Gerry B's Book Reviews

The Academician (Southern Swallow #1) by Edward C. Patterson

A credible plunge backward in time to an intriguing realm –

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Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

“A bigger fool the world has never known than I – a coarse fellow with no business to clutch a brush and scribble. I only know the scrawl, because my master took pleasure in teaching me between my chores. Not many men are so cursed . . .” Thus begins the tale of Li K’ai-men as told by his faithful, but mischievous servant, K’u Ko-ling – a tale of 12th Century China, where state service meant a life long journey across a landscape of turmoil and bliss. A tale of sacrifice, love, war and duty – a fragile balance between rituals and passions. Here begins the legacy of the Jade Owl and its custodian as he holds true to his warrants. The Academician is the first of four books in the Southern Swallow series, capturing the turbulence of the Sung Dynasty in transition. Spanning the silvery days under the Emperor Hui to the disasters that followed, The Academician is a slice of world events that should never have been forgotten.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I am always in the search of a unique story, that is a story or setting that is off the beaten path, and The Academician (Southern Swallow #1) by Edward C. Patterson has both.

Set in 12th century China, which in itself is unique enough, The Academician is also chock full of unique characters who, in their variety, resemble a Chinois tapestry of the same period.

The story of Li K’ai-men begins as a brilliant student, top of his class, who is challenged by his renowned master, Han Lin, to fulfill a number of missions. This he does successfully, and as a result he is elevated to the position of superintendent of Su Chou. Again, he proves his metal by restoring this neglected province to its former prosperity, which in turn catches the attention of the emperor himself. Li then finds himself tutor to the emperor’s son and prince of the realm.

Of course, the history of Imperial China is fraught with wars and political unrest, and in the midst of this Li K’ai-men must protect his young protégé, the prince, and also the secrets surround the legendary Jade Owl relics.

Told from the point of view of K’u Ko-ling, Li’s faithful servant, this is a credible plunge backward in time to encompass 12th-century China with remarkable detail.

The writing is first rate, of course, but what really stands out for me is the strong character development that captures the essence of the time.

Highly recommended. Five bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

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February 16, 2015 Posted by | China, Fiction, fiction/autobiographical, Gay fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii by Stephanie Dray

A remarkably clever and well-crafted idea.

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have always been fascinated with Pompeii. I mean, to have a whole city and its populace frozen in time, to be discovered two thousand years later, is intriguing stuff! Likewise, to speculate on the lives of some of its citizens just before Vesuvius sealed their fates forever is equally tantalizing.

 A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii an anthology by Stephanie Dray [Knight Media, LLC, November 4, 2014] sets out to do just that. Six historical fiction authors, with unique but similar styles, collaborate to create the lives of six fairly representative citizens as they approach the fateful day.

The story’s synopsis is laid out in the blurb, but going beyond that it is an admirable idea that was waiting to happen – combining fiction and fact surrounding 78 A.D. In addition, the six Pompeiian characters couldn’t be more different or more interesting – Rich, poor, young and old.

What I found gratifying was that, although the stories were individually authored there was a consistency about them – a thread that connected them together while on their way to calamity. It was such that the reader knew what was about to happen while the characters didn’t, and so it was all the more credible.

A very clever and well-crafted story in six parts. Five 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: “Camp X” – the unofficial name of a Second World War paramilitary and commando training installation, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario between Whitby and Oshawa in Ontario, Canada. 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to date

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 2, 2015 Posted by | Historical Fiction, Non-gay fiction | 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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November 17, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, 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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If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

                    

               

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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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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

Brothers of the Wild North Sea, by Harper Fox

A good solid read that most fans of historical fiction will enjoy.

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brothers of the wild north sea - coverStory blurb: His deadliest enemy will become his heart’s desire.

Caius doesn’t feel like much of a Christian. He loves his life of learning as a monk in the far-flung stronghold of Fara, but the hot warrior blood of his chieftain father flows in his veins. Heat soothed only in the arms of his sweet-natured friend and lover, Leof.

When Leof is killed during a Viking raid, Cai’s grieving heart thirsts for vengeance—and he has his chance with Fenrir, a wounded young Viking warrior left for dead. But instead of reaching for a weapon, Cai finds himself defying his abbot’s orders and using his healing skills to save Fen’s life.

At first, Fen repays Cai’s kindness by attacking every Christian within reach. But as time passes, Cai’s persistent goodness touches his heart. And Cai, who had thought he would never love again, feels the stirring of a profound new attraction.

Yet old loyalties call Fen back to his tribe and a relentless quest to find the ancient secret of Fara—a powerful talisman that could render the Vikings indestructible, and tear the two lovers’ bonds beyond healing.

Warning: contains battles, bloodshed, explicit M/M sex, and the proper Latin term for what lies beneath those cassocks.

About the author: Harper Fox is an M/M author with a mission. She’s produced six critically acclaimed novels in a year and is trying to dispel rumours that she has a clone/twin sister locked away in a study in her basement. In fact she simply continues working on what she loves best– creating worlds and stories for the huge cast of lovely gay men queuing up inside her head. She lives in rural Northumberland in northern England and does most of her writing at a pensioned-off kitchen table in her back garden, often with blanket and hot water bottle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although the author’s bio states that Harper Fox has produced six books in one year, my only experience with her writing has been Scrap Metal [https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/?s=scrap+metal], which I enjoyed; however, Brothers of the Wild North Sea [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., June 11, 2013] is quite a different story in many respects.

For one thing, it is set in the 7th century, a time of emerging beliefs; it has a strong religious bent—although not a religious story; and it includes some violence in connection with Viking raids and wars. Therefore, it is well removed from pastoral settings and sheep herding.

The basic story revolves around Caius, an enlightened son of a warrior chieftain, who has been converted to Christianity and joins an order of monks in order to continue his enlightenment. He is quite content with this life and his lover Leof, but when Leof is killed during a Viking raid, Caius thirsts for revenge.

Enter Fenrir, a wounded Viking raider, but rather than take his life Caius nurses him back to health. However, taming Fenrir’s fierce side takes time and patience, and in the meantime Caius falls for this erstwhile enemy who is drawn back to his own in search of a talisman with invincible powers.

In the end, however, all works out and true love prevails.

It’s a good story, competently written with some really interesting elements. As in Scrap Metal Harper Fox demonstrates an ability to draw the reader into her sometimes austere settings, and in this case a unique time period. Certainly it is one that I have not encountered before.

Having said that, however, it reads a bit slow until all the elements are put together, but then it moves along at a more agreeable pace. Also—and this is something I have to guard against in my own writing—Fenrir’s change of allegiance seems just a bit too ‘convenient’ for the short time allowed.  Yes, we’re all rooting for them, but to logically go from enemies to lovers takes a couple of transitions that seemed to be passed over.

Overall, however, this is a good solid read that most fans of historical fiction will enjoy. Four bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 65,679

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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: Today’s history curriculum is “bound for boredom” ~ Bill Bigelow

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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.

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March 24, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Thoreau in Love, by John Schuyler Bishop

A fictional tale of youthful love and misgivings, evolving into a 19th-century literary giant

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thoreau in love - coverStory blurb: Two years before he goes to Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau, 25, leaves Concord, Massachusetts, to live in New York, where the new America is bursting into life. But before he even gets there he falls in love—with a young man.

It’s 1843, a repressive puritanism still hangs over Concord, Massachusetts, and Henry Thoreau wants out. When his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, gives him an opportunity to move to New York City, Henry leaves Concord with no thought of ever returning.

In his journals, 250-some pages about his trip to New York have been ripped out, the only substantial number of pages missing from the forty-seven journal volumes. What was so scandalous that Thoreau—or, more likely, his literary executor—decided no one should see it?

And why did Thoreau stay only six months in New York?

Thoreau’s biographers go out of their way to convince us that the writer was heterosexual, although he never married and wrote freely in his journal about the beauty of men. His poem “Sympathy,” one of the few published in his lifetime, is a love poem to a boy who was his student. (About that poem, one celebrated biographer went so far as to say, “When he wrote ‘he’ Thoreau really meant ‘she,’ and when he wrote ‘him,’ he really meant ‘her.’”) By denying Thoreau’s real sexuality, scholars have reduced him to a wooden icon.

Thoreau in Love imagines the time of the missing pages, when Thoreau emerged from his shell and explored the wider world and himself before he returned to Concord, where he would fearlessly live the rest of his life and become the great naturalist and literary giant.

About the author: Schuyler moved into the city as soon as he could, wrote plays at home and worked in the Letters Department at Newsweek until his total output for three months work was two letters; he decided he was possibly burned out…. His boss did too, but she then hired him as a proofreader at Sports Illustrated, where Schuyler enjoyed the great benefits and moved up rapidly to copyreader and then, because of a story he wrote for the magazine, to the exalted position of Late Reader, possibly the greatest job that ever existed: when the editors and reporters went to Schuyler to go over their stories it meant they were finished their week’s work, and more often than not, because of S.I.’s deadline, Schuyler worked one 35-hour day and made lots of money. All the while he was writing and mostly not sending things out…. but a couple of years ago he resolved to change that….

Two of Bishop plays were produced many years ago off-off Broadway, and he’s had stories published in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and in Alyson’s Best Gay Love Stories 2005. After a couple of years at sea and in Florida, he’s happily back in New York City.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

thoreau in love - portaitI don’t suppose there is anything more intriguing to a historian, or writer thereof, than to find 250 pages missing (ripped out) from a famous person’s personal journals. Why the possibilities are endless, and John Schuyler Bishop takes full advantage of this in Thoreau in Love [BookBaby; 1st edition, May 14, 2013].

Henry David Thoreau, an enigmatic and intriguing character in his own right, takes a trip to New York to tutor the children of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s relative William Emerson, in their Staten Island home. On the way he meets a breathtakingly handsome sailor, Ben Wickham, and despite Thoreau’s Puritan background and his (till-then) repressed sexual inclinations, he falls madly in love with this beguiling lad.

As the ‘captain’s boy’ Ben is experienced in the manly art of making love, and by the time they reach Staten Island a most touching and memorable love affair has evolved.

However, once separated, Thoreau begins to have second thoughts. He fervently wants to be ‘normal’ in order to avoid the recriminations of a mostly homophobic society, but  at the same time he carries on a romantic correspondence with Ben. Finally the two spend a couple of weeks together, and afterward they separate with Ben urging him to find his true self.

Thoreau then returns to Concord, and Walden emerges.

All of this is Schuyler Bishop’s invention, of course, but it is wonderfully credible and in keeping with Thoreau’s complex nature. It also explores the misgivings that most gay men experience somewhere along the line in their careers; even in today’s more liberal society. Arizona and Uganda are proof positive that to be gay, or GBLT, is still far from mainstream in 2014.

There are some graphic sex scenes, but it is the story that predominates throughout—as it should be.

Altogether, I think this is a story that will appeal to most everyone who enjoys a well-written historical fiction. 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 people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Don Messer’s Jubilee: The premier name in C&W folk music in the 1960s.

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

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February 24, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay romance, Henry David Thoreau, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 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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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 63,767

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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!

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

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

I Am John I Am Paul: A Story of Two Soldiers in Ancient Rome, by Mark Tedesco

A well-written historical novel with an emphasis on history –

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i am joh i am paul - coverStory blurb: “Adventure, intrigue, faith, commitment, love and hate and everything between! Mark Tedesco has done it again, fashioning what is arguably his best work yet! He entices you on a phenomenal journey into the fascinating lives of two 4th century Roman soldiers, John and Paul, in a tale of loyalty and love that grabs you by the throat from the very first sentence and holds you spellbound, gasping for air as you’re swept from chapter to chapter with barely a moment to breathe. An unbelievable marriage of fact and fiction that will leave you applauding or appalled but never bored or indifferent. A must read!” Fox news.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I can’t say that I am well versed in Roman history, about average I suppose, so the extensive research conducted by Mark Tedesco in his writing of I Am John I am Paul [Academia Publishing; Second edition, November 9, 2012] was a help.

