and it just so happens that his best friend and neighbour – also secret admirer, Luke – is gay. Therefore, the ‘angsty’ part is how to get them from friends and neighbours to lovers?

‘Cleverly,’ that’s the answer, and the author is up to the challenge. Along the way, however, are some very wholesome ‘family’ scenes among the three of them that are bound to give you a case of the warm-fuzzies.

It’s a great story, not perfect mind you, but a great read. Four and one-half bees.

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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: Thalidomide! Canada’ tragedy.

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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.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Collide, by J.R. Lenk

A young writer scores with a mature story of high school love.

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Story blurb: Being bisexual is cool now—unless you’re a boy. Or so it seems to invisible fifteen-year-old Hazard James. But when he falls in with bad apple Jesse Wesley, Hazard is suddenly shoved into the spotlight. Jesse and his friends introduce him to the underworld of teenage life: house parties, hangovers, the advantages of empty homes, and reputation by association. So what if his old friends don’t get it? So what if some people love to hate him? Screw gossip and high school’s secret rules. There’s just something about walking into a room and having all eyes on him when just last year nobody noticed him at all.

For a while Hazard basks in the attention, and before he realizes the depth of the waters he’s wading, he and Jesse strike up a “friends with benefits” routine. It could be something more, but what self-respecting teenage boy would admit it? Not Jesse—and so not Hazard, either. Not until it’s too late. Hazard and Jesse have collided, and Hazard’s life will never be the same.

About the author:If E. L. Doctorow was on point when he said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia,” at just nineteen J. R. Lenk is a self-confessed pretty boy severely in need of a psychological once-over. He’s a sucker for overcast skies and the smell of books, and enjoys a lot of things from movies about castrati to classy sweaters and wayward glances, to successful sex hair and hobo chic.

J. R. Lenk has been writing as a passion since a very young age, with a love for horror, ghost stories, and dark edgy contemporaries. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

you are the master of your own genius.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

High school genres are not my favourite. However, when Collide by J. R. Lenk [Harmony Ink Press, April 15, 2012] was recommended to me with high praise, I decided to give it a read.

One of the things said about this book was the amazing fact that the writer is still in his teens. Remarkable. Oh, there is the odd misstep – like a long, disconcerting flashback in the middle of the story – but otherwise the plot and character development, as well as the writing in general, are all at an advanced level.

The story is primarily told from the perspective of Hazard Oscar James, a Cinderella-like character at first, until he ‘collides’ – literally –with Jesse Logan Wesley: a rich-kid-BMC (‘ Big Man on Campus’ ) who is Hazard’s flawed Prince Charming.

Theirs is set against a backdrop of high school, juvenile intensity (likes, dislikes, jealousies, wild parties and booze, etc.), somewhat reminiscent of the high school flicks of the 60s. Nonetheless, it is all presented very convincingly – at least I think it is. Mind you, I haven’t been inside a high school for 62 years, so I’m a bit outdated.

Where the novel really shines, however, is in the rocky road to romance experienced by Hazard and Jesse. It is one of the best work-ups I have read. No ‘insta-love’ here. Their romance is like climbing a staircase, one step forward and two steps back, but inevitably it blossoms into a mature bonding. It is beautifully developed and written, with all of the nuances of boy-meets-boy love intact.

This is a really good story for any age, and well worth the money. Four Bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know 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:  Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia: Toronto’s Imperial Russian Connection.

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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.

 

 

 

September 29, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, MM high school romance | Leave a comment

Canadian Hook-Up: Gay Erotica, by Dick Parker

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

FROM

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Well, it’s sort of Canadian…

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Click on cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle edition.

Click on cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle edition.

Story blub: I don’t want to hurt Gramps. I don’t want him to find out I’m not exactly an ‘All-American’ boy… Caleb is a gay virgin whose only experience is jacking off with his buddies. But all that changes during a fishing trip to Canada. His Grandpa Fred and Fred’s buddies, Herb and Lenny, are doing their annual fly-in fishing trip and Caleb is invited to take the place of one of their late friends, Charlie. If Caleb had any choice, he’d have gone somewhere else with his own group of friends. But the trip turns out to be a wonderful journey, especially with three old farts who liven up each second on the road with their dirty jokes. Besides, Caleb quickly stops regretting the trip when he meets their young pilot, Aidan. Aside from flying them to the lodge, Aidan is also the dock-boy preparing their boats for fishing. Caleb and Aiden see each other frequently and they check each other out, neither of them ashamed to do so. Things come to a head when they surrender to one kiss, which soon leads to more. Aidan is irresistible, but Caleb is also afraid of anyone finding out about their relationship, especially his Grandpa, who will be hurt if he knew he had a gay grandson… *A gay romance for mature audiences. SAMPLE: I stepped up to Aidan and we wrapped our arms around each other and began making out. His cock was pressing into mine and they both felt wet. I leaned down and sucked on his left nipple and he moaned. “Oh yeah,” he said. I worked my way down his belly, licking his flat belly and then I took his cock into my mouth and began sucking him. He held my head and I took his cock deeply into my mouth and throat. I had gotten over the gag reflex and could take nearly the whole damn thing now. “I want to suck you,” he said. I stood up and he sucked my nipple and then he bit it. I gasped when he did it but it was so sexual all it did was make me hornier. He took my cock in his mouth and did a hell of a job getting most of it into his throat. He licked my balls and then went back on my cock. “Caleb, I want you to fuck me,” he said.

About the author: Dick Parker is an outdoorsman and has lived in the mid-west all of his life. His favorite activities are fishing, hunting and sex with other guys. He found out at a young age that he was gay and has had many outdoor adventures with friends that turned into more than just a fishing trip.

He began writing outdoor stories for sporting magazines and then delved into erotic stories. A lot of the situations in the stories are from personal experiences. He writes full time and is always willing to do research for a new story idea.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Tomorrow being Canada Day, I went looking for a gay Canadian story—not an easy quest considering that Amazon lists The Best American Short Stories at the top of the list. I shall have to write Jeffy Bezos and tell him all about the War of 1812. Moreover, the whole ‘Canadian gay story section covers only 5 pages. [P.S. You can find more than that by searching this blog.]

Nonetheless, I eventually spied Canadian Hook-Up: Gay Erotica by Dick Parker [4Fun Publishing, February 20, 2014]. I don’t usually read or review erotica per se, but being somewhat desperate for anything Canadian, I ordered a copy from Barnes and Noble. It was only then that I discovered that Canadian Hook-up is Canadian in content only, and that Dick Parker is an American living in the Mid-West.

Nonetheless, it is sort of Canadian.

The blurb (one of the most extensive I’ve come across) pretty well synopsizes the story, so there is nothing I can add that would make any difference. I suppose I should have added a disclaimer regarding ‘mature language’ at the top, but I don’t believe in disclaimers of that nature. We are our own censors when it comes to language, so far be it from me to tell you what you should or should not read. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Simple as that.

Now, regarding Dick Parker’s writing. The story is really a novella. The advertising states 120± pages, but this includes double spacing both before and after dialogue and paragraphs’; therefore, there are probably far fewer.

The writing style is passable, although I would have liked to have seen more detail regarding Canada—i.e. is it set in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, etc.—and a wilderness fishing camp could certainly benefitted from more description of placid lakes and misty mornings.

Albeit, if you take the “gay erotica” caveat (in the title) at face value, sylvan descriptions are not intended to be the long suit. Indeed, I have seldom found an erotic novel that balanced style and substance with tips to the sack.

What I liked about this story.

I thought the author did quite a nice job of balancing age types—i.e. seniors versus young adults. Indeed, looking at it from Caleb’s point of view, I felt comfortable with the way he fit in to the older circle while maintaining his own place.

In addition, I thought he captured the banter of a ‘boy’s trip out’ quite well.

Beyond this, it was erotica as usual, with some quite noticeable grammar problems—i.e. commas that are sprinkled throughout like random dewdrops.

Canadian Hook-up isn’t Canadian, but for those who enjoy erotica it is a passable read. Three bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know 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 legend of “Fireaway” – the ‘voyageur’ horse

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If you would like to learn more about 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.

       

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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June 30, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

One Man Guy, by Michael Barakiva

A charming young adult, boy-meets-boy story.

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Click on cover to purchase from Barnes abd Noble. Also available in Kindle.

Click on cover to purchase from Barnes abd Noble. Also available in Kindle.

Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.
Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

About the author: Michael Barakiva is an Armenian/Israeli theater director and writer who lives in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan with his husband, Rafael. He was born in Haifa, Israel and grew up in the suburbs of Central New Jersey, which were much scarier. He attended Vassar College, where he double majored in Drama and English, after which he attended the Juilliard School’s Drama Division as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Directing. He has been living in New York City since.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A few things made me choose One Man Guy, by Michael Barakiva [Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), May 27, 2014]: The ‘folksy’ cover; the light-hearted presentation, and the Armenian sub-plot.

For those who might not know much about Armenia (including me), it is a former Soviet Russian satellite, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and Nakhchivan to the south.

Culturally it is known for a number of things; particularly music and dance which are both demonstrated by Aram Khatchaturian’s  spirited Sabre Dance from his ballet “Gayane.”

Central to this story, United States has a large Armenian diaspora of approximately 9 million people.

The Armenian theme plays quite a prominent role in this story, and effectively so. It adds an element of uniqueness I have not encountered before. I think a good story, whether fiction of not, should have an educational component to it. Moreover, the author worked this in seamlessly, which is the other part of it.

Alek is a 14 year old boy of Armenian descent, and like most Eastern Europeans, his parents have high expectations for their oldest son. Moreover, unlike North American parents, they know that hard work and effort is the only way to achieve it. There is, as they have said for centuries, no royal road to learning.

Therefore, Alek is sent off to summer school to improve his marks. Alek is not thrilled by this idea, but to his credit he sees his parent’s logic and agrees.

Not surprisingly—otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story—boy-meets-boy in the person of Ethan; a more typical North American adolescent—precocious, cocky, and not just a little self-centred. Nonetheless, the two hit it off famously, and eventually take the second step.

A tertiary character is also along for the ride; Alek’s friend Becky. I suspect she is there for a number of reasons. As a literary device she provides a change of voice that both Alek and Ethan can play off (it would be slightly tedious if only the viewpoint of the two boys was presented.) Secondly, as a young adult story, the unsuccessful attempt at heterosexual sex on Alek’s part says it’s no big deal. Nature has other ideas.

To that extent, it’s a thoughtful, well-constructed, and enjoyable read.

My reservations are somewhat subjective, and the subject of a debate among writers of GBLT fiction. How much acceptance should there be in the coming out process, and how much angst. All I can suggest is that is a delicate balance, for too much of one or the other can shade the novel from gleam to gloom.

In this novel I thought there was a disconnect between Alek’s highly traditional parents and their unquestioning acceptance of his homosexuality. Not disagreeably, I hasten to add, but slightly incredibly. For this reason I’m going to give it four bees, meaning it’s almost there but not quite.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know 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:  John (Giovanni) Cabot: Discovery Day, Newfoundland and Labrador, June 24th, 1497

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If you would like to learn more about 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.

       

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 23, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Real Good Man (Canadian Heroes #2) by Elise Whyles

You can’t win ‘em all…

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Click on the cover to purchase from Barnes & Noble

Click on the cover to purchase from Barnes & Noble

Story blurb: In Book 2 of the Canadian Heroes series you’ll discover love can grow in the most unlikely places. Set in the rugged beauty of Banff, two men will find romance. But will love be reason enough to let go of the past and their fears, or like winter snow on blades of grass, will self-doubt and suspicion destroy their passion?

Sean Tisman lives in fear of his father’s prejudice. When he’s stationed in Banff he’s determined to live life on his terms. When he meets his counterpart, Sean’s world is thrown into further upheaval.

Luke Marshall is a man licking his wounds. After a bad break with his ex, he’s relieved to be given his old post; that is until he meets the man of his dreams in the young game warden assigned to Banff. Can their love survive the secrets and danger that lie in wait for them?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’m always ready to pick up anything with ‘Canadian’ in the title, and Real Good Man (Canadian Heroes #2)by Elise Whyles [Liquid Silver Books, February 17, 2013] had all the right words.

Set in the breathtakingly beautiful Banff region of northern Alberta, the story involves Luke, a jilted lover of a heartless cad who had the gall to bring his cuckold home to his lover’s house and bed.

Traumatized by this unexpected turn of events, Luke immerses himself in work with a determined not to make the same mistake again; to which we can all identify. However, as we all know equally well, fate has a way of challenging our resolve.

Enter Sean — of the perfect body and green eyes. He is escaping an abusive father who is just a little right of Attila the Hun, and for this purpose the wilderness of northern Alberta seems like the perfect solution.

However, here is where fate turns up the heat as well, for these two ‘wounded’ individuals are thrown together in a combination of need and lust.

The difficulty is that neither knows where the other stand—sexually speaking—and so they circle on another waiting for the other to make the first move. Needless to say, this creates a certain amount of frustration until in a minor explosion they both discover the other is gay, and that each is attracted to the other.

Nonetheless, things are ‘not happy ever after’ just yet. There are spectres from the past that must be dealt with, both literally and figuratively, before this can happen.

Review:-

Although she has several novels to her credit, this is the first work from this author I have read, and the impression I got is that it may have been rushed into publication. There is an ‘unfinished’ quality about it, not to mention some continuity issues. As one reviewer has already pointed out, in one sex scene the characters starts off by donning a condom, but results in sperm being smeared over the other character’s body. So what happened in between?

Then there is my old complaint about angst-driven gay stories. Yes, persecution has been very much part of the GBLT story, but it isn’t the whole story. Nonetheless, a good 80 – 90 percent of GBLT stories I read and review are angst-driven: ‘The great blight of sameness.’

Three bees.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know 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:  Molly Lamb-Bobak, CM, ONB: Canada’s first Official Woman War Artist.

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If you would like to learn more about 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.

       

 

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.

 

May 26, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction | Leave a comment

Well Traveled (Gideon and Jedediah #1) by Margaret Mills, Tedy Ward

Altogether, a very enjoyable story

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well traveled - coverStory blurb: Gideon Makepeace, a young man of twenty, knows who he is and what he likes: decency, men and women too, horse training, and fun… and in Livingston, Montana, in the lush autumn of 1895, he finds he likes a Lakota Sioux Indian better than he might ought to.

Jedediah Buffalo Bird is seriously wounded and seeking medical care, and Gideon helps Jed when some bigoted townsfolk might have done otherwise. Jed, who knows the wild far better than Gideon and feels indebted to him, agrees to repay him by being his guide to San Francisco.

Their trip takes them across thousands of wild miles, through the mountains men mine and the Indian reservations dotting the plains. Facing a majestic West, they learn from each other about white folks and Indians alike. Gideon’s interest in Jed is clear from the start, but will Jed give up the life he knows for a young, brash white man he has perhaps come to love? Or will he push Gideon away in favor of the peace of nature and the personal freedom of having nothing to lose?

About the author: Margaret Mills is a professional technical writer and editor; branching into narrative fiction seemed like a natural extension of the pleasure that writing has always been for her. A California resident, Maggie enjoys hiking in the nearby hills, reading, walking the dog on the beach, and writing with her co-author, Tedi Ward. Maggie met Tedi in a writers’ group, and their personalities mix almost as well as their characters’ do; they enjoy writing the kinds of stories they love to read.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a male adventure story this week—for which there are suprising few—when this one came into view. Well Traveled (Gideon and Jedediah #1) co-authored by Margaret Mills and Tedy Ward [Dreamspinner Press, October 18, 2010], is a somewhat epic journey undertaken by two boys of different racial backgrounds in 1895.

Gideon Makepeace is white, twenty years old, working in Livington, Montana for the summer, and is about to return to California to reunite with his parents in San Francisco. Jedediah Buffalo Bird is slightly older, a mixed-blood Lakota Sioux, a product of the dreaded boarding school experience, and a victim of some redneck bullying when they first meet.

Gideon, a decent kid with a slight leaning toward men, nurses him back to health, and thus starts a—Platonic at this point—relationship between them. The problem is that Gideon has used up his train fare in the process, but after a little good-natured ribbing regarding Gideon’s tenderfoot condition—which raised a question for me since the latter had spent the summer training horses—J edediah agrees to guide him to California—something like 1,100 miles through rugged wilderness and mountain country.

The journey therefore becomes the challenge; nevertheless, after the relationship has blossomed, there arises some tension regarding how a couple of mixed race can fare in either culture. This threatens a solid commitment on Jedediah’s part, and so it is this question that has to be resolved in the end.

This is a well crafted story. The premise is credible—an eleven hundred mile trip was not out of the ordinary in 1895—and it placed the two players in a context in which romance could logically take place. The race issues were real. Indians were ill-thought-of by the whites, and an Indian of mixed blood  (a “Breed”) was disliked by both cultures. Nonetheless, the two authors wisely didn’t succumb to the temptation to moralize.

The pace is a bit slow, but given the cultural issues it takes time to develop these complexities. Moreover, it didn’t bother me that it took quite a few pages (I didn’t count) to get them into the sack. I’m of the school where sex is the piquant, not the main course—or shouldn’t be.

Altogether, quite enjoyable: Four and one-half bees.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know 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:  Who says Canada doesn’t have super heroes?…Step aside Captain America.

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If you would like to learn more about 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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April 7, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Coming out, Cross Cultural romance, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Gay western, Historical Fiction, Mixed race | Leave a comment

Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, by Allan Bérubé

 

Edition of Gerry B’s Book Reviews

 

  

Some interesting facts

  • Remembrance Day was originally known as “Armistice Day”
  • In Canada it became Remembrance Day by Act of Parliament in 1931.
  • It is known by our neighbours and allies to the south as “Veteran’s Day”.
  • The poppy is the symbol that individuals use to show that they remember those who fought and died in the service of their country.
  • The idea of the poppy originated with the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in the First World War. His poem reflects his first hand account of what he witnessed while working from a dressing station on the bank of the Yser Canal.
  • An American woman, Moina Michael, was the first person known to have worn a poppy in remembrance.

If you never read another historical account of this era, read this one! Outstanding!

  

coming out under fire - coverStory blurb: This major study chronicles the struggle of homosexuals in the U.S. military during WW II who found themselves fighting on two fronts: against the Axis and against their own authorities who took extreme measures to stigmatize them as unfit to serve their country. From 1941 to 1945, more than 9000 gay servicemen and women purportedly were diagnosed as sexual psychopaths and given “undesirable” discharges. Based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, augmented by 75 interviews with gay male and female veterans, social historian Berube recounts the purges in the military into the Cold War era when homosexuality was officially equated with sin, crime and sickness. The book reveals that the first public challenge to the military’s policy came not from the gay-rights movement but from military psychiatrists who studied gay servicemen and women during World War II. This evenhanded study brings into sharp focus an important chapter in American social history.

About the author: Allan Ronald Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007) was an American historian, activist,independent scholar, self-described “community-based” researcher and college drop-out, and award-winning author, best known for his research and writing about homosexual members of the American Armed Forces during World War II He also wrote essays about the intersection of class and race in gay culture, and about growing up in a poor, working class family, his French-Canadian roots, and about his experience of anti-AIDS activism.

Coming Out Under Fire earned Bérubé the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction book of 1990 and was later adapted as a film in 1994, narrated by Salome Jens and Max Cole, with a screenplay by Bérubé and the film’s director, Arthur Dong. The film received a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary media in 1995. Bérubé received a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the “genius grant”) from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. He received a Rockefeller grant from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1994 to research a book on the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, and he was working on this book at the time of his death. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Review by Gerry Burnie

If I were asked to design a definitive course on the history of Gays and Lesbians in North America, I would include three books  as required reading: Gay  American History, by  Jonathon Katz; From  the Closet to the Courtroom, by  Carlos Ball; and Coming out Under Fire, by  Allan Bérubé [Free Press, 1990]. Moreover, I think the students would thank me afterward  for choosing books that are authoritative, informative and relatively easy to  read.

For me personally, Allan Bérubé’s seminal work represents an eye-opener like few others I have read. Indeed, I was moved from profound sadness to outright rage when I learned the systematic
persecution that these innocent men and women had to endure in the service of their country. That, perhaps, is the greatest benefit that this retrospective can provide, for those who cannot
remember the past are condemned to repeat it
.

The following is a précis of Bérubé’s thesis, but it is by no means complete or in depth. To really appreciate the full story of coming out under fire I urge you to read the original.

