Gerry B's Book Reviews

Clockwork Romance by Skye Dragen

  A bemusing story.

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clockmaker

Clockmaker by day and thief by night, Arthur Winfield is used to charming his way into the homes and pocket books of London’s wealthiest patrons. He robs the rich to fund projects designed to help those in need and uses the nobility of his goal as an excuse for the continuation of his thieving. Little does he know that his latest mark may well be his last.
Lord Percival Brien’s wealth has acquired him a reputation for being one of the richest men in London. Solicited to ferret out the thief who robbed his uncle, he walks into Arthur’s shop with one purpose: divining whether or not the man he is looking for is the pretty-faced clockmaker in front of him. As he builds a friendship with Arthur, he may find that their tastes run to more intimate tracks than steam trolleys and airships.

817 kb, 47 pages.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

What in hell is ’streampunk?’

Anyway, whatever it is, Clockwork Romance by Skye Dragen [Starving Artists Ink; 2 edition, May 10, 2015] apparently is an example.

Not being conversant ith these trendy labels, and even less of an adherent, I simply found it a short read – which suited my hectic schedule this week – and reasonably creative.

Arthur Winfield is a clever clockmaker, which talent he uses to bemuse wealthy patrons sometime in the 19th century. Once inside their defences, he then pilfers a bauble or two for the benefit of the poor (a sort of Edwardian Robin Hood.)

Meanwhile, along comes Lord Percival Brien, an amateur sleuth, who is on the trail of a thief who robbed his uncle. Needless to say, Arthur and Lord Percival develop an attraction for one another, but the stumbling block is set in place when Arthur’s sideline is revealed. The story then becomes one of finding a compromise that the two men can live happily ever after with.

It is a bemusing little story. The writing is smooth, and the clockmaker’s trade is one that hasn’t been used before in my experience. Four bees.

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May 25, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Full Circle by Michael Thomas Ford

A thoroughly engaging story…

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Click on cover to order

Click on cover to order

Story blurb: History professor Ned Brummel is living happily with his partner of twelve years in small-town Maine when he receives a phone call from his estranged friend–Jack–telling him that another friend–Andy–is very ill and possibly near death. It is news that shatters the peace of his world for many reasons. And as Ned boards a plane to Chicago on his way to his friend’s bedside, he embarks on a another journey into memory, examining the major events and small moments that have shaped his world and his relationships with two very different, very important men.

About the author: Michael Thomas Ford is the author of more than fifty books, for both young readers and adults, in genres ranging from humor to horror, literary fiction to nonfiction. As a writer for young adults he is the author of the popular “Circle of Three” series (writing as Isobel Bird); nonfiction books about spirituality (Paths of Faith), the AIDS crisis (Voices of AIDS), and the gay community (The World Out There and Speaking Out); and the novels Suicide Notes and Z (forthcoming in 2010).

His work for adult readers includes the best-selling novels Last Summer, Looking for It, Full Circle, Changing Tides, and What We Remember, and Jane Bites Back. His work has been nominated for 12 Lambda Literary Awards, twice winning for Best Humor Book, twice for Best Romance Novel, and most recently for Gay Men’s Mystery. He was also nominated for a Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award (for his novel The Dollhouse That Time Forgot) and a Gaylactic Spectrum Award (for his short story “Night of the Werepuss”).

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I hadn’t read any previous novels by Michael Thomas Ford until I came across Full Circle [Kensington, August 1, 2007]. His credentials are certainly impressive, but what appealed to me is the era – the liberation movement of the sixties, to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s. My era exactly, so it was like a walk down memory lane.

It is told from the perspective of two men, involving a third, and through their eyes we experience the assassination of JFK; protests surrounding the Vietnam War, the Stonewall Riots, and the identification of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Probably one of the most eventful chapters in gay-American life in the 20th century.

The writing is professional through-and-through, as one would expect from a 50-time published author, but what impressed me most was his seemingly effortless ability to balance the viewpoints (memories) of the three main characters – like a Troika – while remaining focussed on the events surrounding them.

It is truly a textbook example of in-control writing.

For those of you who were born in a later time, you are bound to find Ned and Jack’s reminiscences engaging, as are their personalities, and if you are students of history (as we all are, whether we like it or not) this is a history lesson I think you will enjoy. Five bees.

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April 6, 2015 Posted by | a love story, AIDS, Gay American History, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction | Leave a comment

Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) by Roger Kean

A history lesson in novel form … And a great read…

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To order, click on the above cover.

To order, click on the above cover.

What do you do when the person you have loved in secret since your schooldays finds happiness with another, leaving your heart bereft and your future a bleak, lonely prospect?

For Harry Smythe-Vane, junior officer serving in the British army at the end of the failed campaign to rescue Gordon of Khartoum from the Mahdist siege of 1885, finding childhood friends Richard and Edward united in love spells the end of a dream he knows was doomed from the start—more so, a dream condemned by society at large: the love of two men for each other.

Harry must now pluck up the courage to pursue an uncertain quest for an elusive new soulmate—his great trek to attain fulfillment.

From dangerous missions on India’s wild North-West Frontier to the deserts of Sudan, Harry forges a career and experiences fleeting friendships, but when a spell of leave takes him to London his heart is struck. He meets his almost-forgotten godson Jolyon Langrish-Smith, a troubled teenager in Oscar Wilde’s louche circle. It’s an encounter that pitches Harry headlong on a turbulent journey of emotional involvement, of hurt and joy.

Painting a vivid panorama of the British Empire at its height, with its multi-faceted but rigid society hovering on the brink of change, Harry’s Great Trek is an epic saga of love and war—alive with an engaging cast of the humble and the famous, the honorable and the scoundrels—which climaxes in 1900 amid the carnage of the Boer War. There Harry’s future is decided as one quest ends and a new journey begins…

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the most grievously overlooked genres in GBLT fiction is ‘the gay adventure story’. That is not to say there are none. There are – and good ones, too – but they are few and far between.

One of the best writers in this genre is Roger Kean, and his latest offering Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) [Reckless Books, February 1st 2015] is proof positive of this estimation.

His Empire Series has taken us through the hot spots of Imperial Britain’s golden age of domination and plunder (always for ‘their’ own good, of course.) Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite eras for an overall commitment to ‘God and Empire’. It is probably the last example of a people willingly committed to a state that was ‘politely’ corrupt and exploitive, through-and through.

The blurb provides as good a synopsis of the story as I could write; therefore, I will contain my comments to some of the highlights as I see them.

First of all, I like the cover art and design by Oliver Frey. It has a rugged, masculine look about it that suits this type of novel. With a few notable eceptions, adventure novels tend to be written by male authors, and so anything less rugged wouldn’t have met my expectations.

I also love Kean’s choice of names, i.e. Harry Smythe-Vane, and Jolyon Langrish-Smith. How delicious zany! I have often observed that authors don’t give enough attention to names – especially historical names – but these certainly do add a ‘stuffiness’ to the era that fits.

The introduction of certain celebrities of the day – especially young Winston Churchill – added a whole new dimension to the already interesting historical events. There are also some who also say that Baden-Powell had an interest in boys beyond scouting, and so these characters can add wonderful fodder to a story.

The writing is, of course, top notch (if, perhaps, a bit over-expansive), and so I am going to award this novel with a five-bee rating.

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Interested in Canadian history?

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March 23, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Afghanistan, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher

Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London.

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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click on the above cover to purchase.

click on the above cover to purchase.

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

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A word about political correctness

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

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

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

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Interested in Canadian history?

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

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

Certainty by Victor Bevine

A superbly written fiction wrapped around an historical event.

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

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

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

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

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interested in Canadian history?

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

 

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

A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire

Interesting Story line, colourful characters, and intriguing setting.

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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.

Doctor Nikolai Hartmann represents himself as a learned man of science who believes wholly in the rational and scientific above all else. In reality, he is a man haunted by an unusual past and running from his own nature. While the Reformation transforms much of Europe, it has yet to touch Hesse-Davia; this is a land mired in superstition with cruel punishments for crimes such as witchcraft and sodomy.

While traveling to the dying king’s bedside to offer his medical expertise, Nikolai is set upon by a bandit. Reaching the king’s ancient stronghold, he discovers his mysterious brigand is the beautiful, arrogant Prince Aleksey. Aleksey is everything Nikolai is not: unguarded, passionate and willful. Despite their differences, Nikolai feels an irresistible desire for the young royal that keeps him in Aleksey’s thrall.

But Hesse-Davia is a dangerous world for a newly crowned king who wants to reform his country—and for the man who loves him.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I had difficulty deciding on what book to read this week. All the titles seemed remarkably the same, and so I finally decided on one with a hum-drum title but an interesting time and setting. A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire [Dreamspinner Press, September 2014] is set in a remote kingdom during the Reformation, with all the mix of intrigue and enlightenment that involved.

The main character, Nikolai Hartmann, is a man of science. In addition he has travelled extensively, adding to his reputation as a doctor, and so he is summoned to tend the monarch of a tiny kingdom in Mediaeval.

It is here he meets the precocious twenty-three-year-old crown prince, Aleksey. At this point Nikolai is 37, and so there is the usual conflict of ages and outlooks between them.

The banter that arises from this is quite delightful, as they thrust and parry their way into each other’s hearts – love arises out of conflict in a most natural and masculine way.

The real angst arises when the old king dies and Aleksey assumes the throne. Not surprisingly he is a young turk intent on reform, but Hesse-Davia has be isolated for centuries, with deep-rooted superstitions, phobias (particularly against sodomy), and intrigue. Therefore, the task for Aleksey, and now Nikolai, promises to be a difficult one.

This is a well-written book, with colourful characters and an interesting story line that holds the attention with clever bits of business. However, for me, the language was a bit modern, and the continuity of thought wavered from one part to another. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read, and well worth the money. Four bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

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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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December 1, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay western | Leave a comment

Lover’s Knot by Donald Hardy

A masterfully crafted and delivered story.

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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: Jonathan Williams has inherited Trevaglan Farm from a distant relative. With his best friend, Alayne, in tow, Jonathan returns to the estate to take possession, meet the current staff, and generally learn what it’s like to live as the landed gentry now. He’d only been there once before, fourteen years earlier. But that was a different time, he’s a different person now, determined to put that experience out of his mind and his heart….The locals agree that Jonathan is indeed different from the lost young man he was that long ago summer, when he arrived at the farm for a stay after his mother died. Back then the hot summer days were filled with sunshine, the nearby ocean, and a new friend, Nat. Jonathan and the farmhand had quickly grown close, Jonathan needing comfort in the wake of his grief, and Nat basking in the peace and love he didn’t have at home.

But that was also a summer of rumors and strange happenings in the surrounding countryside, romantic triangles and wronged lovers. Tempers would flare like a summer lightning storm, and ebb just as quickly. By the summer’s end, one young man was dead, and another haunted for life.

Now Jonathan is determined to start anew. Until he starts seeing the ghost of his former friend everywhere he looks. Until mementos of that summer idyll reappear. Until Alayne’s life is in danger. Until the town’s resident witch tells Jonathan that ghosts are real. And this one is tied to Jonathan unto death.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have a special place in my reader’s heart for an English country novel set in a small, rural town, with history dripping from every greensward. Somehow they are made for one another. So, when I read the lead-up to Lover’s Knot by Donald Hardy [Running Press, December 22nd 2009], I was hooked.

Donald Hardy’s bio (… no relation to the ‘Hardy Boys’) says he lives in California, but his writing style (particularly in his description of Cornwall’s ancient countryside) is British to a ‘T’.

The characters are well developed and credible, as well, from the reasonably well-adjusted Jonathon to the troubled Nat, his shrewish girlfriend, Rose, and Jonathon’s faithful (and ever-so-patient) friend, Langsford-Knight.

Briefly, Jonathon is sent to spend a summer at a cousin’s farm where he encounters Nat, a young farmhand. Being of more-or-less similar ages, a friendship if struck that grows more intimate until it culminates in sex. However, Nat is already involved with a harpy girlfriend who is a study in shrewishness, and as things deteriorate Nat is written out of the story by falling off a cliff.

Fourteen years later, Jonathon returns to Trevaglan Farm as owner, with Langsford-Knight for company. During the interim, Jonathon and Langsford have maintained a friendship that all but verges on romance. Albeit, neither have had the nerve to say so, or take it to the next step.

Once at the farm, however, strange things begin happening to Langsford until it appears his life might be in danger. This leads to the ferreting out the sinister mystery that ultimately resolves the story.

From personal experience, I can say that juggling a supernatural element with more conventional aspects of a story is no mean fete, and so I give Mr. Hardy for a job well done. Four and on-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:  Sir Isaac Brock – Canada’s Hero

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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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November 17, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Dominus, by JP Kenwood

A lusty romp through Ancient Rome.

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dominus -coverIn AD 107, after a grueling campaign against Rome’s fierce enemy, the kingdom of Dacia, Gaius Fabius returns home in triumph. With the bloody battles over, the commander of the Lucky IV Legion now craves life’s simple pleasures: leisurely soaks in fragrant baths, over-flowing cups of wine, and a long holiday at his seaside villa to savor his pleasure slaves. On a whim, he purchases a spirited young Dacian captive and unwittingly sparks a fresh outbreak of the Dacian war; an intimate struggle between two sworn enemies with love and honor at stake.

Allerix survived the wars against Rome, but now he is a slave rather than a victor. Worse, the handsome general who led the destruction of his people now commands his body. When escape appears impossible, Alle struggles to find a way to preserve his dignity and exact vengeance upon the savage Romans. Revenge will be his, that is, if he doesn’t lose his heart to his lusty Roman master.

Dominus is a plot-packed erotic fantasy that transports readers back to ancient Rome during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. This is the first book in an alternate history series—a tumultuous journey filled with forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception and murder.

Front cover design: Fiona Fu

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the genres I enjoy now and then is a well-written recounting of Ancient Roman society. By all reports they were lusty, hedonistic society, and over-the-top in just about everything they did. That’s one thing that drew me to Dominus by JP Kenwood [JPK Publishing , April 21, 2014] – That and the beautifully illustrated cover.

There is some quite clever writing here, and some not.

I like the opening business, whereby a group of modern archaeologists discover an anomaly during an Italian dig, and pursuing it they then find a full mystery – two undisturbed skeletons and a dagger.

Now, to me a modern-day find is only half the story. The larger part of it is the ‘who,’ ‘when,’ and ‘why?’ So an opening of this kind is bound to grab people’s interest.

Dacia map cf. Ptolemy (2nd century AD)

Dacia map cf. Ptolemy (2nd century AD)

The story then flashes back to 107 AD with an introduction to Dominus (keeper of the pleasure slaves of Gaius Fabius Rufus) and Maximus (a former pleasure slave, but now a freedman), and of course, Gaius himself (celebrated conqueror of Dracia – a branch of Thracians north of the Haemus range, later Romania.)

The next nice bit of business is the purchase by Gaius Fabius of Allerix, a Dracian slave. One could almost see where this was going, but the tension created by pitting enemies together in one bed is well worth it. Moreover, it is a builder that works right up to the climax (…of the story).

I also admired how she worked the settings and juggled a large cast of characters without losing their identities. All very nicely done.

On the other hand, the gratuitous use of expletives – particular since they were mostly of modern derivation – detracted from the credibility of time and setting. Likewise, there were several other examples of modern terminology that just didn’t belong in the 1st century AD.

I got lost a couple of times as well, where I had to turn back and find out who was speaking. Now granted, I speed read. I must to get all the novels in that I choose to review, but since others have mentioned this same point, I am not alone in pointed it out.

A good effort, and shortcomings aside this has a good story line and interesting characters. Three and one-half bees.

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October 13, 2014 Posted by | Ancient Rome, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M adventure, Male bisexual | Leave a comment

The Medici Boy, by by John L’Heureux

Love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue — Just the way a 15th century novel should read.

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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: The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.

About the author: John L’Heureux has served on both sides of the writing desk: as staff editor and contributing editor for The Atlantic and as the author of sixteen books of poetry and fiction. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have frequently been anthologized in Best American Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. His experiences as editor and writer inform and direct his teaching of writing. Since 1973, he has taught fiction writing, the short story, and dramatic literature at Stanford. In 1981, he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and again in 1998. His recent publications include a collection of stories, Comedians, and the novels, The Handmaid of Desire (1996), Having Everything (1999), and The Miracle (2002).

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I think of 15th century Italy and the Medicis, I think of people dressed in cloaks, skulking about on nefarious errands, as well as Roman-nosed clergy and medieval nobility indulging themselves on sumptuous living, intrigue and lust. Happily, John L’Heureux captures all this in his latest book, Medici Boy [Astor + Blue Editions, LLC.; 1 edition, April 7, 2014].

Donatello's "David and Goliath" located in the  Bargello, Florence.

Donatello’s “David and Goliath” located in the Bargello, Florence.

It is told from the point of view of Luca Mettei, Donato Donatello’s fictional assistant. Most everyone will recognize that Donatello (c. 1386 – December 13, 1466) was the Florentine sculptor who created, among other masterpieces, the first free-standing nude sculpture since the Classical Greek era—the beautiful and enigmatic David and Goliath.

What makes the story intriguing is that L’Heureux has went behind the bronze to give it a personality; that of the radiantly beautiful and nymph-like model, Agnolo. Indeed, when you compare L’Heureux’s creation to the perceived personality of the statue, the similarity is remarkable. There is the same Narcissistic and self-centred beauty that could very well attract the unwary to their doom, and in this case, Agnolo himself..

Other notable characters add a measure of intrigue, as well. For example, Cosimo de Medici, the inspiration for Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, was banker to the Vatican, enormously wealthy, a political manipulator extraordinaire, and patron of the arts. It was he who commissioned Donatello’s David for his garden.

Beside all this cloak-and-dagger intrigue, honour and loyalty also exist—as in Mattei’s loyalty to his master, Donatello. In this story Mattei is heterosexual, but in an age where the lines were sometimes blurred, on can image an affectionate love (at least) between the two.

Indeed, it has all the ingredients of a Florentine caper, i.e. love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue. Four and one-half stars.