The basic story follows the adventures of two Roman Soldiers, Ioannes Fulvius Marcus Romanus, and his brother-in-arms, Paulus. The time is during the reign of Constantine  (306 – 337 A.D), and is typically full of political intrigue.

John and Paul meet during the Germanic wars, and form a loving bond that is put to the test when John is sent off to Alexandria by a tyrannical centurion. While in Alexandria, he becomes involved in Mithraism—a nice touch by the authorin order to explore this mystic religion—but, eventually, he is returned to Rome to rejoin Paul once again.

Another nice touch, and also a nice bit of drama, takes place when John and Paul undertake to successfully rescue the kidnapped daughter of the emperor, and in gratitude the emperor grants them both land and a house in Rome.

Not to be forgotten, either, is their experience with Christianity—i.e. “The Way.” After all, it was Constantine who converted Rome to Christianity (…and had “Great” added to his name), so historically it was an intriguing time that the author didn’t miss.

Technically speaking, this is not a gay story in the erotic sense—which doesn’t disturb me at all. It is romantic, given the love the two boys have for one another, but mostly it is a well-written historical novel with an emphasis on history. My kind of meat. Therefore, for people like myself, I’m going to go the full five bees.

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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 62,987

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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:  Mary Grannan – “Just Mary”: Canadian pioneer in children’s programming.

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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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February 3, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a 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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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 62,129

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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

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

The Absolutist, by John Boyne

A poignant story of love and sacrifice.

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the absolutist - coverStory blurb: It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.

The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they’ve turned the last page.

About the author: John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. But it was during his time at Trinity that he began to get published. To pay his way at that stage of his career, he worked at Waterstone’s, typing up his drafts by night.

John Boyne is the author of six novels, as well as a number of short stories which have been published in various anthologies and broadcast on radio and television. His novels are published in 39 languages. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which to date has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a film adaptation was released in September 2008.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

It was only after I read The Absolutist by John Boyne [Other Press, July 10, 2012] that I came to realize how many reviews had been written about this book—by some pretty heavy-hitters, as well. It made me pause to wonder if there was anything new to say about it, or, indeed, if there was anyone in the world who hadn’t read it.

Nevertheless, I decided that my own opinion is all I can ever offer, anyway, and like me, there might be a few out there who have taken a while to find it.

The story is written around Tristan Sadler at various stages of his life, from his expulsion from home, to his enlisting in the army in 1919, and then afterward until he is a reclusive old man. Interspersed among these is his relationship with a boy named Will Bancroft, his war years, and his withdrawal from society to live with his memories.

In spite of the complexities of this story the author kept a fairly steady hand on the reins. Tristan, as the protagonist, is a likeable kid who is somewhat adrift on the fickle currents of life, and as such he is frequently knocked about. His drill sergeant is a sadist, His friend (lover) Will is a cad, and Will’s family are an insensitive lot. Nonetheless, he endures all of this with a kind of innocence that is allotted to fools and children.

As I alluded above, all of this is well written, and for the most part quite credible. We can feel for Tristan’s disappointment that Will won’t commit himself (even though we’d like to slap him); the mud, discomfort and hell of WWI trenches are vividly portrayed; and the poignant moments of Will’s death are all quite real.

However, the shortcoming (in my mind) is that it follows in the wake of so many other GBLT novels, inasmuch as it is well-written but dark. Is there no joy in ‘gayville’’? There were a few anomalies, too. For example, Tristan seemed remarkably literate from his stated background, and I found the ending—particularly with the gratuitous visit Will’s sister—somewhat unusual.

Altogether, however, it is a story that will hold your interest. Three and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry Burnie’s Book Reviews – 53,924

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persecution of gays in russia

Protest staging the Olympic Games in Russia — There is an alternative

This is the face of state-sanctioned persecution of gays and lesbians in Russia, To date vicious beatings, arrests and even murder have been spawned under Vladimir Putin’s so-called ban on “homosexual propaganda.” It is a cruel, political ploy to prop up his sagging popularity. He is playing St. George, and homosexuals are his made-up dragon. At the bottom of it, however, is a unwarranted attack on human right for which Putin has no regard.

Protest the staging of the Olympic Games in Russia. There is an alternative in Vancouver that won’t penalize the athletes. Do it for the GBLT community, do it for human rights, and do it for humanity.

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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 19, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay military, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 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.

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

The City War (Warriors of Rome #3) by Sam Starbuck

An erotic tale of intrigue, set in Imperial Rome

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city war - coverSenator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.

Cassius fears both Caesar’s intentions and Brutus’s interest in Tiresias, the villa’s newest servant. Tiresias claims to be the orphaned son of a minor noble, but his secrets run deeper, and only Brutus knows them all. Cassius, intent on protecting the Republic and his claim to Brutus, proposes a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. After all, if Brutus—loved and respected by all—supports it, it’s not murder, just politics.

Now Brutus must return to Rome and choose: not only between Cassius and Tiresias, but between preserving the fragile status quo of Rome and killing a man who would be emperor.

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Review by Gerry burnie

It has been said, correctly I think, that ‘history is the tricks the living play on the dead,’ and The City War (Warriors of Rome #3) by Sam Starbuck is no exception.

For example, Julius Caesar has been various portrayed as a capable leader and a tyrant, and his assassins as patriots and ambitious thugs at the same time. So who knows?

Sam Starbuck has chosen to portray Caesar as a tyrant, thus making Marcus Brutus a ‘good guy’ of sorts. Philosophically, he believes Rome would be better off as a republic, free of the fickleness and excesses of dictatorships, and so he is willing to listen when his lover, Cassius, proposes a plot to assassinate Caesar.

Cassius is a complex character. He is less high-minded and idealistic than Brutus, but equally committed to the idea of a republic through his lover. Without Brutus’ universal respect the assassination would be seen as just that.

And then we find Terisias. I’m not certain what function Terisias serves, whether it is the spirit of change, the POV of the servant class, or just a change of pace from the two main characters. Whatever it is, he makes an interesting if unexpected personality.

Holding all of this together is some first class writing, which makes the story very readable from start to finish.

Although personally I am growing somewhat weary of stories set in Imperial Rome, I can recommend this interpretation as having an interesting plot and good solid journalism. Four bees.

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April 22, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Life Apart, by Roger Kean

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

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

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

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

Has fate determined that they must lead their lives apart?

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

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

Front cover art and design by Oliver Frey.

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


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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’ve been censored:

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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

Allegiance: A Dublin Novella, by Heather Domin

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

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fallen Snow, by John J. Kelley

A touching coming of age novel –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Mr. Burnie,

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

Best,
Rock H

Definitely inspirational … And humbling.

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

Longhorns, by Victor J. Banis

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stag dance copy2

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

      

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

The Celestial, by Barry Brennessel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COA - banner - 500px

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

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

      

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

Northern Lights, by James Matthew Green

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Notice 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

Skybound, by Aleksandr Voinov

A textbook example of the short story art –

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

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

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

Available in ebook, only – 198 KB

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie (www.gerryburniebooks.ca)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

Thanks again!

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

 

      

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

 

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

The Pleasuring of Men, by Clifford Browder

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

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

Available in e-book format – 443 KB

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

And of his impressions of Mr. Neil Smythe:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

Thanks again!

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

      

On behalf of the wonderful authors featured on this blog, I thank you for dropping by. Do drop back next week.

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

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

The Station, by Keira Andrews

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

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

Available in electronic format – 325 KB

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My view

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

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

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

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

Thanks again!

♥♥♥

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

 

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

       

Thanks for dropping by. I’ll have another great novel read for you next Sunday, so do drop back … Oh, and leave a comment as well. T.T.F.N

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

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!

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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

Calico, by Dorien Grey

(This marks the 150th post to date)

An excellent, engaging, and well-written story – 

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

Available in paperback and e-book format –  344 KB

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Notice to all those who have requested book reviews

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

Thanks again!

♥♥♥

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

       

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


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

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

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

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch, by Shelter Somerset

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

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

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

Front cover design by Mara KcKennen

Available in e-book format – 1024 KB

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

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

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

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

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

What I liked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • Your devoted love will span the millennia,
      • Though cast apart in unknown lands,
      • Yet will Apollo guide your steps across time
      • Until you be united again for all eternity.
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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Thanks for dropping by! Your participation is what I work for.    

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

Eromenos, by Melanie McDonald

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

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

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

Available in e-book format – 551 KB


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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

The story

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

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

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

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

One researcher has put it this way:

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

The aftermath

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

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

My Review

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

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

 

News, etc.

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

Independent Book Blogger Awards

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

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

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

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

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

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Introducing a brand new author and her new Novel.

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

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

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

        

Thanks for dropping by. Your participation is an honour I hope I’ve earned.

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

The Master of Seacliff, by Max Pierce

An American Gothic novel reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel –

A gothic mystery with a decidedly masculine point of view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available in e-book format – 452 KB

Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News, etc.

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

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Independent Book Blogger Awards

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Voting begins Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

River Thieves, by Michael Crummey

A superb weaving of fact and fiction set in the Canadian wilderness –

Story blurb: River Thieves is a beautifully written and compelling novel that breathes life into the pivotal events which shaped relations between the Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland and European settlers. Following a series of expeditions made under the order of the British Crown, the reader witnesses the tragic fallout from these missions as the Beothuk vanish and the web of secrets guarded by the settlers slowly begin to unravel …Told in elegant sensual prose this is an enthralling historical novel of great passion and suspense, driven by the extraordinary cast of characters. And with it Michael Crummey establishes himself as one of Canada’s most exciting new talents.

Available in e-book format – 2058 KB

About the athor: Born in Buchans, Newfoundland, Crummey grew up there and in Wabush, Labrador, where he moved with his family in the late 1970s. He went to university with no idea what to do with his life and, to make matters worse, started writing poems in his first year. Just before graduating with a BA in English he won the Gregory Power Poetry Award. First prize was three hundred dollars (big bucks back in 1987) and it gave him the mistaken impression there was money to be made in poetry.

He published a slender collection of poems called Arguments with Gravity in 1996, followed two years later by Hard Light. 1998 also saw the publication of a collection of short stories, Flesh and Blood, and Crummey’s nomination for the Journey Prize.

Crummey’s debut novel, River Thieves (2001) was a Canadian bestseller, winning the Thomas Head Raddall Award and the Winterset Award for Excellence in Newfoundland Writing. It was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the IMPAC Award. His second novel, The Wreckage (2005), was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and longlisted for the 2007 IMPAC Award.

Galore was published in Canada in 2009. A national bestseller, it was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Canada & Caribbean), the Canadian Authors’ Association Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for fiction.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie
My bio reads in part: Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered, and River Thieves by Michael Crummey [Anchor Canada, 2009] is a case on point.

The Beothuk (pronounced “beo-thuk”) people of Newfoundland, a.k.a. “The Red Indians” because of the red ochre they smeared on their bodies, are truly one of the most fascinating and mysterious aspects of it. They are referred to as a “population isolate” because they developed their unique culture in total isolation, starting around 1 A.D. until—with the death of Shanawdithit (“Nancy April”) in1829—they were declared officially extinct.

Part of the extinction process was as a result of being retreated into areas that could not sustain them; European diseases (particularly tuberculoses) for which they had no immunity; and anecdotes of genocide in which they were hunted like wolves. Indeed, the extinction of such a shy, peaceful and unique people is a black mark in Canadian history.

All of this Michael Crummey has captured with remarkable insight, and a superb sense of time and place. His approach of fictionalizing historical events and persons (while not unique) is certainly affective in making them come to life in the context in which they existed, i.e. the rugged and austere wilderness of Newfoundland in the early nineteenth century.