***

When the  war clouds started to descend over Europe in the 1930s the United States  military did not exceed two hundred thousand soldiers, and so to overcome this Congress  passed the nation’s first peacetime conscription act. Consequently, conscripts began to fill the Army’s ranks in astonishing numbers (16 million in 1940-41).

With so many men available, the armed forces decided to exclude certain groups, including women, blacks, and—following  the advice of psychiatrists—homosexuals (although this term was not yet widely used).  Traditionally the military had  never officially excluded homosexuals, but in World War II a dramatic change occurred.  Seeing a chance to advance their prestige, influence, and legitimacy of their  profession, psychiatrists promoted screening as a means of reducing psychiatric casualties before they became military responsibilities.

In 1941, therefore, the Army issued a  directive which disqualified “homosexual proclivities” as a “psychopathic personality  disorder.”  This was in keeping with the  prevailing belief that homosexuality was a neurological disorder—i.e. the first  signs of a brain-disease caused by heredity, trauma, or bad habits such as  masturbation, drunkenness and drug addiction.

Moreover, the military encased this  idea in “characteristics that were considered inferior or “degenerative” by  virtue of their deviation from the generally white, middle-class, and
native-born norm.” (Location 536).

“The  framers of the Army’s interwar physical standards listed feminine  characteristics among the “stigmata of degeneration” that made a man unfit for  military service. Males with a “degenerative physique,” the regulation explained,  “may present the general body conformation of the opposite sex, with sloping  narrow shoulders, broad hips, excessive pectoral and public adipose [fat]  deposits, with lack of masculine hirsute [hair] and muscular markings.”” (Location 536).

Bérubé then goes on to explain, “The  reason for excluding these as psychopaths was that, like other men in this “wastebasket”  category, they were considered to be irresponsible troublemakers who were  unable to control their desires or learn from their mistakes and thus  threatened the other men.” (Location 568).

To make matters worse, this sort of quackery  was widely promulgated in training seminars for recruiters and physicians  throughout the United States, and even published in medical journals for wider  distribution.

On the other hand, because of women’s marginal status in the military prior to WWII, neither the Army nor the Navy had developed policies and procedures concerning lesbians. Therefore, women
recruits were never asked the homosexual question, and were therefore able to enter the military undetected.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, however, the rules were relaxed to accommodate the demands of war, and the military was forced to accept and integrate most gay selectees. In fact, it was privately  acknowledged that gay men had become vital members of the armed forces. Moreover, the gay recruits found ways to fit in and even to form close and lasting relationships with “buddies.”

Sexual activity was at a minimum until the recruits learned the rules, and then discrete opportunities could be found where there was a will.

“Not all trainees who approached other men for sex were gay. Heterosexual recruits who had had the most sexual experience with women or who felt strong sex drives could initiate sex without being afraid that they were queer, especially if their partner was gay and played the “passive” role. Teenage recruits who were just fooling around with each other, especially if they had been drinking, found themselves unexpectedly becoming sexual. Some older soldiers with more sexual experience in the military taught younger men how to have sex without getting caught. On the other hand, recruits who knew they were gay before entering the service were sometimes the most reluctant to have sex.” (Location 1103).

Meanwhile, Army and Navy officials struggled with how to manage the homosexual behaviour, and several approaches were developed. When challenged from the outside, particularly by concerned
parents or clergy, their public stance was to condemn behaviour considered to be immoral in the wider culture, including  profanity, drunkenness, erotic pictures, extramarital sex, lesbianism, homosexuality, and prostitution. Within the organization, however, military officials took a more understanding approach—forced into it by the need to hang onto trained personnel.

Trainees usually learned on their own how to put up with one another’s differences in order to get through basic training. They also received pleas for tolerance from the war propaganda which
portrayed American soldiers as defending the ideals of democracy, equality, and freedom against the totalitarian Axis. But inspired more by necessity than idealism, male trainees responded to the demands of basic training by developing their own pragmatic ethic of tolerance: “I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me.”

One of the areas where blatant effeminacy was tolerated—even applauded—was in the “all-soldier variety show.” These began as a diversion, but soon became a popular form of frontline entertainment even under fire. These were all-male shows to entertain each other that almost always  featured female impersonation, and coincidentally provided a temporary refuge for gay males to let their hair down and entertain their fellows.

“The impulse to put on shows and perform in dresses generally came from the men themselves—soldiers without women, as well as gay men, had long traditions of spontaneously dressing up in women’s clothes. But during World War II, the military officials, pressured by GIs, their own morale personnel, and leaders in the civilian theatre world …found themselves not only tolerating makeshift drag but officially promoting female impersonation.” (Location 1677).

In 1941, strained by the demands of a massive war mobilization that included a large influx of gay soldiers, the military could no longer handle its homosexual discipline problems by sending all offenders to prison as required by the Articles of War.[1] Therefore, based on the belief that homosexuality was a mental illness, there was a concerted effort to discharge homosexuals without trial while retaining those whose services were deemed essential. However, this policy ran contrary to the common law that held homosexuality as “an infamous and unspeakable crime against nature,” and that the military had a responsibility “to prevent such crimes with severe punishment
and to protect the morals of the nation’s young people under their jurisdiction.”

Underlying all this was a sort of political upmanship among various factions of the military bureaucracy. For example, having sodomites released into the care of psychiatrists would greatly enhance the standing of psychiatry as a legitimate science, and for their part the generals resented the  interference of the legals in the Judge Advocate’s office. Therefore, the unfortunate men and women awaiting jusice were helplessly caught somewhere in the middle.

There was also the question of what sort of discharge would apply–i.e. honourable medical discharge or dishonourable? An honourable discharge, it was argued, might lead to homosexual activity or declaration in order to escape compulsory service. Dishonourable discharge (so-called “section eights” or “blue cards”), on the other hand, were generally used only for men who had been convicted of a crime and who had served their sentences. These had been used successfully to eliminate social misfits–alcoholics, chronic liars, drug addicts, men who antagonised everyone—but technically did not include homosexuals. In the end (1943), however, the military issued a directive that steered a compromise inasmuch as sodomy was still deemed a criminal offence, but it allowed for an exception where force or violence had not been used. These individuals would be examined by a board of officers “with the purpose of discharge under the provisions of Section Eight.

It was intended as a more humane way of dealing with “offenders” but, as gay men and women would soon find out, it was fraught with difficulties of its own.

As officers began to discharge homosexuals as undesirables, the gay GIs who were their targets had to learn how to defend themselves in psychiatrists’ offices, discharge hearing rooms, hospital wards, and in “queer stockades.” There they were interrogated about their sex lives, locked up, physically abused, and subjected to systematic humiliations in front of other soldiers.

“The discharge system could drag any GI whose homosexuality became known or even suspected into seemingly endless maze of unexpected humiliations and punishments. Some gay male and lesbian GIs first entered the maze when they voluntarily declared their homosexuality, fully expecting to be hospitalized
and discharged. But others, following the advice in basic training lectures to talk over their problems with a doctor, psychiatrist, or chaplain, were shocked when medical officers betrayed their confidences by reporting them for punitive action ad “self-confessed” homosexuals, or were disappointed and frustrated when more sympathetic psychiatrists could not help them at all. Caught during their processing for discharge in battles between friendly and hostile officers, they found themselves thrown around like footballs in a game over which they had no control.”
(Location 4442).

Nor were things to improve when they were returned home to civilian life. Gay veterans with “blue” or undesirable discharges where stripped of his service medals, rank, and uniform, then given a one-way ticket home where they had to report to their draft board to present their discharge papers. The stigma attached to these discharges was not an accident. Rather, it was intended to punish homosexuals and prevent malingering, and the requirement that the GI report to his draft board ensured that his community would find out the nature of his discharge. Therefore, they were forced to come out to their families and communities. Wherever blue-discharge veterans lived, employers, schools, insurance companies, veterans’ organizations, and other institutions could  use their bad discharge papers to discriminate against them.

One of the most vindictive punishments meted out to these veterans was the denial of GI benefits that included federally subsidized home loans; college loans with allowances for subsistence, tuition, and books; unemployment allowances; job training and placement programs; disability pensions and hospital care. Top officials at the Veterans Administration were responsible for this denial, contrary to Army policy and Congress, but nonetheless the VA refused to drop its anti-homosexual prohibition. Consequently, many blue-discharge veterans found it difficult (impossible) to find employment, and when they applied for unemployment insurance, or small
business loans, or college assistance, they were denied in a Catch-22 situation.

One of the side effects of this discrimination was that having survived fear and death on the battlefield, some gay combat veterans began to cast off the veil of secrecy that so seriously
constrained their lives. For them, “coming out” to family and friends was not nearly as terrifying as facing the enemy in battle. Moreover, the popular press began to take notice of the blue-ticket discharges, and their plight, and started to publish columns on the “Homosexual Minorities,” characterizing them as “anther minority which suffers from its position in society in somewhat the same way as the Jews and Negroes.”

Unfortunately, this period of ‘liberal’ attitude was short-lived, for in the late 1940s a preoccupation with conformity brought a fearful scapegoating of those who deviated from a narrow idea of the
nuclear family and the American way of life. However, you will have to read this most remarkable book to learn the outcome of this.

***

What I have included above only covers a small portion of this fascinating, sometimes heart rending, story. If you never read another history of this period, I urge you to read this one. Five Bees, and if I could give ten I would!


[1]
Under the Articles of War, the maximum penalties for Army enlisted men and
officers convicted of sodomy were five years confinement at hard labour,
forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and dishonourable discharge or dismissal.
Under the Articles for the Navy, the maximum penalties for enlisted men were
same but with ten years of confinement at hard labour.

News

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***

To order any of my books, click on the cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are now available in Kindle and Nook formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 exclusive of tax where applicable.

       

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November 11, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Gay documentary, Gay Literature, Gay non-fiction, Historical period, Military history, Non-fiction | 3 Comments

Sandel, by Angus Stewart

A Masterpiece of the writer’s art – tender, evocative and sensitive

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sandel - coverStory blurb: The story of two young lovers whose passion for one another is exclusive, lyrical, tender and subject to the tensions that any intense romantic relationship is liable to.

A love affair between a thirteen-year-old schoolboy (Tony Sandel) and a nineteen-year-old undergraduate (David), written and published at time before moral panic set in and the false dogma was established that all such relationships damaged the younger partner for life. Sandel is an evocative portrait of boarding-school and Oxbridge life and the intense, often romantic friendships that flourish there. It is also a novel of sexual awakening, whose light touch disguises the profound emotions that such friendships generate; the relationship portrayed is partly of equals and partly, as often happens, one where it is the younger partner who decides whether and how it should persist.

About the author: Angus Stewart’s [1936 – 1998] first published work was ‘The Stile’, which appeared in the 1964 Faber anthology Stories by New Writers. He won the Richard Hillary Memorial Prize in 1965. His breakthrough to public and critical attention came in 1968 with his first novel, Sandel. Set in the pseudonymous St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, the book revolves around the unorthodox love between a 19-year-old undergraduate, David Rogers, and a 13-year-old chorister, Antony Sandel. The novel appears to have been based on real events, recounted by Stewart in an article under the pseudonym ‘John Davis’ in the 1961 anthology Underdogs, edited for Weidenfeld and Nicolson by Philip Toynbee. The story is treated with delicacy and sensitivity, and has a place in English literature comparable in importance to Roger Peyrefitte’s treatment of the same subject in his 1943 novel Les amitiés particulières. Over the past forty years Sandel has become a cult gay novel.

After Sandel Stewart moved to Tangier in Morocco, partly as a project in self-discovery and partly to experiment with drugs in a sympathetic environment. His Moroccan experiences resulted in two further books, a novel entitled Snow in Harvest (1969) and a travel diary entitled Tangier: A Writer’s Notebook (1977). He also wrote poetry, some of which was published as Sense and Inconsequence (1972), with an introduction by his father’s longstanding friend W. H. Auden.

After his mother’s death in 1979 Stewart returned to England, living for the final twenty years of his life in an annex to his father’s home at Fawler outside Oxford. He was an accomplished portrait photographer. For much of his life he suffered from clinical depression.

♥♥♥

Review by Gerry Burnie

Scen from Les amitiés particulières.There is currently a controversy raging over Amazon.com’s decision to arbitrarily exclude certain types of erotic novels from its catalogue. However, to the best of my knowledge it has yet to define in specific terms which novels are unacceptable, beyond some broad-stroke classifications—i.e., underage sex, depictions of rape and incest, or bestiality, etc.

To say the least, this is an ambitious undertaking given the millions of indie books alone (for these seem to be the ones targeted the most), so I expect there are many ‘babies’ thrown out with the bath water—certainly some of my friends have complained of this already.

My reaction is that it is a backdoor approach to censorship by a monopoly that has little regard for its authors anyway. This has been my personal experience, and if asked I will gladly provide chapter and verse regarding the details.

Part of this purge can also be attributed to a hypocritically-prudish North America that prohibits an author from writing about sexual activity  with a minor under the age of eighteen, but sets the bar for consensual sex at sixteen, and adolescent-to adolescent sex at thirteen, i.e.

163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means

(b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;

(c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; or

Age of consent:

From 1890 until recently, the age at which a youth could consent to nonexploitative sexual activity was 14 years. With the recent change to the criminal code of Canada, the age of consent for nonexploitative sexual activity is now 16 years.

Nonexploitative activity is defined as sexual activity that does not involve prostitution or pornography, and where there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency between the persons involved (1). A coach, spiritual leader, teacher, school principal, guidance counsellor or family member are all examples of persons in a position of trust or authority with youth.

For exploitative sexual activity (prostitution or pornography, or where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency), the age of consent is 18 years.

The spirit of the new legislation is not to regulate consensual teenage sexual activity. To this effect, there are a few notable exceptions to the law:

  1. Youth 12 or 13 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity with peers when the age difference is no more than two years. For example, a 12-year-old child is deemed capable of consenting to sexual activity with a 14-year-old, but not a 15-year-old.
  2. Youth 14 or 15 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity when the age difference is no more than five years. For example, a 15-year-old can consent to having sexual intercourse with a 20-year-old, but not with a 21-year-old.

Children younger than 12 years of age can never consent to sexual activity with anyone, of any age, regardless of whether they say they do. (Canadian Paediatric Society – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2532909/)

With all this in mind I immediately ordered a copy (from Amazon) of the late Angus Stewart’s much acclaimed novel, Sandel, [Pilot Productions, August 10, 2013]. Like it’s equally acclaimed predecessor, Les amitiés particulières, by Roger Peyrefitte (1943), it deals with younger/older love in a tender, evocative and sensitive way. In fact, they are both masterpieces of the writer’s art.

Scene from Les amitiés particulièresSandel tells the story of Anthony Sandel, a choir boy at St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, and an undergraduate organist (David Rogers). At first their relationship focuses on their mutual love of religious music, but over time it progresses logically and with great credibility into an erastes and eronomous type of love. However, remembering that it was first written and published in the 1960s, this aspect is more implied than explicit; to the extent that the Daily Telegraph wrote of it: “A love not despicable.”

However, as one reviewer has pointed out, the 60s may have been quite ‘liberal’ compared to today, and I quote:

“It is merely difficult to imagine today an aunt who would think or dare to rescue from their outraged school her 13-year-old nephew caught in his master’s bed, and dispatch the lovers on a ten-week honeymoon in Italy. It is impossible though to imagine anything but imminent catastrophe if today a choirboy being interviewed by newsmen were to tell them about his love for his teacher and the latter punched one of them to the floor for making snide remarks about it. The threat “You shouldn’t have done that,” couldn’t possibly sound “unconvincing.” The newsmen would know only too well that a visit to the police would ensure an investigation almost bound to wreck the lives of both man and boy.”

Or,

“One wonders how long it will be before the child abuse lobby succeeds in imposing on productions of Romeo and Juliet the interruption of the most romantic scenes with sour warnings that despite the strongest contrary indications love involving a pubescent is always really no more than false cover for a satanic plot to satisfy selfish lust. ~ – Edmund Marlowe, author of Alexander’s Choice, an Eton boy’s love story.

I agree wholeheartedly. To Sandel – Five Bees for a true masterpiece.

♥♥♥

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 57,278

♥♥♥

Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Springhill Nova Scotia Mine Disaster – Oct. 23, 1958“The Springhill Bump”

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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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October 28, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Angus Stewart, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Older/younger relationships | 9 Comments

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, by Alison Wearing

An engaging and unique memoir that will charm as well as entertain…

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confessions of a fairy's daughterStory blurb: Alison Wearing led a largely carefree childhood until she learned, at the age of 12, that her family was a little more complex than she had realized. Sure her father had always been unusual compared to the other dads in the neighbourhood: he loved to bake croissants, wear silk pyjamas around the house, and skip down the street singing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But when he came out of the closet in the 1970s, when homosexuality was still a cardinal taboo, it was a shock to everyone in the quiet community of Peterborough, Ontario—especially to his wife and three children.

Alison’s father was a professor of political science and amateur choral conductor, her mother was an accomplished pianist and marathon runner, and together they had fed the family a steady diet of arts, adventures, mishaps, normal frustrations and inexhaustible laughter. Yet despite these agreeable circumstances, Joe’s internal life was haunted by conflicting desires. As he began to explore and understand the truth about himself, he became determined to find a way to live both as a gay man and also a devoted father, something almost unheard of at the time. Through extraordinary excerpts from his own letters and journals from the years of his coming out, we read of Joe’s private struggle to make sense and beauty of his life, to take inspiration from an evolving society and become part of the vanguard of the gay revolution in Canada.
 
Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is also the story of “coming out” as the daughter of a gay father. Already wrestling with an adolescent’s search for identity when her father came out of the closet, Alison promptly “went in,” concealing his sexual orientation from her friends and spinning extravagant stories about all of the “great straight things” they did together. Over time, Alison came to see that life with her father was surprisingly interesting and entertaining, even oddly inspiring, and in fact, there was nothing to hide.

About the author: Alison Wearing is the author of the internationally acclaimed travel memoir Honeymoon in Purdah – an Iranian journey and the writer/performer of two award-winning one-woman plays.

♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the common bug-a-boos run up the flagpole by conservative Christians and other homophobic fear mongers is the so-called ‘risk’ to children that homosexuality and same-sex marriage allegedly represent. Everything from paedophilia to psychological maladjustment. The fact is, as demonstrated by Alison Wearing in her recent memoir-in four-parts, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, [Knopf Canada , May 7, 2013], homophobia probably has a greater negative impact on the offspring of a gay parent than the sexual orientation ever could have.

Her engaging memoir is uniquely structured into four perspectives. Her early life in a somewhat avant-garde family, where the mother—a talented musician and marathoner—chose to reasonably follow her personal pursuits, while the father—a professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario—was quite happy to pick up the domestic side of things. Nonetheless, young Alison had no problem with this … Except for one rather disastrous birthday party, featuring a birthday fare of “Gruyère soufflé, waxed beans in tarragon butter, and crème brûlée,” which for a seven-year-old speaks for itself.

This part also included her father’s coming out, but because of the prevailing homophobic attitude of the  time (1980s) Alison goes into denial.

The second part is written by the father, and relies on a journal he maintained at the time; plus some newspaper clippings having to do with homosexuality. I personally appreciated this approach because it gave me a deeper insight into a complex situation than I would have gotten from the author’s single POV. It also provided a brief insight into the social mores of the era.

The third part is written by the mother. It is quite short, but charming, and it completes the main character’s perspectives.

Lastly, the fourth part is an update of how things are today.

I like autobiographies, biographies and memoirs, but I particularly like this one. Adding the other two points of view is a unique approach—to me, anyway—and it added so much to my understanding of an otherwise complex situation. Moreover, on a personal level, Peterborough is only a few miles from my original home town, and the 1980s was a transition period for me as well a gay society: from the dark ages of the ‘Bath House Raids’ to more modern liberalism.

For these reasons I recommend it most highly, but as always this is my opinion. Five bees.

♣♣♣

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 56,184

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Damien: Too gay for Canadian Racing.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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October 7, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Coming out, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Semi-autobiographical | Leave a comment

Adagio, by Chris Owen

A heart warming romance in the classic style …

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adagio - coverStory blurb: Love Is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans…

Five years after arriving in Australia, Jason Stuart is finally embarking on the dream that brought him Down Under: going on “walkabout” in the Australian Outback. But Jason is not that fresh-faced and untried boy from Canada anymore. Jason is a man with half a decade of bad memories and worse nightmares. His friends think he’s crazy, or possibly just plain stupid, but Jason needs to make his dream real in order to face his past.