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July 7, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Medieval prtiof, Historical period | Leave a comment

Justice in an Age of Metal and Men, by Anthony W. Eichenlaub

A futuristic story with its roots in the “Old” West…

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To purchase, click on the cover above.

To purchase, click on the cover above.

Story blurb: Small town sheriff Jasper Davis Crow has an arm forged of Texas Army-issued black metal, chews snuff manufactured from real tobacco extract, and wields a six shooter made before neural implants were even a thing. In an age when Texan independence, neglect, and technology have ushered in a new age of lawlessness, J.D. holds strong the line of justice in the town of Dead Oak.

Longhorns trample a rancher in what appears to be a brutal accident. The new deputy from Austin is convinced that it’s murder and J.D. is inclined to agree when their investigation uncovers a bizarre conspiracy. With a megastorm brewing and a mysterious stranger tracking their every move, they need to work fast before time runs out and the storm wipes everything clean.

Can J.D. unravel the conspiracy? Will he be able to bring a sense of closure to the rancher’s wife and kids? Will there be Justice in an Age of Metal and Men?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Recently, the State of Texas has been in the news for, among other things, its open-carrying gun policy—a bunch of contemporary, pseudo-patriots walking about with AK-47s strapped to their backs. Nonetheless, Texas has always marched to its own drummer, and Anthony W. Eichenlaub has taken full advantage of this in his second novel, Justice in an Age of Metal and Men [CreateSpace, March 5, 2014].

In this futuristic tale, sheriff Jasper Davis Crow is a man of his times as well as an anachronism in his cowboy garb and anti-social addiction to chewing tobacco. He also sports a machismo prosthesis made of “Texas Army-issued black metal.” (Very butch!)

In other words, he’s a futuristic guy right out of “Gunsmoke” or “The Rifleman.”

I liked that.

Within these parameters, the author has created a character that is at once traditional and slightly quirky at the same time. This is a masterful touch on Eichenlaub’s part, for either one on their own would not have reached the level of interest Jasper Crow achieved. He is principled, old-fashioned, at home in the future, and coincidentally gay.

I say ‘coincidentally’ because sex doesn’t play a large role in this story. This may be a disappointment for those who prefer erotica, but it didn’t find it at all discomfiting. My preference is for plot-driven or character-driven stories that offer more depth and variety, and this story proves my point.

It is difficult to decide on one strong point in this novel, but I think I would have to say character development. In this regard, I was grateful the author resisted making Crow too perfect. Indeed, his flaws only contribute to his credibility.

My only reservation is probably my own from not reading fantasy novels enough to develop a taste for them; however, I can genuinely say I enjoyed this one for all the other dimensions. Four and one-half bees.

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(Did you happen to notice that Gerry B’s Book Reviews reached a new milestone this past week – i.e. its 70,000th viewer! Thank you for your interest. It makes it all worthwhile.

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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: Francis Pegahmagabow, MM-two bar. The most highly decorated Canadian Native in the First World War.

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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 16, 2014 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay western | Leave a comment

While England Sleeps, by David Leavitt

A historical novel that lives up to its name.

 

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while england sleeps - coverSet against the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe, While England Sleeps tells the story of a love affair between Brian Botsford, an upper-class young English writer, and Edward Phelan, an idealistic employee of the London Underground and member of the Communist Party. Though far better educated than Edward, Brian is also far more callow, convinced that his homosexuality is something he will outgrow. Edward, on the other hand, possesses “an unproblematic capacity to accept” both Brian and the unorthodox nature of their love for each other—until one day, at the urging of his wealthy aunt Constance, Brian agrees to be set up with a “suitable” young woman named Philippa Archibald . . . Pushed to the point of crisis, Edward flees, volunteering to fight Franco in Spain, where he ends up in prison. And Brian, feeling responsible for Edward’s plight, must pursue him across Europe, and into the chaos of war.

About the author: David Leavitt is a graduate of Yale University and a professor at the University of Florida, where he is the co-director of the creative writing program. He is also the editor of Subtropics magazine, The University of Florida’s literary review. 

Leavitt, who is openly gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his work. He divides his time between Florida and Tuscany, Italy.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was looking for a good adventure story this week, and with luck While England Sleeps, by  David Leavitt [Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition, June 3, 2014] came into view.

The story is set in 1930s England, the years leading up to WWII, and features a young aristocrat (dilettante) named Brian Botsford, an amateur playwrite and narrator, and his opposite, Edward Phelan, an idealist and Marxist-labourer.

From this perspective, one might assume that this is a story about class—and it is to a certain extent, but it is also a story about different ideals and approaches to life.

Brian is in a word “spoiled,” with little ambition beyond floating on the surface with the largesse of an aunt. Edward, on the other hand, is self-educated and ambitious to ‘work his way up’ to a better life.

In fact, Brian is not a very likable person, an ‘anti-hero’ and purposely so. Now, from a writer’s point of view this is a risky proposition—to invite your audience to dislike your main character—but with an ounce of redemption Leavitt pulls it off quite admirably.

It all comes together when Edward makes an attempt to rescue friends from the growing storm in Europe, but to get into the part of the plot would definitely be a spoiler, and so I will leave it for the readers to discover.

One of the things I like about this story is the subtle way the author draws the reader into the tenor of the times. In spite of the fact that the dialogue tends to slip into a more modern vernacular from time to time, the reader is nonetheless persuaded that they are experiencing 1930s England or Europe, as the case may be.

Likewise, the mock prologue and epilogue add a sense of time and place, as well.

However, if you are the type that prefers a happy-ever-after ending, this might not be the story for you. 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:  James AndersonOne of Canada’s steadfast but lesser-known explorers.

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May 5, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | 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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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

King of the Celts, by Rose Christo

Many admirable things to be said about this story, but…

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king of the celts - coverStory blurb: In 58 BC, Julius Caesar tried to conquer the Celtic world. One man stopped him.

550 pages

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.”

king of the celts - ceeltic bar

Review by Gerry Burnie

The King of the Celts, by Rose Christo [publisher not listed, Sept., 2013] is the second of Christo’s novels I have reviewed—the other being Gives Light https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/gives-light-gives-light-1-by-rose-christo/—and two more different stories I cannot imagine: the latter being shorter, more controlled, and the former  being an epic-length adventure that at times rambles somewhat uncontrollably.

The basic story tells of how the main character loses his whole family to Julius Caesar’s invasion of Gaul during the latter half of the first century, B.C., but then rallies the Gaulish Tribes to form a resistance, similar to Ambiorix in 54-53 B.C.

It is a fascinating period in history, populated by a fierce, primitive people, pit against the forces of Rome at the zenith of its power. A David-and-Goliath story that has all the elements to appeal to a variety of readers. So why was I basically disappointed?

I suppose it was because I have seen better from this writer. I loved Gives Light. There was an intimacy between the author and the main character, Skylar, that one could sense, and so the events of the story orbited around this strength. It was solid story telling based on a solid understanding of the characters and setting. I didn’t get the same sense here. My impression was that this is almost an academic exercise based on bits and pieces of research, cobbled together to form a story.

Nonetheless, there are some quite admirable things one can say about it. For the most part the journalism is beautifully executed, with a poetic flair that enhances every scene to the max, and the story line is good—even heroic at times. Moreover, the shear effort required to write a novel of this length is equally remarkable. Overall, I would say it is worth the price of admission, and based on her past writing I would invest in this author again. Three bees.

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March 11, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military | Leave a comment

The Door Behind Us, by John C. Houser

Altogether an engaging and enjoyable story.

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the door behind - coverStory blurb: It’s 1919, and Frank Huddleston has survived the battlefields of the Great War. A serious head injury has left him with amnesia so profound he must re-learn his name every morning from a note posted on the privy door.

Gerald “Jersey” Rohn, joined the Army because he wanted to feel like a man, but he returned from the trenches minus a leg and with no goal for his life. He’s plagued by the nightmare of his best friend’s death and has nervous fits, but refuses to associate those things with battle fatigue. He can’t work his father’s farm, so he takes a job supervising Frank, who is working his grandparents’ farm despite his head injury.

When Frank recovers enough to ask about his past, he discovers his grandparents know almost nothing about him, and they’re lying about what they do know. The men set out to discover Frank’s past and get Jersey a prosthesis. They soon begin to care for each other, but they’ll need to trust their hearts and put their pasts to rest if they are to turn attraction into a loving future.

Cover art: Paul Richmond

About the author: John C. Houser’s father, step-mother, and mother were all psychotherapists. When old enough, he escaped to Grinnell College, which was exactly halfway between his mother’s and father’s homes—and half a continent away from each. After graduation, he taught English for a year in Greece, attended graduate school, and eventually began a career of creating computer systems for libraries. Now he works in a strange old building that boasts a historic collection of mantelpieces–but no fireplaces.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1 JULY - 18 NOVEMBER 1916: The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1 JULY – 18 NOVEMBER 1916: The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, July 28, 1914—one of the bloodiest wars in world history (to that date)—it is appropriate to remember the human sacrifice in both fact and fiction. Therefore, The Door Behind Us by John C. Houser [Dreamspinner Press; 1st edition, October 13, 2013] is a timely contribution.

Fiction, I believe, is a particularly effective way of dealing with a broad range of ills occasioned by the victims of war while giving them a human face, which Houser has done remarkably well. Likewise, the time (post war, 20th-century—a time of lost innocence) and place (conservative, mid-west America) are equally brought to the fore with admirable accuracy.

The well-written blurb provides a good synopsis of the plot line. Here we have two disabled veterans, one an amputee, and both suffering from psychological damage as well. Frank has lost all memory of his life before the war—even his name—and “Jersey” Rohn has not only lost a leg, but he also suffers from the so-called “shell-shock syndrome,” a term that prevailed until well after WWII. Today, we know it as PTSD.

Brought together as strangers, but with much in common, they quickly form a bond that is remarkable strong: A bond that is built on their strengths as apposed to their frailties. This includes both emotional and physical love, but given the circumstances one could hardly expect less.

They then go on a mission of discovery—Frank to discover his forgotten memories, and Jersey to find a prosthesis to bolster his physical self.

There are very few shortcomings to this well-crafted story. The main characters are both likeable and credible: In love, but not overtly so—in keeping with the times. The ‘villains’ are nasty but not threatening, and the sex is passionate but about the right balance with the rest of the story.

Altogether an engaging and enjoyable story. Five 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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Anderson, Free! A blow for freedom. In commemoration of Black History month.

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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

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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February 17, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay WWI stories, Historical Fiction, Historical period, WWI | Leave a comment

A Place to Call Their Own, by L. Dean Pace-Frech

A gay pioneer story: Two against the prairie.

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a place of their own - coverStory blurb: Is it possible for two Civil War veterans to find their place in the world on the Kansas Prairie?

When the War Between the States ended in 1865 many Americans emerged from the turmoil energized by their possibilities for the future. Frank Greerson and Gregory Young were no different. After battling southern rebels and preserving the Union, the two men set out to battle the Kansas Prairie and build a life together. Frank yearned for his own farm, away from his family—even at the risk of alienating them. Gregory, an only child, returned home to claim his inheritance to help finance their adventure out west.

Between the difficult work of establishing a farm on the unforgiving Kansas prairie, and the additional obstacles provided by the weather, Native Americans and wild animals, will their love and loyalty be enough to sustain them through the hardships?

About the author: With inspiration from some historical tourism sites, the love of reading, and a desire to write a novel, L. Dean Pace-Frech started crafting his debut novel, A Place to Call Their Own, in 2008. After four years of writing and polishing the manuscript, he submitted it for publication and Musa Publishing offered him a contract in early 2013.

Dean lives in Kansas City, Missouri with his partner, Thomas, and their two cats. They are involved in their church and enjoy watching movies, outdoor activities in the warmer weather and spending time together with friends and family. In addition to writing, Dean enjoys
reading and patio gardening.

Prior to novels, Dean did some technical writing in his career. He has written another complete fiction manuscript and has a third manuscript outlined.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

To me, the American Civil War was a period of great upheaval, but it was also a time of great promise: the conviction that when the war was over, things would be better. That is the sentiment L. Dean Pace-Frech has captured in his debut novel A Place to Call Their Own [Musa Publishing, July 4, 2013].

Frank Greeerson and Gregory Young meet and fall in love in the midst of the conflict, and when the fighting is over they each stake a claim to free land (presumably under the Homestead Act of 1862) in the State of Kansas—the beginning of the American frontier.

vintage CW soldiersThe story begins with Frank Greerson’s father, Paul, trying to talk him out of this adventure, but failing that, Frank and Gregory set out on their journey like two wide-eyed innocents—a little scared, and a whole lot excited.

The author takes us along with them, and that is the charming part of the story as we follow these two neophytes through their first years of homesteading on the vast, unspoiled prairie. He has also given them moments of bliss, and moments of hardship and challenge, but always shared between them.

The supporting cast is quite charming as well, refreshingly supportive as I think most pioneer communities were. They truly were communal in the sense that everyone pitched in to help their neighbours for the good of the community and of themselves.

In this regard it is a story that will appeal to most people: a romance set in an expansive setting, with likable characters and just enough tension to keep it interesting.

My minor quibble is with the vocabulary at times. Without going into chapter and verse on what I mean, here is an example. In the opening pages Frank says to his father, “I’ve considered all the scenarios, pa,” etc. Now, the difficulty I have with this choice of words is that they don’t fit the character of a farm boy, i.e. “scenarios” (formal) doesn’t fit with “pa” (informal). Perhaps a better fit might have been, “I’ve looked at it from all directions, pa,” etc.

However, this is my personal opinion.

Otherwise, there is nothing about this story not to like. Four and one-half stars.

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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:  Nancy Greene – Canada’s skiing sensation.

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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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January 27, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay pioneers, Gay romance, Historical period | 1 Comment

A Shiny Tin Star, by Jon Wilson

No shoot-em-up, but a darned good story.

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shiny tin star - coverStory blurb: On a scorching summer’s day in 1903 the sheriff of Creek County, Eugene Grey, unexpectedly finds himself partnered with feisty young Federal Marshal Forest O’Rourke. The marshal is hell-bent on capturing a wanted man—a man Eugene knows as nothing but an amiable old geezer living quietly in the hills.

But, of course, all is not as it seems. As the manhunt progresses, Eugene slowly works out the true nature of the marshal’s relationship to the old man. And something Eugene has long kept hidden begins to stir inside him. He finds it impossible to deny the desire he feels toward the determined young marshal.

Death and fiery destruction follow, but also passion and stolen moments of joy. Eugene’s journey takes him from his small town of Canyon Creek, Colorado, to the stately homes of Atlanta and Philadelphia. But it also pits him against the very laws he has sworn to uphold. He finds himself risking prison or even death—all in the name of love.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As most people who visit this page know, I have a fondness for westerns. I think this is because they recreate a life and times that were basic. Not ‘basic’ in the sense of being crude, as they are often portrayed today, but a simpler life in terms of common sense and the ‘golden rule.’ For the most part, I think that Jon Wilson has captured this simplicity in his novel A Shiny Tin Star, [Cheyenne Publishing, November 19, 2012]. Certainly he has captured the laid-back cadence of the narrator, Eugene Grey.

Eugene Grey is a down-home country sheriff, confidant in what he knows from having lived it, seen it, or done it, and sceptical of anyone who hasn’t—especially those who think they know better. That includes Marshall Forrest O’Rourke.

O’Rourke is a cocky Federal Marshall, and worse still, an Easterner. That pretty well sets the tone of the first eight or ten chapters. [I particularly liked the knock-down-drag-em-out fight between O’Rourke and Rawley Scoggins.]

In a somewhat surprising turn, the story shifts east to the cultured life of Atlanta and Philadelphia, taking Eugene out of his rustic element and into Forrest’s element. It also takes them into a climate of artifice and bigotry, which threatens to destroy their simple relationship.

In the end, however, love prevails.

The story is cleverly written, with a keen grasp (however gotten) of the laid-back, country vernacular of the narrator. That was a strong point for me.

The eastern segment was well done, and I can understand why a shift in setting was introduced to add tension, but for me it was a disconnect from the western roots. Having said that, however, I don’t know how else it could have been written.

Altogether, though, I thought it was a good story, well written, and with enough unexpected twists to make it unique. Four and one-half stars.

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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:  Jacques Cartier, Explorer: The “Discoverer of Canada” (…Not that it was ever lost.)

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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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January 20, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Gay western, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

A Handful of Blossoms, by Lara Biyuts

A unique story in time and place, and superbly written –

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handful of blossoms - coverBook blurb: Written in the form of a diary, which genre was so popular in the 18th century and which sounds so comprehensible in our time of blogging/webdiaries/webjournals, the novella may be called a love story. A story of a sixteen-year-old damsel and her weird marriage. Time: 1764, a year after the Seven Years War. Europe.

[A novella – 134 pages, 818 KB]

About the author (in her own words): A middle-aged translator and an agent seeking writer, author of 7 books of fiction, essays, notes, and poems. Un poete maudit. Gay-admirer. Straight fetishist. Author of her own photies. Her given name has several derivatives and diminutives that she uses as a part of her pen-names. A big fan of history, English language and linguistic in general, who is always in online search, placing reliance on Facebook, the busy place like no other. “I believe in yesterday, loving the steep turns & junctions of times, besides, your own past is the only thing that nobody can take away.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Larisa Biyuts is a Facebook ‘friend,’ and as I was reading her novella A Handful of Blossoms, [Lara Biyuts; 2 edition, January 2, 2014] I could vision many of the interests that Larisa holds dear—history, fine art, classic times, etc—and which are reflected in her writing.

A Handful of Blossoms is set at the height of the Empire Period (1764), just a couple of decades before the French Revolution. Constance Otilia Alexandrine is a minor princess (which is to say, she is a ‘pawn’ in the imperial scheme of things), arranged in marriage to Constantine Leopold, Prince of Askanier-Hortz. Prince Constantine is himself a pawn of sorts, for tradition decrees that he marry and produce an heir, when, in fact, he prefers men—and makes no bones about it to his newly acquired wife.

This perplexes her, but it also gives her time to explore the lush countryside, and the rich folklore of Transylvania, while fulfilling (…at the prince’s suggestion) her ‘womanly needs’ with the prince’s steward.

