Gerry B's Book Reviews

The Door Behind Us, by John C. Houser

Altogether an engaging and enjoyable story.


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.


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


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