Everything changes when Jason picks up an unexpected travel companion. Suddenly, it’s not his past that Jason needs to confront, it’s his future.

Part coming-of-age tale, part romance, part travel yarn, Adagio paints a heart warming picture of a fledgling relationship between two very different men against the lush backdrop of Australia’s natural wonders.

About the author: I live and write in eastern Canada, where the winds blow cool and calm on the good days, wicked and fast on the bad. There’s rain and sun, and in the winter there’s snow… a lot of snow. A nice fire to keep warm, a nice pen with good flow, and a decent notebook are all that I really require. Which is not to say that the MacBook Air isn’t the best thing eve.. I went to a bunch of schools, learned a lot of things, and now make stuff up because not to do so is unthinkable.

I’m inspired by the day to day minutia of life, and find beauty in the way words go together. I like texture and richness of experience. I’m not shy. I’m happy, I’m learning, I’m living.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In my choice of Adagio by Chris Owen [Casperian Books LLC, September 21, 2012] as my featured novel this week, three things caught my notice. First, it is about two Canadian boys, written by a Canadian author, and set in Australia.

I don’t know why I like Australia as I do (I love the accents), but for whatever reason it has a certain romance to it. Therefore, it is the perfect setting for a romance of this nature.

There is very little about Canada, or even Canadian content in this story, but that’s alright. The Australian outback makes up for it, and I think that the author has done a credible job of making it part of the story. Certainly I felt it’s vastness, and what better way to cleanse the soul than by a ‘walkabout.’

I liked the two main characters, the scarred but compassionate Jason, and the wide-eyed Ryan. They both compliment and contrast one another to produce a nice balance. I think one is more drawn to Ryan as the ingénue, but Jason is also travelling a road of discovery.

I also like the unhurried pace that allowed the two boys to get to know one another before their first sexual experience. The sex scenes were also well handled—which is ironic for me to say because  I once criticized Ms Owen’s work for being a bit too ‘generous’ with her couplings. Therefore, I am happy to take that criticism back with this novel.

The quibbles I have are few. A few loose threads (meaning plot lines that either disappear or aren’t fully exploited later on). I, for one, like to see unexpected references to previous events, even if they are minor, because they are like grace notes that add a touch of brilliance to a story. It is the little touches like this that can make a good story outstanding.

Altogether, it is a heart warming romance in the classic style, nicely written, and set in a equally romantic locale. Four  bees.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to see more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting books as well. Latest post: Pontiac’s War. Read about the great chief of the Ottawas who very nearly changed the coarse of history.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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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July 29, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, M/M love and adventure | 1 Comment

A Younger Man (Cabin Fever #3) by Cameron Dane

A true romance with a happy ending.

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a younger man - coverStory blurb: Recently divorced and out of the closet, Noah Maitland is a regular-Joe, salt-of-the-earth guy who is newly navigating the world of dating other men. So far he hasn’t had a lot of luck. Noah is a father first — he has two teenage sons. As the owner of a handyman business in a small community, Noah wants someone to love who is also appropriate for where he is in his life.

Zane Halliday is a young man — much too young for Noah — who is struggling to take care of his brother and sister and meet his bills every month. Recently thrown out of his apartment, Zane stumbles on Noah, literally. Noah offers Zane a place where he and his siblings can temporarily live, and later gives him a part time job.

Each man is dealing with his own set of problems, and both crave someone to talk to and trust. Soon a friendship between Noah and Zane blossoms. But Noah could never fall for someone so much younger than he is — not to mention Zane is not gay. But what if sexually innocent Zane isn’t as straight as he assumed he was? How will Noah be able to resist this much younger man once Zane figures out the only person he wants is Noah?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A Younger Man (Cabin Fever #3) by Cameron Dane [Liquid Silver Books, July 30, 2012] is the third in a series, but it is the first for me. I was drawn to it by the notion of a recently divorced, older man and a younger, straight man, finding common ground in a loving relationship. That juxtaposition made me curious as to how the author would handle it, and indeed Ms Dane made quite a good story out these disparate elements.

Since his divorce, Noah Maitland has had little luck finding a male mate until fate crosses his path with a much younger man’s (Zane Halliday) who, with two younger siblings has recently been evicted from their apartment. Noah is moved to help by giving them a place to stay and Zane a part-time job, but otherwise he keeps his distance.

Zane, an impoverished but responsible young man, is secretly awestruck by the older man’s compassion, but is shocked when he learns Noah is gay. Nonetheless, on second thought, he realizes he has genuine feelings for his benefactor that go beyond the latter’s benevolence.

Beyond this, the story focuses on Noah’s and Zane’s developing relationship. There are some baddies, but these are mostly relegated to sub-plot status, and there is a HEA ending.

On the good side I thought the character development was very good, especially regarding Noah and Zane, and the kids and siblings were delightful too. The plot was innovative, and the balance between emotional highs and angst seemed quite natural. However, there were some drawbacks.

As has been mentioned by others, the sex scenes were profusely detailed (going on for pages), which only emphasized some anomalies that were questionable; i.e. Do men really do that much deep thinking when they are engaged (and engrossed) in sex? From my experience, I think not.

There was also a fair degree of word repetition, and some rather odd similes—i.e. “tresses” to describe a man’s hair.

Nonetheless the stronger points outweigh the weaker ones, so for a truly feel-good romance I can heartily recommend this one. Three bees.

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May 6, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

My Roommate’s a Jock? Well, Crap! by Wade Kelly

A refreshingly light comedy 

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my roommates a jock - coveerStory blurb: It’s easy to become cynical when life never goes your way.

Cole Reid has been a social recluse since he was fifteen, when he was outed by his high school baseball team. Since then, his obsessive-compulsive behavior and sarcastic nature have driven away most of the population, and everyone else hates him because he’s gay. As he sees it, he’s bound to repulse any prospective friends, let alone boyfriends, so why bother?

By the time Cole enters college, he’s become an anal-retentive loner—but it’s not a problem until his roommate graduates and the housing department assigns Ellis Montgomery to move in with Cole. Ellis is messy, gorgeous, straight, and worst of all, a “jock”!

During a school year filled with frat buddies, camping expeditions, and meddling parents, Cole and Ellis develop a friendship that turns Cole’s glass-half-empty outlook on its head. There must be more to Ellis than a fun-loving jock—and maybe Cole’s reawakening libido has rekindled his hope for more than camaraderie.

About the author: I live and write in conservative, small-town America. Here, it’s not always easy to live free and open in one’s beliefs. Nevertheless, I love to write from my own real-life observations and experiences by expressing them through fictional characters and settings. Basically, I write what I feel, I write what I know, and I write what I think others need to hear. And if you think a character sounds like someone you know, think again… All my characters are ME.

Unlike some authors, I have no huge background in writing. I’m not good at punctuation and spelling, and my thoughts often surpass my ability as an author to express them. However, I can’t NOT write. It’s who I am. I hope you are touched by my stories. By the way…. I love Lynne Truss’ book Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have frequently bemoaned the fact that GBLT stories tend to be, for the most part, a gloomy affair, dominated by personal struggle and angst. So when I saw the off-beat title for this one, i.e. My Roommate’s a Jock? Well, Crap!, by Wade Kelly [Dreamspinner Press, December 31, 2012] I had to check it out.

Now, contrary to the seemingly carefree nature of comedy it is difficult genre to write. It takes a combination of wit and cleverly devised circumstances to pull it off successfully, and happily Kelly does a fairly good job of bringing the two together.

The circumstances revolve around a nerdy (and prickly) physics student, Cole Reid, whose last choice for a college roommate would be, and is, a soccer jock. Nevertheless, through a set of perverse circumstances he ends up with just such a one in Ellis Montgomery, and not only him but his two jock-type friends as well.

Cole and Ellis nonetheless come to an understanding, and eventually beyond as time goes by. While this bonding is somewhat based on the principle of ‘opposites attract,’ Ellis has a secret characteristic in common with Cole that comes to the fore: He is in fact latently gay. However, their first attempt at consummating this new found love turns into a bit of a disaster.

I’ll leave it to the readers to discover how and where the story goes from there, but being a light comedy it does have a HEA ending.

Over all, I liked the story and the author’s treatment of it. There were, however, some elements that didn’t work. I’m speaking primarily of spreading the point-of-view around to include 3rd and 4th level characters whose views were not all that relevant—principally the mother’s. There may be stories in which this has worked, but otherwise it is merely a distraction.

Rob and Russell were likeable enough, and complimentary to the two main characters, but I found it just a little incredible that someone so seeped in religion could be so ambivalent regarding homosexuality. Of course Mike is the intended ‘heavy,’ so it wouldn’t do to have too many negative voices.

This is one of those novels for which there will as many opinions as there are readers, so I encourage you to decide for yourself. Three and one-half bees.

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April 29, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

By the Creek by Geoff Laughton

A sweet story of juvenile discovery

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by the creekSoon-to-be high school junior David Harper hates his family’s move to the country. There’s nothing to do, and he misses his friends in the city. But he doesn’t have a choice. His mother’s job is in Mason County now, so David and his mom are too, and he has to make the best of it.

At first, the only redeeming feature of David’s new home is the swimming hole across the field from his house. Then David meets Benjamin Killinger, and suddenly life stops being so dull.

Benjamin is Amish, and cooling off in the swimming hole is one of the few liberties he and his brothers enjoy. A friendship with an English bever, troy is not—but that doesn’t stop him and David from getting to know each other, as long as it’s on the neutral ground by the creek. After David risks his life to save Benjamin’s father, the boys’ friendship is tolerated, then accepted. But before long, Benjamin’s feelings for David grow beyond the platonic. Benjamin’s family and the rest of the community will never allow a love like that, and a secret this big can’t stay secret forever…

Gay Contemporary Young Adult/Juvenile

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Note: Illness has forced me to be brief with my remarks this week. However, rather than disappoint my readers altogether, I have risen to the task with a truncated version.

By the Creek, a novel by Geoff Laughton (aka, Andrew Grey of the Love Means… series) [Harmony Ink Press, January 15, 2013], is a sweet story of ‘juvenile discovery’–i.e. it cannot be called a ‘coming out’ story per se because no one actually ‘comes out’ in the technical sense.

David and Benjamin are two lonely boys who meet by chance, and in spite of some powerful forces against it they form a loving relationship. One of these force is Benjamin’s family religion, i.e. Amish, a strictly fundamentalist sect regarding most aspects of life, and especially sex and sexual orientation. Not surprisingly, therefore, the predominant theme is that ‘love can conquer all.’

It is, as one might expect from Mr. Grey’s record and experience, very well written. The pace is appropriate, given the immaturity of the boys as they set out to explore uncharted territory. I’m not generally a fan of YA fiction, but I have no hesitation in giving this one five bees.

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April 15, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

End of the Trail, by Jane Elliot

An enjoyable western novel written in the classical style – 

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end of the trail - coverWill Connors is struggling to hold together a failing farm; his wife has died, his son has gone, he’s not without enemies and he’s dealing with the after-effects of a debilitating accident. It’s a life of toil which doesn’t allow for very much pleasure, and he’s in danger of becoming embittered until a chance acquaintance wanders back into his life and everything begins to change. The problem, however, is that John Anderson has a price on his head – and, very soon, Will and John find themselves desperately concealing more than one dangerous secret.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A brief overview of the books I’ve reviewed will reveal that I like westerns, especially those written in the classic style, and here’s another one: End of the Trail by Jane Elliot [Manifold Press, February 23, 2013].

I was first attracted to it by Robert Plotz’s cover image—two men riding hard with unfurled lariats in their hands. It is evocative of the old ‘penny westerns,’ with lots of action portrayed; however, the only problem being that it has little to do with the story except the western theme.

The story itself is set in the old west, although no specific time period is mentioned. The main character, Will Connors, is a lonely rancher: hard working; honest; and mildly handicapped (game leg). He is also a widower whose son has gone east, and so he is left to work the ranch on his own.

He first meets John Anderson three years prior when Anderson rides onto his property, wounded. Connors and his wife nurse him back to health, but it is only after he leaves that they learn that Anderson is an outlaw. In the meantime Connors’ wife dies, and John Anderson unexpectedly reappears looking for sanctuary. In need of both the help and company, Connors consents, and the two men form a friendship that ultimately evolves into a sexual relationship as well.

I like the pace the author uses to bring it about. These are mature men, after all, and Will is anything but impetuous, so there is no hopping into the sack at the clank of a belt buckle. Neither are there any moments of high drama: i.e. shootouts, stampedes, or murderous villains. There is one scheming neighbour who is trying to for Will into a sale, but no range war erupts. Which brings me around to the blurb.

Story blurbs are important because these help the shopper decide whether the plot is interesting enough to invest money into it. Consequently, the writer usually gives it their best shot with a handful of colourful adjectives and superlatives. However, one must also be careful not to over do it either unintentionally or intentionally. In this case, while the blurb was well written, I felt the story didn’t quite reach the dramatic level suggested by it.

Mind you, I hasten to add that I was quite satisfied with the story as it was.

All-in-all, I feel justified in recommending End of the Trail for your reading enjoyment. Four bees.

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My Personal Blog: In case your unaware of it, I have a new personal blog. Lately, I have been posting photographs from around St. Augustine, Fl, so drop by if you’re interested. The URL is: http://gerrybbooks.wordpress.com.

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April 8, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Traditional Western | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

      

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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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Irish hat st pat's ad

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

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

Gives Light (Gives Light #1), by Rose Christo

“Sweet.” “Inspirational,” “Heart-warming,” “Thoroughly enjoyable” –

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gives light - coverStory blurb: Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about.

When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona.

Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son.

And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

Available in e-book format – 372 KB

About the author: “I am Plains Cree and Lenni Lenape. My best friend is Shoshone-Bannock. I mostly blog about the crap going on in Indian Country today. We may not be on your local news network, but trust me, there’s a LOT going on in Indian Country today. Some of which you’d probably be shocked to learn.

My grandpa was Saline Shoshone. He was the coolest old guy you’d ever meet. That’s probably why the kids in Gives Light are all Shoshone, too.

Few things bother me more than racism. If somebody tells you “Please stop mocking / stereotyping / inaccurately portraying my culture, it really hurts my feelings,” but you’re more concerned about your freedom of expression, then guess what? You’re a racist.

Right now I am writing a story called The Place Where They Cried. After this I’m going to write another contemporary YA story. No title yet but I’ve got the outline.

Munito sakehewawinewe—“God is Love.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I am always on the lookout for unique stories,  or at least stories that have a unique aspect to them, so when I read the intriguing blurb to Gives Light (Gives Light Series#1)  by Rose Christo [self-published by Rose Christo, July 2012], I knew I was onto something quite unique.

Gives Light is the first of a trilogy by that name, and although I haven’t read the other two editions, I think it might be best to start the series with this particular volume. It is described as containing 353 pages (estimated) but when the spaces are deducted—between the block-style paragraphs—it is probably half that number.

If a story can be summed up in one word, then the word that applies to this story is “sweet.” There is not a lot of tension or angst, and even the sexual content is limited to kissing and a bit of petting, so unless the standard is particularly puritanical it would be quite appropriate for young adults.

The story is told from the point of view of Skylar St. Clair, a 16 y.o. Shoshone Native who has been mute since his throat was slashed during the murder of his mother some five years previous. From that time he had been living with his father until his father mysteriously disappears as well.

He is then put into the custody of his estranged grandmother who resides on the Nettlebush Reserve, and from then on it is the story of adjusting to reservation life; including learning the traditions, and getting to know its cast of characters.

For the most part these are all quite charming, typical teenagers, who readily welcome Skylar into their midst; all except for the enigmatic Rafael, son of murderer who slay Skylar’s mother.  Yet, the two of them are gradually drawn together by both their commonalities and differences, and when they do finally unite it is like a blossom that blooms in the shadow of the forest; pure and fragile.

I found very few quibbles to mention: The writing is strong; the characters engaging; and both the plot and pace kept me involved. However, there were a few minor disparities that left me wondering. For example, it was never really explained how Annie Little Hawk learned to sign. ASL training is not universally available, and I would think less so on a remote reservation. Moreover, I occasionally thought Skylar’s language was a bit sophisticated for his background. One phrase that comes to mind is, “…Regardless of his administrations.” Grammatically it is quite correct, but not the sort of language a 16 y.o. would be likely to use.

I have already used the term “sweet,’ and now I’ll also add the terms “inspirational,” “heart-warming,” and “thoroughly enjoyable.” Four and one-half bees.

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February 18, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Native American, Gay romance | 2 Comments

Greenwode by J Tullos Hennig

A gutsy twist on a major classic that works –

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Greenwode - coverWhen an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also sees whom it will claim: young Rob of Loxley. Rob’s mother and father, a yeoman forester and a wisewoman, have raised Rob and his sister, Marion, under a solemn duty: to take their parents’ places in the Old Religion as the manifestations of the Horned Lord and the Lady Huntress.

But when Gamelyn Boundys, son of a powerful nobleman, is injured in the forest, he and Rob begin a friendship that challenges both duty and ideology: Gamelyn is a devout follower of the Catholic Church. Rob understands the divide between peasant and noble all too well. And the old druid has foreseen that Gamelyn is destined to be Rob’s sworn enemy—to fight in a blood sacrifice for the greenwode’s Maiden.

In a risky bid for happiness, Rob dares the Horned Lord to reinterpret the ancient rites—to allow Rob to take Gamelyn as a lover instead of a rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s church, lust is a sin—and sodomy is unthinkable.

Cover art by Shobana Appavu

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Review by Gerry Burnie

greenwode - druidsTo me 12th-century England was a fascinating time, filled with knights, squires, wizards, and wonderfully mystical religions, all functioning in and around vast, primeval forests where Druids practiced their ancient rites. Of these, the Greenwode, by J Tullos Hennig [Dreamspinner Press, January 18, 2013] is probably best known, i.e. all one has to do is add Rob of Loxley (or “Robin Hood”) to comprehend why.

As such, it is somewhat difficult to categorize this genre. It is mostly fantasy/fiction I suppose, since Robin Hood has never been proven, but otherwise it might be alternative history. Certainly Greenwood Forest and Druids existed, as did priories, convents, and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

The problem I have with previous versions of Robin Hood, mostly created by Hollywood, is their ‘prettification’ of 12th-century England, with turreted castles (15th-century or later), impeccable clothes, and as one Hollywood Robin Hood put it, “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I speak with an English accent,”[1]—albeit, a modern one.

Fortunately, this author has captured a good part of the dark and primitive atmosphere, which was circa-Crusade England, as well as the mix of old and new religions that existed at the time, and this scores well with me. After all, a period novel should be first and foremost true to the period.

I also like the plot, once again because it is consistent with the period. Rob is the son of a respected (yeoman) forester, but at the same time he is more than that. He is, in fact, a ‘crown prince” in the Druid religion—a future manifestation of the ‘Horned God.’

Gamelyn, his unlikely love interest, is the minor son of an earl, and a hidebound Catholic, but it is Rob’s simple nobility that eventually evens the playing field between them. Moreover, it is Rob who has the courage to question the horned god’s interpretation of the future.

This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works. Not only that, but because of the realism, I believe it a step forward. A special mention as well for the absolutely stunning cover art. Five bees.

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[1] “Robin Hood, Men in Tights.”

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

A Heart Divided, by J.M. Snyder

A true romance with an authentic core –

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a heart divided - coverStory blurb: Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks has grown weary of the War Between the States. He is all too aware of the tenuous thread that ties him to this earth—as he writes a letter home to his sister, he realizes he may be among the dead by the time she receives the missive. His melancholy mood is shared by other soldiers in the campsite; in the cool Virginia night, the pickets claim to hear ghosts in the woods, and their own talk spooks them.

Andy knows the “ghost” is nothing more than a wounded soldier left on the battlefield, dying in the darkness. With compassion, Andy takes the picket’s lantern and canteen in the hopes of easing the soldier’s pain. After a tense confrontation with the soldier, Andy is shocked to discover none other than Samuel Talley, a young man Andy’s father had chased from their plantation when the romantic relationship between the two boys came to light. The last time the two had seen each other, Sam had been heading west to seek his fortune, and had promised to send for Andy when he could.

Then the war broke out, and Andy had enlisted in the Confederate Army to help ease the financial burden at home. Apparently Sam had similar ideas—he now wears the blue coat of a Union solider.