This is where the story really takes off in a tapestry of colourful folktales and fantasies, masterfully presented in a vivid, and at times, poetic prose reminiscent of the times. It will be a delight to those who enjoy a period novel written in a period style.

My one small quibble is that, here and there, there are minor idiomatic differences in the translation, i.e. “Milord might talk to me.” might have been better stated as “Might m’lord speak to me?” However, when you remember that English is not the author’s first language, these are easily passed over.

Overall it is unique, both in time and location; different, inasmuch as it is a woman-character’s point of view of a gay situation; and, with the exception of the above, it is masterfully written. 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 little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Bedaux Canadian Sub-arctic Epedition: A truly fantastic adventure by an equally larger-than-life character

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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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January 6, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | 2 Comments

The Boy I Love, by Marion Husband

Words to describe The Boy I Love: Intense, complex, starkly realistic, and superb.

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the boy I love - coverStory blurb: A compelling debut novel [at the time] set in the aftermath of World War I, exploring the complex relationships of Paul. On his return he finds himself torn between desire and duty; his lover Adam awaits, but so too does Margot, the pregnant fiancée of his dead brother. Paul has to decide where his loyalty and his heart lie.

About this author (…from her blog): December 6, 2013 – “I was asked to give a talk to a group of Creative Writing MA students last night. ‘Talk about how to find an agent or publisher,’ I was told. Well, you’d think I would know how to do this, wouldn’t you? I’ve had four agents (it’s a long story) and I’ve been published – short stories, poems and novels. I’ve even self-published. I called myself Ragged Blackbird Books, after a ragged blackbird that used to hop around our garden until one day it didn’t. So there you are: I am experienced.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

There are several words that could be used in describing The Boy I Love by Marion Husband [Accent Press Ltd., April 11, 2012]. Among these are intense, complex, starkly realistic, and superb.

The story line is set in a period just after WWI, and revolves around Paul Harris. He is a returning soldier who has spent several months in a psychiatric ward, recovering from “shell shock”—PTSD, as it is called today. He is also “queer” (in the terminology of the time), and so he picks up where he left off with Adam, his lover from before the war.

In the meantime, he has a chance encounter with Margot—the pregnant fiancée of his recently deceased, much-cherished older brother—and in a remarkably chivalrous act, he proposes to her. This doesn’t displace Adam, however, for Paul continues to see him, too.

Also in a supporting role is Paul’s army sergeant, Patrick, who has a crush on Paul as well, and at one point Paul is having individual sex with all three of them.

This in no way detracts from Paul’s character, or cheapens the story. Indeed, I think it is the flaws in all four characters that make them especially appealing, in a vulnerable way, and the story all the more believable. Ms Husband has a remarkable ability to give her characters depth, be it psychological or physical, and this carries the reader’s interest throughout.

Given the melancholy tenor of the story and setting, like a rainy day, I thought the ending was appropriate. In fact, I couldn’t see it resolve in any other way. However, for those who prefer a ‘happy ever after’ ending, it isn’t. Highly recommended. Five bees.

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Don’t just give a book this year. Now, you can give one with a personal dedication from the author.

… That is, if you choose one of mine and let me know the details—i.e. Who it is going to (name); your name; and any personal message you wish to include (15 words or less). I’ll create a PDF file that can be printed and placed between the pages, -or- if the book is in PDF format already, I can insert it as a title page. Please allow a week to ten days for processing, and this latter service is not available to Kindle formatted books.

Here’s a sample of what a finished dedication will look like:

christmas dedication.

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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 postDionne QuintupletsFive children and a media circus.


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christmas promo - TIL - green    christmas promo - NATTchristmas promo - TIL paperback

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December 9, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Make Do and Mend, by Adam Fitzroy

A charming time capsule set in rural Wales

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make do and mend - coverStory blurb: The Second World War. It’s not all fighting and glory; there are battles on the Home Front, too, and some are not exactly heroic. That’s what injured naval officer Harry discovers when he befriends conscientious objector Jim – a friendship frowned upon in their small Welsh valley even before they begin to fall in love. But they both have secrets to conceal, and it takes a bizarre sequence of events before the full truth can be uncovered.

A novel about healing, compromise, making the best of it and just plain managing to survive.

About the author: Imaginist and purveyor of tall tales Adam Fitzroy is a UK resident who has been successfully spinning male-male romances either part-time or full-time since the 1980s, and has a particular interest in examining the conflicting demands of love and duty.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Coming so close after Remembrance Day, I’ll admit that another wartime story may not be ideal timing, but Make Do and Mend by Adam Fitzroy [Manifold Press, May 4, 2013] is more of a gentle love story than a war tale per se. In fact, given that it deals (in part) with the topic of a conscientious objection, one could say it is ‘anti-war’ in nature.

As the story opens, the Second World War is already underway, and Navy Commander Harry Lyons has been sent home on medical leave. Home is a family farm in rural Wales, where enigmatic farmhand, Jim Byrnawell, a conscientious objector, is making himself handy. This is the simple beginning to a story that, happily, stays simple, even though there is much happening at the same time.

Through Harry and Jim, we are invited behind the war scene to a quiet corner of Wales where the inhabitants are ‘making do’. Rationing and sacrifice are the accepted norms, and yet it is this communal sacrifice that brings people together; our two protagonists included.

To add a bit of angst to the mix, the author has introduced a hypothetical debate around the topic of conscientious objection; as discussed from the point of view of various characters. It is a somewhat unique perspective—certainly one I have not encountered before—and Fitzroy has done a fine job of keeping the discussion balanced.

The other elements of the story have a balance to them, as well. Harry and Jim’s relationship comes together with a naturalness that sits well with the reader, and the physical aspects are in keeping with the novel’s understated style.

Mention should also be made of the charming setting, and of the quaintness of the Welsh villagers. It reads with all the credibility of opening a time capsule. Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 58,571

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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: Johnny Fauquier – DSO (Double bar): Probably Canada’s greatest bomber pilot.

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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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November 18, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

The Second Ring, by Anthony Kobal

A great adaptation of an historical event, skilfully told.

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the second line - coverStory blurb: Set in war-torn Norway during the German Occupation, Klaus, a young national, finds that he has caught the attention of Axel, a rising Nazi officer in the élite Fallschirmjäger paratroopers. While the battle for territory is rife with bloodshed, the battle for heavy water – crucial for making an atomic bomb – is just as intense. An almost impregnable factory is the target, nestled in the side of a mountain, beneath a plateau. The Enigma machine has been decoding signals that the Norwegians plan on sabotaging it in the deepest winter. As Axel and Klaus’ mutual attraction turns to near obsession, old rivalries threaten to expose the impossible seduction between the two, and the inevitable clash in the fierce ice and snow of battle rises to a harrowing confrontation.

Cover design by Fiona Jayde

Editing by Mary Harris

About the Author: Poet and novelist, Anthony Kobal is the author of many articles in LGBT publications internationally. This is his first novel.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The Vemork electrolysis building appears here in a photo taken during the plant's inauguration. After descending from the plateau, the attackers crossed the gorge behind where this photographer stood and approached the plant from alongside the turbine hall (upper left).

The Vemork electrolysis building appears here in a photo taken during the plant’s inauguration. After descending from the plateau, the attackers crossed the gorge behind where this photographer stood and approached the plant from alongside the turbine hall (upper left).

Given that next Monday is “Armistice Day,” or “Remembrance Day” as we now call it, The Second Ring, a first novel by Anthony Kobal, [Solferino Press; 1 edition, October 28, 2013] is topical indeed. The story is based in part on the Nazi regime’s failed attempt to build a nuclear bomb during WWII, and the sabotaging of the Vemork heavy water plant near Rjuken, Norway, February 28, 1943.

As a good historical novel should, I think, the author has stuck quite closely to historical facts. For example, he brings to the fore the bitterness felt by the German people with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which imposed heavy penalties on them in retribution for WWI. This, and the burden of rebuilding the country, were two of the factors that led to Hitler’s successful takeover with a promise of an Aryan Nation.

The protagonist in this story is a young German, Axel, who shortly after his introduction becomes the sex slave of a kinky baron. It seems the baron is into BDSM and likes to have a naked lapdog on a leash. Enter a second slave (Bruno, for the purposes of later on), who happens to be Axel’s nemesis from their school days.

Axel seems content being a slave, for, although he is not held hostage, he tolerates the baron’s depraved proclivities until he is literally thrown out. Nonetheless, he picks himself up to become one of the young lions in the Nazi’s crack paratrooper outfit.

The story really begins when Axel’s company is assigned to assist and protect the Vemork Electrolysis Plant, located among the formidable peaks and cliffs of the Hardanger Plateau, from the fierce Norwegian Resistance Movement. Needless to say, given the Nazi’s persecution of homosexuals, Axel is very guarded regarding his true sexual orientation, but fate is fickle, and before long he finds himself in love with Klaus, a Norwegian freedom fighter.

Then, in another fatalistic twist, Bruno show up in a senior command position, and promptly abducts Klaus for himself.

Being a historical fact, the fate of the Vemork heavy water is known—a fascinating story in its own right:

Surrounding their boss Leif Tronstad (front row, center) are most of the Vemork saboteurs, including (front row left to right) Jens Anton Poulsson and Joachim Ronneberg, and (back row left to right) Hans Storhaug, Fredrik Kayser, Kasper Idland, Claus Helberg, and Birger Stromsheim.

Surrounding their boss Leif Tronstad (front row, center) are most of the Vemork saboteurs, including (front row left to right) Jens Anton Poulsson and Joachim Ronneberg, and (back row left to right) Hans Storhaug, Fredrik Kayser, Kasper Idland, Claus Helberg, and Birger Stromsheim.

Conscious that every minute was now crucial, Ronneberg and Kayser climbed a short ladder and crawled as silently as possible down the shaft on their hands and knees over a mass of wires and pipes, pushing their sacks of explosives ahead of them as they went. Through an opening in the ceiling they could see the target beneath them. At the end of the tunnel the pair quickly slid down a ladder into an outer room before rushing the night watchman inside the high-concentration area.

“They immediately locked the doors and Kayser held his gun to the night watchman, who was quivering uncontrollably. Ronneberg had laid about half of the 18 charges when he heard a shattering of glass, and he spun around to see Sergeant Birger Stromsheim climbing in through a window from the back of the plant. Kayser also swung around and prepared to load his gun before he realized they were in good company.

Just before they lit the fuses, the guard said, “Please, I need my glasses. They are impossible to get in Norway these days.” It was a surreal moment and the request stopped the three raiders in their tracks, bewildered by this change to the script, this brief snapshot of civilian anxiety at the critical point of a crucial military operation. There followed a few curious moments as the saboteurs politely rummaged around his desk for his glasses. “Takk” (thank you) said the smiling guard as he put the spectacles on his nose. As he spoke, the four of them heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Was this one of the German guards making his rounds? To their relief, a Norwegian civilian walked into the room and almost fell backwards as he saw what appeared to be three British commandos and his colleague with his hands above his head.

The Vemork heavy water plant after the allies' sabotage.

The Vemork heavy water plant after the allies’ sabotage.

The four members of the demolition party immediately took cover, waiting for a reaction from the German barracks hut. They lay or stood stock-still as the door of the hut swung open and a soldier appeared, only half dressed, flashing a torch around the factory yard. He walked slowly in the direction of Haukelid, who was hiding behind some empty drum caskets.

When he was five yards away he stopped and swept the beam of the torch no more than a few inches above the Norwegian’s head. Had it been a windless night, he might have been able to hear his heavy breathing, if not the rapid hammering of his heart. At that exact moment, three tommy guns and four pistols were pointing straight at the back of the unsuspecting German. A couple of inches lower with his torch and he would have been riddled with several dozen bursts of Allied firepower. But he turned on his heel and walked slowly back to the hut, and as the door shut the order for withdrawal was given. ~ Nova – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/hydro/resistance.html

Regarding the fictional characters, I will leave the ending for the readers to discover for themselves. I will say this, however; it is somewhat unexpected (although not entirely), but fortunately not self-indulgent.

A good read. Congratulations, Anthony Kobal, on your first novel. Four bees.

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Authors in Depth

Coming soon – I will be launching a new blog shortly, Authors in Depth, dedicated to introducing new and established authors. This will be a free forum to talk about themselves, their books, and any personal interests and anecdotes they may wish to share. It is open to anyone (and all) with one or more published books to their credit. Authors who are interested can contact me at: gerrybbooks@yahoo.ca 

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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:  Barbara Ann Scott: “Canada’s Sweetheart”.

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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.

            

Now you can get a free, signed inscription, to go along with my e-books,

Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears 
Simply by clicking on the logo below

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November 4, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Historical period | 1 Comment

Wild Onions, by Sarah Black

A tale of hope and heritage, as well as a gentle love story. 

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Wild Onions - coverStory blurb: THE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.

Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.

He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.

There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.

Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.
The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”

Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”

The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

And speaking of shared dreams (…as does the story of Wild Onions by Sarah Black) I believe she and I may have shared a couple of visions as well. My latest work-in-progress-novel deals with forgotten legends and unsettled spirits too, and so I read this story with particular interest,

It is a lovely story—a true romance—and somewhat unique inasmuch as it deals with love across cultural lines.

The story opens poignantly with Robert Mitchell visiting the cabin he frequently visited with his deceased lover, Val.  The cabin goes way back in Val’s ancestry, but beset with medical bills Robert is now thinking of selling it to get out from under these. However, once he gets there and surrounded by memories, he has a change of thought.

Enter Cody Calling Eagle [my main character’s name is ‘Cory’], a Blackfoot descendent  who is still as fresh-faced and unaffected as the wilderness around Salmon River, where he is employed as a conservation officer.

He is like a breath of fresh air that fans the embers of love within Robert, and Cody is open to it as well. Then, as mentioned above, they began experiencing visions of a disturbing past connected to the cabin and Val and Cody’s ancestry. These also begin to have an affect on their relationship, and so Robert has to work hard to overcome this.

At another level, Ms Black weaves  into the storyline some of the history of the Piegan Blackfeet, i.e. the 1882 disappearance of the buffalo, and the ‘Winter of Starvation”  (1883-84),  during which 500 Blackfeet died of starvation.

Despite this it is a story of hope and dedication, as well as a gentle love story. Five bees.

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Presenting the revised cover for my upcoming novel: Coming of Age on the Trail – Part One 

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail - PART ONE.

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail – PART ONE.

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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:  “Spadina House:  One of the great houses of Canada.

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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 14, 2013 Posted by | Cross Cultural romance, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, Native history | 2 Comments

The Crimson Outlaw, by Alex Beecroft

 Shades of “The Prince and The Pauper,” with a gay twist. Delightful!

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The crimson outlaw - coverStory blurb: Vali Florescu, heir to a powerful local boyar, flees his father’s cruelty to seek his fortune in the untamed Carpathian forests. There he expects to fight ferocious bandits and woo fair maidens to prove himself worthy of returning to depose his tyrannical father. But when he is ambushed by Mihai Roscat, the fearsome Crimson Outlaw, he discovers that he’s surprisingly happy to be captured and debauched instead.

Mihai, once an honoured knight, has long sought revenge against Vali’s father, Wadim, who killed his lord and forced him into a life of banditry. Expecting his hostage to be a resentful, spoiled brat, Mihai is unprepared for the boy to switch loyalties, saving the lives of villagers and of Mihai himself during one of Wadim’s raids. Mihai is equally unprepared for the attraction between them to deepen into love.

Vali soon learns that life outside the castle is not the fairy tale he thought, and happy endings must be earned. To free themselves and their people from Wadim’s oppression, Vali and Mihai must forge their love into the spear-point of a revolution and fight for a better world for all.

Cover art by Simoné

Layout by L.C. Chase

File length: 524 KB

Print Length: 95 pages

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I was already familiar with Alex Beecroft’s outstanding writing (having reviewed  several of her books before), I must admit that when I first saw The Crimson Outlaw [Riptide Publishing, August 10, 2013], it was the luscious cover by Simoné that caught first my eye. Happily, the writing matched the cover, so it made it a delightful package indeed.

The story blurb capsulizes the plot quite well, and so I will focus on the other aspects of the story that made it such a delightful read for me.

The first, of course, has to be the unique setting. Off hand, I can’t think of another GBLT novel set in Romania; certainly none that I have ever come across. In a way this is surprising because it has so many romantic aspects going for it—the rich and colourful Magyar traditions, and the fierce gentry for example.

Second, the castle intrigue. I mean, a castle just isn’t a castle unless it has some intrigue surrounding it. So, in this case we have Vali trying to save Stela (his sister) from an arranged marriage with a much older and homely man; Vali against Wadim (his cruel and tyrannical father); and finally Vali and Mihai, the handsome outlaw, both of them against Wadim.

Finally there  is the character develop that kept me convinced right down to the minor supporting cast. It made them both real and understandable.

Altogether this novel answered my quest for a somewhat unique story that didn’t involve vampires and werewolves, and that wasn’t preoccupied with the perils of coming out and/or self-introspection. So bravo … or in Ms Beecroft’s case, Brava! Five bees.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian 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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September 16, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance | | Leave a comment

Into Deep Waters, Kaje Harper

An enduring love story … True love conquers all.

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in deep waters - coverStory blurb: For Jacob and Daniel, two young gay men aboard a Navy ship in WWII, the risks were high. Not just the risks of injury and death from Japanese planes and submarines, but the risk of discovery, of discharge, imprisonment or worse. Only a special kind of love was worth taking that chance. But from the moment Daniel met Jacob’s eyes across a battle-scarred deck, he knew he had to try.

Being together required figuring out what it meant to be gay and in love with another man, in an era when they could be jailed or committed for admitting the desires of their hearts. On a ship at war, their relationship was measured in stolen moments and rare days of precious leave, with no guarantees there would be a tomorrow. And if they survived the war, they would need even more luck to keep their love alive through all the years to come.

Available as a free download from Kindle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

in deep water - sailors kissingI recall seeing Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper [Amazon Digital Services, Inc., June 2013] some time back, and noted that the story dealt with, not only young love, but also mature love of an enduring kind.