British naval officer, James Buchan, [a real historical figure] is sent to the British Colony of Newfoundland to establish productive relations with the mysterious aboriginals. In order to accomplish this mission he recruits the help of the Peyton family—a sort of backwoods aristocracy led by the tough-minded John Peyton Sr., a ruthless Beothuk persecutor [yet another real individual and fact]. However, his son, John Jr., although dominated by his father, is also vested with a conscience and becomes Buchan’s ally.

Rounding off this complex household is Cassie Jure, the enigmatic housekeeper, who is surprisingly independent for a female servant of the 19th-century, but she nonetheless adds a feminine perspective to a dominant cast of men.

Crummey’s poetic style is a real boon here, for the setting is very much part of the story—both the harshness and austere beauty of its topography and climate. He has therefore woven it into the tapestry as though it were one of the characters, emphasizing the hardy resilience of its occupants—like Joseph Reilly, a transported (“exiled”) Irish thief turned trapper. Likewise, his research and portrayal of 19th-century mores and terms gives it a solid credibility that invests the reader from beginning to end. For all these reasons, it is highly recommended. Five bees.

***

One of the historical events portrayed in this story is “The stealing of Demasduit (“Mary March”).

Demasduit was a Beothuk woman who is thought to have been about 23 years old when she was captured near Red Indian Lake in March 1819.

The governor of Newfoundland, although seeking to encourage trade and end hostilities between the Beothuk and the English, had approved an expedition led by captain David Buchan to recover a boat and other fishing gear which had been stolen by the Beothuk. A group from this expedition was led by John Peyton Jr. whose father John Peyton Sr. was a salmon fisherman known for his hostility towards the small tribe. On a raid, they killed Demasduit’s husband Nonosbawsut, then ran her down in the snow. She pleaded for her life, baring her breasts to show she was a nursing mother. They took Demasduit to Twillingate and Peyton earned a bounty on her. The baby died. Peyton was later appointed Justice of the Peace at Twillingate, Newfoundland.

The British called Demasduit Mary March after the month when she was taken. Later bringing her to St. John’s, Newfoundland, the colonial government wanted to give Desmaduit comfort and friendly treatment while she was with the English, hoping she might one day be a bridge between them and the Beothuk. Demasduit learned some English and taught the settlers about 200 words of Beothuk language. However, in January 1820 while making the trip back to Notre Dame Bay Demasduit died of tuberculosis before reaching her kin. Source: Wikipedia.

News

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 21,811

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

Norman Lee’s Route (click on image to elarge)

The inspiration for this fictional tale comes from Norman Lee’s epic, 1,500-mile cattle dive from Hanceville, British Columbia, to the gold fields around Dawson City, Yukon Territory, in 1898. Fortunately, Lee had the presence of mind to keep a journal along the way, and so we have a first-hand account of his remarkable feat just as it unfolded over a century ago. It is fortunate as well that Eileen Laurie of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation took an interest in this unique piece of Canadian history, and that the Lee family generously allowed it to be published. [See: Klondike Cattle Drive: The journal of Norman Lee, Touch Wood Editions, Surrey, British Columbia, 2005]. Consequently, many of the scenes depicted in this fictional version are taken from Lee’s actual experiences.

Once again this remarkable adventure proves that: Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered.

Read an excerpt.

***

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.

This week David-Paul has added new and poignant information about Steve Walker, renowned Canadian artist who passed away on January 4 2012.

***

I’ve added new pages: If you haven’t noticed already I’ve added an “About” and “Gerry Burnie Books” page.” You’ll find the links at the top of the page. Hope you find them interesting.

***

Protest Paypal. Recently, Paypal started to refuse transactions for books which do not meet a set of narrowly-defined criteria, i.e., teenage sex (16 is the “age of consent”), rape, incest, etc. This is de facto censorship, and not the business of money broker. If you would care to send a letter to Paypal execs, etc., here is a list of email addresses you can use.

mbarrett@paypal.com,
executiveoffice@paypal.com,
harbor1@paypal.com,
ppelce@paypal.com,
complaint-response@paypal.com,
abuse@paypal.com,
Europeanservices@paypal.com,
resolutions@paypal.com,
appeals@paypal.com,
compliance@paypal.com,
webform@paypal.com,
Unmonitored <service@paypal.com>,
spoof@paypal.com,
aup@paypal.com,
Let public relations know you are filing complaints <press@paypal.com>,
apires@paypal.com,
pending_reversal@paypal.com,
global2@paypal.com,
intl@paypal.com,
ppe_courtesycredit@paypal.com
***

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. The numbers are growing, thanks you!

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

The King Must Die, by Mary Renault

A classic novel by a legendary writer in the gay genre.

Story blurb: The story of the mythical hero Theseus, slayer of monsters, abductor of princesses and king of Athens. He emerges from these pages as a clearly defined personality; brave, aggressive and quick. The core of the story is Theseus’ Cretan adventure.

Available in e-book format

About the author: Mary Renault was born at Dacre Lodge, 49 Plashet Road, Forest Gate, Essex, (now in London), Renault was educated at St Hugh’s College of Oxford University, then an all-women’s college, receiving an undergraduate degree in English in 1928. In 1933, she began training as a nurse at Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary. During her training, she met Julie Mullard, a fellow nurse with whom she established a life-long romantic relationship.

She worked as a nurse while beginning a writing career, treating Dunkirk evacuees at the Winford Emergency Hospital in Bristol, and working in Radcliffe Infirmary’s brain surgery ward until 1945. She published her first novel, Purposes of Love, in 1939; it had a contemporary setting, like her other early novels, which novelist Linda Proud described as “a strange combination of Platonism and hospital romance”. Her 1943 novel The Friendly Young Ladies, about a lesbian relationship between a writer and a nurse, seems inspired by her own relationship with Miss Mullard.

In 1948, after her novel Return to Night won a MGM prize worth $150,000, she and Mullard emigrated to South Africa, where they remained for the rest of their lives. There, according to Proud, they found a community of gay expatriates who had “escaped the repressive attitudes towards homosexuality in Britain for the comparatively liberal atmosphere of Durban…. Mary and Julie found themselves able to set up home together in this new land without causing the outrage they had sometimes provoked at home. (Renault and Mullard were critical of the less liberal aspects of their new home, participating in the Black Sash movement against apartheid in the 1950s.)

Mary Renault died at Cape Town, South Africa, on 13 December 1983. – Wikipedia.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie

The name Mary Renault is almost iconic in my past, for her Nature of Alexander (1975) was the first book that dealt with homosexuality I had ever found, and as such it was like finding the Holy Grail. This was quickly followed by Fire From Heaven (1969) and The Persian Boy (1972), and just about anything I could get my hands on that had Mary Renault’s name on it.

The King Must Die [Vintage, 1988 (originally published by Pantheon Books, 1958)] was somewhere in there, so re-reading this classic was like a pilgrimage back in time.

It is probably the most main-stream of Renault’s books, at least the ones I have read. Like most classical Greek characters Theseus is capable of deep love for his comrades, but unlike most it doesn’t extend to sex. Given the tenor of the times, however, this is quite understandable if it was to be published at all.

The story more-or-less follows Theseus’ heroic rescue of the enslaved Greek youths from Crete and the mythical Minotaur, but Renault has avoided a mere repetition by adhering to what could be archaeologically supported. Nonetheless, it still retains the marvellously exotic and colourful nuances of the myth by its inclusion of gods, goddesses and witches.

Moreover, by humanizing the mythical elements—his acquiring the bona fide kingship of Eleusis, becoming identified as the son and heir of the king of Athens, and especially the humanizing of the Minotaur as Asterion, the sinister and power-hungry son of Minos (king of Crete)—she has made it all seem plausible.

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I believe the two things I admire most about Renault’s writing is her character development, and the way she weaves the various elements together into a seamless whole. For example, this story takes Perseus from his childhood through five stages of his life, each a complex story in itself, and yet it never loses the central thread from beginning to end. That is the signature of a masterful writer, and which made Renault a legend in her own time.

This novel is not for those who are looking for explicitly gay content, and certainly not erotica of any kind, but if you admire a well-told story in the classical-style, this tale is for you. Five bees.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 19,102

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GLBT Writers Group: You are invited to join our intimate little group of supportive writers on Linkedin. Let us know what you have written, or are currently writing, and get feedback on a variety of questions—including excerpts. Drop by for a look-see: GLBT Writers Group.

***

I have put together a gallery of interesting, vintage photographs relating to my up-coming novel Coming of Age on the Trail. Many of these images date from the late 1800s, and are of interest in their own right. To view this gallery go to:  http://www.gerryburniebooks.net/COAPhotos.htm

***

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’s for dropping by!

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

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.

***

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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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

The Sacred Band, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

A scholarly tale of pathos, romance, and adventure

Story blurb: An adventure like no other. Two Sacred Bands, united for the first time. The Sacred Band of Thebes lives on, a world away, in this mythic novel of love in war in ancient times. In 338 BCE, during the Battle of Chaeronea that results in the massacre of the Sacred Band of Thebes, the legendary Tempus and his Stepson cavalry rescue twenty-three pairs of Theban Sacred Banders, paired lovers and friends, to fight on other days. These forty-six Thebans, whose bones will never lie in the mass grave that holds their two hundred and fifty-four brothers, join with the immortalized Tempus and his Sacred Band of Stepsons, consummate ancient cavalry fighters, to make new lives in a faraway land and fight the battle of their dreams where gods walk the earth, ghosts take the field, and the angry Fates demand their due.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

This is another book purchased from Amazon.com’s ‘Gay Historical   Fiction’ list, but apart from a few vague references to homosexuality it is   not a GLBT story.

At 570 pages (929 KB) The Sacred Band (Sacred Band of Stepsons) by Janet Morris and Chris Morris [Paradise Publishing, 2010] is an epic tale of heroes, gods, and demigods. I also understand that it is a continuation of a series, but it is the first I have read.

There are a number of good things to be said about this story. The evidence of major research stands out first and foremost. This was a time when every life force was governed by some god or goddess, major or minor, and to sort all these out is no slight task. I did, however, have some questions about weaponry—particularly cross bows and throwing stars in the third century BC. It is true that the authors did admit some anachronisms here, but for me these took me outside the time frame.

The plot is also well constructed, with drama, romance, pathos and destruction, woven together in a compelling and interesting way.

The journalism is of a high order as well, but here we begin to experience some difficulties. Technically it is good but convoluted by an overabundance of esoteric description; so much so that I found myself skimming over paragraphs, even pages, to get to the next point.

Individually the characters were both distinct and interesting, but collectively (by name) they were overwhelming. This was made even more mind-boggling by the fact that many of these had two or three names used interchangeably, i.e. Tempus/Riddler/Avatar; Nikodemus, Niko, Swift; and so on.

However, for me the most critical shortcoming was a book of 570 pages in length, involving the Sacred Band of Thebes, and not once did it mention same-sex sex by name or practice. Indeed, the only time when one male character makes a brief pass at another—in a whore house—it was treated with something like, “I’m not that way.”

Recmmended for the good points mentioned. Two and one-half Bees.

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November 27, 2011 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

The Great Pagan Army, by Vaughn Heppner

Recommended for those who enjoy a well-written historical action

Story blurb: This is the year 885 A.D., when a thundering army of hardened cutthroats, berserks and axmen trample its way across Western Europe, raping and pillaging at will. They are the Great Pagan Army—the largest array of Vikings ever assembled into one host. No army or city can resist them; no one dares… until a crippled young count finds an old Roman book on tactics.
With a handful of desperate knights, Count Odo fortifies the river fortress of Paris and awaits the savage host. Neither he nor the Vikings realize that this will be young Paris’s most brutal siege and of incredibly fateful importance.