Sam is severely wounded and infection has begun to set in. Andy can’t sneak him into his own camp for treatment because all Union soldiers are taken prisoner. But Andy’s Confederate uniform prevents him from seeking help from the nearby Union camp, as well. It’s up to Andy to tend his lover’s wound and get Sam the help he needs before it’s too late…and before Andy’s compatriots discover Sam’s presence…

About the author: An author of gay erotic/romantic fiction, J.M. Snyder began in self-publishing and worked with Amber Allure, Aspen Mountain, eXcessica, and Torquere Presses.

Snyder’s highly erotic short gay fiction has been published online at Amazon Shorts, Eros Monthly, Ruthie’s Club, and Tit-Elation, as well as in anthologies by Alyson Books, Aspen Mountain, Cleis Press, eXcessica Publishing, Lethe Press, and Ravenous Romance.

In 2010, Snyder founded JMS Books LLC, a royalty-paying queer small press that publishes in both electronic and print format. For more information on newest releases and submission guidelines, please visit JMS Books LLC online.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of my favourite genre settings is the American Civil War. In reality it was a brutal conflict with unimaginable bloodshed and death, but it also had a strong element of gallantry and romance as represented by the young men, the ‘flower of manhood,’ who participated in it because of principles they were willing to die for. This is the sense I found in J.M. Synder’s period novel A Heart Divided [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, July 27, 2011].

The story begins in March, 1865,just  one month before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865, and at the opening we find Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks writing to his sister with the pathetic notion that he could well be de dead by the time she receives his letter. It is a powerful opening, and true, for death was always just one breath away in this conflict.

Snyder also does quite a fine job of capturing the tense environment of the encampment, frequently in sight of the enemies picket fires, and surrounded by the yet-to-be-retrieved wounded and dead. His men fear the voices of ghosts when they hear an enemy soldier crying out for water, but Blanks recognizes it as such and takes a lantern and a canteen in search of him.

This scenario struck a familiar chord, for I remembered reading about Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, the so-called “Angel of Marye’s Heights,” and his heroic deeds.

a heart divided - richard kirland paintingThe story goes that on hearing the cries of wounded Union soldiers: “Kirkland gathered all the canteens he could carry, filled them with water, then ventured out onto the battlefield. He ventured back and forth several times, giving the wounded Union soldiers water, warm clothing, and blankets. Soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies watched as he performed his task, but no one fired a shot. General [Joseph B.] Kershaw later stated that he observed Kirkland for more than an hour and a half. At first, it was thought that the Union would open fire, which would result in the Confederacy returning fire, resulting in Kirkland being caught in a crossfire. However, within a very short time, it became obvious to both sides as to what Kirkland was doing, and according to Kershaw cries for water erupted all over the battlefield from wounded soldiers. Kirkland did not stop until he had helped every wounded soldier (Confederate and Federal) on the Confederate end of the battlefield. Sergeant Kirkland’s actions remain a legend in Fredericksburg to this day.” Wikipedia.

Whether or not Snyder was aware of this story is immaterial. What is relevant is that it makes a most powerful device by which to reunite Blanks with his tragically lost love, Samuel Talley.

The rest of the story pits the two of them against the ideological divisions of “north” and “south,” and the severity of Samuel’s wound. I won’t elaborate beyond saying that the tension is balanced with romance, and the writing is strong.

My quibbles are almost too trivial to mention, but at times I felt the coincidences were just a bit convenient.

Altogether, it is a true romance with an authentic core. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,529

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Sometimes a single letter can make all the difference. That’s how I felt when this missive arrived:

Dear Mr. Burnie,

After I finished Two Irish Lads I immediately ordered Journey to the Big Sky.  Both books are fantastic… I’ve just found another favorite author.  Thanks so much for such fantastic reading.  Your words make the characters come alive and become someone we care about, and to me that is what makes a great author.   Thanks ever so much for you dedication to these books, their research, etc.  However and FWIW, I really was disappointed in the cover of Big Sky though – IMO Sheldon doesn’t have the looks that your Sheldon has to command the attention, etc..  But I did thoroughly enjoy both books; now the big question… when can I get Coming of Age, I can’t find it available anywhere?  Also, I really appreciate the fact that you’re making them available in e-books.  Thanks ever so much again.

Best,
Rock H

Definitely inspirational … And humbling.

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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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February 4, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Longhorns, by Victor J. Banis

An enjoyable read in the style of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour

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longhorn - coverForty-year-old Les, the trail boss of the Double H Ranch, works for its beloved chatelaine, the elderly widow Miz Cameron, “a little dumpling of a woman, dressed in black.” Les rides herd over a crew of rowdy cowboys, roping steer and sleeping around prairie campfires. Young drifter Buck, part Nasoni Indian, catches up to them on a roundup. After proving himself an expert sharpshooter, rider and roper, Buck celebrates his initiation to the group by luring one of their number, Red, into his bedroll. But Buck is really after Les, sandy-haired and significantly endowed.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I had previously passed on  Longhorns by Victor J. Banis [Running Press, July 13, 2007] several times, fearing that the title was a euphemism for long (male) ‘horns,’ but seeing the reaction it has received from so many readers, my curiosity finally got the better of me.

What I found was a pulp-style western, written (for the most part) in the classic vernacular. These are both good features from this reader’s point of view. Moreover, Victor Banis has also done quite a good job of capturing the atmosphere and camaraderie of a 19th-century cattle roundup; ruggedly independent men, interacting man-to-man, and free from the disruptive influence of women.

And, yes, there was sex between some of them [see: Queer Cowboys by Chris Pickard]. It was common for men in early Western America to relate to one another in pairs or in larger homo-social group settings. At times, they may have competed for the attention of women but more often two cowboys organized themselves into a partnership resembling a heterosexual marriage. This is reflected in a poem by the renowned cowboy poet, Charles Badger Clark, i.e.

longhorn - lost pardnerWe loved each other in the way men do
And never spoke about it, Al and me,
But we both knowed, and knowin’ it so true
Was more than any woman’s kiss could be.
We knowed–and if the way was smooth or rough,
The weather shine or pour,
While I had him the rest seemed good enough–
But he ain’t here no more!
The range is empty and the trails are blind,
And I don’t seem but half myself today.
I wait to hear him ridin’ up behind
And feel his knee rub mine the good old way
He’s dead–and what that means no man kin tell.
Some call it “gone before.”
Where? I don’t know, but God! I know so well
That he ain’t here no more!

Nevertheless, as can be seen from the above, it was seldom if ever overt, and this is where the story lost credibility with me. Buck was just a bit too out to be believable—or to have even survived, for that matter. Moreover, as several other reviewers have already noted, his fellow cowhands were also incredibly accepting of a way of life that was still considered “unspeakable.”

These are not fatal flaws, just niggling drawbacks, so I want to stress that this is an enjoyable story with some really strong writing, and a bang-on style. In fact, the style is every bit as authentic as Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,099

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Glory Hallelujah! – I am pleased to announce that I have finished the pre-edited draft of my WIP novel, Coming of Age on the Trail. It has taken three years, 227 pages, 133,500 words, and a good deal of sweat and tears. I also feel behoved to mention that I had to fight Microsoft Word (“Microcrap”) every single line, paragraph, and page along the way. In fact, I have given it an un-dedication at the front of the book. To learn more, click on the above link or image.

stag dance copy2

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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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January 28, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure, Traditional Western | 2 Comments

The Celestial, by Barry Brennessel

It’s unanimous: The Celestial by Barry Bennessel is a great read!

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celestial - coverStory blurb: Love was the last thing Todd Webster Morgan expected to find while searching for gold in 1870s California. But that was before he met Lâo Jian.

Hardened beyond his nineteen years, Todd Webster Morgan is determined to find gold high in the Sierra Nevadas. But his dream is violently upended. Complicating matters even more, he meets a young Chinese immigrant named Lâo Jian, whose own dreams of finding gold have been quashed by violence.

But life back in Sacramento isn’t any easier. Todd’s mother struggles to make ends meet. His invalid uncle becomes increasing angry. Todd seeks employment with little success. Meanwhile his friendship with Lâo Jian turns to love. But their relationship is strained as anti-Chinese sentiment grows.

Todd vows not to lose Lâo Jian. The couple must risk everything to make a life for themselves. A life that requires facing fear and prejudice head on.

About this author: When Barry’s first collection of stories was read aloud by his second grade teacher, the author hid in the bathroom. As the years flew by, he wrote more, hid less (not really), and branched out to Super 8 films and cassette tape recorders. Barry’s audience—consisting solely of friends and family—were both amused and bemused.

Since those childhood days, Barry has earned degrees in English and French from the State University of New York College at Brockport, and a Master of Arts in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

It’s unanimous: Barry Brennessel’s novel The Celestial [MLR Press,LLC, September 6, 2012] is a great story! Most reviews I have read have dipped into the superlative bag for apt descriptors, and I must agree.

My approach comes from my passion and accompanying research into American frontier history, including the California mining communities of  the mid-1800s, and I must say that the author has captured the tone of these rough-and-tumble, gritty and grotty settlements remarkably well.

Set against this rugged backdrop is the wide-eyed naïveté of farmboy, Todd Morgan, and his companion Lâo Jian; both innocent romantics who just want to live and love in the midst of this harsh environment.

Part of Brennessel’s strength as a writer is his ability to create vivid characters who are both interesting and unique. Each character has a distinctive voice that sets him (or her) apart while contributing to the over all story. So, whether it’s Ned Calvert, Todd’s irascible uncle, or the young Irish miner, Breandon (on whom Todd has an early crush), they all contribute in their own way.

celestial - chinese minersOne of the regrettable aspects of frontier society was the degree of prejudice against certain ethnic societies, i.e. Native Americans and certain foreigners, especially–to the miners–the Chinese, who were called “Chinamen,” “Johnny Pig Tails,” or “Celestials” (because they came from the so-called “Celestial Empire.”)

The miners resented them because they saw them as competition, and distrusted them because they tended to stick to their own communities, which is not surprising since they were generally shunned elsewhere. As a result the Chinese were subjected to all manner of abuse, even murder, and Brennessel has done quite a credible job of portraying this.

Nonetheless, Todd and Lâo Jian persevere primarily because of the strength and love they derive from one another, and this is the inspirational theme that underlies the whole story. Highly recommended. Five bees!

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 43,538

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Coming of Age on the Trail: A number of people have inquired about my forthcoming novel, and where they can find more information on it. Others have expressed concerns that the URL link “COA related photos” listed earlier, is not operating. That’s because I have changed servers in the meantime. So, to Answer both queries click on the banner below to be taken to the new URL, and follow the links you will find there. Thanks for your interest.

COA - banner - 500px

A progress report: I will finish the pre-edit draft in about 2 – 3 days, and after one more re-write it will be on its way. Watch for it early summer 2013.

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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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January 21, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Northern Lights, by James Matthew Green

This is  history as it should be told (and taught): A history lesson that can be absorbed while enjoying a truly enjoyable story.

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northern lights - coverJames Matthew Green’s historical novel, Northern Lights, takes the reader into the vivid excitement of the French and Indian War. Daniel Allouez, whose father is French and mother is Ojibwe Indian, enters into the war not only to fight the enemy, but to discover who he is at the crossroads of race, religion, and sexual orientation.

The spiritual nature of Daniel’s search draws beautifully upon his Ojibwe tradition, with its emphasis on experiencing the Divine in nature. Daniel’s discovery of love in a same-sex relationship presents difficulties as well as transformation in this resounding story of triumph and emotional healing.

About the Author

  • James Matthew (Jim) Green is a psychotherapist in private practice in Charlotte, NC. Born in 1952, Jim grew up in Minnesota, and has lived in California, Oregon, Montana, and North Carolina. His ethnic roots include Norwegian, French, and Ojibwe/Odawa. Jim is enrolled at White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
  • Jim’s work as a psychotherapist and as a writer explores the Sacred Mystery and Power encountered in nature and in the experiences of life.
  • Jim is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He studied theology at Saint John’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Camarillo, CA, and earned a Masters of Divinity at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.
  • In his psychotherapy practice, Jim specializes in spirituality for emotional healing.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ever on the lookout for Canadian authors and/or Canadian content and history, especially from a gay perspective, I came across Northern Lights, by James Matthew Green [CreateSpace Independent Publishing , June 23, 2012], and although the author is American this novel fills the latter two categories quite admirably. Moreover, it fits my concept of gay historical fiction to a “T” by giving history a face—albeit a fictional one—to represent those GBLT men and women who lived and loved in another time.

Northern lights - French-Indian-WarThe story is set in the 1750s against the somewhat neglected backdrop of the so-called “French and Indian War ” (1754-1763) [more about this point below]. It is also the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. However, in this novel the main character wasn’t merely raised by Indians, he is in fact half-Indian (Métis), and the other half being French. The Métis theme is also one that has been surprising neglected in the past, for few things can evoke the northern frontiers like a band of the bon vivant Métis and Coureurs de bois.

While these elements form the backdrop, and at times provide some exciting drama, the main theme here is spirituality—both Christian and Native. Being part Ojibwe himself, the author has provided some fascinating insights into Ojibwe spiritual beliefs, including Two Spirit culture, as the main characters, Daniel and Rorie, come to terms with divergent beliefs and their sexuality.

I was particularly intrigued, as well, by the scenes involving ‘near death experience,’ for it was a widely held belief among many tribes that the spirit left the body to converse with inhabitants of the “Other Land,” and then returned with messages to “This Land.” In fact, I have used this theme in my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail.

I was also struck by the way the author emphasized the reverence and respect Natives held for the environment around them without flogging the point. For indeed, that is how it was. It was a natural as etiquette is today—or was.

My quibbles are minor and technical, and probably wouldn’t even be noticed by anyone who wasn’t a former professor of history, but they stood out for me. The first, as I mentioned above, has to do with the use of the lable “French and Indian War” to describe the conflict. The author does acknowledge that this is an American term, but goes on to describe the Canadian equivalent as “The War of conquest.” Nope—not exactly. English-Canadians refer to it as “The Anglo-French Conflict,” while French-Canadians refer to it as “La guerre de la Conquête” (i.e. “The War of Conquest”.)  In a country with two distinct cultures, and an underlying current of nationalism, that is a big deal.

My second quibble has to do with the term “Winnipeg;” as in “Winnipeg River.” Actually, the much later name Winnipeg is an English bastardization of  the Cree word “Wīnipēk (ᐐᓂᐯᐠ)”, meaning “murky waters,” and contemporary maps of the period also show it as such.

That said, this is history as it should be told (and taught): A history lesson that can be absorbed while enjoying a truly enjoyable story. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 43,006

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Notice: Due to Amazon’s recent decision to arbitrarily purge customer reviews from  its pages, I will no longer be posting  on Amazon.com and/or Amazon.ca. Instead, I will be posting on this site, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. If and when Amazon changes its policy, I will be happy to resume.

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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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January 14, 2013 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Nothingness of Ben, by Brad Boney

nob - happy new year

A worthy debut novel

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NoB - coverStory blurb: Ben Walsh is well on his way to becoming one of Manhattan’s top litigators, with a gorgeous boyfriend and friends on the A-list. His life is perfect until he gets a phone call that brings it all crashing down: a car accident takes his parents, and now he must return to Austin to raise three teenage brothers he barely knows.

During the funeral, Ben meets Travis Atwood, the redneck neighbor with a huge heart. Their relationship initially runs hot and cold, from contentious to flirtatious, but when the weight of responsibility starts wearing on Ben, he turns to Travis, and the pressure shapes their friendship into something that feels a lot like love. Ben thinks he’s found a way to have his old life, his new life, and Travis too, but love isn’t always easy. Will he learn to recognize that sometimes the worst thing imaginable can lead him to the place he was meant to be?

About the author: Brad Boney lives in Austin, Texas, the 7th gayest city in America. He likes to tell stories about the hot boys in his neighborhood near the University of Texas. Brand new to M/M fiction, he plans to set all of his books in Austin and hopes to become an ambassador for his city. He grew up in the Midwest and went to school at NYU. He lived in Washington, DC and Houston before settling in Austin. He blames his background in the theater for his writing of all time is 50 First Dates. His favorite gay film of the last ten years is Strapped. He has never met a boy band he didn’t like. The books he’s rated say a lot about him.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ordinarily I don’t read contemporary western novels. They tend to be little more than gratuitous romps in the sack, barn, hayloft, bunkhouse, or any other place where they can get horizontal, with a bit of narrative thrown in as a makeshift plot. Happily, The Nothingness of Ben, by Brad Boney [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] is an exception. Oh, it is sexy enough, but it also has a plot and some decent writing going for it.

Gay Lawyer, Ben Walsh, is a young, upwardly mobile person; typically ambitious and self-centred, and in accordance with Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy, he is far removed from his modest Texas beginnings. That is, until tragedy calls him back as guardian of his three younger brothers—the youngest being in the midst of his difficult, teenage years.

Decently (I think) he responds to the challenge, and that is when he meets Travis Atwood, a self-taught tradesman and Ben’s social opposite. Travis is also ‘straight’ (meaning he’s had no previous homosexual experience), but inevitably he and Ben hit it off sexually as well as otherwise.

The plot then winds its way through some minor challenges until is arrives at a happy resolution.

To that extent it is a nice story, and as a debut novel it is better than many: The writing is solid; the characters are interesting and well defined; and the plot and pace are both progressive. In other words, it can take its place on bookshelves or in ebook libraries quite unashamedly.

Nevertheless, I have some quibbles. For one thing the plot is far from unique. City boy (or ‘city-oriented boy’) ends up in a rural setting where he meets a handsome local and falls in love. Off hand, I can think of half-a-dozen novels with approximately the same theme, so it is becoming just a bit trite. I also agree with some other reviewers who found it a little Utopian and short on angst (contrast). On this point, however, I must admit that I hate to knock my characters around as well, but even taffy requires salt.

Nonetheless, I will say categorically that the strengths of Boney’s writing outweigh the shortcomings. Besides, as I always say, your tastes may be different from mine. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 41,527

Visitors count for 2012 – 23,200

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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.

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MicrocrapAs a writer I spend at least eight hours per day on the computer, and a good portion of that is wasted on wrestling with MS Word. Annoyances like:

chasing the pointer as it jumps around the page;

  • deleting and retyping the misplaced copy that results;

  • undoing the blocking of copy that mysteriously appears on its own, and is then deleted with my next key stroke;

  • struggling to undo the alternate characters (the blue ones on the keypad) that arbitrarily appear.

See my full comments at my blog: Stop the Bull

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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. We`ve had our best year ever and the numbers are increasing every day. Congratulations. On behalf of the authors represented on these pages, I wish you a happy and prosperous new year!

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Contemporary western, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Shirts and Skins, by Jeffrey Luscombe

 raw, funny, pathetic and inspiring

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shirts and skins - coverA remarkable debut novel from Jeffrey Luscombe-a compelling series of linked stories of a young man’s coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-terms with his family and fate. Josh Moore lives with his family on the ‘wrong side’ of Hamilton, a gritty industrial city in southwestern Ontario. As a young boy, Josh plots an escape for a better life far from the steel mills that lined the bay. But fate has other plans and Josh discovers his adult life in Toronto is just as fraught with as many insecurities and missteps as his youth and he soon learns that no matter how far away he might run, he will never be able to leave his hometown behind.

Front cover design: Seth Ruggles Hiler

shirts and skins - authorAbout the author: Jeffrey Luscombe was born in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. He holds a BA and MA in English from the University of Toronto. He attended The Humber College School for Writers where he was mentored by writers Nino Ricci and Lauren B. Davis. He has had fiction published in Tupperware Sandpiper, Zeugma Literary Journal, and filling Station Magazine. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the Prism International Fiction Prize and was a contributor to the anthology Truth or Dare (Slash Books Inc. 2011). He lives in Toronto with his husband Sean.

Available in Kindle and paperback – 349 KB, 230 pgs.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

shirts and skins - hamiltonI spent three years in Hamilton, Ontario, in the early 1960s, having been transferred there as assistant manager of the Odeon Palace Theatre—a former vaudeville house with an original Wurlitzer theatre organ. It was grand (the theatre), but life in the rest of the city was like living on the far side of the moon; drab, utilitarian, and closeted. So when I came across Jeffrey Luscombe’s novel, Shirts and Skins [Chelsea Station Editions, 2012], set in Hamilton in the 1980s and 90s, I just had to read it.

The book is organized (quite cleverly, I think) into a chronology of short stories, starting with the main character’s formative years in Hamilton. Josh Moore is the son of a dysfunctional, working class family. His long-suffering mother is a factory worker, and his alcoholic father—also addicted to gambling—works sporadically at menial jobs.