I also noted that, although it dealt with a romance that spanned almost sevven decades, a good portion of it was set during the war years of the 1940s—the nostalgic years of the Andrew Sisters singing “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But me)”, and Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again (Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When).”

Those were for straight folks, though. For would-be gay lovers like Jacob Segal and Daniel Arcadi, however, it was a different matter. Theirs was a furtive love, conducted in secret, and at considerable risk. [See my review of “Coming Out Under Fire, The History of Gay Men and Women in Word War Two, by Allan Bérubé”].

The beginning of the story is one of discovery; not only of their love for one another, but of themselves, and is told in a most credible and endearing fashion—two lovers in the throws of newfound love, forced by society’s convention to restrain it, and always under the threat of the foreign enemy. Nevertheless, love will find a way, and by a combination of luck and good management they and their love survive the initial stages.

There is some serious angst in the combat scenes, which the author describes remarkably well, and equally in the sinking of the ship. The aftermath of this is heart wrenching as well, but once again true love finds a way to carry them through.

Covering nearly seventy years in one story is a daunting task, but Ms Harper carries it off well. She uses this span to blend in the events that transpire in Jacob and Daniel’s lives, and some of the milestones that occurred in GBLT history—most notably Stonewall and equal marriage legislation.

So, for two lovers growing older with the faint hope they might see some acceptance in their lifetimes, this makes a most gratifying conclusion. Five bees.

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Russian youth murdered because he was gay and honest…

russia-murder-croppedOn May 9, during a night out drinking beer, Vladislav Tornovoi revealed to a pair of long time friends that he was gay. The 23-year-old’s dead body was found naked the next morning in the courtyard of an apartment complex in the southern Russian city of Volgograd. His skull had been crushed with a piece of broken pavement. His genitals were mutilated, his ribs broken and he had been sodomized with beer bottles with such force that they damaged his internal organs. Before they left, his assailants set fire to his battered body.

Vladmir Putin spawned this murder just as surely as if he was there and took part in it.

Please do what you can to protest Putin’s homophobic war against gays.

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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: Casa Loma (one of Canada’s more than 20 castles).

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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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August 5, 2013 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | , | 1 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

The Fallen Snow, by John J. Kelley

A touching coming of age novel –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Announcing a new blog!

Irish hat st pat's ad

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

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

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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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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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.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Your visits are inspirational and humbling as well. See you next week

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

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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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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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.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Please let me know you were here by adding a “Like” or comment before you leave. See you next week.

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 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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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.

      

Thanks for dropping by. We’ve recorded 3,000 visits in just over three weeks. Congratulations! I’ll keep looking for more interesting stories, so please come back soon.

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

Out of the Blue, by Josh Lanyon

A bang-up short story, enthusiastically recommended –

Story Blurb: Grieving over the death of his lover, British flying ace Bat Bryant accidentally kills the man threatening him with exposure. Unfortunately there’s a witness: the big, rough American they call “Cowboy” – and Cowboy has his own price for silence.

About the author: A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USA Book News awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In preparation for Remembrance Day–for which I have a non-fiction book picked–I came across Out of the Blue [Just Joshin Publisher, 2012] by Josh Lanyon. It’s a name I’d heard of before, but had never stopped to read any of his works. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did.

The tale is set at an allied air base in France during WWI. Captain Bat Bryant is a British flying ace with an Eton College background, and as the story opens he is being confronted by a potential blackmailer. During the course of this confrontation Bryant strikes and accidentally kills the extortionist, and is witnessed by an American flying ace named “Cowboy.” Cowboy then reveals that he also knows of Bryant’s brief affair with Lieutenant “Owl” Roberts, but inexplicably offers to dispose of the body just the same. Bryant accepts his offer, and the stage is then set for the bulk of the story involving the relationship with the exploitative American.

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At 193 KB this ranks as a short story, which I tend to like because of their distillation of events. Author Lanyon appears to understand this appeal as well, for he has staunchly adhered to the three basic rules; i.e. get in, tell the story, and get out. There is no dallying here. The prose is spare but efficient, the characters tend to develop as they go along (mostly relying on dialogue for their personalities), and the era and setting get a just-enough amount of description.

Having said that, there is very little missed. Cowboy is a ‘cowboy,’ and Bryant is his willing ‘mount,’ yet there is a genuine affection as well. The era is effectively evoked by touches like the lyrics to “Roses of Picardy”—an iconic song of WWI—and the “dogfights” are some of the best I’ve read.

My only quibble with Out of the Blue is that some (a few) of the events tend to come out of blue as well, and as such I was ‘quizzical’ regarding the motivations. Nonetheless, this is a bang-up story that gets my enthusiastic recommendation. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 36,104

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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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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.

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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 hope that all my friends living on the east coast of United States and eastern Canada will be safe from Sandy’s wrath. My thoughts are with you.

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Only Make Believe, by Elliott Mackle

A well-conceived, superbly written murder mystery/romance –

Story blurb: It’s amateur night at the ultra-private, members-only Caloosa Club on the Fort Myers, Florida, riverfront. Trouble begins when the fat lady sings. Her triumph is sweet. But, only hours later, the diva lies near death in a hotel room upstairs, the victim of a vicious beating. Hotel manager Dan Ewing and his sidekick, Lee County Detective Bud Wright, soon discover that this was no lady and that a variety of unsavory characters hoped to dance on the dead diva’s grave. In Southwest Florida in January 1951, almost anyone who wanted to have a little illicit fun put his—or her—life on the line.

Dan, a World War II veteran who survived Japanese torpedoes, five days on a life raft and the death of his Navy lover, feels he’s found more safety and freedom than any gay man might expect. Dealing cards, serving untaxed mixed drinks and selling the services of escorts of both sexes, he acts as if he has nothing to lose. Yet he does. Bud, his secret lover, is a former Marine sergeant twice decorated for valor. Strong and brave but deeply conventional, he lives with the uneasy knowledge that every time he and Dan make love they commit a felony according to the laws he is sworn to uphold.

The Caloosa, exposed to the pitiless glare of a front-page homicide investigation, attracts unwanted attention. The mounting pressure, instead of forging a stronger bond between Dan and Bud, threatens to tear them apart. As the jeopardy to both escalates, Dan realizes he may lose the one man who holds the key to the peace and harmony of his postwar world.

About the author: Elliott Mackle served four years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam era. As a very green second lieutenant he commanded a squadron of cooks and bakers, later achieving the rank of captain. He was stationed in California, Italy and Libya, the latter the setting for his new novel, CAPTAIN HARDING’S SIX-DAY WAR (Lethe Press). His previous novel, HOT OFF THE PRESSES (Lethe Press), is based in part on his adventures covering the 1996 Olympic Games for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Then an AJC staff writer, he served as the newspaper’s dining critic for a decade, also reporting on military affairs, travel and the national restaurant scene. His first novel, IT TAKES TWO, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. He has written for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, the Los Angeles Times, Florida Historical Quarterly, Atlanta and Charleston magazines and was a longtime columnist at Creative Loafing, the southeast’s leading alternative newsweekly. Mackle wrote and produced segments for Nathalie Dupree’s popular television series, New Southern Cooking, and authored a drama about gay bashing for Georgia Public Television. Along the way, he managed a horse farm, served as a child nutrition advocate for the State of Georgia, volunteered at an AIDS shelter, was founding co-chair of Emory University’s GLBT alumni association and taught critical and editorial writing at Georgia State University. He lives in Atlanta with his partner of 40 years.

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Review by Gerry Burnie (http://www.gerryburniebooks.ca)

Only Make Believe by Elliot Mackle [Lethe Press, 2012] is the second in a series, but the first I have read. However, it does very well as a stand-alone  novel.

The story is set in post WWII, 1950s Fort Myers, FL, and is a next adventure in the lives of Dan Ewing, owner of the members-only “Caloosa Club,” and his closeted lover, Detective Bud Wright. Bud also works, part time, with the county sheriff’s office.

Both are good strong characters, but it is Dan who is the stronger, mostly on account of being comfortable in his own skin.

This particular adventure centres around a cross-dressing amateur singer who is murdered at the hotel, and the resulting publicity puts a strain on both men, particularly on Bud because of his clandestine sexual preferences—make that, ‘practices.’

One of the areas that I thought Mackle captured very well was the schizoid thinking of the time, regarding homosexuality. Homophobia was very much to the fore, of course, but even those who were somewhat sympathetic (i.e. marginally accepting) shrunk from the scene when forced to make a choice. Moreover, the over-the-top reaction of some homophobics made a nice bit of tension while the plot was unfolding.

Another aspect that I thought was both effective and clever was to show the impact of this tragedy on the victim’s 17 y.o. son. An aspect that is very often overlooked.

My quibbles are minor. For example, I thought the resolution of the murder investigation was a bit incredible (but not inconceivable), and although it is not specifically directed at this novel, I am beginning to weary of the ‘persecution complex’ that seems to be dominating most GLBT stories.

While persecution is an undeniable aspect of GLBT life that has existed since the advent of Christianity, the burden of this one particular theme is becoming repetitious. To borrow a phrase from renowned sociologist, Jane Jacobs, it is becoming the “Great blight of sameness.”

I do recommend Only Make Believe, however, as a well-conceived, superbly written murder mystery/romance. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 35,087

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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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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. I hope I have given you some ideas for your reading pleasure. The authors featured here, and I, welcome your views.

 

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | 2 Comments

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!

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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.

      

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 Auspicious Troubles of Chance, by Charlie Cochet

An interesting, well written and well-developed plot 

Story blurb: Chance Irving is a young man with a gift for getting into trouble-not surprising, as trouble is all he’s ever known. After losing everything he held dear one fateful night, he decides to leave New York and his past behind, and joins the French Foreign Legion. But even in Algiers, Chance can’t seem to shake his old ways, and he ends up being transferred to a unit made up of misfits and rabble-rousers like him-a unit he finds just in time to be captured and thrown into a cell with his new commandant, Jacky Valentine. A highly respected commandant with a soft spot for hard luck cases, Jacky is the kind of guy who would go to war for you, and the three equally troubled youths from his unit he’s more or less adopted feel the same way about him. Suddenly Chance starts to think that his life doesn’t have to be as desolate and barren as the wastelands around him. But even after their escape, with the promise of a future with Jacky to buoy his spirits, or maybe because of it, Chance can’t stop making mistakes. He disobeys orders, lashes out at the boys in Jacky’s care, and blazes a trail of self-destruction across the desert-until someone makes him realize he’s hurting more than just himself. A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Available in e-book format, only: 586 KB

About the author: Charlie Cochet is a passionate author of M/M Historical Romance who loves to get lost in eras long gone, especially the Roaring Twenties and Dirty Thirties. From bootleggers to hardboiled detectives, speakeasies to swanky nightclubs, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too! Learn more about Charlie and her writing at her website or visit her blog. 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Upon seeing that The Auspicious Troubles of Chance, by Charlie Cochet [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] was a story involving the French Foreign Legion—that romanticized bastion of rugged masculinity set in the middle of a desert—it peaked my curiosity. Although it is the type of setting just begging to be used in an M/M story, it has somehow been overlooked. Equally puzzling is that it didn’t figure into the front cover design. That said, it is a charming story populated with interesting, colourful characters.

Chance Irving is an orphan dropped off at a New York orphanage when he was seven years old. Subsequently he escapes to a life on the streets, and is thereby rescued by a young actress, who, along with her fellow thespians, give Chance a substitute family and home. Tragedy strikes, however, when the theatre is torched by a mobster, and Chance’s closest and dearest friends die in the fire.

Alone once again, he then descends into a life of debauchery until he turns his back on it and New York, and ‘runs off’ to join the French Foreign Legion. Now, in the 1920s and until fairly recently, the Legion was where the down-and-out went to hide from life—unhappy love affairs, scandal and even petty crimes—but it was also reputed to be the toughest outfit in the world; a place where ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was the unwritten rule.

Nonetheless, Chance is a rebel in the ranks until he encounters the commandant of an unusual company,
Jacky Valentine. Valentine is a people person, gifted with insight and a disarming wit and charm. He also has a special relationship with three charming characters, whom he refers to as his “brats.” These are a trio of salvaged bad boys, similar in background to Chance, and who play a seminal role is Chance’s redemption.

It is a good story. The outstanding features are the effortless prose and the recreation of the period (1920s). A nice bit of research has gone into describing the Foreign Legion as well, but here I would have liked to see more. The character development is also excellent: Chance’s background and motivation are both credible and interesting, Jacky Valentine is the perfect foil, and the “brats” are funny and charming.

What took the top off for me was the beginning and end. The first person narrative got me off to a rocky start, mainly (I think) because it couldn’t go deep enough without sounding self-pitying or boastful. However, the middle redeemed itself quite admirably, and held my interest until the end.

The pluses outweigh the quibbles, though, so for an interesting, well developed plot I give it four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 33,622

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.

       

Thanks for dropping by. My apologies for being late this week, but modem problems got in the way. Hopefully it won’t happen again, and so drop back next Sunday for a new review.

September 24, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Homoerotic | 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!

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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

Alike as Two Bees, by Elin Gregory

A happy-ever-after story for a summer afternoon

Story blurb: Horses, love, and the tang of thyme and honey…

In Classical Greece, apprentice sculptor Philon has chosen the ideal horse to model for his masterpiece. Sadly, the rider falls well short of the ideal of beauty, but scarred and tattered Hilarion, with his brilliant, imperfect smile, draws Philon in a way that mere perfection cannot.

After years of living among the free and easy tribes of the north, Hillarion has no patience with Athenian formality. He knows what he wants—and what he wants is Philon. Society, friends and family threaten their growing relationship, but perhaps a scarred soldier and a lover of beauty are more alike than they appear.

Available in ebook format – 244 KB (approx. 54 pages).

About the author: Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and has been making stuff up since 1958. Writing has always had to take second place to work and family but now the kids are grown up it’s possible she might finish one of the many novels on her hard drive and actually DO something useful with it.

Elin’s first published stories appeared in the British Flash and Tea and Crumpet anthologies produced by the UK Meet team. Elin still can’t quite believe it. However, there are always new works on the go and she is currently finishing a novel about pirates, planning one set in 6th century AD England and contemplating one about the British Secret Service between the two World Wars. Heroes tend to be hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow. Historical subjects predominate but there are also contemporary and historical paranormals, science fiction, crime and a Western.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As far as I can determine,  Alike as Two Bees by Elin Gregory [Etopia Press, 2012] is the debut novella for this author, and as such it is a worthy effort.

Set in ancient Greece the story focuses on Philon, a sculptor’s apprentice, who is characterized as a somewhat shy but talented boy. His character is rounded out be his fellow apprentice, Anatolios, a precocious thirteen-year-old.

Playing opposite them are Aristion, the bratish son of a wealthy patron, and his older cousin  Hilarion. Due to Aristion’s bullying of Anatolios, Hilarion and Philon meet and are immediately attracted to one another. However, Aristion remains resentful and even vengeful, and when he threatens Philon, Hilarion comes to his lover’s defence and all is agreeably resolved.

This is a sweet, uncomplicated story that focuses on romance in a romantic setting. It is well written,  and the characters are appealing rather than complex. In fact they are rather standard fare. Philon is the struggling good boy, Aristion is the spoiled rich kid, Anatolios is the impish-catalyst, and Hilarion is the mature kid who is attracted to the good boy.

There is nothing wrong with this type of character development, and it makes for a good solid read, but it doesn’t break any new ground, either.

Altogether, Alike as Two Bees is a happy-ever-after story that will pleasantly fill an afternoon at the beach, or an evening curled up in your easy chair. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 32,020

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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!

♣♣♣

Notice: Have you had any dealings with  Fontcraft? (http://www.fontcraft.com/fontcraft/#axzz22jaeXIBi)

This is my experience: I ordered a font online from Fontcraft, for which I paid $18.00, but the download URL I was instructed to use was non-functioning [see:http://www.fontcraft.com/download/9e5U4a4Iz3viqEsU/ ]. I wrote with my concerns 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. Hope you found your visit enjoyable. Please drop by again.

 

August 26, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 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!

 ♣♣♣

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!

♥♥♥

♥♥♥

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

A Private Gentleman, by Heidi Cullinan

A thinking-person’s read, and one that comes enthusiastically recommended from this reader –

To seal their bond, they must break the ties that bind.

Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist’s house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek.

He finds the orchid, yes…but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.

Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan’s bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world—until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark.

There’s only one way out of this tangle. Help Wes face the fears that cripple him—right after Michael finds the courage to reveal the devastating truth that binds them.

Available in ebook format, only – 494 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I think it was the lush cover that first attracted me to A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan [Samhain Publishing Ltd, 2012], but once I got into it I found an equally pithy story inside.

Lord George Albert Westin is an opiated (my invention) recluse, whiling away his days with his beloved plants and gardens. Naturally, for a hobby like this, there is a certain quest for achievement involved, and when he hears of a rare orchid in the possession of a Michael Vallant it is enough to lure him out of his self-imposed exile.

However, Michael Valliant isn’t your average, nerdy garden enthusiast. Far from it. He is, in fact, a “professional sodomite,”[1] i.e. a high-class male prostitute (with a procurer, no less). The explanation is that he suffered an abusive childhood–as the son of a courtesan–and this has left him psychologically scarred into adulthood.

This is the ‘launching point,’ so to speak, and the rest of the story is how these two scarred individuals find mutual ground in a complex and conflicted way.

I personally liked “Wes” and Michael. They are superbly developed with layer upon layer of complexity, and yet they are not over the top in any way. One can readily understand that a severe stutter in the 1800s was a far greater affliction than it is now, and for this Wes would want to shun society’s misguided stares and taunts.

Likewise, even with my limited grasp of psychology, I have read that self-degradation (i.e. prostitution, etc.) is one symptom of childhood abuse, and so Michael’s torment is understandable as well.

I also liked the gradual way in which the author worked them through their afflictions, although I did find some quibble with the overall pace. It was inconsistent, going from doldrums to near hectic and back again.