Available in Kindle format – 1007 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Note: Although this novel was found on Amazon.com’s “gay historical fiction” list, it is not a GLBT story. I don’t believe this is in any way the fault of the author, it is nontheless sloppy shopkeeping on the part of Amazon, and misleading as well.

Author Vaughan Heppner has chosen a most interesting period in history as the setting for his novel, “The Great Pagan Army” [Amazon Digital Services, 2010]. Beginning in the 830s AD, the Vikings did indeed exploit internal divisions within Charlemagne’s empire, and several times attacked Paris—the last taking place during 885 – 886 AD.

The main chronicle of this siege is the “Bella Parisiacæ Urbis” (“Wars of the City of Paris”), the eye-witness account by Abbo Cernuus, (“the Crooked”), poet of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. Heppner refers to this account in his Historical Notes, and so the events of this occupation are as accurate as Cernuus made them.[1]

At the opening of the story we get to meet Peter the Monk, a bookish fellow devoid of any knowledge or understanding of life beyond the cloister, and charmingly naïve because of it. It is for this reason we are ready to forgive him the fact that he is on his way to rob the Abbot—to pay off a blackmailer (Lupus) armed with knowledge that, in a moment of weakness, Peter gained carnal knowledge of swine herder’s daughter (Willelda). However, his scheme is rudely interrupted when a gang of marauding Northmen attacks the Abbot’s house and Peter is captured.

One of the attackers, Hemming, the son of the brutish Norse leader, Ivor Hammerhand, is roughly Peter’s age and comparatively naïve as well, and so it is a clever bit of business to cast these two similar but different neophytes on a parallel plane.

After witnessing the destruction of the abbey, and the slaughter of his fellow monks, Peter makes a penitential vow to the Abbot that he will find another holy relic (for which the abbey was known) and replace the abbey, itself. He then manages to escape, and when he finds that Willelda  has been captured by the Vikings, he and Lupus set out for Rome—and, coincidentally (on Peter’s part), to rescue Willelda.

Meanwhile, after witnessing the slaughter of his fellows, Hemming is captured—along with his father—by a vengeful group of Berserkers. And when his father is brutally murdered, Hemming sets out on a journey of destiny—a journey inspired by the revenge of his father’s death.

We next get to meet Odo, Count of Paris and later (888-898) king of West Franca. Once again there is a similarity between the Count and Peter inasmuch as the Count is in love with a woman, Judith, the illegitimate daughter of a bishop, but since she has been sent to a convent, Odo cannot openly marry her without alienating the powerful Bishop of Paris.

These two therefore team up to obtain a rare treatise on war, De Re Militari, written by Flavius Vegetius (390 AD). Odo is convinced that with this knowledge he can defend Paris against ‘The Great Pagan Army,’ and perhaps win Judith. For his part Peter agrees to copy the book if the Count will aid in the rescue of Willelda.

And finally we meet the woman Judith, a headstrong girl who is forced to use her wits and guile to circumvent the highly patriarchal society that prevails all around her.

***

As I have already mentioned, this is an interesting period of history that has not been exploited in the past. Pity, for it is full to the brim with the sort of politics and power-plays that make intriguing reading, so I was delighted to see that the author had captured the essence of this very well.

I also thought the characters were well developed, particularly in distinguishing between the classes. Peter was to Lupus what Odo was to Peter, and yet they needed one another in a practical way. The same might be said of Hemming and the Beserks, for Hemming was one step above the others on the evolutionary scale.

There are also some great battle scenes, featuring both period weapons and tactics, and the author has done a fine job of bringing these to life with the written word.

Historically, I think it is as accurate as it could be—although some medieval scholar might challenge me on that. I suppose one could quibble the fact that Count Odo’s wife, Théodrate of Troyes, was not the illegitimate daughter of a bishop, but to me such is part of an author’s license.

However, at times I thought the author stretched my credibility factor a bit beyond limits—Peter and Lupus’ finding the bones in Rome, for example. My biggest quibble, however, was with the lack-luster ending. After all the great battle scenes and individual combat, I thought the ending—however historically accurate—was less than heroic. Nonetheless, I can recommend this story for those who enjoy well-written historical action. Four Gerry Bees.


[1] Some historians dismiss Cernuus’s account as being a somewhat fanciful version commissioned and written for Count Odo.

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November 20, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, non-GLBT, Uncategorized | 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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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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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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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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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?
***
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

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.

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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.

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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

The Wishing Cup, by JM Gryffyn

Romance among the dunes!

Orphaned as a boy and brought up by the crusty, disapproving Edward Collins, Dr. David Jameson may not know much about love, but he makes up for it with an encyclopedic knowledge of Egyptian history and language. Too bad his job as linguist for a team excavating in the Valley of the Kings puts him right under Edward’s nose. When the discovery of a rare artifact leads to a disagreement between guardian and ward, Jeremiah McKee, the team’s American benefactor, sends no-nonsense Jake Tanner to protect his investment.

David’s disappointment at not meeting McKee fades quickly in the heat of his intense desire for Tanner, who seems to be the only member of the team to give credence to his ideas. Push comes to shove when Edward discovers the burgeoning romance between David and Jake, but not everything is as it seems. Will David and Jake find more in Egypt than sand and strife? Something that, like the pyramids at Giza, will stand the test of time?

Front cover designby Mara McKennen

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although not particularly original, The Wishing Cup, by JM Gryffyn is a charming tale set in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt; a romantic setting for a romantic novella. In this respect, it parallels the exploits of Howard Carter and his monumental discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, and I also recognized several almost direct extracts from Carter’s journal.  However, as the author has been careful to point out (correctly so), this is not intended to be accurate history, i.e., in the words of the author: “An astute reader of this novella will quickly recognize that facts about pharaohs, queens and expeditions (among other things) in The Valley of The Kings were wilfully and  knowingly manipulated.” Fair enough.

The story is told using a combination of first-person journal entries by the ingénue, Dr. David Jameson, and third-person narratives. As the story opens the expeditions has just made a discovery of a wishing cup (along with other funery items) in the tomb of Pharaoh Sherentah, but the cup bears the markings of his wife, Queen Sif-re. This cup, and certain cartouches  bearing her name, lead David to speculate that the tomb may be that of Sif-re; a theory that is contrary to popular wisdom of the day that there are no queens buried in the Valley of the Kings. It also makes him the butt of derision by his guardian and the other authorities who make up the expedition.

The expedition is being financed by a wealthy American recluse by the name of Jeremiah McKee—a sort of Lord Carnarvon—and when the sealed entranceway to a tomb is discovered he is sent for to be present at the opening. Instead, an emissary named Jake Tanner arrives in his place.

Disappointment abounds, including that of David’s, but as time goes by he develops a fascination and eventually a desire for this rugged American. The others in the expedition are not so keen, however, for Jake Tanner is not easily brushed aside, and he quickly proves to be the equal of Edward Collins. Things come to a head between Tanner and Collins when Collins discovers David kissing Jake, and David ends up with a black eye on account of it.

The stage is therefore set for a showdown and a happy resolution, but I’ll leave the readers to discover how.

The writing is well executed throughout, and the storymoves along at a steady but comfortable pace. The plot is simple but interesting, and there is a mild level of tension—especially regarding the opening of the tomb. However, I found the relationship between Jake Tanner and Jeremiah Mckee a bit hokey. Also the ending, although gratifying, was somewhat predictable. However, these reservations did  not overshadow what was a nice, feel-good story. I love a romance! Four stars.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 11,168

 Two Irish Lads is currently being considered for a motion picture version. Preliminary discussions are set for this month.

Two Irish Lads is a pioneer story with a difference.

It is at once a carefully-researched depiction of pioneer life in the early part of the nineteenth century, and also a love story of two men who might have lived during such a challenging time.

Sean and Patrick McConaghy are two young cousins who set sail from Ireland one St. Patrick’s Day in 1820, and after a long and eventful crossing of the Atlantic, they tackle the mighty St. Lawrence River with a band of rugged voyageurs to eventually settle in the wilderness of Upper Canada.

Here they are not only confronted by the daunting task of carving a homestead out of the vast primeval forest, but also the ever-present danger of living as a devoted couple in a world where the possibility of humiliation and death stalked them at every turn if their secret should ever be discovered.

It is a tale that also encompasses mystery, tragedy, brawling, humour and pathos, and altogether it will have you turning pages to discover what is about to happen next.

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Soldier of Raetia: Valerian’s Legion, by Heather Domin

This stoy builds gradually like an orgasm, and climaxes nicely too

 

 

Rome, 10BC. New soldier Manilus Dardanus is sent to apprentice under General Cassius Valerian in the hope of securing a military sponsorship. Dardanus is idealistic and naive, Valerian brusque and restrained – but each soon discovers the other is not what he expected. In the legion Dardanus finds purpose and strength; in Dardanus, Valerian finds hope. This bond will be tested on the northern frontier, as Valerian and Dardanus each realize the true nature of their connection just as war and betrayal threaten to end it – and possibly their lives.

Available in soft cover & Kindle formats (542KB)

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although my specialty is Canadian history, I have a great appreciation for all history, and I certainly bow to Heather Domin’s knowledge of Augustinian Rome, as demonstrated in “The Soldier of Raetia: Valerian’s Legion.

I also like her writing style. She provides just the right amount of description to make both characters and settings vivid without slowing the pace. The characters are also well developed and distinctive although I did find Elurius and Pertinax somewhat similar in nature. This applies to their respective relationships with Dardanus and Valerian, as well. The author has also made very good use of dialogue (very credible), without being contrived.  What I liked most, however, was that the story builds to a climax gradually—like an orgasm—and the climax was gratifying.

The synopsis of the story is that young Manilus Dardanus has come to Rome at his father’s insisstance. The father has arranged an introduction to the wealthy and illustrious general Marcus Cassius Valerian, who commands Augustus Caesar’s twenty-fourth legion. Crusty General Valerian is hardened by battle and tragedies of the past, and at first assumes that Dardanus is like the other sons of sycophants who have sought his favour—i.e. with the idea of an adoption in mind. Despite these reservations, valerian gives him a place within his household and arranges for him to be trained as a soldier. Theirs is an awkward relationship, but in spite of this they both undergo significant changes; Valarian re-discovers deeply buried emotions within himself, and Dardanus grows from a callow boy to a self-sufficient man. He also discovers friendships bonded from hard work and the heat of battle, as well as loyalty asa soldier and for his idol, Valerian.

Having said all that, I had some minor reservations. I certainly bow to Ms Domin’s knowledge of Roman history, but did they travel in carriages (I mean the four-wheel variety) is 10BC Rome? I don’t know, but it seemed at little ‘modern’ to me. Their were some other anachronisms aswell, For example, the phrases “working his ass off,” and “Cut them off at the pass,” also seem a bit modern. However, these certainly didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.

Highly recommended. Four and one-half stars.

News: Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews is currently 10,656

The rewrites of Nor All Thy Tears are progressing:137/191. To read an excerpt, click here.

A bittersweet story of love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Sky, Saskatchewan.

(Soon to released as Nor All Thy Tears, July, 2011)

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 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 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 headling-grabbing proportions. 

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | Leave a comment

Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2, by W.A. Hoffman

An inriguing era, colourful setting and endearing characters. Enthusiastically recommended.

 

 

 

 Story Blurb: Buccaneer adventure/romance. The second of a series chronicling the relationship between an emotionally wounded and disenchanted English lord and an insane and lonely French exile, set among the buccaneers of Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1667.