Josh’s schooling is no more inspiring, being plagued by boredom, bullying, and poor grades. However, as he grows older he becomes a bit of a bully himself, emulating what he basically despises.

Likewise, he dreams of escaping “Steel Town” for far away places, but each time the reality of earning a living (in a steel mill) and the comfortable routine of living anchor him deeper in the town and society he abhors.

In every life there comes a turning point, however, and provided we have the courage to grasp it, it can make the difference between happiness and continued despair. In Josh’s case he was jarred into it by an industrial accident, but during his recuperative period he also found an opportunity to re-evaluate his life. Finding it wanting, he then begins the process of finding himself—his inner core—and to pull himself up by the bootstraps

This is fiction emulating non-fiction (which I suspect it might be, in part), for every part of this story reads like a biography: The setting; the working class culture and mores; Josh as a troubled youngster and adolescent; and Josh as an adult in Toronto. It is raw, funny, pathetic and inspiring. Five bees.

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40,000!

As of December 14, 2012, the visitor count to Gerry B’s Book reviews is 40,025.

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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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broken afflictions - coverShawnda Currie: Broken  – Afflictions of the Evolved Free Download
In celebration of the release of book two of The Evolved Trilogy, there will be a free download on amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Afflictions-Evolved-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00AJB5FQE on Saturday, 15 December 2012.
If you don’t have a kindle, you can download a free application to your computer or phone!
It would be greatly appreciated if you could follow up with a review as this is very helpful to authors…….:)

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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. By this time next week we should have reached 40,000 visitors. Drop by and see.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | 3 Comments

Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child was Saved From Religion, by Scott Terry

A raw but optimistic story of human resilience – 

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Cowboys, armaghedon, etc. - coverStory blurb: Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child Was Saved from Religion offers an illuminating glimpse into a child’s sequestered world of abuse, homophobia, and religious extremism. Scott Terry’s memoir is a compelling, poignant and occasionally humorous look into the Jehovah’s Witness faith — a religion that refers to itself as The Truth — and a brave account of Terry’s successful escape from a troubled past.

At the age of ten, Terry had embraced the Witnesses’ prediction that the world would come to an end in 1975 and was preparing for Armageddon. As an adolescent, he prayed for God to strip away his growing attraction to other young men. But, by adulthood, Terry found himself no longer believing in the promised apocalypse. Through a series of adventures and misadventures, he left the Witness religion behind and became a cowboy, riding bulls in the rodeo. He overcame the hurdles of parental abuse, religious extremism, and homophobia, and learned that Truth is a concept of honesty rather than false righteousness, a means to live a life openly, for Terry as a gay man.

About the author: In 2007, Scott Terry sent an excerpt from his yet-to-be published book, Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth, to the San Francisco Chronicle. An hour later, he received a freelance contract and a request for more, leading to many stories for the paper.

In his book, Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth, Terry has produced a gritty and poignant autobiography of an innocent boy escaping an abusive and fanatical childhood. Scott Terry was raised as a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and spent his childhood praying for Armageddon to come and asking God to heal him of his homosexual thoughts. By adulthood, he had escaped the Witness religion and no longer believed in an upcoming apocalypse. Indeed, as a gay man and a real cowboy, he was riding bulls in the rodeo, abandoning all faith in religion.

Scott writes for the Huffington Post, and also writes a blog for http://www.Freeminds.org, one of the largest ex-cult and ex-Witness websites. Scott Terry is an urban farmer, a watercolorist, an installation artist and a successful businessman. He lives in Northern California.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When it comes to eating and reading, I am a compulsive. I generally decide what I want to eat at the last moment, and I choose what I want to read by a mood that overtakes me at the time. Last week, while I was preparing for this review, I decided I was in a biography mood; someone or something interesting with an off-beat story. Consequently, when I came across Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child was Saved From Religion by Scott Terry [Lethe Press, October 2012] it filled the bill very nicely.

It is the author’s own story of an adolescence dominated by a shrewish stepmother who took perverse satisfaction in psychologically abusing him, telling him he was unloved and unwanted, and at the same time filling his head with thoughts of Armageddon in his own lifetime. It was also a time when Scott began to notice his attraction to other boys, and the conflict this created in light of his parents’ homophobic beliefs and that of their Jehovah’s Witness religion.

To this point there is little unique about this story: An abused lad at the hands of a dominating mother; a semi-cult religion with a homophobic bent; and a conflicted emerging homosexuality. However, what is refreshing is the positive attitude Terry maintains throughout, and the lessons to be gained from it.

Going back to the story, the situation finally came to a head when Scott’s sister insisted on returning to her biological mother, and the stepmother forbade him to have any contact with her. Fortunately, Scott had other relatives who weren’t caught up in the Jehovah’s Witness religion, and who had genuine compassion for him. Using this support as a base, Scott  gained the strength to accept his sexuality and move on–eventually becoming a rodeo performer.

This is a raw story of bad parenting—which debunks the tired old adage that “mother knows best”—and also the destructive nature of some dogmatic religions. However, it is also an inspirational story of resilience, even at a young age, and the ability to overcome adversity. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 38,962

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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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Stop the Bull: Canadian history made boring…

bullpoohI had reason to go looking for a Canadian web site similar to Legends Of America, an excellent history resource with some real ‘meat’ to it—meaning, it is history made interesting. It also features some Canadian characters who have played a significant role in American history, i.e. Pearl HartBat Masterson, etc., for which there is hardly a mention in Canadian-based histories.
A veritable wasteland

 What I found was a depressing collection of thumbnail sketches, afterthoughts  to American frontier history, a roll call of stodgy Canadian/British statesmen (John A. Macdonald, etc.), and lesson plans so dry you could strike a match on them. More

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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. Just a little bit more than 1,000 visits to go to reach 40,000 visits–20,000 more than last year. Yay!!

 

 

 

 

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Autobiography, Coming out, Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | 4 Comments

For a Lost Soldier, by Rudi van Dantzig

A powerful story of coming of age –

Story blurb: Forty years after the fact, Dutch choreographer Jeroen Boman recalls a wartime romance. During the Allied liberation of Holland, the eleven-year-old Boman entered into a tender relationship with a Canadian soldier. Back to the present, Boman attempts to incorporate his experiences in his latest ballet work, a celebration of the Liberation.

The printed version of For a Lost Soldier is no longer available, but the film version (written by director, Roeland Kerbosh) is available on DVD.

About the author: The choreographer and director Rudi van Dantzig (August 1933 – January 2012) played a major role in the development of classical ballet in the Netherlands. Many of his ballets contain a strong thread of social criticism; he was not afraid to explore difficult subjects. The vividly theatrical Monument for a Dead Boy (1965) told the story of a boy who discovers his hitherto repressed homosexuality and is ultimately destroyed by his own desires. This ballet brought Van Dantzig international notice and was mounted for several major companies.

He also had a second career, which developed later in his life, as a novelist. In 1986 he wrote an autobiographical novel, Voor een verloren soldaat, about his love affair while a young boy with a Canadian soldier, which became a great success. It was awarded several times and a film was made of it. An English translation, For a Lost Soldier, was published in 1996.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In preparation for this week’s review, I went in search of a gay Canadian novel in all the usual places (including Amazon.ca), but I may as well have gone searching for a unicorn! All I found were a couple of pages of outdated, academic, and even American offerings (i.e. The Best American Short Stories 2012). To add insult to injury, my own novels weren’t even included.

All was not entirely lost, however, for I came across a book I had read some time ago, For a Lost Soldier, by Rudi van Dantzig, [Gay Men’s Press, 1997], which is now out of print. However, a DVD film version (written and directed by Roeland Kerbosch, and starring Maarten Smit as young Boman, Jeroen Krabbé as the adult Boman, and Andrew Kelley as the Canadian soldier) is still available.
The book and the film differ quite significantly, especially in the way the ending is constructed, but the basic story outline is the same.

Near the end of the war in Holland, eleven-year-old Jeroen Boman is sent to live in the country due to a food shortage in Amsterdam. However, despite a relative abundance to eat he is wracked with loneliness for his parents and friends.

This is subject to change when the village is liberated by a group of Canadian Troops, and Jeroen encounters a 20-something soldier named Walter Cook. Jeroen revels in the attention shown by Cook, and a relationship is formed between them that eventually becomes sexual in nature.

A dark cloud forms, however, when Cook’s regiment moves on, and he leaves without saying goodbye to a devastated Jeroen. Even the photograph of him—the only token Jeroen has left—is damaged by rain.

The remainder of the novel is dedicated to Jeroen’s life when he returns to Amsterdam, and the desperate but fruitless search for his first, lost lover. Eventually Jeroen is forced to realize that all he has left are memories.

Given the controversial nature of man/boy love, even when it is pseudo-autobiographical (as it is in this case), a number of people will be put off by this point alone. However, the sexual aspect in the novel is delicately handled, and in the film it is so subtle that one might actually miss it. What remains is a powerful story of coming of age, and the lifelong impact of first love. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 38,355

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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!

♥♥♥

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. It appears almost certain that we will reach 40,000 by year’s end. Congratulations!

November 26, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Coming out, fiction/autobiographical, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy, by Steven Zeeland

Gerry B’s Book Reviews’ Remembrance Day Tribute

 

Remembrance Day Facts

  • Remembrance Day was originally known as “Armistice Day”
  • In Canada it became Remembrance Day by Act of Parliament in 1931.
  • It is known to our neighbours and allies to the south as “Veteran’s Day”.
  • The poppy is the symbol that individuals use to show that they remember those who fought and died in the service of their country.
  • The idea of the poppy originated with the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in the First World War. His poem reflects his first hand account of what he witnessed while working from a dressing station on the bank of the Yser Canal.
  • An American woman, Moina Michael, was the first person known to have worn a poppy in remembrance.

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Story Blurb: In Sailors and Sexual Identity, author Steven Zeeland talks with young male sailors–both gay- and straight-identified–about ways in which their social and sexual lives have been shaped by their Navy careers.Despite massive media attention to the issue, there remains a gross disparity between the public perception of “gays in the military” and the sexual realities of military life. The conversations in this book reveal how known “gay” and “straight” men can and do get along in the sexually tense confines of barracks and shipboard life once they discover that the imagined boundary between them is not, in fact, a hard line.The stories recounted here in vivid detail call into question the imagined boundaries between gay and straight, homosexual and homosocial, and suggest a secret Pentagon motivation for the gay ban: to protect homoerotic military rituals, buddy love, and covert military homosexuality from the taint of sexual suspicion.Zeeland ‘s interviews explore many aspects of contemporary life in the Navy including: gay/straight friendship networks the sexual charge to the Navy/Marine Corps rivalry the reality behind sailors’reputations as sexual adventurers in port and at sea men ‘s differing interpretations of homoerotic military rituals and initiations sex and gender stereotypes associated with military job specialities how sailors view being seen as sex objectsEveryone interested in the issue of gays in the military, along with a general gay readership, gay veterans, and gay men for whom sailors represent a sexual ideal, will find Sailors and Sexual Identity an informative and entertaining read.

Available in hardcover and paperback formats, only – 338 pages

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Review by Gerry Burnie
Although Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy by Steven Zeeland [Routledge, 1995] is somewhat outdated, the tales of male interaction and bonding, as well as sexual exploration and activity remain unchanged. Therefore, it is still a relevant read.

At the time of its writing, ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was still the prevailing rule regarding the military, and although it was an improvement over the witch hunts that had preceded it [See: Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, by Allan Bérubé] it was nonetheless a political compromise that left the whole question of sexuality in a sort of limbo. At times it was enforced, at other times it was used as an excuse to exit the service, but just as often it was simply ignored.

However, Sailors and Sexual Identity is not about DADT. Rather, it is, in the words of the author: “[A]…hope that an improved understanding of the sexual realities of military life will contribute to the discrediting of falsehoods and lies used to justify oppression of persons who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and anyone who participates in consensual sexual activity with others of the same sex.”

To do this, Zeeland “met more than 200 sailors and marines and taped conversations with 30, and of that number, the transcripts of 13 make up this anthology.

Lacking all the requisite scientific controls, this is not a clinical study per se, nor has Zeeland represented it as such. Rather, he describes it as a collection of interviews documenting the lives—both sexual and military—of men in the service, and from whom he has learned. In some ways it is well he distanced himself from an academic study, for it would no doubt have been criticized for being unscientific, and otherwise stigmatized as a laborious read (which it is not).

Zeeland has yet another stated objective, however, and that is to show through empirical observation that the line between “straight” and “gay” is often an ambivalent one; that:

“[H]omosexual expression is a natural possibility for men who identify themselves as heterosexual, and that the unavailability of women is often not so much a cause of, but an excuse for, sexual feeling for another male.”

To me this is the most interesting aspect of Zeeland’s study. It has long been a suspicion of mine that the above statement is true (based in part on personal experience), but I wanted to see some evidence that would back this up. What I got from Zeeland’s study was a solid “maybe.” Most interviewees reported at least some experience with men who identified themselves as “straight,” and who staunchly held on to some stereotypical vestige of  their heterosexuality to ‘prove’ it—like refusing to kiss, or “bottom”—but nonetheless freely indulged in homosexual acts. However, because of the anecdotal nature of the study the question remains unresolved in my mind.

This is one of those books that will interest readers with a navy or marine background, or who enjoy reading about the experiences of others—like I do—but at $42 (paperback, new) it will not be for everyone. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 36,585

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank 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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We also remember those who gave up their loved ones to the service of others. Thank you!

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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. Add a “like” of comment so that I know you’ve been here. See you next Monday.

November 5, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Gay military, Gay non-fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

Grab Bag (Little House on the Bowery), by Derek McCormack and Dennis Cooper (Editor)

A refreshingly unique style that is also universal –

Story blurb: Grab Bag is comprised of two interrelated novels, Dark Rides and Wish Book, from one of Canada’s most important young writers. Both books are set in the same small rural city, in different eras (1950s, 1930s), each characterized by McCormack’s spare and elliptical prose. Front cover illustration by Ian Phillips.

Available in ebook format – 1148 KB

About the Author: Derek McCormack is the author of Grab Bag (Akashic) and The Haunted Hillbilly (Soft Skull), which was named a ‘best book of the year’ by both the Village Voice and The Globe and Mail, and a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He writes fashion and arts articles for the National Post. He lives in Toronto. Dennis Cooper (editor) is the author of ‘The George Miles Cycle,’ an interconnected sequence of five novels that includes Closer (1989), Frisk (1991), Try (1994), Guide (1997), and Period (2000). The cycle has been translated into fourteen languages. His most recent novel is My Loose Thread (Canongate, 2002). He lives in Los Angeles.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As Halloween approaches I looked around for something along this line, and quite by accident I found Derek McCormack’s Grab Bag [Akashic Books, 2004], edited by Dennis Cooper, which expanded my knowledge of Canadian writers (always a happy occurrence!)

Derek McCormack is one of those treasures that Canada and the Canadian literati keep hidden under a bushel. It is probably due to the GBLT content of his works, which, as a genre, has yet to be anointed for consideration by any of the major awards.[1] Indeed, when Dark Rides was first published, Globe and Mail’s book critic, Laura McDonald, had this to say:

Derek McCormack’s first published work, Dark Rides, was released in Canada this summer to little notice. It had three problems: It was slim, it was issued by a small press and its writer was unknown. Fortunately for McCormack and his readers, Dark Rides received more ink in the U.S. where, to be fair, there is more ink. Detour magazine even included him in its ‘Top Thirty Artists Under Thirty’ list. Why? Well, cynics might dismiss the book as trendy – a gay coming-of-age story. But anyone who reads the book closely will attribute the success to his skillful, tight-rope walking prose.
– Laura MacDonald, Globe & Mail

Grab Bag is a combining of two McCormack novellas, Wish Book and Dark Rides. Wish Book is set in the depression era of the 1930s, and is a bizarre romp through as list of situations and circumstances that defy probability, and yet could have happened.

Dark Rides is set in the 1950s (an era I am nostalgically familiar with) and is the story of a teenage, Canadian farm boy trying to come to grips with his homosexuality. Regretfully he has less than a minimum of sophistication and no one to turn to in a small, roughneck community. It is a dark plot in some ways, and yet it is humorous on account of his naiveté.

My views

I once read that successful writing is at once unique and universal, and this applies fairly well to McCormack’s style. It has a refreshing difference that almost defies comparison, and yet I was able to identify with the farm boy’s naive character quite well. Even the small community and its denizens were familiar to me.

Journalistically, McCormack is a minimalist. There is no superfluity or long poetic narratives here, only the bare minimum to tell the story and define the characters. Yet they were as developed as any I have read. They are a young farm boy and a ‘slicker,’ base individuals in a loveable way, and so too much development would clutter the picture.

Grab Bag is one of those stories that will stay with me long after I put it down. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 35,598

Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank 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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A personal boycott.

Just received notice of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012. I WON’T be taking part. For one thing, it is only open to “Books published for the first time in the United States,” (nothing about Canada), and of the 15 categories, not one of them is for GBLT books–fiction or non-fiction. So best of luck, but no thanks.

[Also, see my comments regarding awards in general in paragraphs 2 and 3 (above).]

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Help put Richer, Manitoba, on the national Map

Cynthia Cramer, Author of “Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird,” has submitted a short story to the Reader’s Digest “Most Interesting Community” contest. Her submission is about her municipality of Richer. Manitoba, so let’s help recognize Richer by taking a moment to vote. To cast your vote, go to: Canada’s Most Interesting Towns Contest | Readers Digest.ca: http://www.readersdigest.ca/cmit/submission-details?submission_id=187. YEA RICHER, GO, GO. GO!

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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. Your visits are my inspiration to discover new and interesting books for your consideration. 


[1] Among over two dozen Canadian literary awards there is not one GBLT award.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Skybound, by Aleksandr Voinov

A textbook example of the short story art –

Story blurb: Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.

When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.

But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.

Available in ebook, only – 198 KB

About the author: Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London where he makes his living as a financial journalist, freelance editor and creative writing teacher. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov has set his sights now on contemporary and historical erotic gay novels.

Voinov’s characters are often scarred lonely souls at odds with their environment and pitted against odds that make or break them. He described the perfect ending for his books as “the characters make it out alive, but at a terrible cost, usually by the skin of their teeth. I want to see what’s at the core of them, and stripping them down to that core is rarely pleasant for them. But it does make them wiser, and often stronger people.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie (www.gerryburniebooks.ca)

If you are a regular follower, you might have noticed that I have an affinity for gay/historical/military/genres. It is a natural outcome of my passion for history, and my self-identification with those who have faced the harsh brutalities of war. Courage like this should not be forgotten lest we make the same mistake again.

In Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov [Riptide Publishing, 2012] we find yet another reason to care. Two individuals caught up in the confict, Germans, seeing the evil regime of which they are part crumbling around them, and yet fighting on through a stalwart—but misplaced—sense of duty.

Well … One of them is, anyway. Baldur Vogt, a Luftwaffe ace, bold, handsome and dashing, flies his missions because it is what he does. On the other hand, Felix, a ground-crew mechanic does what he does to keep the man he loves (Baldur) as safe as he can make him, and with that simple revelation the whole perspective of war changes.

But that is only one thread in this complex tapestry, for Felix despairs that Baldur will ever respond in the way he (Felix) has dreamed. For one thing, Baldur comes from money, compared to Felix’s humble background, and even if this could be brushed aside, man-to-man love was an anathema in Hitler’s Arian scheme of things—a veritable death sentence.

Nonetheless, fate will have its way, and when Baldur somewhat miraculously escapes a bullet that otherwise had his name on it, he celebrates by taking Felix away for a few days of relaxation.

Once away from the harrowing events of the day, love blooms—a quiet, tender affection that emerges as naturally as a breeze on a warm summer’s day. Indeed, when it happens one cannot imagine it being any other way.

However, once the point is made, and given that the only world they know is crumbling around them, how does one go about getting a ‘happy ever after ending’ out of that?

That remains for readers to discover, but it is almost a textbook example of the short story art; i.e. get in, make the point, and get out, which Voinov does very well. In addition the various ‘flavours’ are as concentrated as a brandy that lingers, agreeably, on the palate. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 34,566

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Last week I announced a new look and URL address for “Coming of Age on the trail” (www.comingofagenovel.ca), and Gerry Burnie Books. This week I want to ‘show off’ my new banner/logo for that site, as well. Click on the banner to go to the site.