While I’m on the topic of ‘likes’, I give full kudos to the author for holding back on the homoerotica  in favour of the superbly turned plot. It is not to say that it lacks sex, not at all, but it is nicely balanced with the story line.

Altogether it is a thinking-person’s read, and one that comes enthusiastically recommended from this reader. Four and one-half bees.

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WE DID IT! Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews (10:30 AM, 26/07/12) – 30,010. The 30,000 goal has been reached!

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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!

♣♣♣

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. As mentioned above, there are only 272 more visitors to go before we reach the 30,000 mark. I’ll be posting an update every day until we reach that goal, so drop back and follow the progress. Thanks again.


[1] I’m not certain this was a common term used in the 19th-century. I’m familiar with “libertine” and “catamite,” but not a “professional sodomite.” However, I only mention this in passing.

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

Secret Light, by Z.A. Maxfield

Superb atmosphere and character development –

Story blurb: Rafe Colman likes his life. He has a nice home, a good job, and a wonderful dog. But he’s exhausted by living a lie. When his home is vandalized because of his perceived German ancestry, he can’t even share the irony with friends.

Officer Ben Morgan falls for Rafe’s dog first, but it isn’t long before he’s giving her owner the eye. He thinks they have more in common than the search for Rafe’s vandals, and he’s willing to take a chance and find out.

If life in 1955 is tough on a cop in the closet, it’s even tougher on a refugee who’s desperate to hide his roots and fit in. Rafe knows from tragic experience how vicious prejudice can be. Every second with Ben is stolen, every kiss fraught with danger.

When Ben’s partner threatens to ruin everything, Rafe and Ben have to fight to protect what they have but they’re tired of hiding their secret light.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Editorial comment: The Goodreads’ posting of this book comes with a caveat, i.e. Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices,” which I find ‘objectionable’. Were this a heterosexual story with heterosexual ‘sexual practices’ would it have the same caveat? I think not. Therefore it is demeaning at best.

This is the second of Z.A. Maxfield’s stories I have reviewed (see: St. Nacho’s, February, 2010) and I am happy to say that Secret Light [Loose ID LLC, 2011] is generally of the same well-written calibre.

Set in 1955, a period when the memory of WWII is still fresh in many people’s minds, we find Rafe Colman, an gay Austrian DP (displaced person) with his own, tragic memories of the war. These include the death of his parents and the murder of his dearest friends, a gay couple, and so he is understandably and profoundly affected by these events.

As is so often the case (it certainly was in mine) he has learned to cope by adopting a persona that ‘fits’ mainstream expectations; especially for a single man–nice guy with an eye for the ladies, friendly with everyone but seldom personal, successful with a medium-high profile. The problem with role playing of this nature is that it sublimates the real person inside, and no one can be allowed behind the scenes for a closer look.

Of course, this doesn’t prevent some busy bodies from drawing their own conclusions, rightly or wrongly, and from acting on them on account of prejudice or spite. So, when Colman’s house is vandalized because he is perceived as ‘German,’ the police become involved in the person of officer Ben Morgan; a closeted gay man, himself.

Call it “gaydar,” or whatever, the two of them come to recognize themselves in the other, and a relationship is formed based on mutual understanding, honesty and caring. It is not all cotton candy and roses, however, but at least the promise of an HEA ending is there.

While the plot circumstances aren’t particularly original, as they were in “St. Nacho’s”, the same attention to detail and atmosphere has been used to give the reader a sense of time and place. The character-development is also topnotch, which adds greatly to the credibility of their actions, and the pace allows the reader to appreciate both these aspects.

The drawback for me was the somewhat obvious story manipulation, resulting in resolutions that were just a bit on the convenient side. I hasten to add that these were not incredible in nature, but they were noticeable enough to affect my score.

Altogether, though, I have no hesitation in recommending Secret Light as an enjoyable read for all its great parts. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 29,343

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It’s so gratifying!

Although it was published in 2008, Two Irish Lads is still ranked #4 on the Old Line Publishing Best-Seller list. In the past, the Two Lads have also been awarded the iUniverse’s “Editor’s Choice,” “Publisher’s Choice,” and “Reader’s Choice” awards. As they say, “Them’s my boys!”

Oh, by the way, Nor All Thy Tears, is ranked #6 on the Oldline list, as well.

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

      

Thank you for dropping by! We are approaching a milestone of 30,000 visitors, so I hope you will continue to come back.

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | , | Leave a comment

Bonds of Earth, by G.N. Chevalier

A great debut novel. Enthusiastically recommended.

Story blurb: In 1918, Michael McCready returned from the war with one goal: to lose himself in the pursuit of pleasure. Once a promising young medical student, Michael buried his dreams alongside the broken bodies of the men he could not save. After fleeing New York to preserve the one relationship he still values, he takes a position as a gardener on a country estate, but he soon discovers that the house hides secrets and sorrows of its own. While Michael nurses the estate’s neglected gardens, his reclusive employer dredges up reminders of the past Michael is desperate to forget.

John Seward’s body was broken by the war, along with his will to recover until a family crisis convinces him to pursue treatment. As John’s health and outlook improve under Michael’s care, animosity yields to understanding. He and John find their battle of wills turning into something stronger, but fear may keep them from finding hope and healing in each other.

Available in ebook format – 240 pages

About the author: G N Chevalier has lived in Ottawa, Toronto, Québec City, and Montréal, but currently resides in Nova Scotia with her partner of many years. A long-time student of history, she is particularly interested in helping to tell the hidden stories that are only now being rediscovered. Some of her hobbies include playing music, video remixing, and photography.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have conducted an active search to find Canadian writers of GLBT fiction, it was only this week that Bonds of Earth, by GN Chevalier [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] came to my attention. Perhaps, this is because it is her debut novel, or perhaps it is because the Canadian connection just never made it to the surface.

Bonds of Earth is a historical fiction set in the period directly following WWI. The “Great War”, or the “War to end all wars,” was by all accounts a horrendous experience for those who participated. “Trench warfare” meant months of standing in muddy ditches, with “trench foot” attacking your feet, and the sounds of enemy artillery shells passing overhead for hours on end. It also meant all-out charges through and over ‘razor wire’ while being shot at by machine guns and sniper rifles.

Out of this hell came two men, Michael McCready, the son of poor Irish immigrant and a brilliant medical student, and John Seward, a wealthy recluse, both indelibly scarred by the experience.

Their coming together is fateful, which is the way fate often works, when Michael is coerced into taking a rural job as a gardener, and ends up on John’s estate (actually belonging to an aunt). The fact that Michael is the equivalent of a massage therapist, and that John is handicapped is serendipitous as well.

If that was it (the plot) it would be a “so-so” book at best, but Chevalier (a name tailor-made for a writer) shows great insight by pitting them together as antagonists to start. This bit of angst greatly contributes to the characterization of the two protagonists, and leads inevitably to the resolution.

I also liked the way she gave character to the supporting cast; each one serving a secondary role but interesting in their own way.

The tenor of the times is captured nicely, as well, and the pace is good … right up until (as it has been mentioned at least a dozen times) the epilogue. It’s not a fatal flaw. In fact I wouldn’t even call it a serious flaw, but being anticlimactical it detracts from the overall enjoyment like one-too-many desserts.

Enthusiastically recommended. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 28,937

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What’s your opinion of cross-genre themes?

Lately there has been a surge of so-called “crossover” themes, i.e. cowboys and aliens, vampire-romance themes, etc.

  1. Have you written a crossover theme story?
  2. Have you considered writing one?
  3. Would a cowboy/Theban warrior theme interest you?

Share your comments below.

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!

 

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. We are now approaching 30,000 visitors, and your continued visits will get us there. Drop back often.

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Canadian author, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction | Leave a comment

According To Hoyle by Abigail Roux

Well written in the classic western style

Story blurb: By the close of 1882, the inhabitants of the American West had earned their reputation as untamed and dangerous. The line between heroes and villains is narrow and indistinct. The concept that a man may only kill if backed into a corner is antiquated. Lives are worth less than horses. Treasures are worth killing for. And the law is written in the blood of those who came before. The only men staving off total chaos are the few who take the letter of the law at its word and risk their lives to uphold it. But in the West, the rules aren’t always played according to Hoyle.

U.S. Marshals Eli Flynn and William Henry Washington are escorting two prisoners to New Orleans for trial when they discover there’s more to the infamous shootist Dusty Rose and the enigmatic man known only as Cage than merely being outlaws. When forces beyond the marshals’ control converge on the paddlewheeler they have hired to take them downriver, they must choose between two dangers: playing by the rules at any cost or trusting the very men they are meant to bring to justice.

Available in e-book format – 640 KB

About the author: Abigail Roux was born and raised in North Carolina. A past volleyball star who specializes in pratfalls and sarcasm, she currently spends her time coaching middle school volleyball and softball. Any spare time is spent living and dying with every Atlanta Braves and Carolina Panthers game of the year. Abigail has a little girl they call Boomer, four rescued cats, one dog, a certifiable extended family, and a cast of thousands in her head.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Like the title implies, “According to Hoyle,” by Abigail Roux [Dreamspinner Press. 2011] is a “thinking western.” Oh, it has the usual standbys, i.e. the gunfights and rough-and-tumble, plus the ‘good guys’ in the persons of two lawmen, Marshals Eli Flynn and William “Wash” Washington, a pair of ‘not-so-good’ guys, Gabriel “Dusty” Rose and the mysterious ‘Cage,” and some downright no-goodnics like Stringer & company. However, being plot driven it has somewhat more sophistication than shoot-em-up.

The crux of the story comes in the second half when Flynn and Washington undertake to deliver Rose and Cage to justice in New Orleans, and to do so they take a riverboat down the mighty Mississippi.  Cloistered, so-to-speak, the four men cannot help but interact, and Rose, the plot catalyst, sets the pace by openly taking a shine to the enigmatic Cage. Dusty is the one to do it, of course, because he is written as a glib-talking, iron dandy, who makes no apologies for his preference for men, and as their relationship develops it gets Flynn and Wash thinking romantically as well.

By way of a parallel plot there is a valuable artefact on the boat, and its allure attracts the attention of the sinister Stringer and his band of outlaws. Standing in the way, of course, are Flynn and Washington who are sandwiched between the outlaws they have in custody, and the ones they haven’t dealt with, yet. This inevitably causes some rethinking and reshaping of trusts and alliances.

My views

Overall, I liked it for the complexity of plot, and the adherence to classic western principles; i.e. resisting the prevailing temptation of bouncing characters in and out of bed. For some unknown reason, contemporary westerns tend to consist of riding the range on someone’s butt; whereas, Zane Grey (“Riders of the Purple Sage”), Max Brand (“Destry Rides Again”), and Owen Wister (“The Virginian”), etc., wrote no sex whatsoever.

But while we are on the topic of sex and sexual orientation, I did find the occurrence of four same-sex-oriented characters in the same plot a bit much. Yes, there probably was as much same-sexual activity as there is today [see: Queer Cowboys – Chris Pickard for a discussion on that topic], but, for the most part, it was all very hush-hush.

I also had a bit of difficulty following the plan for the heist. It just didn’t seem as solidly thought out as the rest of the plot. However, that may be just me. Recommended as a good read. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 27,065

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Come visit “We Carry the Torch – It is an event linked to the Olympic torch relay through the UK, trying to cover all 70 days of the event with posts linked to the area the torch will visit that day. Something about a GLBTQ story set there (published or about to be), or about an author who lives there. Some research set in the vicinity or a link to a character from a story (born there, left in disgrace, or the like).

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My “work-in-progress” novel (no name yet)

I’m working diligently—when I’m not doing the governments’ bidding or wrestling with computers and computer programs—and it is moving ahead (about 40%) rewritten. Basically it is the same story as in Coming of Age on the Trail, but in two parts. Therefore, I’m rewriting Part 1 as a stand-alone novel that will have a sequel in Part 2.

I’d love to use the picture of these two lads on the cover, but I don’t have the rights to it. Nonetheless, this is the image I’m using (in my mind) as I develop “Cory” and “Reb” as characters.

More news as I go along.

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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! Please feel free to leave a comment.

June 3, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | 1 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!

Vote


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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

***

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!

***

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!

***

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.

***

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

The Eunuch Neferu, by Daniel Tegan Marsche

A love story set in the 23rd century BC –

Publisher’s blurb: Marsche conveys an enthralling, historical fiction tale with The Eunuch Neferu. Upon the canvass of Roman-occupied Egypt in 23 B.C., this literary tapestry is woven using a rich and enchanting combination of history and human emotion. Controversial and thought provoking, The Eunuch Neferu chronicles the life of a boy who rose from desert poverty to aristocracy in ancient Alexandria. Illustrating both the power and delicacy of the human spirit, this book is about desire, drive, choices and consequences. Take a look at 23 B.C. through the eyes of Kebryn – peasant, servant, student, nobleman – and discover one of history’s most alluring, enigmatic characters.

Available in e-book format – 445 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

For this week’s review I looked around for something a little different, and when I spied The Eunuch Neferu, by Daniel Tegan Marsche [Xlibris, Corp., 2006] it occurred to me that I hadn’t previously reviewed a story with an Egyptian theme. Mind you, The Eunuch Neferu is an Egyptian boy’s story told from a Roman perspective, but its close enough.

The story centres around an Egyptian peasant boy, Kebryn, who is purchased as a slave by a retired Roman general who then confesses his love for the boy within the first dozen-or-so-pages. It seemed like an odd things for a high ranking Roman general to do so quickly, but ‘love at first sight’ has long been postulated as possible, and so I read on.

The relationship continues to grow between the general and the boy, with the lad returning the older man’s affections, but when Roman law threatens to separate them due to Kebryn’s reaching a certain stage in life, the boy has to be castrated in order to avoid its onslaught; thereby becoming the Eunuch Neferu.

The general ultimately declares Neferu his heir, and changes his will accordingly.

***

As a gay romance this is a tender love story, and there are certain aspects of the setting that are evocative of BC, 23rd-century Egypt, but once you add the term “historical” to it the problems (for me) begin to arise.

Even if it is classified as fiction—as apposed to a fantasy—there is a certain expectation of accuracy regarding the facts. For example, as has already been pointed out by other reviewers, potatoes didn’t reach Europe until the 16th-century, AD, and the same for tomatoes. Moreover, these were both introduced by Spanish explorers, not Italian.

There is also an unwritten rule regarding historical fiction, and that is there should be a balance between research and plot. That is to say, the plot should not ignore historical facts, as it did in this case, and the facts should not burden the plot to the point where it overwhelms it. Regrettably, I found that this was frequently the case as well.

To comment further would not serve any purpose except to say these are my opinions and may not agree with others. Two bees.

News, etc.

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 22,948

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

The theme of this story is the struggle to get a herd of cattle to the gold fields of Dawson City, YukonTerritory, where beef was fabled to be selling for $48-a-pound.

Cory and Reb, the main characters, attempt to do it overland because the alternative was by the notorious White Pass from Anchorage, Alaska.

White Pass

The White Pass trail brought out the worst in the men and women who traveled it. It came to be known as the Dead Horse Trail for the bodies of animals that lined its length like gruesome trail-markers. It is estimated that over 3000 horses died on the trail, their untrained owners caring nothing for their horses health in a mad lust for gold.

The difficulty of the trail made it all but impassable by September 1897. The trail was closed for a time while a proper wagon road was constructed and was reopened later during the winter of 1897-98. The stampeders who followed were charged a toll to use the trail; the grisly remains along the path were a constant reminder of the horrors that had taken place there.

***

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!

March 28, 2012 – Get your FREE Kindle copy of Altered – Revelations today: Click here to go to Amazon.

***

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.

***

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! Since last week you and over 500 visitors have dropped by. Thank you for your participation.

March 25, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Wingmen, by Ensan Case

A superbly written epic of manly love set in WWII –

Story blurb: Jack Hardigan’s Hellcat fighter squadron blew the Japanese Zekes out of the blazing Pacific skies. But a more subtle kind of hell was brewing in his feelings for rookie pilot Fred Trusteau. As another wingman watches – and waits for the beautiful woman who loves Jack – Hardigan and Trusteau cut a fiery swath through the skies from Wake Island to Tarawa to Truk, there to keep a fateful rendezvous with love and death in the blood-clouded waters of the Pacific.

In the author’s own words: I wrote Wingmen in 1978 at the age of 28. Avon Books in New York published it in 1979. After one printing, sales stopped. I turned to other pursuits.

In 2011, during a move, I discovered my original file box of notes for the work. On a whim, I googled “Wingmen Ensan Case”, and was stunned by the result. The book is apparently more popular now than it was in 1979. I have begun the process of regaining the publication rights from Avon Books, and republishing the work in paper and ebook formats. Progress has been good, and it should be available by the first quarter of 2012.

Review by Gerry Burnie

You may have noticed I have a passion for WWII-vintage stories, and have reviewed several in the past. I like the era in general. It was a time when the free-world was drawn together by a war in two theatres, and men bonded together as warrior brothers—and sometimes more. Wingmen by Ensan Case (a pseudonym) [Cheyenne Publishing, 2012] captures the latter phenomenon with remarkable clarity and credibility. It is, in fact, one of the best war stories I have read.

Ensign Frederick “Trusty” Trusteau, one of two wingmen assigned to “skipper,” Lieutenant Commander J.J. “Jack” Hardigan. Trusteau is a handsome, capable aviator, who has honed his reputation as a “whoremaster” because that was (and is) the gold standard among predominantly male societies. It was very often a sham, or cover-up, but it was better than being considered the “odd-man-out.”

Jack Hardigan is a hard-drinking, hard driving skipper, who is dating a wealthy widow in Honolulu, but apart from a certain level of affection, there is no evidence of sexual activity between them. Therefore, there is no grand regrets when she breaks off their relationship for someone else.

The relationship between the two men starts, as it usually does, with earned respect on both sides; in this case as pilots of the famed Grumman Hellcats flown off the deck of a carrier. The bond grows stronger with each mission—warrior brothers—until it inevitably ends in a hotel room in Honolulu, where the line between brothers-in-arms and lovers is finally crossed. However , if you are looking for a torrid, sexually erotic scene between two horny flyboys, you  (gratefully) will not find it here. This scene is definitely sexy because of the circumstances—and the fact that we’ve been waiting for it for nearly two-thirds of the story—but in 1979 you didn’t write that sort of thing if you wanted to find a publisher—even an avant-garde one. Nevertheless, I think it is made a more realistic story because of it. This a story about men in love in war, and not about sex per se.