Publisher’s blurb: Part two of an epic four part “love story for men” set amongst the buccaneers of Port Royal during the infamous Henry Morgan raids. It is the story of the relationship between two lonely and scarred men as they attempt to find happiness and peace through love and friendship. With adventure and romance, this chronicle explores questions and themes of gender, sexual preference, societal acceptance of homosexuality, survival of childhood abuse, and how to build a lasting relationship in a world gone mad.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have been watching the Raised by Wolves series for quite a while, Matelots: Raised By Wolves, Volume 2 [Alien Perspective, 2007] by W.A. Hoffman is the first that I have read. To begin, I like the swashbuckling genre of buccaneers and pirates, and the romantic setting of the 17th-century Caribbean. Moreover, the author has done a fine job of describing both of these in colourful detail so that the reader becomes immersed in the story—the way a good historical-fiction should do.

And for those who enjoy character-driven tales, Will and Gaston’s are both engaging. Will is a romantic who lives and loves to the fullest. He’s also a keen observer of humanity, and seeks to understand the complexities of human nature, particularly when it comes to Gaston, who is the victim of a damaging past. In Gaston’s case it is not an easy quest, for he also suffers from a kind of madness that has been with him from birth.

It is here, however that the story suffers a debilitating set back. Will’s deeply held convictions regarding the human condition seem strangely anachronistic for 17th-century European thinking. After all, Europe was an exporter of human misery in the 17th-century, especially to the Caribbean. Moreover, as a previous reviewer has already pointed out, Gaston’s medical expertise seems anachronistically modern as well.

That said, Will and Gaston are still delightful characters, and perhaps even more endearing because of their very human foibles. Wills’ first person narrative also contributes to this, and adds some charming elements—such as saving a supporting character from being pressed only to find out that he doesn’t like him very well.

The secondary cast are all well-developed and interesting, too. The difficulty with introducing a large number of supporting characters is the risk of cluttering the story line, but here Hoffman has managed them all quite well, and made them all distinct as well.

An intriguing era, colourful setting and endearing characters, and altogether an enjoyable read. Enthusiastically recommended. Four stars.

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Mere Mortals, by Erastes

This is perhaps Erastes best effort yet

 

 

 

Orphaned Crispin Thorne has been taken as ward by Philip Smallwood, a man he’s never met, and is transplanted from his private school to Smallwood s house on an island on the beautiful but coldly remote, Horsey Mere in Norfolk. Upon his arrival, he finds that he’s not the only young man given a fresh start. Myles Graham, and Jude Middleton are there before him, and as their benefactor is away, they soon form alliances and friendships, as they speculate on why they ve been given this new life. Who is Philip Smallwood? Why has he given them such a fabulous new life? What secrets does the house hold and what is it that the Doctor seems to know? Trust acclaimed author Erastes to tell a moving story in the field of gay historical romance.

About the author: Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in the area where this book is based. Author of seven books and twenty short stories, this is her third full-length novel. A Lambda award finalist and keen lover of history, she began writing full-time after leaving the legal profession finding it stranger than any fiction. 

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

When it comes to man-on-man, historical romance and adventure, the name Erastes invariably comes to the fore, and her latest creation, Mere Mortals [Lethe Press, March 23, 2011] is perhaps her best effort yet. It is in my mind, anyhow, and I’ve read and reviewed many of her novels and short stories in the past.

The first thing one notices about this novel is the subtlety with which the story unfolds, and the leisurely, measured pace that is so in keeping with a nineteenth-century theme. For example, the story opens with a coach ride through the countryside setting, and with this clever device the reader is invited aboard to see it for him/herself, i.e:

“There was nothing here to write about, or so it seemed. After so many years spent at school in the well manicured quadrangle and playing fields of Barton Hall, this new landscape seemed empty, untidy and bleak. A light mist covered the land as far as the horizon, little more than a thin vapour, but it was enough to drain all colour from the scene passing by the carriage window. I gave a wry smile. Colour that mainly consists of bleached dead reeds, brown ditches and brown muddy pools

“Since leaving Yarmouth the coach had travelled slowly north, following the coast road, such as it was. The coachman had warned us passengers that the roads were bad at this time of the year and he wasn’t wrong; more than once the three of us – for that’s all there was, travelling in the filthy weather – had to alight, braving the vicious biting wind to assist the coach out of one of the larger ruts we encountered. Even inside the coach with the curtains drawn, the wind sliced its way through any small gaps in the woodwork.”

Ergo, in one deft stroke the author sets the tone, the pace, the theme, as well as introducing the narrator and some of the characters. This is writing at a very high level of the craft—almost a textbook example—and it is why Erastes has earned the respect she enjoys.

Mere Mortals is very much a Gothic story with the requisite manor located on a bleak mere, secret passageways, sphinx like servants, and a handsome but mysterious master. All of them playing their parts delightfully, as do the three boys. There is tension, too; plenty of it. Tension that is velvet-wrapped in mystery. It permeates the atmosphere but never becomes blatant or oppressive until it surfaces near the end; when the secret of Bittern’s Reach is revealed.

If you are a fan of M/M romance, historical fiction or Gothic tales, all superbly written, then Mere Mortals is bound to please on all counts.

Be an alpha reader: Read an excerpt from my in-progress novel, The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia, an M/M light comedy and adventure tale, and add your comments at the bottom of this page, or email them to me at: gerryb@gerryburniebooks.com.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 1 Comment

Two Irish Lads , by Gerry Burnie

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

 

 

two irish lads - final - medStory blurb: Two Irish Lads is a pioneer story with a difference. It is at once a carefully-researched depiction of pioneer life in the early part of the nineteenth century, and also a love story of two men who might have lived during such a challenging time.

Sean and Patrick McConaghy are two young cousins who set sail from Ireland one St. Patrick’s Day in 1820, and after a long and eventful crossing of the Atlantic, they tackle the mighty St. Lawrence River with a band of rugged voyageurs to eventually settle in the wilderness of Upper Canada.

Here they are not only confronted by the daunting task of carving a homestead out of the vast primeval forest, but also the ever-present danger of living as a devoted couple in a world where the possibilities of humiliation and death stalked them at every turn if their secret should ever be discovered.

It is a tale that also encompasses mystery, tragedy, brawling, humour and pathos, and altogether it will have you turning pages to discover what is about to happen next.

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

♣♣♣

Review by Mark Probst – Author of “The Filly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♣♣♣

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

                

 

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

Pioneers, by Lynn Lorenz

An insightful and altogether touching story

 

 

 

Story Blurb: When Matt films a documentary of gay men living in New Orleans over the last fifty years, his first subject is none other than Sebastian LaGrange, his very own landlord. The elderly gentleman has lived through good times and bad, has seen and done it all, and Matt thinks he’s perfect for the project. Although Sebastian is initially reluctant, he comes to believe in the project, and opens up his life like never before, telling his story from the first time he kissed a boy, to the present.

What Matt uncovers is not only a history of being gay in their beloved city, but he unravels the mysterious past of one of New Orleans’ most desired gay men. Sebastian has been a friend and mentor to Matt and his partner Lane, and even in his old age, Sebastian has even more to teach them about love…

Available in Kindle format, 136KB

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

There are a whole bunch of good things that can be said about “Pioneers” by Lynn Lorenz [Amber Quill Press, 2010]. To begin, it is superbly written. The syntax flows flawlessly, the characters are well developed, and the pace keeps the story moving along at a comfortable pace. All important pluses in my opinion.

I also found the era in which the story is set—i.e. the 1940s & 50s—a wonderfully nostalgic bonus. As the chief supporting character, Sebastian, says: “It was the fifties, lamb chop. One didn’t come out of the closet, one tiptoed out.” And, later, Matt observes: “That’s what I want to show with this film, baby. I want the young gay men of today to understand what the older gays lived through, how they survived. Or didn’t.” Having come out during the same era, I can readily identify with both of these sentiments.

Another appealing aspect is that the story deals with romance between older men; a somewhat unique topic for most writers of male-on-male fiction. In fact, the only other series that comes to mind is Ronald L. Donaghe’s Common Threads in the Life Series.

I do have a few minor quibbles, though. Although I understand the author’s intention to add dimensional depth to the characters, I found the switching of voices and times to be a little distracting. I also found the flashback scenes between Sebastian and his dead lover Frank, although a relevant to discuss the onset of AIDS in the 1970s, just a bit too lengthy and even saccharin at times.

I hasten to add, however, that these few, minor quibbles do not substantially detract from an insightful and altogether touching story.

Enthusiastically recommended. Four and on-half stars.

 

Be an alpha reader: Read an excerpt from my in-progress novel, The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia, an M/M light comedy and adventure tale, and add your comments at the bottom of this page, or email them to me at: gerryb@gerryburniebooks.com.

We’re growing! Gerry B’s Book Reviews has reached another threshold of readership. As of this week we passed the 8,000 mark from a year ago, and nearly 1,200 more than last month. Thanks folks!

March 5, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Achilles: A love story, by Byrne Fone

Of gods and humans, highly recommended

 

 

Story blurb: The story of the war at Troy, as Homer wrote it in the Iliad and as I re-imagine it in Achilles: A Love Story tells of a violent clash of cultures that remains for us even now a dreadful exemplar of the horrors of war and the folly of those who engage in it. But as the ancients all knew, the story of the war at Troy was also a tale of love between men-of the devotion of Achilles, unrivalled hero, terrible warrior, and so it is said in legend, the most beautiful man in the world, to another great warrior, the handsome Patroclus. Their names resound in the catalogue both of heroes and of lovers; their story remains one of the greatest, most emblematic, and earliest gay love stories ever told. In the Iliad Homer also tantalizingly hints at another love story, the love of Antilochus, son of King Nestor and Prince of Pylos, for Achilles. In Achilles: A Love Story I tell the story of Antilochus and Achilles through Antilochus’ point of view and in his first person voice, fleshing out what Homer only hints at and inventing what he does not, as it plays out against the background of the last year of the Trojan war. Achilles: A Love Story creates the story of Antilochus and Achilles, and one both epic and tragic, that has been told, so far as I know by no other writer.

About the author: In the 1970s Byrne Fone, PhD, began working in the new field of Gay Studies. At the City University of New York he introduced one of the earliest university courses in the field, in which he is a recognized pioneer, in the United States, and later taught Gay Studies at the University of Paris and at the CUNY Graduate School. His work in the field includes the largest and most comprehensive anthology of gay literature, The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, as well as a study of early English and American gay literary history in A Road to Stonewall: Homosexuality and Homophobia in British and American Literature (Scribners). His book on Walt Whitman, Masculine Landscapes: Walt Whitman and the Homoerotic Text (S. Illinois University Press), explores both the poet’s homosexuality and how it is manifest in his poetry. His most recent study in the field is Homophobia: A History ( Holt and Picador) which examines the history of homophobia over a period covering almost two millennia. In addition to this scholarship, Fone’s interest in architectural history led him to write Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait, which is the first full-length history of the City of Hudson.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

I greatly enjoy the romantic stories of legendary Greek heroes, especially if they do not shy away or gloss over the practice of pederastric love between men. Supported by both historical fact and legend, the reality is that such liaisons were encouraged as a means of schooling younger men (the “eromenos”), and bonding warriors together; first in bed and then on the battlefield—for example, The Sacred Band of Thebes. To his credit, Byrne Fone does not shy away from this topic. In fact, “Achilles: A love story” [CreateSpace, 2010] is an unapologetic celebration of male love and valour.

The story follows Homer’s poetic version of ‘The Fall of Troy’ (the Illiad), but for the semblance of detail Fone has created a fictional chronicler, Dionysos of Tenedos. It is a clever device that effectively fills-in the gaps in Homer’s overview.

Another clever device is his decision to narrate the story in the first-person voice of Antilochus, son of King Nestor of Pylos [See the excavation of his palace at right]. In Homer’s Illiad Antilochus has the unenviable task of informing Achilles of Patroclus’ death, and after his death Antilochus was the closest to Achilles. “Indeed,” as Fone notes, “the reliance becomes more intimate, for Homer says that Antilochus’ ashes were interred in the great tomb on the Trojan Shore along with those of Achilles and Patroclus. Thereafter, as Homer notes in the Odyssey, the three friends are reunited in the underworld and walk together in the eternal fields.”