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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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. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve switched the publication day to Monday. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

 

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure, Military history | 3 Comments

The Pleasuring of Men, by Clifford Browder

A delightful story–in the manner of “Tom Jones” – 

Story blurb: In New York City in the late 1860s, Tom Vaughan, a respectably raised young man, chooses to become a male prostitute servicing the city’s affluent elite, then falls in love with Walter Whiting, a renowned scholar and lecturer who proves to be his most difficult client. Having long wrestled with feelings of shame and guilt, Whiting, a married man, at first resents Tom’s easy acceptance of his own sexuality. Their story unfolds in the clandestine and precarious gay underworld of the time, which is creatively but vividly created. Through a series of encounters– some exhilarating, some painful, some mysterious—Tom matures, until an unexpected act of violence provokes a final resolution.

Available in e-book format – 443 KB

About the author: The Pleasuring of Men is Clifford Browder’s fourth book and first novel. His short fiction is set in New York City in the years 1830-1880. Characters often reappear in other novels and, quintessentially, in poetry in the form of monologs. Selections of his fiction have been published in Quarter After Eight, Third Coast, and New York Stories. His poetry has appeared in various reviews and online, including Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 and ArLiJo. He has helped two aspiring authors, a Sister of Mercy and a gay inmate in North Carolina, write their memoirs. He is also the author of two published biographies and a critical study of the French Surrealist poet André Breton.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I know almost northing about New York now or in the 1860s, but after reading The Pleasuring of Men by Clifford Bowder [Gival Press; 1 edition, 2011] I am sure I have a fairly credible idea of what it was like. It’s that sort of a novel.

Indeed, we get our first impression from Tom Vaughan (the protagonist and first-person narrator) in the opening of Chapter 1, i.e.

“When Mr. Neil Smythe became a roomer in our brownstone, my brother Stewart scowled and wondered if the subtle scent he gave off was cologne or “hair slime”; my mother declared his last name “elegant, and so much nicer than Smith”; and I said nothing, knowing that I’d just met the handsomest man in the world.

“That we were taking in a roomer was the result of a desperate need to put our finances in order. Since my father’s death years before, following heavy losses in a panic, my moher, having mourned him interminably, through skimping and saving had done her best to maintain herself and her two sons in our handsome brownstone on Twenty-fifth Street just off Fifth Avenue, a fashionable address that she could not bring herself to leave in a move to humbler quarters.”

And of his impressions of Mr. Neil Smythe:


“A clean-shaven young man of twenty-two, he was tall and thin, with smooth skin and wavy long blond hair. He came to us correctly dressed in a gray frock coat, fawn trousers, and bland pointed shoes, with a scarf pin and cuff links that glittered, and a boyish look that I, myself sixteen found stupendously appealing.”

From Tom’s observation that he had “…just met the handsomest man in the world,” we know that there is definitely more to come, and it is not long before he admits to “playing games” with himself in front of an ornate, “oval-shaped” mirror, secretly admiring a cherubic, blonde-haired choir boy, and having a crush on the elegant Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D.

Then, on a mischievous schoolboy outing prompted by one of his school mates, he accompanies him to some of the seedier bars and clubs of the lower side, and one in particular; the  Lustgarten or “pleasure garden.” Tom is shocked and intrigued by sight of men dancing together, some of them dressed as women, and of the lascivious interplay between younger and older. However, as shocked as he might be, he decides that this is the life for him.
Inevitably, Mr. Neil Smythe shows up at the Lustgarten, and tom learns that he is employed by a call-boy ring owned by corrupt politicians and businessmen (quite conceivably “Boss” Tweed and the Tameney Hall gang).[1] Intrigued by Smythe’s stylish way of life, Tom implores him to teach him the ‘tools’ of the trade, which Smythe does in a hands-on sort of way.

Being a quick learner Tom is soon out on his own, pleasuring the grey set with his charms, and being generously rewarded in return. His clients are numerous and varied, and here the author (through Tom’s words) out does himself with colourful and often amusing descriptions of their proclivities—from a European who masquerades as a nobleman; an ‘athletic’ lawyer; and even the Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D.

Eventually Tom is sent to the townhouse of Walter Whitling, a formidable scholar in just about everything, including the Greek language, and after a rather tempestuous getting-to-know-one-another, the older scholar agrees to teach Tom Greek in the manner of an Erastes with his Eromenos. Thereby Whitling first undresses Tom, and seating himself in front of him he touches Tom’s genitals before proceeding where the scene ends.

Altogether this is a tale encompassing both sophisticated wit and humour, and yet the subject matter is the grotty underbelly of society as enacted by its leading citizens—including the Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D. Indeed, as I followed Tom’s sexual romp through the streets of New York, I couldn’t get the image of that other Tom out of my mind i.e. “Tom Jones.”. It is absolutely delightful. Five Bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 34,069

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Here is an interesting report on Gerry B’s Books Reviews for 2011. I had almost forgot about it until someone requested it, the other day. Something I found interesting was that the visitors count at that time was 13,000! We’ve come a long way, Baby. To see the report, click on the image or go to: https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/2011-in-review/

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Announcement: All of my web pages now have new URL address. Gerry Burnie Books now resides at http://www.gerryburniebooks.ca, and Coming of Age on the Trail now has both a new address and design. It can now be found at: www.comingofagenovel.ca. Or click on the image.  


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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!

♥♥♥
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 wonderful authors featured on this blog, I thank you for dropping by. Do drop back next week.

[1] an American politician most notable for being the “boss” of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and State. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railroad, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Secret Catamite 1: The Book of Daniel, by Patrick C. Notchtree

This is a breakthrough novel for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of adolescent sexuality –

Story blurb: A trilogy telling a story of love and loyalty, passion and perversion, betrothal and betrayal, triumph and tragedy; biographical novels that chart one man’s attempts to rise above the legacy of a traumatic childhood, going to the very brink of suicide and the efforts to understand and come to terms with himself and his actions.

The first book follows the protagonist Simon through childhood, growing up with a distant father and his developing friendship and eventual love affair with an older boy.

This account is not suitable for those under 18 years of age or those who find explicit sexual narrative offensive.

Available in digital format only – 418 KB

About the author: Patrick Notchtree now lives in the north of England with his wife and has his son and granddaughters nearby. Much of his life is reflected in the biographical trilogy “The Secret Catamite”, so to repeat too many biographical details here would be something of a ‘spoiler’!

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Definition of a “catamite”: A boy kept for homosexual practices. Oxford Dictionaries

While this story doesn’t deal with a “kept” boy, (i.e. harboured or enslaved), it does deal with young boys—one older—and homosexuality. Therefore, when I first saw the title (and the evocative cover) of The Secret Catamite 1: The Book of Daniel by Patrick C. Notchtree [Limebury Books, March 19, 2012], I was intrigued to see how the author would deal with the subject matter.

You see, most writers shun the topic of adolescent and teen sexuality, even though they know it exists from having lived through it. I did, and I certainly don’t consider myself unusual in any way. Therefore, to pretend otherwise is like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room—the one with pink wings and yellow polka dots.

Fortunately, Patrick Notchtree chooses not to demure from it in characterizing the sexual relationship between Simon and Daniel as being both natural and wholesome. To them, it is the evolution of a friendship that includes both the emotional and the physical; no secrets withheld, and no holds barred.

But The Secret Catamite is so much more than just a story of physical love. It is the story of a boy who is adjudged “different,” and because of this is made to feel different by many who are barely adjusted, themselves. The father who is emotionally maladjusted, wavering between indifference and disciplinarian; the schoolyard bullies who call him “bastard” and “simple Simon;” the teacher who tells him he should never have been born; and the Draconian headmistress who is quick with the hickory stick.

Given these two bookends, it is not at all surprising that Simon finds solace, comfort and a measure of security in Daniel.

There are also other positive moments as Simon struggles to overcome his afflictions; his small academic achievements; the excitement of being able to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on the family’s very own television set, family vacations, and learning to swim. These may not seem like notable occasions now, but in the late 1940s, early 50s, these were as good as it got for simple folk.

Altogether, for me this is a breakthrough book for its sensitive portrayal of adolescent sexuality, and its ability to relate to most people’s childhood experiences. There are some flaws, but I’m going to give it five bees, anyway.

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For a real-life horror story involving adolescent sexuality read the following. For the full story click on the title link.

Gossip destroys a family

 BY CHRISTINA BLIZZARD ,QMI AGENCY

This is a bizarre and scary story, about how one family has been destroyed – ripped apart by a snickered conversation between two children on a school bus.

Based on that unfounded hearsay, the school bus driver spoke to the school principal, the school called Family and Child Services who called the cops.

A worker from FACS Niagara talked to the two boys. Little brother Mike recalled a time when they’d been wrestling on the ground and touched each other’s privates – outside their clothing. Their father had intervened and given them a time-out and told them to stop rolling on the floor.

The FACS worker decided to call in police.

The police officer spent another 45 minutes interviewing Mike, who steadfastly maintained that his brother hadn’t molested him, but that another boy had.

Shortly after, late one afternoon, the Smiths got a call from the Niagara Region police officer saying they were going to arrest Bobby at school the next day.

His parents asked why they’d do that in front of his peers – and said they’d bring him to the police station the next morning.

The officer balked, until John insisted that if they were going to arrest Bobby at school, he’d keep the child at home.

He is, after all, just a 12-year-old.

Bobby was forced to move out of the family home – away from Mike. Bobby and his dad moved in with the children’s grandparents in Hamilton, thinking it would be a temporary measure.

FACS told them if they didn’t do that, Bobby would be put in a detention centre.

He hasn’t been home since.

When they could no longer stay in their grandparents’ basement, and when they failed to have his bail conditions lessened, the only option was for the family to sign a temporary care agreement, which put Bobby in a group home for six months. The visiting hours when Mary and John can see their son have been limited, and Bobby has limited access to other children.

Suffer the little children? They certainly do in Niagara.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 33,037

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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Patrick Latter’s Photography

I am always excited when I come across an extraordinary talent in any field, so do have a look at the remarkable work of Canadian photographer, Patrick Latter. It is absolutely breathtaking in its technique and creativity. To visit his web site, go to: http://patricklatterphoto.com

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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. Your participation is appreciated by all the fine authors who are featured on this blog. I’ll have another novel ready for you next Sunday, so please drop back.

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Twentieth century historical | Leave a comment

The Station, by Keira Andrews

An outstanding plot, likeable characters, and a first-rate adventure – 

Story Blurb: Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster secretly watched stable master Patrick Callahan mastering the groundskeeper, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death, Colin speaks up in his defense, announcing that he, too, is guilty of “the love that dare not speak its name.” Soon they’re both condemned as convicts and shipped off to the faraway prison colony of Australia. Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale and is determined that no one will scale the wall he’s built around his heart. Yet he’s inexorably drawn to the charismatic Colin despite his best efforts to keep him at bay. As their journey extends from the cramped and miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must build new lives for themselves. They’ll have to tame each other to find happiness in this wild new land.

Available in electronic format – 325 KB

About the author: After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes both contemporary and historical fiction and — although she loves delicious angst along the way — Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’ve had my eye on The Station by Keira Andrews [Loose Id LLC, 2010] for quite some time. In addition to the Canadian and American frontiers, the Australian outback is an equal favourite. Similar ingredients apply, of course: strong, independent characters; rugged settings; and an overall sense of adventure. This story is slightly different inasmuch as it commences in England, but most of the other ingredients are there.

Colin Lancaster is the privileged son of English gentry, and is thereby accustomed to the pampered lifestyle that goes along with it. On the other hand Patrick Callahan is an Irish stable hand, and under ordinary circumstances the two should never have found common ground apart from being master and servant.

However, at sixteen Colin witnesses a tryst between Callahan and another male servant, and the impact of it throws Colin into a turmoil. He’s fascinated by what he sees, but conflicted by his upper-class beliefs and morals values. Nonetheless, Colin frequently dreams of being taken advantage of by the earthy Patrick Callahan.

As fate would have it Callahan has the misfortune of being caught in the act of sodomizing another male, and is in immanent danger of being lynched. That is when Colin rather gallantly steps in to save Patrick’s life by declaring that he too is a sodomite. He therefore manages to save Patrick’s life, but the two of them are sentenced to be transported to the penal colony of Australia.

The real adventure starts the moment they board the prison ship—generally anchored offshore until a full load was achieved—and although Ms Andrews has done a good job of describing the harsh conditions aboard ship, the reality is they were frequently much worse. During this voyage Colin is nearly raped and Patrick almost dies, but through it all Colin maintains a stoic optimism of starting a new life with Patrick.

Patrick, on the other hand, is more of an enigma. We know he has been emotionally scarred in the past, and that he has steeled his heart on account of it; nevertheless, there is nothing that binds two males together like the sharing of adversity, i.e. ‘equals’ even if they do come from opposite ends of the social spectrum.

The Australian adventure is equally rugged, but I’ll leave that for other readers to discover.

My view

Ms Andrews does a very nice job of wilderness adventures, and also of character development  [see my review of Voyageurs, by Keira Andrews]. In the aforementioned, the characters are social opposites with the baser character taking the lead. In this story, however, it is Colin who possesses the inner strength. The juxtaposition works, but the result is that Patrick is not as well developed as he could be.

Nevertheless the description is first rate, and it is this that keeps the rating well up there. An outstanding plot, likeable characters, and a first-rate adventure. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 32,338

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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!

♥♥♥

Altered – Revelations of the Evolved,  by Shawnda Falls Currie is now available as a paperback https://www.createspace.com/3882371
To get your copy: click on link, create an account using your email address and use coupon code F7UA8S7H for a $2.00 discount.
There will also be 3 copies available for giveaway on Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/. I will post direct link once it is active (approx 2 days). Giveaway will last until 3 Oct 2012. Good luck!

 

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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 novel read for you next Sunday, so do drop back … Oh, and leave a comment as well. T.T.F.N

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Song of the Loon, by Richard Amory

The ultimate feel-good story – 

Story blurb: “More completely than any author before him, Richard Amory explores the tormented world of love for man by man . . . a happy amalgam of James Fenimore Cooper, Jean Genet and Hudson’s Green Mansions.”—from the cover copy of the 1969 edition

Published well ahead of its time, in 1966 by Greenleaf Classics, Song of the Loon is a romantic novel that tells the story of Ephraim MacIver and his travels through the wilderness. Along his journey, he meets a number of characters who share with him stories, wisdom and homosexual encounters. The most popular erotic gay book of the 1960s and 1970s, Song of the Loon was the inspiration for two sequels, a 1970 film of the same name, at least one porn movie and a parody novel called Fruit of the Loon. Unique among pulp novels of the time, the gay characters in Song of the Loon are strong and romantically drawn, which has earned the book a place in the canon of gay American literature.

With an introduction by Michael Bronski, editor of Pulp Friction and author of The Pleasure Principle.

Little Sister’s Classics is a new series of books from Arsenal Pulp Press, reviving lost and out-of-print gay and lesbian classic books, both fiction and nonfiction. The books in the series are produced in conjunction with Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium, the heroic Vancouver bookstore well-known for its anti-censorship efforts.

Available in e-book format – 483 KB

About the author: Richard Amory was the pen-name for the author Richard Love, who worked out of San Diego. He published five other novels between 1968 and 1971 with Greenleaf Classics and Olympia Press Traveler’s Companion Series.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The so-called “Stonewall Inn Riots” of 1969 are considered the ‘enough-is-enough’ turning point in GLBT relations with the broader public, and the predominantly homophobic officials who policed it. Likewise, in Canada it was the 1982 “Bathhouse Raids[1] that gave rise to the Gay Pride demonstrations. Imagine, therefore, that the Song of the Loon, by Richard Amory [re-released by Arsenal Pulp Press, May 1, 2005] was first published three years before Stonewall, and 16 years before the Bathhouse Raids. That make it a true artefact, and as an unapologetic homoerotic novel, it is also somewhat of a legend.

It is not to say that homoerotic books weren’t available before 1965. They were. However, they were generally badly written, and could only be purchased through P.O. boxes, or from a clandestine bookstores, like the “Glad Day Books” in Toronto, hidden away on the second floor of a non-descript building.

Although I was aware of Song of the Loon, and remember the making of the 1970, motion picture version, starring John Iverson, Morgan Royce and Lancer Ward, I never got around to reading the novel until now. I was struck, therefore, by the amount of sexual content (albeit not as explicitly written as today) and the gutsyness of the both the author and publisher in  publishing it.

The plot and style are noteworthy, as well. Someone has described the style as “pastoral,” and I think this describes it very well. It is evocative of the ‘return to nature’ movement—complete with a cast of noble savages—where man is able to find his inner self in an idyllic setting; and, as one might expect, the characters are all idyllic too, including, to a lesser extent, the villains.

This is not to belittle the story in any way, for I think we have all wished for a Garden of Eden existence where the inhabitants are all hunky and horny, the risks are minimal, and homophobia does not exist.

If you are looking for the ultimate feel good story, you should give this one a try. Enthusiastically recommended. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 31,258

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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Have you had any dealings with Fontcraft (a.k.a, Scriptorium)? (http://www.fontcraft.com/fontcraft/#axzz22jaeXIBi)

This is my experience: Three weeks ago I ordered a font online from Fontcraft, for which I paid $18.00, but when it came to downloading it I was sent to a non-functioning URL. [see:http://www.fontcraft.com/download/9e5U4a4Iz3viqEsU/ ]. I wrote to the email address provided, but I have yet to receive an acknowledgement or response. So judge for yourself.

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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. We have passed the 31,000 mark, now lets see if we can double it by this time next year. Yay!


[1] Operation Soap was a raid by the Metropolitan Toronto Police against four gay bathhouses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which took place on February 5, 1981. More than three hundred men were arrested, the largest mass arrest in Canada since the 1970 October crisis,[1] before the record was broken during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Edmonton, Alberta.[2]

August 12, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Calico, by Dorien Grey

(This marks the 150th post to date)

An excellent, engaging, and well-written story – 

Story blurb: It seemed like a simple job—guide Josh and Sarah to Bow Ridge to live with their aunt until they reached their 18th birthday. It was want [sic] their aunt Rebecca wanted, and the best choice Calico Ramsey thought he could make. But someone wants them dead, which makes no sense to Calico. Neither do the feelings aroused by the nearness of the handsome young man from Chicago-feelings that seem to be returned, and nothing in his past has prepared him for either.

Available in paperback and e-book format –  344 KB

About the author: If it is possible to have a split personality without being schizophrenic, Dorien Grey qualifies. When long-time book and magazine editor Roger Margason chose the pseudonym “Dorien Grey” for his first book, it set off a chain of circumstances which has led to the comfortable division of labor and responsibility. Roger has charge of day-to-day existence, freeing Dorien—with the help of Roger’s fingers—to write. It has reached the point where Roger merely sits back and reads the stories Dorien brings forth on the computer screen.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I love a good western—especially if it is written in the classical style of Calico, by Dorien Grey [Zumaya Publications, 2006]. To me this genre speaks of an earlier, simpler time, populated by strong, independent men and women who set the foundation of our present-day nation(s). They were simple folk, and yet they possessed a nobleness of spirit based primarily on the “Golden Rule,” i.e. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” [I hasten to add, however, that my preference does not run to gratuitous, rodeo-like romps from one bed to another; which I generally pass up.]

Calico Ramsey fits the bill of a hard-working, dedicated cowboy,[1] raised by a kindly rancher , “uncle Dan,” who took him in when he was orphaned. To get the plot rolling, Dan is unexpectedly named guardian of his twin, seventeen-year-old niece and nephew, Sarah and Josh, who are on their way from Chicago.

Nevertheless, tragedy strikes when Dan is murdered, and Calico picks up the task of meeting the twins at the railway station, and also delivering them to Dan’s sister, Rebecca, who lives in far off Colorado. Moreover, the plot thickens when it becomes evident that someone is out to kill them.

Since Calico is the oldest (at 27) he assumes the role of leader, and also undertakes to protect Josh and Sarah from harm; a not-so-easy task when confronted by fires, rock slides, stampedes, and the like. But, as the old saying goes: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” all this adventure draws the three of them closer together—especially Josh and Calico, who like most trail mates gradually build a bond of mutual admiration and respect. Comrades first, and then lovers when a handshake isn’t enough.

Having said that, I should point our that while this is a sweet, romantic relationship, it is strictly Platonic when is comes to sex. In other words, there ain’t none.

This, I presume, has to do with it being targeted toward a ‘young adult’ readership, which has never really been satisfactorily defined in my mind. Most adolescents could give us chapter and verse on sex and sexual practices, so where does one draw the line? Nonetheless, most writers pussyfoot around the topic of adult/youth relationships in the 16 – 20 year-old category [the age of consent is 16 in most jurisdictions], and so there is no real breakthrough here.