Of course the story wouldn’t be complete without an appropriate setting, and Case has provided it on board a fictional aircraft carrier, the Constitution. You can almost smell the sweat and testosterone in these scenes as they jostle aboard her. His apparent knowledge of naval aircraft is an asset as well, with just enough detail to help the reader understand without bogging the pace down in the process.

For those into WWII nostalgia there are also well-known battles, i.e. Wake Island, Tarawa and Truk Lagoon, where most of the Japanese Imperial fleet was wiped out—60 ships and 275 airplanes. Case has also provided an insight into the gruesomeness of war in some tense scenes where men are shot down, blown apart, and drowned mercilessly in the fray, and in the end Jack risks his life to save his lover.

Nevertheless, I agree with several other reviewers that the story should have ended on a high in 1945. The last part is interesting, mind you, and wraps up some loose ends, but it is anticlimactical. Given the excellence of the preceding, however, I’m not letting it dampen my overall impression. Five bees.

News, etc.

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 22,526

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

Occasionally the cattle drive had to pass through small communities along the way, as this drive did in the 1890s.

Barkerville is mentioned quite prominently in Coming of Age on the Trail. It was the notorious goldmine town founded by Billy Barker–The first man to discover gold in the William’s Lake area of British Columbia. Billy Barker is rumoured to have spent most of his $500,000 fortune at the saloon, and another successful miner spent some $40,000 in one marathon session of boozing, treating, and trashing, before he left the saloon flat broke.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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! Please come back often. 

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The only Gold, by Tamara Allen

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

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

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

Available in e-book format – 980 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

 

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

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

***

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

      

Thanks for dropping by. You make the numbers grow!

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

The German, by Lee Thomas

A masterful study of human nature. Highly recommended –

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

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

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

Available in e-book format.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie

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

In his own words, Thomas describes it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News

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

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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.

***

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

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

       

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

 

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

The King’s Tale, by Rowena Sudbury

Kings, knights and gallant M/M lovers –

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

Available in e-book format – 592 KB

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

Sandals and Sodomy (An anthology)

 A erotic romp through ancient Greek and Roman history

Blurb: Greeks Bearing Gifts by D. G. Parker Young Antenor of fallen Troy faces violation and death, only to be rescued and enslaved by a gruff, older Greek, a hard-bitten soldier in the king’s good graces. What Antenor does not expect is Calchas’s good heart that sees him through shipwreck, marooning, and rescue. Troy Cycle by Dar Mavison When the gods abandoned men during the battle of Troy, the greatest of those men – Hector, Odysseus, Paris, Achilles – schemed to end the war. Amongst themselves they waged war both vicious and tender in a desperate attempt to achieve peace, a peace that for some would only be found in death, leaving others to discover it in new life. But no one would ever be forgotten by the other three. Undefeated Love by John Simpson The men of the Sacred Band of Thebes are remembered for their valor, their honor, their devotion to duty, and their great love for their partners. Alexandros and Agapitos found a place amongst them, but little did they know their love and sacrifice would face the test of war – and survive to shine eternally. Hadrian by Remmy Duchene Roman Emperor Hadrian is all-powerful . and alone. But when Antinous trespasses into Hadrian’s bath, the ruler’s eyes are opened to a whole new world of love. After the Games by Connie Bailey When the Emperor sends a beautiful concubine, Valerius, to the slave pens to slake the hunger of his fiercest beast, the fighter Alaric, he doesn’t anticipate that Alaric just isn’t interested. But to keep Valerius from being punished, the fighter keeps him close for one night, a night that turns from talkative to passionate. The Vow by Ariel Tachna Adrastos still mourns his dead partner and lover, and he has hardened his heart and spirit to any other. Knowing his duty to bond and train a soldier, he reviews a trio of Army recruits, but he insists he will not choose one. Eager to prove himself worthy to serve the Army and Aphrodite alike, Erasmos presents himself for the final test.and finds that he, the petitioner, is the savior rather than the saved.

Dreamspinner Press (July 15, 2008). 268p. Also available in eBook format.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Greeks Bearing Gifts” by D. G. Parker

This is a look at the aftermath of the fall of Troy from a young Trojan’s point of view. Antenor is saved from a cruel fate by a high-ranking Greek officer, Calchas, and thereby becomes his slave. However, in a twist that I thought was somewhat contrived, Calchas treats Antenor more like a son (or an eromenos) than a slave.

Antenor gets a chance to repay this kindness when the two are shipwrecked on a deserted island, and Antenor saves Chalchas’ life with a suddenly revealed knowledge of healing herbs.

I found the ending equally implausible as well, so I will reserve my recommendation.

Troy Cycle” by Dar Mavison

There have been many versions of the fall of Troy–an event shrouded in myth–as well as the exploits of Achilles, Hector, Paris and the legendary Helen of Troy. However, this version takes it well over the top with its dark interpretation of all these characters, plus Odysseus, King of Ithaca.

An ‘over the top’ interpretation is fair enough when dealing with a myth, but when revisiting the fall of Troy anything less than heroic is just too much of a departure to be credible—even in a ‘let’s pretend’ sort of way.

Undefeated Love” by John Simpson

Alexandros and Agapitos are two noble-born youths who decide to dedicate themselves to each other, and are therefore invited to join the Sacred Band of Thebes–150 couples dedicated to one another to the death.

There are some good things to say about this story, including references to known historical facts. However, the two protagonists didn’t put me in mind of warriors of the period. Rather, they are lovers who fight as aposed to fighters who love. That, I think, is the essence of King Philip’s famous comment.

Hadrian” by Remmy Duchene

For those who are looking for a one-handed read, Hadrian should do the trick for you. To its credit, however, it makes no pretence about being anything else.

After the Games” by Connie Bailey

This is by far my favourite. Here is plot and character development that  has some depth and sophistication even though it is essentially erotic. Alaric, a gladiator, has taken a vow of celibacy following the death of his lover, but is finally seduced by a young “pleasure slave’s” cleverly spun tales; somewhat reminiscent of Scheherazade.

The Vow” by Ariel Tachna

This is a well developed story that pits a grief-burdened older man against a younger man’s determined desire to be his lover. Both characters are credible in their roles, and there is enough tension to make it more than just a romp to the sack. It’s a good read.

***

Over all I found most of the stories disappointing. Mind you I judge a book by its plot, and erotica just doesn’t compensate for the lack thereof. However, not everyone feels this way, and so I will leave it up to the readers to decide. Two and one-half bees.

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Come count down the days ‘til Christmas on Speak its Name Advent Calendar. Great stories and prizes to be won every day.

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The sale figures are in for Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears, and while I can’t retire in luxury they are quite gratifying indeed. Thanks you to all those who bought and read them. 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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December 11, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

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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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 15,776

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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

Undefeated Love, by John Simpson

Readily recomended for those who enjoy an adventure with their romance.

Story blurb: Two young men fall in love just as the Nazi Party is coming into power in Germany. One man is talked into becoming involved with the S.A., and then the SS while his lover looks on horrified. When their love is discovered, both men become the victims of the institution that one of them helped protect.

Available in eBook format.

About the author: John Simpson, a Vietnam-era Veteran, has been a uniformed Police Officer of the Year, a federal agent, a federal magistrate, and an armed bodyguard to royalty and a senior government executive. He earned awards from the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury. John has written articles for various gay and straight magazines. John lives with his partner of 35 years and three wonderful Scott Terriers, all spoiled and a breed of canine family member that is unique in dogdom. John is also involved with the Old Catholic Church and its liberal pastoral positions on the gay community.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Until I serendipitously came across “Undefeated Love,” by John Simpson [Total-E-Bound, 2011], I hadn’t previously encountered a novel about WWII from a Nazi perspective; and definitely not a gay-Nazi perspective.

To set-up this unusual scenario, the author begins with life in pre-war Berlin(1930s); a sort of avant garde society captured dramatically by the 1966, Broadway production of “Cabaret,” a musical based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood [starring Jill Haworth—Sal Mineo’s romantic opposite—and Joel Grey], which had some barely-concealed, homosexual undertones.

From there the author gradually introduces Naziism by way of some high-ranking, sexually ambivalent SA officers (Sturmabteilung“Stormtroopers” or “Brown shirts”), the precursors to the dreaded SS-(Schutzstaffel – “Protection Squadron”), and the ambitious but well-intentioned ingénue, Kurt. He is endowed with such outstanding, ‘poster-boy’ looks that he not only attracts the attnetion of the SA officers, but also captures the heart of another young man named Stefan.

Stefan is in love with Kurt, and vice versa, but the ambitious side of Kurt sees security in the SA, and so accepts the invitation to join the staff of a SA officer with the much elevated rank of Colonel. It is a step into quicksand, of course, and with each new event Kurt is drawn ever deeper into the morass. The problem being that Stefan is inevitably drawn into the sinkhole as well, and in order to protect him Kurt is eventually forced to reveal his hidden love.

***

I am only generally acquainted with Hitler’s rise to power, but I do know that it was gradual and insidious—similar to the way the author has preInted it. In Simpson’s story, each event leads to the next with a sort of sinister intent, and this—along with his well-researched knowledge of the times—gives the story the degree of credibility necessary to pull it off.

I thought the violence was handled well, too. The difficulty of setting a story in the Nazi camp is to go overboard with the brutality, but Simpson has maintained a balance between glossing-it-over and sensationalizing it. Moreover, the real violence came at a later date from this story.

The characters, Kurt and Stefan, are well developed and likable, and the same can be said about their relationship, but I didn’t share the portrayal of the Nazi officers to the same extent. It wasn’t a serious flaw, and I can’t think of how I would have treated them differently, but they all seemed just a little off the mark.

There was room for a bit more drama at the ending, too, but only by a notch. Otherwise, I have no hesitation in recommending this story to those who enjoy a love story set against a despairing background. Four Gerry Bees.

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If you haven’t done so already, drop by Charlie Cochrane’s Live Journal and read my interview with her. http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/143455.html. Charlie is the author of the very popular Cambridge Fellows Mysteries Series.

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Good ole Nor All Thy Tears is still hanging-in at #11 out of 67,000 books on the Barnes and Noble’s “Romantic Fiction” list—with Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts.

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To order it and Two Irish Lands, click on the individual covers below. Both are available in Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

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October 30, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | 1 Comment

No Apologies, by J.M. Snyder

“No Apologies” requires no apologies.

 

Story blurb: Donnie Novak and Jack Sterling have known each other forever. Growing up together in a small Midwestern town, they were best friends. After high school, they both enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the same time, and somehow were assigned to the same company before being stationed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma together.

One night on leave, Donnie crosses an almost imperceptible line between friendship and something more. A stolen kiss threatens to ruin what Donnie and Jack have built up together all these years, and the next morning, he can’t apologize enough.

But a squadron of Japanese bombers has their sights trained on Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row, and in the early hours of December 7, 1941, Donnie might not get a chance to set things right.

About the author: An author of gay erotic/romantic fiction, J.M. Snyder began in self-publishing and now works 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

Ah, young love!

“No Apologies” by J.M. Snyder, [JMS Books LLC, 2011], is a gem of a short story that captures the heart and attention right from the start. I would even go so far as to suggest that almost every gay male will be able to identify with this story from personal experience; i.e. that one buddy you fell in love with early, but didn’t know if he ‘swung that way.’ To make matters worse, he didn’t know either, and so each touch was like a prayer leading to disappointment. And then came that inevitable occasion when you crossed the line, in Donnie and Jack’s case with a furtive, liquor induced kiss, and so began the panic of losing a cherished friend on account of it.

We’ve all been there, and it is made even worse if the next morning your friend and soul mate—your hoped-for ‘lover’, even—isn’t talking or seems distant. Then the heart rending really begins, along with the guilt and the desperate attempts to make it right.

J.M. Snyder has not only captured this bittersweet situation, but he has also maintained it throughout the story until the very last paragraph. Along the way this reader was on tenterhooks wondering if young love would prevail, or if they would even survive the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbour—which was going on at the same time.

No Apologiesrequires no apologies. It is a tender love story set against the obscenity of war in a paradise. Five Bs

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If you are a Canadian author of gay fiction, I’d love to hear from you. Submit your book for a review, or add it to my “Best Gay Canadian Fiction” list on Goodreads.

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If you have read a Canadian content book (any genre), and woud like to add it to my “Proudly Canadian” list, I’d love to welcome your input.

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To order any of my books, click on the individual covers below. Nor All Thy Tears and Two Irish Lads are now available in Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 (not including exchange and taxes where applicable).

     

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mordred, Bastard Son, by Douglas Clegg

An audaciously innovative take on an old chestnut!

Publisher’s blurb: A young monk becomes enthralled by the story that a wounded, mysterious prisoner in his care begins to tell. That prisoner is Mordred, the traditional villain of Arthurian legend, and his story is one of ambition, power, and betrayal. Here, Mordred recounts his own conflicted feelings toward the father who betrayed him, and his passionate love affair with a knight in King Arthur’s court. From his birth into his youth, Mordred’s soul is forged by the great forces of Camelot, and of the shadow-legend of a father who has sought the death of his only son.

About the author: Douglas Clegg’s first novel was published in 1989 by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books — launching Clegg’s career as a novelist. He  began writing a book a year, as well as dozens of short stories. His novels and stories explore the nature of evil, whether in his horror fiction, psychological thrillers or fantasy fiction. His fiction-writing career currently spans more than 20 years of constant writing and publication.

He has won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the Shocker Award

Review by Gerry Burnie

Like millions of others around the world, I have always been—well, for seventy-five years, anyway—a fan of the Arthurian legend and the outrageously fictional  Camelot. Moreover, I suppose I could say that during that time I have been brainwashed into believing that the ‘bastard son,’ Mordred, was the worm in the  apple. Imagine the audacity of Douglas Clegg, therefore, to challenge that idea with his revisionist novel Mordred, Bastard Son [Aylson Books, 2007].

However, that’s the fun of writing a story about a story; there’s always the other side, and after 600 years I suppose Mordred was due for some favourable press.

Judging from the reviews, it seems that a lot of other people had the same difficulty adjusting to this radical idea as well. It is a story that you either like or  not, but having said that: I liked it. In my opinion it is a tour-de-force of fantasy, and although I had difficulty grasping the story at first, once I got into it I was hooked.

The difficulty, I think, is with the myriad of gods and goddesses, plus Celtic festivals, i.e. Beltane and Samhain (pronounced “sah-vwin,” by the way) that must be  introduced in the first chapter, and this is quite a mouthful to digest all at once. Also the transition between the third-person opening, and the first person  flashback was a bit awkward. However, as I have already said, once I got passed this the rest of the story ultimately made up for it.

There are some quite interesting innovations, too. For example, the idea that Arthur raped his half sister, Morgan-of-the-Fay, runs amok with the Arthurian legend built upon his infallible character. Likewise, the idea that Arthur ‘stole’ the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake doesn’t exactly show his good side. Nevertheless, Mordred is divided in his feelings (at least in this first book of the series) toward his father—hate, on one hand, and an odd sort of affinity on the other.

Morgan le Fay remains Morgana, darkly beautiful with sinister edges, although she is unusually cast as a victim in this story. The ‘heavy’ on the distaff side is her sister  Morgause, who turns into something of a ‘Malificent’ [Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”] in the latter part of the story. In fact these two, plus Viviane (the “crone”)  makes the society within which Mordred is raised a sort of matriarchracy.

On the other hand there is Merlin who, as in all of his other reincarnations, is timeless. He is also omniscient, and having apparently given up on Arthur, has  taken Mordred under his wing as a student of the “magick.” This sort of thing opens the doors wide to a flight of fancy, and Clegg takes full advantage of it;  a real virtuoso rendering of imagination if ever there was one. Principally however, Merlin teaches Mordred the art of “ravelling” and “unravelling” (the mentally
sharing of memories, feelings, etc., with another, and, of course, retrieving memories in the same manner). Also, “vesseling,” i.e. mental telepathy–sort of the cell phone of Arthurian times.

Another departure from traditional Arthurian legend is found in Clegg’s depiction of Lancelot as a hermit, and also gay—or at least bisexual. In one version of  Arthur, however, Lancelot is deceived by the Fisher King’s daughter into thinking that she is Guinevere, and the resulting liaison results in another bastard, i.e. Galahad. Hearing of this, Guinevere banishes Lancelot, and he is said to have lost his wits and wandered in the wilderness. So, perhaps the hermit characterization is not so removed from the original.

Apart from these innovations, one of the most refreshing departures from the usual GLBT story for me is that, while it is a sexy enough, there is not one really explicit  sex scene throughout. It is therefore a love story between men that relies on sentiment and plot to make it happen. Bravo! Five stars.

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Progress on the rewrites to Coming of Age on the Trail – 107/178 pages.

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Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now #3 out of 66,000 books on the Barnes & Noble “Romantic Fiction” list. In addition, it and Two Irish Lads are in the top 5 of several lists on Goodreads.

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September 25, 2011 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky, by Gerry Burnie

Note: A busy week of promoting my new novel, Nor All Thy Tears, has put me behind in my reading for this week’s review, and since I want to do the featured novel justice I have decided to display some of the reviews that have been received so far. Thanks for your indulgence.

Story blurb: Love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Prairie Sky Country, Saskatchewan.

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all that the sky seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an ex-con whose body has been found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment–the suspected victim of a blackmail attempt gone wrong.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime, simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated. With his career in a crisis, and his personal life as well, Cartwright is unexpectedly joined by an ally in Colin Scrubbs, a ruggedly handsome rancher from Saskatchewan. But can they salvage Cartwright’s career from the brink?

*Now available on Amazon.co.uk.

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Review by Avery Lighthouse [This review first appeared on Amazon.com].