Quite apart from Homer’s ageless epic, however, Professor Fone has done a masterful job of fleshing out his characters in all their heroic proportions, as well as their human weaknesses. Agememnon, for example, has been lionized as a king among kings for centuries, and yet his character is far more believable as the self-promoting, glory-seeker by which Fone has depicted him.

Similarly, the legendary Achilles may have been physically invulnerable—except for his ‘Achilles’ heel’—but emotionally he is described as being quite prone to petulance, uncontrollable rages and fathomless love. In other words he is only half divine, as Fone has realistically made him out to be.

So, if you are a devotee of history, fiction, romance, and a darned good read, I highly recommend “Achilles: A love story” as the fulfilment of them all. Five stars.

Thanks to you, Gerry B’s Book Reviews has welcomed it’s 6000th visitor–a full 1000 more than December. Thanks for your interest!

January 9, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | 2 Comments

Sam’s Hill, by Jack Ricardo

Mr. Ricardo has a flair for historical fiction, but…

 

 

 

Story Blurb: A young man coming to grips with his homosexuality during the latter half of the 19th century, through four years of The Civil War, the Indian Wars with General Custer’s 7th Cavalry, into the rough and tumble town of Cheyenne and up into the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory.

*Available in Kindle format, 382KB

 

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

A revisiting of the American Civil War is not a new theme, nor is gay, Union and Confederate soldiers, but “Sam’s Hill” by Jack Ricardo [Amazon Digital Services, 2010] contains some of the best, graphic descriptions of battlefield action I have ever read; the carnage, the confusion, the fear and the impersonal killing are all there in almost tangible detail.

The plot—at least for the first half of the story—is equally well conceived with some quite unexpected twists.

Sam Cordis is a young Union volunteer from New Jersey; green, innocent, seeking to become his “own man” and heading west when the war is over, “…a mere two or three months, he was sure.”

After a taste of war, and the reality of it, i.e.

“The order came. “Tear Cartridges.”

“Sam did exactly that. He poured powder into the barrel of his musket, dropped a metal ball inside, stuffed the ramrod down to push the ball into position, and carefully placed a cap under the hammer.

“When he heard the first shot, the taut skin of his neck strangled his throat, his heart stopped. The woods began bleeding with an indistinct jumble of men in gray yelling ferociously, shooting indiscriminately. Sam wanted to run for cover. There was none. And there was no interference when he lifted his musket.

“He stayed his mind, focussed his eyes, spied his target. He couldn’t see the Rebel clearly. He didn’t know if he was young or old, an officer or a volunteer. He was merely a target. Sam aimed the weapon with ease, as if marking a jackrabbit on the banks of New Jersey’s Rampo River. He pressed the trigger and squeezed as his older brother taught, gently, caressing the tender skin of a newborn calf. The report of the musket was lost in the din.

“Sam didn’t wait to see if the ball hit its mark. He followed the example of the others, crossing the former path, running wide, stumbling, turning, reloading, firing again, this time with haste. As hastily as the enemy fired at him.”

Under such perilous circumstances men frequently bond out of necessity, and the mores of a conventional society are either relaxed or shirked in favour of a new reality. So it was with Sam and his young companion, Davie, when a tender friendship gradually blossomed into love, like a flower amidst the ruin. Just as quickly, however, it was snuffed by a sniper’s bullet, but not before Sam had discovered a love that would not be denied.

As the war dragged on Sam found himself in Savannah, Georgia, with Sherman’s army, and during a lull in the hostilities he is drawn to the docks in search of male companionship. It is a mixture of intrigue and inert desire until he encounters an older man who almost succeeds in fanning his smouldering desire into a flame. However, in an unexpected twist, he is mugged and then rescued aboard a gunboat where the stranger is first mate. Romance nearly blossoms there as well, but when the gunboat is attacked Sam is thrown overboard during the mêlée. Miraculously he is washed ashore on the coast of Florida, and making his way inland he encounters a regiment of Black, Union soldiers, who are themselves captured by Confederate forces.

A forced march then proceeds to a POW camp somewhere in South Georgia—a non-regulation compound where corruption and cruelty prevail. A “King Rat” type-of-character also rules, and he sets his sights on seducing Sam. On the other hand, Sam befriends a badly wounded youth who would otherwise die. These are the characters that will play a significant role later in the story, but for now they are certainly interesting enough.

When peace if declared Sam and the now rehabilitated youth start for their respective homes in the north, where Sam’s several family members await, but first there is another character to be met; an Indian brave named Kehoe.

To this point I would have no hesitation in giving this story a five-star rating. The journalism is first rate, the characters are interesting and credible, the action is breathtaking, and the pace compelling.

Regretfully, the second half of the story begins to bog down under the burden of characters that, in their numbers and complexities, nearly overwhelm the reader. Likewise, to accommodate each of their parts, the story looses its linearity to twist and coil around the various subplots.

There is no question that Mr. Ricardo has a flare for historical fiction, but sometimes less is more. Four stars.

Happy New Year! Thanks to you, Gerry B’s Book Reviews has reached nearly 6,000 visitors, up almost 1,000 from last month. I am humbled by your interest.

Gerry B.

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | 2 Comments

Missouri, by Christine Wunnicke (translated from the German by David Miller)

A wonderfully zany and offbeat tale set in the American Midwest.

 

 

 

 

Story blurb: Written in the language of the period, this vivid and utterly transfixing love story between two men is set in the nineteenth-century American Midwest. Douglas Fortescue is a successful poet in England who flees the country for America following an Oscar Wilde-like scandal insinuating sexual impropriety; Joshua Jenkyns is a feral young outlaw who was taught how to shoot a man at age six, and who, against the wishes of his father, teaches himself how to read, a skill that then unleashes a world of possibility beyond that which he knows. The two men meet when Joshua robs Douglas’s carriage and takes him hostage; soon, a remarkable secret is revealed, and these two very different men grow closer, even as Douglas’s brother tries to “save” him from his uncivilized surroundings.

Missouri was first published in Germany to wide acclaim. Now available in English for the first time, Missouri is destined to become a gay men’s camp classic for its earnest, romantic reinterpretation of a time and place in American history traditionally closed off to gay readers.

Review by Gerry Burnie

 Missouri by Christine Wunnicke [Arsenal Pulp Press; Tra edition, 2010] is a story that either pleases or displeases; there is very little middle ground shown by its critics to date. Therefore, I will have to say that I liked it. I found it wonderfully zany; offbeat; and unlike any other gay, American Western tale I have every encountered.

Douglas Fortesque is an ambitious court clerk in northern England, and not just a little bit of a con man. He therefore lets his hair down (literally), dyes it black, starves himself until he has that gaunt, poet-like appearance, and pens utter gibberish to the wild acclaim of an effete London literary society. Indeed, the more outlandish he becomes the more acclaim he receives from a pretentious, gullible public.

Eventually tiring of this masquerade he retires to the country, but legitimacy only makes him less interesting and also vulnerable to his critics, and in a thinly veiled allusion to Oscar Wilde’s persecution he escapes to the United States where his brother wishes to buy property.

Meanwhile, Joshua Jenkyns, the young, slightly psychotic half-breed offspring of a notorious American outlaw is terrorizing the Midwest, learning how to read and becoming enamoured by the disjointed words of one, Douglas Fortescue. In a bizarre turn of events, therefore, these two unlikely characters cross paths and Fortescue is hurried away on horseback to become Jenkyns’ coddled hostage.

Thus begins a process of assimilation whereby Fortescue is stripped of his pretentions, and Jenkyns of his savagery, until they meet in an ethereal love-making scene that is beautifully understated by the author. Any other approach—graphic for example—would have cheapened it.

One of the criticisms that has been leveled at this novella is that it is too short (134 pages) to develop a complex story of this nature; and I agree that it could have been longer. However, in those 134 pages Wunnicke has developed two very unforgettable characters, a unique love story set against a stark, primeval wilderness, and an outcome that is totally unpredictable.

Highly recommended. Five stars.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The City of Lovely Brothers, by Anel Viz

A cleverly conceived family saga

 

 

 

Story blurb: “The City of Lovely Brothers” is a family saga, the history of Caladelphia Ranch, jointly owned by four brothers, Calvin, Caleb, Calhoun and Caliban Caldwell – how it grew and prospered, and how rivalry between the brothers led to its breaking up and decline. As the story evolves, it focuses on the love affair between the youngest brother, Caliban, who is lame, and Nick, one of their ranch hands, and how their relationship set the stage for the already open feud to explode and ultimately caused the demise of the ranch.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

I enjoy this type of family saga; especially if it involves interesting, colourful characters. In this regard, The City of Lovely Brothersby Anel Viz [Silver Publishing, November 2010] has a full cast of them.

The author’s approach is to conjure up a fictional city, “Caladelphia,” Montana, as though it actually existed. Moreover, by referring to its street maps, city limits and equally fictional landmarks—i.e. “Hokey Hill Mall,” he does a very convincing job of it, as well. It is also a clever way of introducing the Caldwell family, their history, and the four disparate brothers—Calvin, Caleb, Calhoun and Caliban. There is also a sister, Callie, who plays a supporting role to the others.

Calvin, the oldest of the siblings, is a stern, humourless man who assumes the role of head of the Caldwell clan after both parents die. He fills this role quite well, too, and apart from being somewhat dictatorial he is a good manager; expanding the ranch until it is one of the largest outfit in the territory.

Caleb is the next oldest, boisterous and a hard drinker—which ultimately contributes to his destruction.

Calhoun is a strong personality in his own right. It is inevitable, therefore, that these two should clash in an extreme case of sibling rivalry; especially when Calvin undertakes to severely discipline him for impregnating a servant girl.

Finally, Caliban is the baby of family blessed with good looks that are almost “Too pretty to be a man.” Moreover his good nature matches his looks, such that “No one could resist his laughing eyes and kind smile.”

Part II of the story then goes on to trace the rising fortunes of the Caldwell ranch, later named Caladelphia—meaning “The City of the Cal Brothers.” But the Greek translation could also mean “pretty” or “lovely” brothers. Ergo, the title.

Along the way a number of events transpire that are meaningful to the story. Needing a woman keep house, Calvin sets out on a quest to find a wife, and returns with one; a quite realistic touch, for it was often done that way without undue wonderment on anyone’s part.

Secondly, Calvin administers a humiliating whipping on his fifteen-year-old brother, Calhoun, for impregnating a servant girl; causing a lifetime rift between the two. And, thirdly, Caliban is thrown from a horse; sustaining a hip fracture that is poorly treated by the local doctor. This necessitates a trip to the populated community of Billings, Montana, where he is properly treated but requires several months convalescence. The time is well spent, however, because he advances his education through reading; such that he becomes reasonably well read. His brother Caleb comes to Billings to escort Caliban home, and also to further his sex education—although nothing physical transpires between them.

All of this is artfully woven together and advances the story at a pace that keeps the reader’s interest moving along. This pace continues as Caliban, concerned about how he might support himself when his hip gives out, decides to become a teacher. This necessitates a two-year absence from the ranch, and while in Laramie he is approached at least once by a man who is drawn to his beauty. However, Caliban rebuffs him.

While he is away Caleb decides to marry, and Caliban decides to ask one of his stable hands, Nick, to share his remote Cabin. Their friendship had been growing quite close, and since they were both single it seemed like a practical thing to do. Calvin objects on the basis that Caliban would be fraternizing with an employee, but Calvin is overruled by his wife, Darcie. On his return, therefore, Caliban and Nick discover that they share more than just a cabin, and for the first time Caliban is in love.