Nonetheless, while I demand a good plot, I am very content with a story that is sensual rather than erotic. I mean, how many ways are there of doing ‘it’ that haven’t been written about? So Dorien gets full marks on the romantic side.

My only complaint has nothing to do with this excellent, engaging, and well-written story. Rather it has to do with the story blurb, which has to be one of the poorest I’ve read (including a rather blatant typo).  So someone should get their knuckles rapped for this one.

Otherwise, I loved “Calico,” and I think you will, too. Five bees.

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Visitors Count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 30,256

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Notice to all those who have requested book reviews

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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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. This week we set a new milestone of 30,000 visits. On behalf of myself and all the remarkable authors represented here, I thank you!


[1] I hesitate to use the term “cowboy.” When asked about cowboys and cowponies, legendary rancher Granville Stuart replied, “There weren’t no ‘boys’ and there were no ‘ponies.’”

July 29, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Traditional Western, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch, by Shelter Somerset

A classic-style western that touches all the right bases –

Story Blurb: It’s 1886, and Chicago is booming, but for nineteen-year-old Torsten Pilkvist, American-born son of Swedish immigrants, it’s not big enough. After tragically losing a rare love, Tory immerses himself in the pages of a Wild West mail-order bride magazine, where he stumbles on the advertisement of frontiersman and Civil War veteran Franklin Ausmus. Torsten and Franklin begin an innocent correspondence—or as innocent as it can be, considering Torsten keeps his true gender hidden. But when his parents discover the letters, Tory is forced out on his own. With nowhere else to go, he boards a train for the Black Hills and Franklin’s homestead, Moonlight Gulch.

Franklin figures Tory for a drifter, but he’s lonely after ten years of living in the backcountry alone, and his “girl” in Chicago has mysteriously stopped writing, so he hires Tory on as his ranch hand. Franklin and Tory grow closer while defending the land from outlaws who want the untapped gold in Franklin’s creek, but then Franklin learns Tory’s true identity and banishes Tory from his sight. Will their lives be forever tattered, or will Torsten—overhearing a desperate last-ditch scheme to snatch Franklin’s gold—be able to save Moonlight Gulch and his final shot at love?

Front cover design by Mara KcKennen

Available in e-book format – 1024 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie
I’m a great fan of classic western tales, especially if they are accurately portrayed regarding setting and lifestyle, and in my opinion On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch, by Shelter Somerset [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] touches most of the  right bases.

The story is about a lonely, tenderfoot Easterner, Torsten Pilkvist [I love the names], who naively starts a lovelorn correspondence, as a woman, with an equally lonely rancher, Franklin Ausmus, and when Torsten is forced to leave home he impetuously makes his way west to find him.

As improbable as this may seem, it nonetheless works because Somerset has done a superb job of bringing the loneliness of these two characters to life, and since we’ve all “been there,” so to speak, it is easy for us to empathize with them—i.e. the litmus test of a good writer.

Thinking Torsten is a drifter, Ausmus takes him on as a ranch hand, but Thorsten chickens out on telling Frank he is the ‘gal’ he has been writing to—setting up a conflict of significant proportions later on.

Of course, no good western would be complete without villains, and there are a whole cast of them in this story. The ring leader is a French Canadian by the name of Henri Bilodeaux who, along with others, covets the gold that still remains on Ausmus’ property.

What I liked

The writing is solid from start to finish, and the descriptions are not only vivid but also informative at times. Somerset has done his research well, and it shows.

For the most part the characterization is also done well. The good guys are principled but ‘human,’ which makes them all the more credible, and the bad guys are definitely bad. The author has also given Torsten a reasonable period of adjustment to fit into the role of ranch hand, rather than thrusting him into it as many writers do.

The other supporting characters, Wicasha the Indian and Madame Lafourchette, are a bit formulaic but nonetheless charming—almost de rigueur in a classic-style western of this sort.

Altogether, this is a delightful read for all those who like their westerns ‘classic.’ Four solid bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 25,328

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Introducing the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail.

It might seem odd for a western-themed story to have a mythological element to it, but in addition to the appearance of the Sasquatch, it also has an underlying role for the Greek God Apollo, god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, poetry, and more.

His involvement comes by way of a prophecy given to two young lovers who died with the legendary, Sacred Band of Thebes at Chaeronae, in 338 B.C. It seems their spirits somehow became separated, but in the prophecy Apollo has promised to guide them back together “for all eternity.”

      • Your devoted love will span the millennia,
      • Though cast apart in unknown lands,
      • Yet will Apollo guide your steps across time
      • Until you be united again for all eternity.
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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! Your participation is what I work for.    

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Eromenos, by Melanie McDonald

A textbook example of how historical fact and fiction should balance – Fairly well flawless –

Story blurb: Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian’s sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.

This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a “shameless and scandalous boy” and “sordid and loathsome instrument of his master’s lust.” EROMENOS envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years—far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.

Available in e-book format – 551 KB


About the Author:
Melanie McDonald was awarded a 2008 Hawthornden Fellowship for Eromenos, her debut novel. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, and her work has appeared in New York Stories, Fugue, Indigenous Fiction and other journals. She has worked as a reporter and freelance writer, and spent several months in Italy while at work on Eromenos. A native of Arkansas whose Campbell ancestors were Highland Scots, she now lives in Virginia with her husband, Kevin McDonald, author of Above the Clouds: Managing Risk in the World of Cloud Computing.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Until I came across Eromenos by Melanie McDonald [Seriously Good Books, 2011] I had never before heard of Antinous of Bithynia, or his legendary affair with the Emperor Hadrian. Just how I could have missed such a charming page in history (referred to as the “real life version of Zeus and Ganymede”) I don’t know, but I am certainly grateful to Ms McDonald for introducing me to it in such an entertaining way.

The story

Antinous was born in the town of Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Greek province of Bithynia, and the story is told in his voice as a recollection. At about 12 years Antinous is sent to Nikomedia for his education, and it is there that he catches the eye of Hadrian on one of his many tours. With a ready eye for beautiful young boys, Hadrian invites him to join his imperial retinue as a page.

This is fairly heady stuff for a farm lad from one of the Greek provinces, but even more honours were to follow when Hadrian asked him to be his personal attendant on a hunting trip, and eventually into his bed.

As one might expect, however, being the catamite of a living god had its ups and downs, as Antinous would soon discover, for Hadrian was by profession a general as well as emperor, and thereby firmly in command of everyone around him. Nonetheless, Antinous somehow learned to cope with the vagaries of both the emperor and the imperial court for some seven years.

Nevertheless, as he approached manhood (around 19) he began to realize the he could no longer be Hadrian’s lover because of public opinion and because Hadrian preferred younger boys; therefore, Antinous decided to sacrifice himself to the gods and the man he loved. At least that is how the story goes, for no one really knows for certain.

One researcher has put it this way:

“One may well wonder why a young and vibrant man would sacrifice himself for his Emperor and for Rome. There is the obvious answer that people often do strange and illogical things for love. Antinous may well have believed that he would win immortality in the waters of the Nile and hence may not have seen his death as an end to his life. And, although there is no direct evidence that Antinous was suffering from a depression, he had to have realized that he was passing the age of eromenos. Within a year or two at most Antinous would either have to give up his position as royal favorite or accustom himself to the condemnation, “pathetic.” Whatever would become of Antinous after his decline from favorite could only be a lessening of position and if he truly loved Hadrian he would undoubtedly be alarmed at the prospect of ending their relationship not only for reasons of status, but for reasons of the heart. Or, perhaps, Antinous had simply grown to feel shame at his position and was driven into the waters with a sense of helplessness and lack of self worth that could scarcely be considered rare in teenagers of any time period.” http://ladyhedgehog.hedgie.com/antinous.html#antinous.

The aftermath

The days following Antinous’s death brought great emotional upheaval and strain to the emperor. Trudging through a despair and sense of guilt, Hadrian’s first impulse was to follow his beloved into the otherworld. However, Hadrian was emperor and his life was not really his to give, and so in compensation he declared Antinous a god.

For whatever reason Antinous entered the waters of the Nile, therefore, he did obtain a form of immortality. Had he passed quietly from his role as favourite he may well have disappeared from history, but with his death and Hadrian’s response to it, he was assured a place in future remembrance—such as this book.

My Review

This novel is a textbook example of how historical fact and fiction should meet in a seamless, agreeable balance, so that one does not outweigh the other. Moreover the characters are well developed, and as far as I could determine, historically accurate. I rate is fairly-well faultless. Five bees.

Note: I note the Seriously Good Books is a new publisher with a worthy mission. i.e. “SERIOUSLY GOOD BOOKS hopes to survive and thrive as a small, independent press publishing historical fiction of lasting quality. Here you will find solid historical fiction that enlightens as well as entertains. From time to time, SG Books may select a work of literary fiction, a notable thriller, or some other surprise, so be sure to bookmark and visit these pages frequently.”  See: http://www.seriouslygoodbooks.net/#!__bookstore

 

News, etc.

I have entered Gerry B’s Book Reviews in the Independent Book Blogger Awards contest. It is my first contest ever, so I would really appreciate your support. Please take a few minutes to vote. Just click the “vote” link below.

Independent Book Blogger Awards

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews- 23,736

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Meet the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

Probably the most anticipated time on any cattle drive or roundup was relaxing around the campfire. After a long hard day of riding–usually ten or twelve hours in duration–it was a time of socializing with tall tales, gambling and music.

Such a venerable institution didn’t vary wherever cattle and men were brought together, and so Cory and Reb enjoyed the campfire as much as any on their trek North to Dawson City, Yukon.

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Introducing a brand new author and her new Novel.

Altered-Revelations, by Shawnda Falls-Currie is new on the Kindle market.

Story Blurb: Abandoned by her family, Lacey is sent to a juvenile detention center known as Clear Waters. Her teen years don’t look promising until she is befriended by a mysterious stranger named Taylor, a gorgeous guy whose captivating eyes seem to stare into her soul. Convinced she is in danger at Clear Waters, Lacey joins Taylor in a daring escape. As she meets Taylor’s group of friends, she discovers that they’re more than they seem – they’ve been sent from the future to head off an evil corporate plot that will lead to a world war unless averted. With Lacey as their only hope to prevent a grim future, Taylor shows Lacey how to tap into her psychic abilities known in his time as evolved humans. Travelling with her new friends, she discovers the magic of love while she grows into the powerful warrior chosen to make the difference to the world!

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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. Your participation is an honour I hope I’ve earned.

April 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

The Master of Seacliff, by Max Pierce

An American Gothic novel reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel –

A gothic mystery with a decidedly masculine point of view

The year is 1899, and Andrew Wyndham is twenty years old—no longer a boy, but not yet the man he longs to become. Brought up by a harsh and stingy aunt and uncle in New York City after the death of his parents, young Andrew dreams of life as an artist in Paris. He has talent enough but lacks the resources to bring his dream to fruition. When a friend arranges for him to work as tutor to the son of a wealthy patron of the arts, Andrew sees a chance to make his dream come true and boards a train heading up the Atlantic coast. His destination is the estate called Seacliff, where he’ll tutor his new charge and save his pay to make the life he dreams of possible. But danger lurks everywhere and nothing is quite as easy as it seems.

I pulled some paper out of my makeshift sketchbook and started a study of the mighty train that brought me here. Lost in thought, I had completed one drawing when a slurred voice came from my left.

“Want some advice? Get back on that train. There’s nothin’ but death and despair at Seacliff.”

A grizzled man stood at the west edge of the platform. He was short, tanned like oilpaper and wearing dried out, wrinkled clothing. Staring ahead as he limped towards me, the lenses of his glasses made his eyes look larger than normal. Without waiting for me to respond or acknowledge him, he continued, rasping.

“Take it from one who’s seen the devil’s wrath. They’ll all join Satan in hell. You too, unless you leave. Run.”

“Seacliff is my home,” I answered with false confidence. But as I turned, the stranger had evaporated.

Seacliff: A dark and brooding cliff-top mansion enshrouded in near-eternal fog, dark mystery, and suspicion—perhaps a reflection of the house’s master. An imposing Blackbeard of a man, Duncan Stewart is both feared and admired by his business associates as well as the people he calls friends. And his home, in which young Andrew must now reside, holds terrible secrets, secrets that could destroy everyone within its walls.

Available in e-book format – 452 KB

Review by Gerry Burnie

Every once in a while I get a yen to read a gothic tale—something like the compulsion for a decadent dessert—so when I came across one in the gay genre I just had to order a serving.

The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce [Lethe Press, 2012] is a gothic novel written in the classical style, with a quintessential brooding mansion atop a seaside cliff; a cast of eccentric servants; a young innocent (male); and a darkly-handsome master with a slightly sinister reputation.

Young Andrew Wyndham, driven by his ambition to study art in Paris, takes a position as tutor to the son of a wealthy, hardnosed businessman, Duncan Stewart. He therefore travels from his modest home in Manhattan to take up residence at “Seacliff,” Stewart’s remote seaside estate on the Atlantic Coast.

His arrival is none too encouraging when the first person he encounters is a grizzled man who warns him to flee for his life—and his soul. He nonetheless carries on, and eventually hears that Duncan is rumoured to have shot his father and his father’s friend in order to gain control of the family business.

However, this is not the only mystery hanging over Seacliff Manor, for Duncan’s protégé (and secret lover), pianist Steven Charles, disappeared a year before Andrew’s arrival and his absence has cast further suspicion on Duncan. But Duncan is a man who can be disarmingly charming, as well as irascible, and so Andrew is more intrigued by him than frightened.

Other characters populate this story, as well: The dour and suspicious butler; the (gay) brother and sister who own the neighbouring estate; Duncan’s son, Timothy; and the mute son of the housekeeper’s daughter (who leaped from the cliff when she found her lover had been murdered.)

All is revealed in the end, but in the meantime it is a fun read, almost reminiscent of suspects ‘popping in and out of doors’ in an Agatha Christie novel. Highly recommended. Four bees.

News, etc.

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 23,262

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Independent Book Blogger Awards

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Voting begins Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

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Meet the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

In an atmosphere where men were drawn together by mutual dependence and respect, Cowboys did fall in love—as Cory and Reb did. But driving skittish cattle over hundreds of miles, through terrain that could change from drought to flood in a matter of minutes, was a risky business. So what happened when a lover was killed and you couldn’t talk about it? Badger C. Clark, the iconic cowboy poet, addresses this question in “The Lost Pardner”.

  •  I ride alone and hate the boys I meet.
  • Today, some way, their laughin’ hurts me so.
  • I hate the mockin’-birds in the mesquite–
  • And yet I liked ’em just a week ago.
  • I hate the steady sun that glares, and glares!
  • The bird songs make me sore.
  • I seem the only thing on earth that cares
  • ‘Cause Al ain’t here no more!
  • ‘Twas just a stumblin’ hawse, a tangled spur–
  • And, when I raised him up so limp and weak,
  • One look before his eyes begun to blur
  • And then–the blood that wouldn’t let ‘im speak!
  • And him so strong, and yet so quick he died,
  • And after year on year
  • When we had always trailed it side by side,
  • He went–and left me here!
  • We loved each other in the way men do
  • And never spoke about it, Al and me,
  • But we both knowed, and knowin’ it so true
  • Was more than any woman’s kiss could be.
  • We knowed–and if the way was smooth or rough,
  • The weather shine or pour,
  • While I had him the rest seemed good enough–
  • But he ain’t here no more!
  • What is there out beyond the last divide?
  • Seems like that country must be cold and dim.
  • He’d miss the sunny range he used to ride,
  • And he’d miss me, the same as I do him.
  • It’s no use thinkin’–all I’d think or say
  • Could never make it clear.
  • Out that dim trail that only leads one way
  • He’s gone–and left me here!
  • The range is empty and the trails are blind,
  • And I don’t seem but half myself today.
  • I wait to hear him ridin’ up behind
  • And feel his knee rub mine the good old way
  • He’s dead–and what that means no man kin tell.
  • Some call it “gone before.”
  • Where? I don’t know, but God! I know so well
  • That he ain’t here no more!

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Introducing a brand new author and her new Novel.

Altered-Revelations, by Shawnda Falls-Currie is new on the Kindle market.

Story Blurb: Abandoned by her family, Lacey is sent to a juvenile detention center known as Clear Waters. Her teen years don’t look promising until she is befriended by a mysterious stranger named Taylor, a gorgeous guy whose captivating eyes seem to stare into her soul. Convinced she is in danger at Clear Waters, Lacey joins Taylor in a daring escape. As she meets Taylor’s group of friends, she discovers that they’re more than they seem – they’ve been sent from the future to head off an evil corporate plot that will lead to a world war unless averted. With Lacey as their only hope to prevent a grim future, Taylor shows Lacey how to tap into her psychic abilities known in his time as evolved humans. Travelling with her new friends, she discovers the magic of love while she grows into the powerful warrior chosen to make the difference to the world!

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Introducing Lucas Porter, pianist

An exciting new, 21-year-old artist from Nova Scotia, Canada, presently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Lucas was recently featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Next” series, part of a high-profile project created by the CBC Radio 2 program In Concert in which promising young classical musicians reveal their artistry.

Click here to listen, and please pass it on.

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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. Your participation makes it all worthwhile!

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

My Brother and His Brother, by Håkan Lindquist (author’s translation)

A multidimensional story of brotherly love –

Story blurb: My brother and his brother is the story about an 18-year-old boy Jonas, who tries to create an image of the brother he never met, a brother who died the year before Jonas himself was born. Jonas soon learns that his brother, Paul, had an intense love affair with another boy during the last year of his life. The story – which is told like a crime story, with loose ends, clues and cliff hangers – has been translated into Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Hungarian, Icelandic, Greek, German, Italian and French. It has also been awarded the French Prix Littéraire de la Bordelaise de Lunetterie.

Available in paperback – 169 pages.

Review by Gerry Burnie

I was first drawn to My Brother and His Brother [Bruno Gmunder Verlag Gmbh, 2011]by the intriguing title, as well as the strikingly handsome, Nordic lad portrayed on the front cover by photographer Howard Roffman. Now, I’ll admit that this is not the best way to choose a novel—“you can’t judge a book by its cover,” etc.—but fortunately Håkan Lindquist came through with an intriguing story as well.

Written in Swedish in 1993, but not translated until 2002, My Brother and His Brother, tells the intriguing story of Paul Lundberg, deceased older brother of Jonas Lundberg, who undertakes to piece it together from clues hidden away in his parent’s attic, newspaper archives, and the mind of a family friend.

Compelling Jonas onward is the desire to know something of his brother who died under curious circumstances in front of a train. The cause of his death is particularly curious because, in the course of his discovery, Jonas learns that Paul had a rather intense love affair with another boy.

So was it a suicide prompted by Paul’s inability to come to grips with his newly-discovered sexuality? Or perhaps a lover’s tiff? Or was it something more sinister? The answer to any one of these questions would make an intriguing story, but to all this Lindquist has added the quest for closure when the loss of a family member might have been caused by suicide on account of his homosexuality.

There is also a coming of age dimension, for in unravelling the truths about his brother Jonas is also learning about himself. Therefore it is an epiphany of sorts, and also a bridge that brings the family closer—particularly between Jonas and his father.

This is a ‘sweet’ story of brotherly love[1], a topic not often explored, but thoroughly poignant and enjoyable. Five bees.

News

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 22,195

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Introducing the characters, etc, featured in my upcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

The cattle drive that Cory and Reb undertake—based on Norman Lee’s 1,500- mile drive in 1898—follows the Collin’s Overland Telegraph Company’s trail for much of the way. The Russian–American Telegraph, also known as the Western Union Telegraph Expedition and the Collins Overland Telegraph, was a $3,000,000 undertaking by the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1865-1867, to lay an electric telegraph line from California to Moscow via British Columbia and under the Bering Sea.

Abandoned in 1867, following the successful laying of the Transatlantic cable, the trail remained. It was about 12’ to 15’ wide through deep woods and swamps, and the cattle drive pictured in this photograph may well be Norman Lee’s herd.

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Meet Kerry Sullivan, an Irish-American poet about to break onto the scene with his first collection of poems. The following is an example of a shorter poem. To learn more you can contact him at: kilverel@gmail.com.

I quarrel with the sunshine,

And in the rain there’s pain.

Every mood I have today,

So surely would I trade,

For simplicity.

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Just in time for St. Paddy’s Day!

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 tlantic, 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 possibilities 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.

Kindle and Nook versions: $4.95 U.S.D.