Having read Gerry Burnie’s first novel “Two Irish Lads,” a charming story of love set in the 19th-century wilderness of Upper Canada, his latest, Nor all Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky, was quite a surprise to me, but it certainly attests to the remarkable versatility of this author.

The story involves the rise and near fall of Sheldon Cartwright, a `Monday’s + Tuesday’s child’ for certain–i.e. fair of face and grace. It begins at the zenith of his political career, fresh from besting the prime minister on national television, and being considered for the leadership of his political party at the relatively young age of twenty-eight. However, the discovery of a mutilated body and a provocative photograph are about to cast a shadow over him. This photograph, a nude image of him at age sixteen, then comes into the possession of a homophobic cop with a loathing for “faggots,” as well as younger, successful men with higher educations—both of which apply to Cartwright.

The story then reverts to Cartwright’s early childhood in the remote farming community of Pefferlaw (a real place by the way–as are most places mentioned in the story), and his loving relationship with his mentoring mother. This is a really charming segment of the story, reminiscent of Burnie’s first novel, and for anyone growing up in the 1950s and 60s it is a wonderfully nostalgic time as well. In this part we also learn of his sacred vow to his mother, and of his first encounter with the psychotic and violent Trace Colborn–a real “nasty” if ever I’ve read of one.

The next segment takes him to 1960s Toronto as a university student, struggling to balance academic demands with a late night job at the White Chef Restaurant—a notorious hangout for young male hustlers. It is here that Trace Colborn re-enters Sheldon’s life, and like J. Worthington Foulfellow [“Pinocchio”], Colborn tempts Sheldon with visions of an easy life that Colborn can arrange. Desperately driven to achieve a university education Sheldon naively agrees, and he is then introduced to a “Papa Duck” (the equivalent of a madam in male prostitution circles) who operates a secretive “call boy” service for high-end clients. This leads to Sheldon’s meeting with Edward Deere, a multi-millionaire, who is moved to take him under his wing as a protégé and lover–albeit a paid one.

In the meantime Sheldon meets Susan Koehler, the daughter of a wealth Rosedale matron, and before long Sheldon has fallen in love. However, although they have secretly decided to get married after graduation, he must maintain his other life in order to fulfill his sacred vow to his mother—i.e. to complete his education. He is therefore forced to walk a thin line between his two disparate worlds–e.g. juggling separate relationships with a wealthy patron, a handsome younger lover (Kevin Smyth), the psychotically possessive Colborn, and a full-time girlfriend.

The third stage finds him married to Susan with two charming children, and living the typically suburban life of a young family man in the early 1970s. He has become fairly well-connected too, and this leads to an invitation to stand for election as the Member of “St-Bartholomew-on-the-Hill” (I love that name!), which he wins “on the strength of his boyish good looks and wholesome family-man image as much as anything else.”[2]The story then seamlessly carries on from where it left off in part one, and in this third part we get to meet Colin Scrubbs, the ruggedly handsome Member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, who at first bonds Platonically with Sheldon, but inevitably their bonds deepen into an affair of heart. Nevertheless, Sheldon staunchly chooses to honour his vow to Susan.

It is then that all the elements begin to converge when the damning photograph is released to a tabloid newspaper, and the whirlwind of political and personal scandal touches down to engulf Cartwright with almost devastating effect.

It should be noted that I have purposefully left out several events that would otherwise be spoilers if included; however, this story has it all elements of a good thriller: Humour, pathos, homoerotic sex (both gentle and violent), vengeance, betrayal and murder. Having said that, the author never goes over the top with any of these, and although there is plenty happening at any given time, the storyline never falters at any point from beginning to end. It is, in fact, a masterful balance of control and flow that makes it both exciting and easy to read at the same time.

This is a most worthy piece of literature, equal in some ways to “Catcher in the Rye,” and it is one that riveted my attention from the first line to the last.

****

Review by Scotty Henderson [This review originally appeared on Amazon.com

Quite simply this is a great story that captured my interest from the first line and held it there to the last word. It has everything: great characters, a page-tuner plot, superbly written narrative, and a really romantic ending. I especially liked Lisa and Wally (Sheldon’s children). They added both humor and warmth to a pretty dramatic story, overall. There were also some tear-jerker moments, but it would be a spoiler I mentioned what they were. You’ll have to read it for yourself. Do that, because you won’t be sorry.

****

Review by J. Fraley “Trailboss “Trailboss” [This review originally appeared on Amazon.com].

After having already read Mr. Burnie’s “Two Irish Lads” and finding it an excellent read, I was hoping for at least its equal or better. I was not disappointed. Even better. This story was great.
Nor All Thy tears delivers!! A believeable story from the beginning, it’s filled with drama, intrigue, and suspense, all the while delivering a glimpse into Canadian life and government.
This story moved at a good pace and each scene set way for the next. I was compelled to read without putting it down. And the story continued strong until the end. An excellent novel of love, passion and relationships in a dramatic setting. Two thumbs up!!

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 13,233

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Vist my new Gerry Burnie Author’s Page, on Amazon.com.

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Calling all Canadian authors of gay content novels. I would really love to review your stories, and also add your title to my Goodreads “Best Gay Canadian Novels” list. Contact me, or submit your novel in PDF format to: gerry@gerryburniebooks.com.

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 Both “Nor All Thy Tears” and “Two Irish Lads” are now available in Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95; however this price may vary from retailer to retailer.

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 To order any of my books click on the individual covers below.

Thanks for dropping by!!

September 10, 2011 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, gay politician, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/F/M bisexua;, Male bisexual, Toronto history | Leave a comment

The Jolly Lobster, by Robin Anderson-Forbes

A most worthy debut novel

Story blurb: The Jolly Lobster is a very gay adventure featuring rum runners, speakeasies, brothels, and love in Halifax during Prohibition. It’s the summer of 1920 and Ed Stevenson, is lost and flat broke in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fortunately for Ed, his lover Charles Sinclair, who had served with him during the war, has been searching for him in all the local juice joints, speakeasies and blind pigs. Reunited, the two prepare to embark on the new life together they planned during their time in the trenches. Little did Ed know that in order to earn a living, he’d end up working in a speakeasy; but this was not any old speakeasy, this was The Jolly Lobster. The Jolly Lobster was one of the more popular speakeasies in Halifax, catering to all types and run by two lovable women trying to make ends meet; Dorothy and her large lover, Rose. Dock workers, fishermen, university students, and colourful men and women of the homosexual persuasion all mixed and mingled at The Jolly Lobster, in order to sate their thirst for rum, whiskey, suds, to have a bowl of The Jolly Lobster’s famous lobster chowder and to partake in the many pleasures that awaited them in the rooms upstairs. They also came for the music provided by the beautiful and talented Bobbie Smith, a mean fiddle player who loves to dress in the fashion of the flapper, play bawdy songs on her fiddle and also play with the men upstairs in the brothel. All in all, The Jolly Lobster is a close little family type business; and like all family businesses there’s bound to be a few secrets and intrigues; which there are, and in plentiful supply. And given that they’re in the booze business during Prohibition they find their little operation having to stay one step ahead of the law and a few more steps ahead of the competition. The Jolly Lobster’s chief competitor is a banished crime boss from Montreal, by the name of Pierre Dumont, whose instructions are to take over the booze business in Halifax. Dumont executes his instructions ruthlessly and soon takes over most of the joints in Halifax in short order. The Jolly Lobster and its family are made of tougher stuff though and it takes all of Dumont’s cunning, to bring about their downfall. This he attempts to do with the help of a willing traitor or traitors, a Temperance Inspector with a past connection to Dorothy, Rose and Bobbie; and several murders just to make his point. Things begin to look quite grim for the hard working boys and ladies of The Jolly Lobster; it’s going to take an army to get rid of Dumont and his gang. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of volunteers.

*available in eBook format: 608 KB

About the author: Robin Anderson-Forbes was born and raised on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. After visiting Nova Scotia, he and his husband were so entranced with the province, they moved there along with their cat into a big old house. The Jolly Lobster is Robin’s first novel.

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 Review by Gerry Burnie

Recently I did a search of fellow Canadian, gay fiction writers, and was pleased to see there were a goodly number of published authors out there. Among them is Robin Anderson-Forbes, whose debut novel “The Jolly Lobster” caught my eye straight away.

One of the longest ‘droughts’ in Canadian history lasted from about 1900 to 1930, when prohibition parched the land. It started as primarily a women’s movement in the 1870s—i.e. the Women’s Christian Temperance Union—and achieved nationwide effect by the 1920s. It wasn’t a total ban, however, for booze could be sold through the government for, “industrial, scientific, mechanical, artistic and medical uses,” and needless to say there was a rather high incidence of sickness during this period—particularly around Christmas time.

It also spawned some lucrative business opportunities for enterprising entrepreneurs who turned their homes, basements, garages, etc. into “speakeasies” (currently known as “after-hours clubs,” or “booze cans” … so I’m told!) And this brings us around to one such speakeasy, “The Jolly Lobster.”

I’ve always had a soft spot for East Coast stories. They have a warm, folksy feel about them, reflecting a down-to-earth culture that still exists in some of the outports today, and which Anderson-Forbes has captured delightfully well in Rose and Dorothy, as well as the twins, Roger and Rupert. In fact all of the ‘good-guy’ characters are likable (to varying degrees), and therefore it is quite easy to invest in them—a connection that is absolutely crucial in a good-guy v. bad-guy story like this.

Although I’m not an authority on this topic, I think the sub-culture of 1920s’ speakeasies is fairly portrayed as well. Certainly there was a remarkable degree of ingenuity that went into circumventing what amounted to an unrealistic, special-interest-sponsored law, and the hardy, self-reliant “Bluenosers” were every bit equal to the task. So I can well imagine that there were quite a few underground establishments like The Jolly Lobster in Halifax in the 1920s.

As for the prostitution, especially male prostitutes, I think may be a bit over the top. On the other hand, I can recall being on a college outing with about 70 fellow-students to Nova Scotia, and we were inadvertently billeted at an out-of-the-way hotel that doubled as a brothel. So anything is possible.

Critically speaking, when I first began reading I thought I had started in the middle of the story. Suddenly there were all these characters—some with connections that went back before the story began—and so it was a bit overwhelming for a while. This settled down by the second chapter, but the opening could have benefited by a more gradual introduction.

Pace-wise the story moves along quite smoothly, but there are inconsistencies—“leaps of faith,” I call them, because the plot twists either arise abruptly, or too conveniently for a seamless delivery.

However, altogether I found it a charming story with likable characters and a gratifying ending. A very worthy debut. Four stars.

News

Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now #3 of 63,979 on the Barnes and Noble “Romantic Fiction” (general) list! I am also happy to state the Amazon-Canada has now listed it as “available”; however, at the same time it has neglected in include a product description. Therefore, here it is:

Love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Prairie Sky Country, Saskatchewan
Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all that the sky seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad. However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an ex-con whose body has been found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment—the suspected victim of a blackmail attempt gone wrong. Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime, simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated. With his career in a crisis, and his personal life as well, Cartwright is unexpectedly joined by an ally in Colin Scrubbs, a ruggedly handsome rancher from Saskatchewan. But can they salvage Cartwright’s career from the brink?
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To order a copy Nor All Thy Tears or an any of my books, click on the individual cover below:
Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12,715
Thanks for dropping by!

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The White Rajah, by Tom Williams

A fictional tale of history that could itself be fiction

Story blurb:  Invalided out of the East India Company’s army, James Brooke looks for adventure in the South China Seas. When the Sultan of Borneo asks him to help suppress a  rebellion, Brooke joins the war to support the Sultan and improve his chances of trading successfully in the area. Instead, he finds himself rewarded with his own country, Sarawak.

Determined to be an enlightened ruler who brings peace and prosperity to his people, James settles with his lover, John Williamson, in their new Eden. But piracy, racial conflict, and court plotting conspire to destroy all he has achieved. Driven from his home and a fugitive in the land he ruled, James is forced to take extreme measures to drive out his enemies.

The White Rajah is the story of a man, fighting for his life, who must choose between his beliefs and the chance of victory. Based on a true story, Brooke’s battle is a tale of adventure set against the background of a jungle world of extraordinary beauty and terrible savagery. Told through the eyes of the man who loves him and shares his dream, this is a tale of love and loss from a 19th century world that still speaks to us today.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie

When I first encountered the novel The White Rajah by Tom Williams [JMS Books LLC, 2010] I had never heard of this very real, historical character, James Brooke, nor his exploits. Even so, the romance the title evoked—in the sense of an Errol Flynn adventure—intrigued me.

I liked the fact that Mr. Williams chose a third-person narrator, John Williamson, and that Williamson had an intimate role to play. However, given Williamson’s lowly station in life, I found him a bit erudite for his character—although that’s not a real drawback to the story.

The story, apart from a sea voyage around the horn of Africa to the Far East, takes place in and around Borneo, of which Sarawak was a province in turmoil when Brooke arrived in 1841. Therefore the Sultan of Brunei asked for his assistance in fighting off piracy and insurgency, and as a reward he granted Brooke Governorship of Sarawak, which then became an independent state in 1842. Moreover, the Brooke dynasty retained control over Sarawak until 1946, when it
became a British Protectorate.

This is interesting stuff, factually speaking, but it has always been my fervent belief that the real story is in the personalities who made it happen, and in this regard Williams has done a fairly good job of doing so through John Williamson as narrator, and also as Brooke’s (supposed) lover.

I think he has done a fair job of capturing the base motivations of the characters: The ravenous greed of the East India Company; the politics of the Brunei Sultanate, and the conversion of an idealistic Brooke into a potentate. It is all there, and it is historically credible.

However I did find some less than credible aspects, such as Williamson’s rather incredible knowledge of the Far East in such a short time.

Nonetheless this is an enjoyable story, regardless of your knowledge of history or the time, and so it is recommended as such. Four stars.

 News

I’m happy to announce that Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky was officially lanched August 4th, 2011, and that it will be available in eBook format shortly.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12, 429

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Progress on Coming of Age on the Trail: 172/180: Projected release date September 2011

Hope you are having an enjoyable summer!!  Reviews are updated Sunday of every week. Please drop back again.

August 7, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Wings of Love, by Scotty Cade

A true M/M romance in Harlequin style

Story Blurb: Devastated after losing his partner of fifteen years to cancer, Dr. Bradford Mitchell tries to escape the emptiness and loss by leaving his life in Seattle behind. Traveling to the Alaskan mountains where he and Jeff often vacationed, Brad reconnects with Mac Cleary, the ruggedly handsome and very straight loatplane pilot who had flown them to Hyline Lake many times in the past. Brad and Mac form an unlikely friendship and buy an old log cabin together, and as he and Mac begin to bring the old cabin back to life, Mac watches Brad come back to life as well, stirring emotions in him he’s never felt for a man before. When fear, confusion, and a near tragedy threaten to force the two men apart, they’ll face some tough questions. Can Brad let go of Jeff and the guilt he feels about beginning to care for another man? And can Mac deal with his fears of being gay and accept the fact that he is in love with Brad? It will be a struggle for both men to keep their heads and hearts intact while exploring what life has to offer.

Available in eBook format, 655 KB.

SCOTTY CADE left Corporate America and twenty-five years of marketing and public relations behind to buy an inn & restaurant on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with his partner of fourteen years. He started writing stories as soon as he could read, but only recently for publication. When not at the inn, you can find him on the bow of his boat writing male/male romance novels with his Shetland sheepdog Mavis at his side. Being from the South and a lover of commitment and fidelity, most of his characters find their way to long, healthy relationships, however long it takes them to get there. He believes that in the end, the boy should always get the boy.

Scotty and his partner are avid boaters and live aboard their boat, spending the summers on Martha’s Vineyard and winters in Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA.

 ***

Review by Gerry Burnie

The above blurb fairly well covers the outline of Wings of Love by Scotty Cade [Dreamspinner Press, 2011], and so I can get right to my views.

I particularly enjoy wilderness settings, especially in and around Alaska and the Yukon Territory. There is something inherently masculine about them, as well as primitive, and so these make an ideal setting for an M/M story. In this regard the author did not disappoint with his choice of Brad and Mac, two fairly hunky guys equal to the wilderness—even if it is with hot water and a microwave. My point is, however, that these guys are definitely not out of place nailing nails and sawing wood, etc.

I also like how the author dealt with the topic of losing a loved one to cancer, which was both sensitive and realistic without being maudlin. Cancer is a tragic subject, and the effect of it has no doubt touched us all in one form or another, but SC wisely chose to have his characters move on with life. After all, we the living have very little choice, and there is life after death (not to be construed as a religious statement).

As well, I liked how he let the relationship between a gay man and straight man evolve at what seemed like a realistic pace. My most cherished love in life was with a straight guy, very much like Mac, and so I know it does happen, and how.

These are all good points, and recommend the story highly. However, what took the edge off it for me was the pace. Scotty Cade is a very thorough writer, and so he has attempted to answer any (and every) question the reader might have regarding this or that, and in so doing has burdened the flow in sometimes superfluous information. i.e.

He stepped up to the radio,  picked up the handset, and pressed the button. “November 4649 Delta, this is  Wing Mansion. Over.”

He waited for a few seconds and heard nothing.

“November 4649 Delta, this is Wing Mansion, do you copy?”

He waited again.

Just when he was about to repeat the call again, he heard, “Wing Mansion, this is November 4649 Delta, I hear you loud and clear. Wing Mansion, switch to channel one eight. Over,” he heard Mac’s voice say.

“Wing mansion switching to channel one eight,” Brad repeated.

Brad turned the dial up two notches to channel one eight and said, “Wing Mansion standing by on channel one eight.”

“Good morning sleepyhead. Over,” Mac said.

“Mac, are you okay? Over.” Brad asked.

“I’m fine. Did you get my note? Over.”

“Mac, thank you for taking the time to write it; it was very thoughtful. Over.”

“That’s me, thoughtful Mac. Over.”

Mac was sounding a little strange. Then Brad remembered Zander and Jake were with him, and he was sure they could hear everything Mac was saying.

“Mac, I know Zander and Jake can hear what you’re saying, but can they hear me? Over.”

“That’s a negative. Over,” Mac responded. WINGS OF LOVE 91

“Oh good, I’m not ready to start explaining all of this to them. Over.”