In Part III, Caliban and Nick are now a couple; albeit covertly, and the author has cleverly introduced a fictional diary that Nick has been maintaining since childhood. This gives their love story a certain aura of authenticity, and through their eyes we see the relationship between the other brothers deteriorating—particularly between Calhoun and Calvin. This situation is exacerbated as Calvin begins to subdivide the home-section of the ranch into a village-type development—which Calhoun criticizes as taking away from the ranch. In short, there is no middle ground for these two characters, and thereby the seeds of destruction of Caladelphia as a ranch are sown.

There is much that can be favourably said about this story. It is cleverly conceived; it is well written; and the first and second parts move along quite nicely. However, in the third part the pace is burdened by superfluous detail that doesn’t seem to add anything to the story. Moreover it is frequently repetitious, giving the impression that the author has lost control of the narrative.

Apart from these reservations, it remains a good read and is recommended on that basis. Three-and-one-half stars.

 

 Here is the cover for my ‘in-progress’ novel, “The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia“. Click on Image to read an excerpt.

 

 

 

 

December 4, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Traditional Western | Leave a comment

Fortunes of War, by Mel Keegan

A superbly written, intriguing and captivating story that will have you turning pages

 

 

 

Story blurb: In 1588 a young mercenary and the son of an English earl meet by a quirk of fate. Dermot Channon is a soldier, while Robin Armagh has been sheltered on his father’s estate. Love blossoms fast while war looms on the horizon. Under the thundercloud of armed conflict, Channon leaves England and the Spanish Armada sails soon after. Robin despairs of seeing him again, for their countries are locked in an endless struggle. Years fly by, and in 1595, when Robin’s brother is taken for ransom in Panama, the dangerous duty of delivering the price of his life and liberty falls to Robin. He sails with the historical ‘1595 Fleet,’ commanded by Francis Drake, hoping to bring home his brother. But Fortune has other plans for Robin and Channon. Ahead of them is an epic adventure in hazardous waters where old enmities, Spanish and English, shape their future together — and try to drive them apart.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

I love a plot-driven story, especially if the plot is as meaty as “Fortunes of War,” by Mel Keegan [Dreamcraft, 2005]: the intrigue-ridden court of Elizabeth I, war and rumours of war, likable lovers and pirates. It has them all.

The story is written in two parts; the first part being an introduction, and here Keegan has done a masterful job of introducing the main characters while capturing the conspiratorial nature of the Elizabethan court. The two main characters, Robin and Dermot, are ably supported by a cast of interesting personalities—the cold-hearted Earl of Blackstead (Robin’s father), the aging Spanish ambassador and Dermot’s uncle, and the villainous Earl of Bothwell, to name a few.

The underlying conspiracies are interesting, as well; Catholics against Protestants, England against Spain, and foe against foe, all cleverly woven into the fabric of the story.

Five stars for the first part, therefore.

However the second part starts out rather slowly, almost cumbersome in spots, and for a brief while the story looses its momentum. Another minor drawback in second part is with the characters—Guillaume in particular—who come across as rather stereotypical. These are not major blemishes, but they are enough to detract from what would otherwise be a five-star achievement.

 Nevertheless this is a superbly written, intriguing and captivating story that will have you turning pages to discover what will happen next.

 

Progress report: Coming of Age on the Trail is still in the hands of the editor. In the meantime I have made a start of The Brit, The Cupid, and Petunia. Click here to read an excerpt.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Last Good War, by Charles J. Brauner

A solid read, and a fascinating twist on history

 

 

 

Book blurb: The Japanese Rape of Nanking and her sneak attack on Pearl Harbor along with Nazi Germany’s villainous use of the gas ovens gave the World War Two Allies a moral justification seldom found in warfare. Yet the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have cloaked the last days of the Pacific war in endless controversy ever since. Was Japan so badly battered by August 1945 that she would have surrendered anyway? Why didn’t America explode one on a nearby deserted island and let the enemy surrender without such horrific loss of life? The Last Good War addresses these issues in a vivid and violent re-enactment of the final months of conflict.

Soon after Pearl Harbor two mature fifteen year old Canadian cousins enlist in the U. S. Navy and become radioman-gunners flying in dive-bombers in the Pacific. As seasoned combat aircrewmen off the U.S. aircraft carrier Brandywine, the two Canadians take part in a 1945 attack on the Japanese naval base across the bay from Hiroshima. The aerial battle reshapes the conduct of the war. As a result Aviation Radioman’s Mate Second Class Carson Braddock and ARM2/c Max Bryson are called upon to help the crew of the Enola Gay on their historic flight to Hiroshima. Soon after, two young Japanese sailors confront Carson and Max in combat. With great courage and ingenuity Gunner’s Mate Takijiru Sugihara and Bosun Chikonori Kaijitsu provide their country with a fresh opportunity to redress the balance of military power. A major moral decision must be made. The outcome of the war is in doubt. Indeed, Carson and Max face an enemy who is eager and able to use the most cruel weapon in anyone’s hands. And in the struggle that ensues the two cousins discover what veterans world-wide have learned from war over the last half century. What separates warring nations is their beliefs; What unites enemies on the battlefield is their courage.

About the Author: C.J. Brauner was raised in America during the depression. The death of his father in the South West Pacific led him to quit high school to fly in U.S. Navy dive-bombers during WWII. After the war he worked as an installer for N.J. Bell Tell. The G.I. Bill enabled him to earn a B.A. and a teacher’s certificate from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He took his Masters at Columbia Univ. in NYC. In the 1950s he taught English in the Michigan public schools until he received a Fulbright Scholarship to Greece. After his wife’s death at the American Farm School in Salonica he brought his infant daughter back to the U.S. and earned his Doctorate at Stanford U. in California. His early academic career took him to Purdue U., Syracuse U., and Ohio State Univ. For 30 years he was a professor at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada where he resides with his second wife and four grown children.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

If you like solid adventure and raw action that moves at a heart-pounding pace, then The Last Good War by C.J. Brauner [Trafford Publishing; Reprint edition, 2006] is right up your alley. Indeed, within the first few pages one of the protagonists, Carson Braddock, is involved in a good-ole-fashioned punch-up with a brawny Southerner; thus setting the tone for what is to come.

And for these two—including Max Bryson—there was plenty to come, i.e.

“A flurry of one-inch shells rose to meet them and mark their speed and precise direction. Black puffs from three-inch shells blossomed above and below to bracket their altitude. Five-inch shells spiralled up to their flight level for effect. Audible bursts that erupted beneath the wings rocked the blue dive-bombers like angry hands on a cradle.

““Christ,” Max Bryson commented. “They’re throwin’ up enough tonnage to beat our bomb load five to one.”

“And explosion just ahead of Carson’s banking dive-bomber sent the sizzle of hot steel rushing through the propeller arc and along the slipstream. The shredded smoke filled his cockpit with the bitter tang of cordite. Regardless of the hazard and discomfort, however, both Canadian rear-seat gunners concentrated on the final preparations for the dive.

““With gunnery like that,” Carson Braddock observed, “the bastards don’t need the proximity fuse.”

“Suddenly, a Japanese four-inch shell blew the cowling off a Helldiver in the leading flight as it dove into a narrow gorge. The wounded pilot slumped forward and struggled with the controls. The battered dive bomber banked hard as the pilot pulled the plane into a steep stall. Slowly, she flopped over on to her back, dove down, rolled right side up, and fell off into a violent spin. The fatally injured pilot smeared blood all over the inside of his cockpit canopy as he fought to gain control and unload his bombs. The five-hundred-pound bombs spilled away from the plane like pebbles from a wagon wheel. Knifing down, they exploded and the trees as the damaged wingtip began to fold.

“MAY DAY! MAY DAY!” the radio-gunner in the rear seat broadcast. “This crate is coming apart like a peeled banana!”

“In slow motion, a nylon parachute blossomed from the rear seat. Caught in the spin and the churn of the slipstream, the canopy snagged on the tail fin and wrapped the rudder and the elevators in white cloth. Wild centrifugal force tore the hlpless gunner out of the cockpit and spun him around at the end of the shroud lines in a wide and accelerating arc. Shedding cockpit covers and torn wing panels, the doomed plane dropped far into the steep and incredibly narrow valley. As the fliers above watched, the parachute’s long nylon cords whipped the your airman into the face of a cliff just before the plane crashed and exploded. Crushed like a fly on a windscreen, the inert body of Chris Foreman from Gila Bend, Arizona, clung to the sheer granite wall as flames and smoke engulfed it.

““Their luck ran out,” Chief Flannigan declared in a somber voice over the squadron frequency. “Now let’s all get back to work.””

It is this sort of ‘visual’ realism that makes this novel darkly fascinating and compelling to read. One is at once repelled by the violence and bloodshed portrayed, and yet drawn into at the same time; wondering if our young, likeable heroes’ luck can hold out against the odds.

In this regard, all the characters are well developed; however, the introduction of Miss Shirley Hashimoto seemed oddly out-of-place in an otherwise, decidedly male story. I may be a bit biased, as well, but I thought the scenes involving her were somewhat contrived.

Altogether a good solid read, and an interesting twist on history. Four-and-one-half stars.

Progress report on Coming of Age on the Trail. It is now in the hands of the editor. Probable release date, January, 2011.

 

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Lessons In Trust: A Cambridge Fellows Mystery No.7, by Charlie Cochrane

An absolutely must read

 

 

 

Book blurb: When Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith witness the suspicious death of a young man at the White City exhibition in London, they’re keen to investigate—especially after the cause of death proves to be murder. But police Inspector Redknapp refuses to let them help, even after they stumble onto clues to the dead man’s identity.

Orlando’s own identity becomes the subject for speculation when, while mourning the death of his beloved grandmother, he learns that she kept secrets about her past. Desperate to discover the truth about his family, Orlando departs suddenly on a solo quest to track down his roots, leaving Jonty distraught.

While Jonty frantically tries to locate his lover, Orlando wonders if he’ll be able to find his real family before he goes mad. After uncovering more leads to the White City case, they must decide whether to risk further involvement. Because if either of them dares try to solve the murder, Inspector Redknapp could expose their illicit—and illegal—love affair.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

I say with great regret, for the genuine enjoyment I have missed, that Lessons in Trustby Charlie Cochrane [Samhain Publishing, 2010] is the first of the “Cambridge Fellows Mysteries” I have read. Fortunately it is not the first of Ms Chochrane’s stories I have reviewed, for “Sand,” (her contribution to the Last Gasp Anthology) holds that delightful distinction. Nevertheless, Lessons in Trust gives a much broader picture of her remarkable talent, and it has left this particular reader yearning for more of the same.

The book blurb quite adequately covers the story outline, and so for my part I will ‘read between the lines,’ so to speak.

The early 1900s was an interesting and colourful era with vestiges of Victorian stodginess reluctantly giving way to what would soon become the “Flapper” generation. In between were bright, ‘modern’, fashionable young men like Jonty & Orlando, with a foot in both generations. The common ground was style, and these two—from quite different backgrounds—had it in spades.

What delighted me about this read is that the author has been able to capture this with remarkable credibility: Victorian correctness mixed with a ‘bending of the rules’ (correctly, of course); a begrudging acceptance of the motor car (but properly dressed for the occasion); and wit and scintillating conversation to carry it all off.

The mysteries are truly mysteries, too, and will leave any reader turning pages. I guarantee it.

A must read. Five stars.

 

Progress report, re: Coming of Age on the Trail. I’m happy to say that the first draft is finished and heading for the editors desk. Probable release date: January. 2011.

 

November 7, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 1 Comment

Cut Hand, by Mark Wildyr

Altogether, this is quintessential historical fiction encompassing a fascinating topic and period in history.

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Book blurb: Homosexuals have been with us forever; queers, pansies, and fags are inventions of European civilizations. But, many New World native cultures view “Two-Spirit” people through more respectful eyes. Cut Hand by Mark Wildyr is a romantic action epic set in the early 1800s about an unorthodox love between a white youth on the American frontier, escaping his Tory family’s past, and a young Indian warrior destined for the leadership of his tribe.