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Thanks for dropping by. Your participation has topped 22,000 visitors. Bravo!


[1] Gerry B’s editorial comment: I hasten to add for Paypal’s edification that this is not an incestuous love in any way—although it would be none of their damned business if it was.

March 11, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

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.

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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

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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.

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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

From Afar, by Ava March

A cleverly conceived story, capably written and well worth a read.

Story blurb: Some rules are destined to be broken.

Loneliness. A concept with which Raphael Laurent is very familiar. He’s lived a solitary life for thirty-six years, shunning the excesses of the local vampire clan—until he spots Lord Aleric Vane, the handsome and dissolute third son of a duke. For three years Raphael has watched from a distance, for only when he is near Aleric does the hollow, empty ache in his chest ease.

Cut off from his family for refusing to follow his father’s dictates, Aleric’s nights are filled with vice. But after three years in London, the city has lost all appeal. Desolate and penniless, his future appears bleak. Until a mysterious man drops from the shadows to drive off a trio of murderous thieves.

When Aleric awakens, he finds himself forever changed. The itch for more that drove him to London is gone. In its place is the feeling that he’s known the beautiful Raphael all his life.

But to save Aleric, Raphael had to break the rules, giving him a chance to love the one man he never thought he could have—a chance that could be ripped away by Aleric himself…

Warning: This book contains hot m/m action with a new vampire with a ramped up sex drive, and a dash of voyeurism of the m/m, m/f, and m/m/m varieties. Definitely not your traditional Regency romance.

*Available in e-book format – 396 KB

Review by Gerry Burnie

Since my last couple of reviews have dealt with non-GLBT books I thought it was time I should get back to the mainstream of Gerry B’s Book Reviews. Ava March’s novella From Afar [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010] is one of the books that has been languishing on my TBR list, and so I happily turned to it this week.

This is one of those crossover stories featuring vampires that seem to be popular these days. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, and to date no one has been able to provide a definitive answer, but that is a discussion for another day and forum.

This story is set in Regency England, and features a young vampire by the name of Raphael. At the opening of the tale we find Raphael up a tree spying on a libertine lord (Aleric) at play with a prostitute—something that Raphael has apparently watched more than once. The truth is that Raphael is infatuated with Aleric, but given his (Raphael’s) inhuman characteristics a full-fledged relationship is an impossibility.

However, circumstances change when Aleric is critically wounded in a mugging, and rather than see his unconscious love die Raphael gives him the bite of ‘everlasting life’ as a vampire, but since it is without Aleric’s consent the question is how will he react when he regains consciousness?

To give him his due Raphael’s love is genuine, for he goes to great lengths to revive his “lover,” and when he does he is rewarded by a compliant Aleric. The reality is the Aleric is a lord in name only, and is otherwise destitute. Moreover, he had always been more than just a bit bi-curious, and so there follows quite a charming ‘getting-to-know-you’ segment in which Aleric learns the dos-and-don’ts of being a vampire.

The tension in the story is provided by a dominant clan of vampires under the control of a female who, rather awkwardly, develops an attraction to Aleric, and while she can’t destroy Raphael she can cause serious and grave difficulties for both him and Aleric.

It is a cleverly conceived story, capably written and well worth a read, but it is also a little incredulous in places. For one thing I found Aleric’s acceptance and adjustment to his new life a bit too ready, and the ending seemed truncated for what needed to be resolved. Three and one-half bees.

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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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January 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Junction X, by Erastes

In some ways this is a brave new frontier, sensitively and superbly written, and begging to be read both for enjoyment and contemplation.

Story blurb: Set in the very English suburbia of 1962 where everyone has tidy front gardens and lace curtains, Junction X is the story of Edward Johnson, who ostensibly has the perfect life: A beautiful house, a great job, an attractive wife and two well-mannered children. The trouble is he’s been lying to himself all of his life. And first love, when it does come, hits him and hits him hard. Who is the object of his passion? The teenaged son of the new neighbours.

Edward’s world is about to go to hell.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have reviewed several of Erastes’ previous books, and in my opinion “Junction X” [Cheyenne Publishing, 2011] has to be her best effort yet. Part of my opinion is based on her gutsy decision to tackle the controversial topic of male adult-to-teen love. It is not that it doesn’t exist in abundance, it is just that no one wants to talk or write about it for fear of being labelled a pedophile. I will also add that a male writer probably couldn’t have written on this topic without the usual finger pointing, so I am glad that Erastes took up the challenge.

Every aspect of this story is outstanding: A powerful narrative, vivid and believable characters, uncompromising drama, and a heart-grabbing ending, but for me the most compelling aspect was the insight Erastes achieved into the troubled soul of Edward Johnston—knowing the dangers, and yet pursuing his feelings for a comely 18-year-old student just the same. I liked the subtle way it began, too, for I have long held that we talk ourselves into loving someone—fantasy, sometimes unrealistic but overpowering nonetheless.

There is also the subtle reference to an unspoken truth, and that is that teenagers are innately sexual and can be provocatively seductive. This is made all the more disarming by the fact that it is mostly subconscious. Therefore, Alex had no more idea he was seducing Edward than Edward had of seducing him. In Grecian times it would have been attributed to the fickle Fates.

In some ways this is a brave new frontier, sensitively and superbly written, and begging to be read both for enjoyment and contemplation. Five bees.

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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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December 4, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period | 3 Comments

Dreaming Sparta, by Richard Favio

A bold and interesting premise.

 

 

Story blurb: In ancient Greece, Demetrios trains to become a Spartan soldier but grows depressed over the loss of his mentor, Andreas. His desire for them to retain their monogamous relationship is overcome by Lysandra’s devious attempts to have Andreas fulfill his duty as her betrothed.

In present day New York, Andrew’s life is in shambles when his father threatens to evict him for being gay.

When, Andrew stumbles into Demetrios’ world through a dream portal, their encounters provide each with the incentive to confront their demons … together.

Cover design: J.M. Snyder, with photography by: Vulkanette, Frenk and Danielle Kaufmann, and Igor Kovalchuk.

Available in eBook format – 197 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Richard Favio has an extensive résumé of literary reviews, short fiction and poetry, and I understand that Dreaming Sparta [JMS Books LLC, 2011] is his second novella.

The premise is an interesting one, whereby two pairs of soul-mates—Demetrios and Andreas from Ancient Sparta, and Andrew and Demetri from modern-day New York—somehow intersect spiritually across the continuum of time. Right there we have almost endless possibilities of contrast and comparison, some of which the author exploits quite nicely.

Andreas and Demetrios are erastes and eromenos, a mentoring and hands-on relationship that was accepted and encouraged for the benefits to society and the state. For example, the erastes (mentor) taught his young lover (eromenos) the proper etiquette and duties of a citizen. Indeed, it is believed by some that Spartan militarism and the well-being of the state depended on sexual love between men, i.e.:

“Older men chose young male lovers. There was no real age of consent in ancient Sparta. Childhood innocence had no meaning in the warrior state. All aspects of the life cycle were subjoined to the aim of making soldiers fit for war and the preservation of the common weal. Its practice was such an integral part of Spartan life that Plutarch writes: “By the time they were come to this age (twelve years old) there was not any of the more hopeful boys who had not a lover to bear him company.” Without a realization of the profound male love relations that animated it, no understanding of Spartan society is possible. Sparta was a homosexual state by law.”Sex and History” a blog by Stanley Pacion.

However, once a certain age had been achieved it was expected—for the benefit of the state—that these would marry and procreate. Nonetheless, this was, once again, a mere extension of underlying male-oriented society, i.e.:

“Though encouraged into homosexuality from youth and conditioned to it by the institutions in which he lived, the law nonetheless required him to marry. Lycurgus [the legendary founder or Sparta] not only excluded bachelors from participation in the greatly appreciated naked processions of women, but also prescribed, “…in wintertime, the officers compelled them [the bachelors] to march naked themselves round the market-place, singing as they went a certain song to their own disgrace, that they justly suffered this punishment for disobeying the laws. Moreover, they were denied that respect and observance which the men paid their elders.” The need for children as well as the preservation of duty to the state inspired this contradictory legislation for Sparta.” Ibid.

The wedding night, as described by both Favio and Pancion, appears to leave a lot to be desired by modern standards:

“The wedding night also fell under the jurisdiction of Lycurgus’ legislation. In a tender passage Plutarch describes the legally prescribed ritual of consummation in Spartan society: “… she who superintended the wedding comes and clips the hair of the bride close around her head, dresses her up in mans’ clothes, and leaves her upon a mattress in the dark; afterwards comes the bridegroom, in his every-day clothes, sober and composed as having supped at the common table, and, entering privately into the room where the bride lies, unites her virgin zone, and takes her to himself; and after staying some time together, he returns composedly to his own apartment, to sleep as usual with the other young men.”” Ibid.

On the other hand, Andrew and Demetri are just discovering their attraction to one another; an attraction that is frowned upon by society (as represented by Andrew’s father), and erstwhile by the state.

Modern technology was a source of contrast explored by the author, making for some humorous observations on the part of a visiting Demetrious.

Nevertheless, for me there were a number of shortcomings. The first is that I never did catch the reason that Andrew was ‘dream-transported’ back to Sparta in the first place. Perhaps it was there and I missed it, but it was a question that stuck in my mind throughout.[1] Secondly, as pointed out by Stanley Pacion, there were some very well established and interesting reasons for Andreas and Demetrios’ loving relationship, and although these are alluded to in Dreaming Sparta, I felt they could have been further developed.

That said, Dreaming Sparta is an interesting concept, and the author does include some interesting details regarding Sparta, so it is well worth the price. Three and one-half Gerry Bees.


[1] Since I am using the same scenario in my next novel (i.e. spiritual connectedness), I was especially interested to see how the author dealt with it.

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To order any of my books click on the individual cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in Kindle and Nook formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95, exclusive of tax where applicable.

       

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November 6, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, Military history | Leave a comment

Symbiota Sapiens, by P.T. Dean

A tour de force of imagination

Story blurb: This is the story of Jeremey, a young man who is chosen by an ancient society to join their ranks to guide humanity to its destiny. Ancient technology and enhancements in his body can make him powerful, and immortal…but his new duties will require him to leave his friend Julian to fend for himself.

What happens when Jeremey and Julian run away from thefuture that has been planned for them? And what happens when other, less idealistic immortals take notice of Jeremey and begin making plans of their own?

This fanciful tale explores the nature of love, loyalty, and human nature as the two are caught between two factions in a silent struggle for the future of humankind. As they run, each time they fight for each other’s lives, they discover a deeper truth about their love for each other.

Available in Kindle format – 580 KB

About the author: P.T. Dean has a long established interest in speculative fiction, with a particular weakness for epic tales that wind several intricate plot lines together. Since coming out of the closet his stories have pulled on the paranoia and fear of his past, but also on the emotional richness of his own relationship. His romantic subplots also draw from his personal experience, and have covered a spectrum from overt heterosexuality with homoerotic overtones to explicit same-sex passion. His rule of thumb is that every character, no matter how minor, is the protagonist of some novel somewhere. A little piece of that novel should show through whenever that character makes an appearance. Even the villains are the hero from their own perspective – if you hadn’t already fallen in love with the protagonist, you might want the villain to win instead. Bibrary Book Lust

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Review by Gerry Burnie

“Symbiota Sapiens” [Amazon Digital Services, 2011] is the epic debut novel of author P.T. Dean. It is an ambitious work to cut one’s teeth on, but Dean does a remarkable job of just that with only a few exceptions.

The story line is a complex one, almost as if the author was challenging himself, but I never had a problem following it throughout. He also uses some literary devices I have never come across before, i.e. the use of italics, bold face and regular type, to differentiate between the various voices. It is an unorthodox method—at least it is to me—but it worked.

The premise is that Jeremy has been chosen by a mysterious clan of ‘immortals’, survivors of the lost city of Atlantis, who style themselves “Guardians.” It is never made quite clear why Jeremy is chosen, but this is only a minor issue. Jeremy is then told that he must divest himself from all mortal connections, including his orphaned step-brother, Julian. However, having been Julian’s de facto guardian for several years, Jeremy refuses to do this and they both run away to New York.

The Guardians also have counterparts, known as the “Fallen”, who possess the same powers as the Guardians but use it for cross purposes. Jeremy and Julian find this out when they encounter the leader of this faction, a smooth-talking but sinister character by the name of Damion, and only escape with the help of the Guardians. However, they are then pursued by Damion’s minions, zombie-like characters called “autonoids”, who are trying to get at Jeremy through Julian.

P.T. Dean also unfolds a fantasmagorical array of technological gadgetry, including a super computer known as an “A1” that operates both internally and externally inside Jeremy’s head. It is also assisted by a veritable host of microscopic “caretakers” known as “Esserons”, that can cure any ailment or injury that befalls him.

In that regard, this story challenges the 1970s all-time zany “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. However, while Hitchhiker’s Guide was written as a spoof, “Symbiota Sapiens is a serious adventure and love story with zany overtones.

Journalistically the writing is solid throughout, and Dean’s handling of some very complex scenarios is masterful. However, there are some continuity problems. For example, in one scene Julian is kidnapped by a pair of autonoids using a stun gun. At the time Julian had been using his laptop computer in a cyber-café, and when Jeremy finds him missing he immediately takes off in hot pursuit, rescuing Julian and running (at a record pace) until they are well away from the area. They then take a hotel room where Julian continues to work on his computer. However, as far as the reader knows it is still back at the cyber café.

This oversight didn’t interfere with the over all enjoyment of the story, but I can’t call it perfect, either. I can recommend it as a highly original story, though, and if you are a sci-fi fan I think that you will enjoy this one. Four Gerry Bees.

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I have added three, newly discovered vintage photographs to my Coming of Age on the Trail, Related Photos site. These are photos from the 1890s era that illustrate various aspects of the story, along with a description. These photos are of interest in their own right. Check it out.

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 To order any of my books, click on the individual cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in Kindle and Nood formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95, exclusive of exchange and tax where applicable.

     

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October 16, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Two Irish Lads , by Gerry Burnie

Note: A tribute to St. Patrick’s Day. This review by Mark Probst originally appeared in Speak its Name, April 15, 2009.

 

 

two irish lads - final - medStory blurb: 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 possibilities 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.

About the author: Gerry Burnie is a dedicated Canadian author, best known for his historical fictions, Two Irish Ladsand Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big SkyNow retired, he has had a long and varied career. For twenty-five years prior to his retirement, he lectured on the topics of political science and law, and then turned his interest to history for a further five years. In addition, he has been an actor, singer, dancer, artist and a municipal politician at various times in his life.

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Review by Mark Probst – Author of “The Filly

Gerry Burnie’s Two Irish Lads is a quaint tale of second cousins Sean and Patrick McConaghy who migrate to Canada from their homeland of Ireland in the year 1820. With their life’s savings they intended to buy some land in “upper Canada” (the area now known as Ontario) and make a good life as farmers with the hope of prosperity.

Once they arrive they visit the land office and select a choice piece of property. With a few supplies and a tent, they take on the task of clearing the land, hoping to build a shelter before winter. The two lads eventually realize they are in love. One of the settlement’s wealthy leaders, Nealon, takes them under his wing, giving them advice, arranging a cabin-raising for them, and even getting Sean a job as a schoolmaster. It is soon revealed that he has an ulterior motive in that he hopes they might marry his two daughters.

There are a few harsh realities through which they must persevere, before all the dust settles, but I won’t spoil it by revealing any more.

The story is written in the style of Sean’s daily journal. While the first few chapters do indeed read like an authentic journal, thankfully Burnie then shifts to more of a first-person narrative than how a real journal would read, but that is simply to accommodate the storytelling process.

Burnie’s knowledge and research shine through in that the story beautifully describes 19th century Irish customs and decorum. He even uses a few Gaelic phrases, always with translation, and the dialog sounds so right you can practically hear the Irish brogue.

I thought the characters were well-developed and exuded a great deal of charm. Sean was the leader and sensible one, whereas the younger Patrick was more carefree and daring. While he yearned to be able to be open and proclaim his “secret love” to the world, he deferred to Sean’s wisdom and together they balanced each other out. The details of frontier life were also well researched, and the descriptions were vivid enough to give us a good picture of the landscapes and the settlements.

My quibbles are minor – I’d have liked to see more of Sean actually teaching the children, and I felt there were a few times some of the characters were just a little too perky for my taste.

I really enjoyed Two Irish Lads. It suits my personal taste of an upbeat depiction of frontier life, and I especially like stories where people come together to help each other and fight against the evils that threaten them. I look forward to reading more from this gifted author.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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.

                

 

March 12, 2011 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Canadian Irish tradition, Coming out, Fiction, gay cousins, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, gay pioneer christmas, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homesteading in Canada, Irish, Irish pioneers in Canada, Irish romance, M/M love and adventure, Sea voyage from Ireland | 1 Comment

The Early Journals of Will Barnett – Ronald L Donaghe

A touching coming out story

Story outline: From the time Will Barnett was fourteen until he entered college, the one constant in his life was writing in a journal, first about his Uncle Sean and the feelings he had for him, then his love affair with Lance, a violet-eyed boy he met on a windswept ledge in the desert of southwestern New Mexico. The Early Journals of Will Barnett, consisting of Uncle Sean, Lance, and All Over Him is now collected into one volume. 

 

About the author: Ronald L. Donaghe is a native of the desert Southwest, and he uses this mystical, wide-open place where the sky meets the universe, for the setting of many of his novels. He has published almost a dozen books in three fiction series, including the first book in a fantasy series known as “The Twilight of the Gods.” He is the editor of the online book review magazine, The Independent Gay Writer.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

“The Early Journals of Will Barnett” by the prolific pen of Ronald L. Donaghe (Two Brothers Press, 2004) is a series of three stories under one cover; therefore, I will review each one in the order that they are presented. However, over all, it is a compelling story about a naïve teenager growing up in a remote part of New Mexico, and the sometimes painful evolution he undergoes from the time he first discovers his burgeoning physical attraction to his “pretty” Uncle Sean, until his eventual maturity–both sexually and as a man.

Therefore, the reader is drawn into the story at a very early stage–appropriately told in Will’s `transcribed’ words, and is then swept along as Will moves from one stage of his development to another.

These developments the author unfolds with insight and understanding, as well as some unexpected twists along the way.

“Uncle Sean”

This is the first of Will Barnett’s journals, and the author has cleverly opened it with a credible (…or perhaps true) account of how he found these `scribblings’ in a derelict barn. Donaghe then takes on the voice of a unsophisticated, fourteen-year-old farm boy, to relate his awe and wonderment regarding his somewhat older uncle, Sean–recently returned from active duty in Vietnam.

Thereafter, Will’s fascination deepens as he tries to fathom this exceptionally handsome, but otherwise complex and troubled man, and his confused feelings toward him. In this regard, the author has awakened within all of us that wonderment over an older boy next door, or down the street, or perhaps a relative when we were Will’s age–I know it resonated with me.

“Lance” (The second in the series)

At the opening of this particular novel, the author conjures up a meeting with the real(?) Will Barnett–now in his early forties. This meeting auspiciously provides the material for this and the concluding novel as well.

Now, somewhat aware of his sexuality, Will encounters a boy his own age with a deeply troubled background. Lance is an abused youth with an abusive stepfather and condescending mother. Therefore, Will and Lance form a bond against the abuses of the world, and this bond gradually deepens into an abiding love

This is a recurring theme in the four Ronald L. Donaghe novels I have read to date, and I commend him for that. An author’s job is not just to tell a story. It sometimes involves holding up a mirror to society with a carefully crafted message attached. In this regard Ronald L. Donaghe has done both. He has not only vividly described the shortcomings readily apparent in our society, i.e., bigotry, intolerance, religious fundamentalism, bullying, child abuse, etc., but he has also dramatized the harm these intolerances cause to innocent youths already struggling to understand their own complex sexuality.

“All over him”

At the opening of this novel, Will and Lance have temporarily separated in order to attend different universities–Lance in San Francisco, and Will in Austin, Texas, to live with his Uncle Sean as well. It is a poignant separation, but they both vow to remain faithful for the two years that it will take Lance to graduate. Of course, the question is: Will they be able to honour their vows in spite of overwhelming temptation?

For obvious reasons I’m not going to answer that question, except to say that this is the final stage in Will’s evolution from boy to man.

Once again the author has captured the experience of every farm boy who migrates from farm to the big city with rmarkable credibility. Five Stars. 

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To order any of my books click on the individual cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are now available in Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

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January 26, 2010 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance | 2 Comments

   

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