“That’s affirmative. Over,” Mac said.

“What’s your ETA? Over,” Brad asked.

“About zero eight hundred hours. Over,” Mac said.

Brad remembered military time, and he thought that meant eight am. “Okay, safe flight and give my best to Zander and Jake, and tell them to enjoy their vacation and not to worry about the lodge. I’ll check on it every couple of days. Over.”

“I’ll pass that along. Over,” Mac responded.

“Mac, will you make it back up before the storm? Over.”

“I’ll do my best, but if I don’t, you’ll be fine. I’ll be in touch. Over.”

“I’ll look forward to it. Oh, and Mac, please be careful. I don’t want to lose you. Over.”

“Will do. Over.”

Brad ended the conversation by saying, “You do that.” He added, “Wing Mansion over and out, switching back to channel one six.”

The last thing Brad heard Mac say was, “November 4649 Delta standing by on channel one six.”

Okay, I’ve operated a VHF radio, and I know how the lingo goes (channel changes and all), but this much attention to detail—however admirable—doesn’t advance the story. And that’s the point. If it doesn’t advance the story whittle it down, generalize it, or leave it out.

Otherwise, Wings of Love is a pleasant, feel good story with a romantic, happy ending.  Four stars.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12, 323

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The eBook version of Two Irish Lads [Maple Creek Media] will be available at Kindle and Nook outlets this week.

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The final galley proofs have been approved, and so Nor All Thy Tears should be released in both hardcopy and eBook formats in a week or so.

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Progress on Coming of Age on the Trail: 163/180.

This is the story of a teenager’s unique coming of age on an epic, 1,500-mile cattle drive through the rugged wilderness of 19th-century British Columbia

Loosely based on an actual cattle drive to the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush of 1896-1898, this fictional tale pits 17-year-old Cory Twilingate
against an almost insurmountable wilderness in an effort to save his father’s cash-strapped ranch. Supporting him all the way is his father’s recently hired foreman, “Reb” Coltrane, a ruggedly handsome and trail-savvy cowboy from Texas, and as a result a bond is formed between them like two Spartan cohorts fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against the rigors of the trail.

This is a tale that explores the phenomenon of male bonding under extraordinary and sometimes perilous conditions. It is also a romance that includes those most American of institutions, i.e., cowboys and cattle, but as told from a gay perspective. Whether it is a rugged tale of adventure, or a coming of age romance you are seeking, “Coming of Age on the Trail” delivers on all counts.

July 31, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Men of Honor: Pirates of the Narrow Seas, #2, by M Kei

A swashbuckling adventure and Romance

Peter Thorton and his lover set out on a quest to rescue a captive duke who is the pretender to the throne of Portugal. Thorton is arrested and placed on trial for desertion and sodomy. Men of Honor continues the further adventures of a gay officer during the Age of Sail, replete with perils, excitement, and nautical detail. Alex Beecroft, author of ‘False Colors,’ says it’s “a book which can stand comparison with C. S. Forester’s Hornblower.”

Available in eBook format

Review by Gerry Burnie

Some time ago I reviewed Pirates of the Narrow Seas 1: Sallee Rovers, and gave it a five star rating—even though I had some minor reservations about pace. I also have some reservations about M Kei’s latest in the series, Men of Honor: Pirates of the Narrow Seas, #2, [Lulu.com, 2010] but there are enough good things to say about it that I think I can go five stars as well.

M Kei is a good, solid writer. Therefore all the technical stuff regarding sentence and paragraph structure, as well as syntax, are a given. Likewise his descriptions—especially of things nautical—are vivid and colourful, and therefore the reader has no difficulty being transported back in time. However, since I wouldn’t know a marlin spike from a hat pin, I agree with one reviewer who observed that the tactical side of the sea battles were a bit mind boggling. On the other hand, they certainly were pulse-raising with their violent bombardments, and gratuitous blood shedding.

As regards characterization, in volume #1 I disliked Perry as being too stuffy and ambitious, liked Tangle for being swashbuckling, and sort-of liked Peter Thornton as being idealistically naïve. Shakil, of course, had just been introduced toward the end of #1, and so it was really too early to tell, In Men of Honor, however, I found Perry just as dislikeable (for the same reasons), Tangle an opportunist, and Peter just as naïve, but a little less likeable [e.g. his automaton’s sense loyalty toward the British Navy that had little toward him in the past]. Nevertheless, I believe it was the author’s intent to give Peter these less-than-ideal characteristics, and as such things like “like” and “dislike” are at the discretion of the reader.

As for Shakil, it is difficult to say. I liked him, even admired him for having a core of steel draped in velvet, but I could not quite get excited about his personality.  He just seemed too ‘perfect’ for me. However, once again I suspect the author has introduced him as much for a future reason as his role in this novel. We will see.

Altogether I have no hesitation in highly recommending Men of Honor: Pirates of the Narrow Seas, #2, as being a darned good read, and look forward to reading volume #3—the finale. Five Stars.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12,152

Watch for the Kindle and Nook versions of Two Irish Lads coming next week. The publisher this time round is Maple Creek Media. Check them out for good service and good prices.

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I have approved the interior concept for Nor all Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky, and am awaiting the final cover proof. Once both of those had been approved, it will go to press. The release date has therefore been shoved back to early August.

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Progress on Coming of Age on the Trail: 145/182 – It should be ready for a September/October release.

Have a great summer!

 

July 24, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | Leave a comment

Muffled Drum, by Erastes

A Romantic novel featuring handsome cavalry officers, and Erestian touches

Blurb: They met in a port-side tavern, their lust-filled moments stolen from days of marching and madness. After eighteen months, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First Lieutenant Mathias Hofmann have decided to run away from everything they hold dear. Resigning their commissions is social suicide, but there’s no other
choice. Someone will eventually see Rudolph’s partiality toward Mathias.

Now their plans have gone horribly awry… When Mathias goes to Rudolph’s tent after their last battle, his lover looks at him without a hint of recognition. Mathias can hardly believe the man he knew is gone. He wants to fill in so many of Rudolph’s missing memories, but the doctor says a shock could result in permanent damage. The pain of seeing Rudolph on a daily basis, when Rudolph doesn’t remember their love, is excruciating. Now Mathias must decide whether he wants to fight for the man he loves or forget him completely…

Available in eBook format.

About the author: Erastes is the pen name of a female author of gay historical fiction. Having circumnavigated the globe in the ’80s with nothing more than a handful of dollars and a backpack, she’s lived and worked both sides of the equator, but other than Venice she’s found nowhere she loves to live as well as the Norfolk
Broads, where she lives now—firmly under the paw of three demanding cats. Author of eight novels and more than twenty short stories, Erastes is a Lambda
award finalist and a keen lover of history. She began writing full-time after leaving the legal profession, finding it stranger than any fiction.

Review by Gerry Burnie

Having written over ten successful novels to date, it seems author Erastes has decided to challenge herself with a devilishly complex theme, i.e. loss of memory, which is what Muffled Drum [Carina Press, July 4, 2011] centres around. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, she has also chosen an obscure but bloody war, The Austro-Prussian War— 14 June – 23 August, 1866.

Although I have in  my possession a sabre/bayonet from this very era, inscribed “Cavalry de La Chat, 1867,” it is a not a war I am familiar with; nor is it a period that has been frequently exploited as a background or setting for novels

In this story, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First lieutenant Mathias Hoffman, two young, handsome, army officers, have decided to resign their commissions and run away together. However, there is one more battle to fight, and following that Hoffman follows through with his resignation, but von Ratzlaff has sustained an injury that has left him with “selective” amnesia—meaning he can remember everything except the past two years and his lover Hoffman.

As is Eraste’s wont, there are delicate touches of irony sprinkled throughout that remain on the palate until the story is finished, i.e.

The scent of sweat and horse rose up in the heat they generated. Concentrating on the unique taste and feel of Mathias’s mouth, Rudolph swore to
remember this moment throughout the day to come.
When I’m cold from the death around me, or blazing with the thunder of the charge, I will remember this—this moment. It is this that men fight for—Mathias is my reason to fight, my haven. My home.”

Such was not to be, however, and also complicating the scenario is a Frau Ratzloff & family who are waiting at home, and a predatory ex-lover whom von Ratzlaff seems to be remember for all his non-predatory charms.

However, in the end love triumphs over adversity, and so the story ends in a typically romantic fashion.

***

Critically speaking I give full marks for the bold tackling of a complex issue, such as a lover, still very much in love, faced with the dilemma of his partner’s amnesia—especially since the former has gambled his all for a “happy ever after” relationship.

The choice of such an interesting, but little remembered war, was also a bold but typical Erastian venture, and her attention to detail—i.e., “leutnant” for lieutenant,  and “rittmeister” for captain—add greatly to the credibility.

My one quibble (although it does not change the ranking) is that I did not find this story as compelling as some of her other novels. However, since these were five-star stories too, it is merely a matter of degree.

News

As a writer there are a couple of times that are particularly exciting. One of them is getting the block proof back from the publisher, as it begins to take shape, and the other is actually holding the finished product in your hand. Those are the two stages of Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky I’m awaiting just now, and so I’m right on schedule for a July release. Like most writers my books are my ‘babies’–gestation period and all–and the characters are the same. The Two Irish Lads, Sean and Partrick, are still ‘my boys’, and although Sheldon and Colin are quite different, they have a special place in my heart, too.

***

Meanwhile, I’m working every day on Coming of Age on the Trail–69/185 pages so far–so I predicting a release date of mid-September.

***

Vistor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 11,896

July 10, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | Leave a comment

Vagabond Heart, by A.J. Llewellyn

A fascinating step back in time to war-time Hawaii

Blurb: Gay prostitute Tinder McCartney thought he had it made in WWII Honolulu…until true love and an attack on Pearl Harbor turned his life upside down.

Tinder McCartney is the only gay male prostitute working in Honolulu, HI during World War II. Like the 200 female prostitutes who live and work on Hotel Street, he services the armed forces drifting in and out of the islands. His life and work are controlled by the local police, yet because the cops don’t think that there can be that many ‘depraved’ men wanting the comfort of another man, Tinder is not only busy, but often in danger.

Living by very strict rules enforced by the police, Tinder cannot own or drive a car or bicycle, can’t ride street cars or be seen in the company of other men. He can’t visit bars or restaurants or swim at Waikiki Beach. Savagely attacked by two men one night, he is rescued by a local businessman, Jason Qui, the son of a Chinese immigrant and a former New England missionary.

Jason is not Tinder’s usual type. But Jason offers to protect and house him. It seems like the ideal business arrangement until Tinder’s Vagabond Heart can no longer handle the arrangement… and then on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbour is attacked, turning the entire world upside down.

Available in e-book format from Total E-Bound Publishers, and in Kindle format.

About the author: A.J. Llewellyn lives in California, but dreams of living in Hawaii. Frequent trips to all the islands, bags of Kona coffee in the fridge and a healthy collection of Hawaiian records keep him refueled.

A.J’s passion for the islands led to him writing a play about the last ruling monarch of Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani. He has written a non-erotic novel about the overthrow of her kingdom written in diary form from her maid’s point of view.

He never lacks inspiration for his male/male erotic romances and has to pry his fingers from the computer keyboard to pursue his other passions: collecting books on Hawaii, surfing and spending time with his friends and his animal companions.

A.J. Llewellyn believes that love is a song best sung out loud.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although A.J. Llewellyn has over fifty novels out there, Vagabond Heart [Total E-Bound Publishing, 2010] is the first I have read. It certainly won’t be the last, however.

The plot is somewhat unique, inasmuch as it deals with a male prostitute as a romantic lead. Moreover, the story is set in 1942 Hawaii, just before the Pearl Harbour invasion—an era that is particularly nostalgic for me—and this is where AJ shines.

His bio states his passion for Hawaii, and it certainly comes through in his almost palpable descriptions of Hawaii’s history, culture, beauty and grottiness of Hotel Street. Indeed, it is some of the finest descriptive writing I have encountered to date.

And speaking of “history,” special mention should be reserved for the fascinating history of prostitution in war-time Honolulu—in particular the (US) government’s sanction of it (within certain, ridiculous constraints). In this regard, the hypocrisy of government is almost as palpable of Mr. Llewellyn’s excellent descriptions.

The characters are all well developed and interesting as well. Tinder is very much a boy of the 1930s and 40s; meaning, when he found himself up against it he simply found a way to cope. I know the trait, because the 1940s was my era as well.

The girls’ lives could have been a little more developed, but since they were only minor characters this is a value judgment at best.

The native boy, Lauro is quite believable inasmuch as bisexuality seemed to be quite acceptable so long as marriage—as in “one man and one woman”—took place down the line.

Jason Qui came across as just a bit too ideal, and I thought the scenes with him were somewhat ‘pat,’ but once again that is a value judgement that may or may not be shared with other readers. Likewise, I found the sex scenes—while not overwhelming—a bit repetitive toward the end.

Overall, however,  it is a well written novel, with an interesting topic and plot, and encompassing an intriguing era. Highly recommended. Four and one-half stars.

News

The completed manuscript of Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is presently being proofed by my good buddy, Jim Fraley, who is making good progress. Therefore, it should go the publisher by the 26th of this month.

 Interestingly, it is partially set in the 1950s and deals with male prostitution as well—i.e.

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician, with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all this the sky seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad from small-town Ontario, Canada.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an ex-con, whose body has been recently found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated, and the stage is set for a political crisis of headline-grabbing proportions. Read an excerpt:

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 11, 459

 

June 19, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | 1 Comment

Long Journey Into Darkness, by JW

A serious effort, but…

Publisher’s blurb: Long Journey Into Darkness is the dark tale of love and romance between cousins that turns fatal. Very Gay, Set in England turn of the century, coming to New York to start again only to be followed by the past, finding love and ………..there is however a little stage drama, murder and more. This book is intended for adults.

Available in Kindle format – 362 kb. 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Long Journey Into Darkness by JW [Amazon Digital Services] is a serious work of fiction, and because of this it deserves a respectful discussion. Otherwise, I think I would be inclined to dismiss it.

Technically it is quite well written (apart from a few typos), and for the most part the syntax reads smoothly. The ending is also clever, and certainly unpredictable. However, for my money that is about the extent of the really good things that can be said.

 The plot, if taken in a straight line without meandering and doubling back on itself, starts off sometime in the early 1900s in Princeton Place, a dreary mining town in England, where the principal character, Ethan Morris, has come to visit his girlfriend, Edna—even though we are told that he has or had a lover by the name of Robert Morris, a wealthy cousin. This is a quandary that prevails throughout the story, for Ethan can’t seem to decide whether his is gay (which he professes), or heterosexual in his close relationships with at t least three women.

Ethan is a thread-bare poet to start, but a railroad ride later his is unexplicably catapulted into the high life as he awaits passage on the “Elletania” for New York. Thus began my distraction as I tried to figure out how this came to be. Oh, there are clues when a salesman (of something) mysteriously contacts him in Liverpool, which obliquely suggested that he has somehow changed places with his shoe-manufacturing cousin, Robert.

The voyage from Liverpool to New York is eventful only in the sense of meeting a cast of secondary characters; most significantly an actress by the name of Luella Ambrose who takes an immediate liking to Ethan. Miss Ambrose is expectantly glamorous, but she is also both insightful and perceptive, and it is not long before Ethan and she become soul mates. It is not long, either, before Ethan reveals that he is gay, and that he has drowned his cousin back in Princeton Place—all of which Ms Ambrose accepts with nary a raised eyebrow.

In New York Ethan is mistaken for Robert Morris, which he accepts while staying at the Waldorf, but then he quietly disappears to become Franklin Hope, a playwright. Meanwhile, the newspapers all announce the mysterious disappearance of Robert Morris.

In his guise as Franklin Hope he meets his second female soul mate, Miss Cheryl Wilson, a typist with a seemingly permanent chip on her shoulder. Nonetheless, it isn’t too long before he reveals his turbulent past to her, as well, and once again it meets with very little shock on her part.

Personally, I found the line of the story difficult to follow to the point of distraction. I think this is because the characters were all very difficult to pin down. Yes, they were distinct, and eccentric, but they were also inconsistent. Similarly, in order to create an air of mystery (I think) the story meandered about, hinting at this and that, but failing to make a point that one could grasp onto. Therefore, rather than being mysterious it was merely confusing.

Nonetheless, I recognize the amount thought and effort that went into writing this work, and can readily say there is talent behind it. However, for now two and one-half stars.

 

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 11,322

A message from Erastes re: Ides of pride book swap

PLEASE – even if you aren’t going to participate – could you disseminate this far and wide? It would be so good to have loads of people involved

The economy is biting us all– more and more I see people say they can’t afford to buy the book they’d like to buy.

SO!  Let’s cock a snook to the economy. (Non Brits may need to look that up.)

I’d like to have an “IDES OF PRIDE BOOK SWAP on Speak Its Name (www.speakitsname.com) on the 15th of June.

It’s a simple idea. If you have a gay historical book that you would like to swap for something you haven’t read – be it electronic or paper, EMAIL ME (erastes@erastes.com) with the details and I’ll put up a post for you

It can be your own book, or simply one you have in your collection. Of course you are welcome to include more than one!

NOW. I’m NOT avocating file sharing here–but the Kindle allows one transfer of each book on your device, so it’s perfectly legal and hopefully it will bring in more readers for you and for all of us — and the readers will be able to discover things they might not have usually tried. Publishers will allow a certain amount of downloads too, so you could use those.

People who want that book will then answer the post with their own swap–or a selection of what you’d like to offer, and it will be up to the original poster to choose which one they’d like. Let me know, and I’ll match up the swap.

It’s like Noel Edmonds’ swap shop. But gay. Oh. OK. That analogy doesn’t really work, as that show was already extraordinarily gay.

Please please please join it–would be fun to make this an annual event–and it will certainly help people get hold of books they can’t afford. You can swap as many books as you like–and don’t renege, or you won’t be allowed to play next time.

Erastes
Gay Historical Fiction
www.erastes.com

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

The Wishing Cup, by JM Gryffyn

Romance among the dunes!