Billy Strobaw’s world turns on its axis at his surprising and unexpected physical reaction to a young Indian he and two traveling companions take captive. The handsome warrior, Cut Hand, not only earns his freedom, but also steals Billy’s heart and prevails upon the American to come live among his people.

Plunged into a strange culture where his lust for another man is not regarded as disgraceful, Billy agrees to become Cut’s winkte wife, an act that brings problems, but not from the direction he anticipated. As the two men work to overcome differences in their cultural backgrounds, Billy comes to understand these Native Americans have as much to offer him as he has to share with them.

The sexuality of the protagonists becomes merely a personal footnote in the struggle of the Plains tribes to preserve a way of life that has served them well for generations. Told partially in Colonial and early American English, the novel follows the lives of these two lovers from 1832 to 186l, thirty tumultuous years on young America’s frontier.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

 Mark Wildyr’s cross-culture novel “Cut Hand” [StarBooks Press, 2010] was a delightful find for me. To explain, I usually shy away from “Wild West” stories because they tend to be little more than loosely strung together sexual romps, to which the plot only serves to move the characters from one tryst to another. On the contrary “Cut Hand,” while sexy, is a plot-driven, insightful look at “Two Spirit” customs within North American Native cultures. Moreover, since it places a white boy in the role of the wink-te (pronounced “wan-te” in this story),  it is unique approach to it.

Billy Strobaw is the product of Tory parents (called “Loyalists” in Canada) who are unsettled as a result of the American War of Independence. He and his family therefore become outcasts in their own land, and after their untimely deaths young Billy decides to seek his fortune in the Far West. Enroute, his party saves a handsome young Indian named Cut Hand from certain death by a rival band. Thereafter Billy is surprised by his unexpected physical reaction to the Indian brave. Surprisingly Cut Hand returns his attention to not only steal Billy’s heart but also convinces him to live among his people.

Thrust without preparation into a strange culture Billy agrees to become Cut Hand’s winkte wife; an act that brings problems but not from the direction he expected. As the two men work to overcome the differences in their cultural backgrounds, Billy comes to appreciate the Native Americans for their oneness with the land and their staunch loyalty to one another.

To simply say that this story is “plot-driven” does not do it the justice it deserves. This a superbly researched glimpse of “a time never again to be seen on the Great Plains,” and done with such credibility that it is a veritable history lesson in itself. Also woven into this is a sometimes poignant story of love between men: manly men; husbands and wink-te wives; warriors; and yet so human that anyone could identify with them.

While commenting on the superlatives inherent in this work, one shouldn’t overlook the cast of true-to-life characters. Wildyr has given each of these a distinctive character, and then goes on to develop and expand it as the story progresses. Moreover, he has resisted the pitfalls of stereotyping the Natives, especially, and has not attempted to ‘sanitize’ them, either.

Altogether, this is quintessential historical fiction encompassing a fascinating topic and period in history. Five stars.

 

Visit Gerry’s B’s website.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Two spirits | , | Leave a comment

Time Well Bent: Queer Alternative History, Edited by Connie Wilkins

  If you enjoy a broad variety of unique and imaginative stories, superbly written, then this book is for you.

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Book blurb: We have always been here. For as long as there’s been such a thing as sex, alternate sexual identities have been a fact of life. So why have we been so nearly invisible in recorded history and historical fiction?

Now editor Connie Wilkins, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, has assembled fourteen stories that span the centuries from ancient times to the Renaissance to the modern era and explore alternate versions of our past.

Their queer protagonists, who bend history in ways dramatic enough to change the world and subtle enough to touch hearts and minds, rescue our past from invisibility, and affirm our place and importance throughout all of history, past, present, and future.

Also available in Kindle version.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

“Time Well Bent” [Lethe Press, 2009] is one of the more intriguing collections of stories that I have had the pleasure of reading—for a number of reasons.

The first, off-hand, is that it contains several tales about lesbian love; something that I have not had an opportunity to review, previously.

A Wind Sharp as Obsidian by Rita Oakes opens the collection and sets the tone for the stories that follow; inasmuch as it is an imaginative example of superb writing. Malianalli, a mortal, is in a relationship with the Mayan goddess Xochi. The story then goes on to focus on one moment in that relationship, and leaves the fictional consequences to take their shape in the reader’s imagination. This allows the author to concentrate on the political, physical, and spiritual world of the Mayan peoples at the cusp of the conquistadors’ invasion. An intriguing “What if” melding of history and fiction.

“Roanake” by Sandra Barret is the second ‘gal-story’ set in the early (1585-1587) Puritan settlement of that name in North America. Elizabeth, unhappy with the rigidly enforced gender roles of Roanoke, is fortunate enough to be mentored by Maigan, okitcitakwe (two-spirits) to the Croatan Indians. This story is unique inasmuch as it explores lesbianism in Puritan society, and the feminine side of ‘two spirits’. It also provides a ‘what if’ answer to the Roanoke mystery.

 In “A Spear Against the Sky,” M.P. Ericson has chosen the Roman settlement of Britannia as a setting, and two of the most famous women warriors in history; Boudica and Cartimandua. It is a story that adds an intriguing and plausible dimension to our patchy knowledge of events.

In “Great Reckonings, Little Rooms,” Catherine Lundoff shines her light on Woolf’s Judith Shakespeare as an Elizabethan cross-dresser in a story of complex relationships packed into this short story.

“The Heart of the Story” by Connie Wilkins is alternative history set in the second world war. It’s a compellingly solid and active world where mythology and history come together, around a fairytale lesbian love story.

“Morisca” by Erin Mackay is a juxtaposition of great leaders and lowly individuals, in a tale set in the fifteenth century court of Spain. This is a heart warming and charming look behind the scenes.

On the male side “The Final Voyage of the Hesperus,” by Steven Adamson blurs the lines between dreams and realities as the Hesperus sails between India and the sugar plantations of the West Indies. Woven into this is a male love story that is divinely inspired.

“A Marriage of Choice” by Dale Chase is a quintessential ‘what if’ story that imagines Thomas Jefferson debating the terms of the American Bill of Rights with James Madison—as narrated by Jefferson’s male lover, Caleb. Personally, I found this story the most fanciful and intriguing as the two most celebrated minds in American history come together to debate an issue that is not yet settled; i.e. same-sex marriage. A real flight of fancy!

“The High Cost of Tamarind” by Steve Berman is a slight juxtaposing two young men’s haunting past and present, but it was a bit too impressionistic for me to follow comfortably.

“Sod ‘Em” by Barry Lowe is an interesting tale set against an austere location and time—around the ninth or tenth centuries. It is a fairly credible recreation of the conditions a lowly monk might have endured, and almost certainly M/M relationships did result. The idea that the Bible, as we know it, is the product of various translations, transcription and interpretations over the centuries is a ‘what if’ story in itself.

“Barbaric Splendor” by Simon Sheppard is sometimes creepy guided tour of the fabled Xanadu; i.e. the court of Kubla Khan, and it is definitely not what popular, historical accounts have led us to believe.

“Opening Night” by Lisabet Sarai, is very cleverly set around the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, “Ruddigore,” but from there it departs rather dramatically from G&S history. Okay, I was prepared to live with that, but the North American connection left me backstage. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting take superbly written.

“A Happier Year” by Emily Salter is a charming period piece spun around E.M. Forster’s “Maurice,” a novella that was suppressed until after Forster’s death. Salter has created a very sensitive story in which she extrapolates how the publication might have affected society if it had been published before the Great War. She has also created a beautifully complicated character in Henry.

“At Reading Station, Changing Trains,” by C.A. Gardner recalls the story of  T.E. Lawrence’s life as he tries to hide from his fame and ‘other self.’ The problem being that he has revealed his ‘other’ in thefirst draft of his autobiography, The Seven Pillars of Salt (which he burnt). The second draft–sans any reference to it–has been stolen a Reading Station, but mysteriousl comes back to him through his friend, Feisal Ibn Hussien. It is the manuscript, therefore, that brings the two friends back together, and the question then becomes whether the modern history of Iraq would have been different if Lawrence had once again joined forces with Feisal? What if?

As an added feature the authors have each included an explanatory note at the end of their contribution, shedding light on the process and intent behind each entry.

If you enjoy a broad variety of unique and imaginative stories, superbly written, then this book is for you.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Ransom, by Lee Rowan

An officer, a gentleman… and a sodomite. The first two earn honor and respect. The third, a noose.

 

 

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Publisher’s blurb: Even as he finds himself falling in love with his shipmate, William Marshall, David Archer realizes it is a hopeless passion. Not only is Will the son of a minister, his first act aboard ship was to take pistol in hand and dispatch an older midshipman who made offensive advances. Davy realizes that Will would probably not shoot him if he expressed his feelings, but their affectionate friendship would surely end, once Marshall learned of Archer’s “unnatural” yearnings.

William Marshall has never given much thought to any feelings beyond duty, loyalty, and honor. For a young Englishman in 1796, the Navy is a way to move beyond his humble origins and seek a chance at greatness. While others spend shore leave carousing with willing wenches, Marshall is more likely to be curled up with a navigation text.

Captured by accident when their Captain is abducted, Archer and Marshall become pawns in a renegade pirate’s sadistic game. To protect the man he loves, David Archer compromises himself—trading his honor and his body for Marshall’s safety. When Will learns of his friend’s sacrifice, he also discovers that what he feels for Davy is stronger and deeper than friendship.

The first challenge: escape their prison. The second: find a way to preserve their love without losing their lives.
Ransom, the first book in the Royal Navy Series by Lee Rowan, introduces readers to the appealing characters of Lieutenants Marshall and Archer. Become part of the story as they discover their shared love against a backdrop of intrigue, mystery, and danger.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

This is the first Lee Rowan work I have read, but after reading Ransom [Bristlecone Pine Press, 2009] it won’t be my last.

Indeed, it takes only a paragraph or two is get the impression that this author is very much in control; both of the story and of the reader’s interest. That’s a good thing, too, because most of the tale involves some fairly complex and prolonged suspense that could very well become unravelled if it were not for Ms Rowan’s masterful writing skill.

The same is true regarding David’s and Michael’s developing romance, which evolves from devoted friends to lovers throughout the first two-thirds of the novel. Consequently, without the strong, guiding hand of the author this gradual pace might have become frustratingly lethargic. Coquettish. As it is, however, apart from a few too many apologies between them, the pace seems quite credible for two navy lads of the eighteenth-century.

The balance of characters is nicely thought-out, as well. Captain Smith, being the most senior in rank, age and experience, represents a “stiff upper lip” example for the two younger lads to emulate, and the somewhat psychotic, pirate captain is the antithesis of Smith and the morality of the day. He is also ‘deliciously’ sinister, and a nice foil for the other characters.

Put all this against a background of intrigue and mystery that is exacerbated by the mounting sexual sadism of the pirate captain, the unfolding escape plans by Davy and Michael, as well as Captain Smith, and the brilliant sleuthing on the part of Lieutenant Drinkwater, and it makes for a page-turner for certain.

Having said all that I felt the story should have ended two chapters earlier than it did. I found the final two chapters anticlimactic, and almost an afterthought to include some graphic sex for the one-handed readers.

I am happy to say, however, that this is only a minor quibble—perhaps not even shared with readers of homoerotic fiction—and otherwise it is an outstanding example of 18th-century, naval historical fiction. Four and one-half stars.

 

Read what others are saying about Coming of Age on the Trail , so far.

August 29, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical Fiction, Naval historical fiction | Leave a comment

Pirates of the Narrow Seas 1: Sallee Rovers, by M. Kei

A swashbuckling tale full of colour, adventure and romance – a good read!