Gerry B's Book Reviews

The Boy Who Makes Wooden Box Sing – Gerry Burnie Books

Recently Published

Here is another Canadian, historical novel by Gerry Burnie that features an entertaining look at Canadian history in story form.
This time it’s the Hudson’s Bay Company’s outpost of Fort Garry (a.k.a. “Selkirk Settlement” – now Winnipeg) on the Red River, and a young Scottish boy who – with the unseen help of Örlög, the Norse god of fortune, would follow his dream from frontier obscurity to be the toast of 19th-century Europe.
To view this and other novels by Gerry Burnie, simply follow this convenient link:



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September 22, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Legends Of the Nahanni Valley by Hammerson Peters

A fascinating history of a region as told by its myths and legends.



A non-fiction exploring some of Northern Canada’s greatest forgotten mysteries- the stories and legends surrounding the watershed of the South Nahanni River.

Deep in the heart of the Canadian North lies a mysterious valley shrouded in legend. Lured by tales of lost gold, prospectors who enter it tend to lose their heads or vanish without a trace. Some say that the valley is cursed- haunted by an evil spirit whose wailings echo in the canyons. Others claim that it is home to monsters- relics of its prehistoric past. What secrets could the valley be hiding? What mysteries lie buried beneath its misty shroud?


Review by Gerry Burnie

My motto, and my firm belief, is that Canada has a rich and colourful history that is waiting to be discovered.

Doing his best to rectify this shortcoming is a prolific Canadian writer – and fiddler – Hammerson Peters. Peters has several books covering a variety of topics, from ‘Legends of the Nahanni valley’ and ‘Mysteries of Canada,’ to that perennial conundrum ‘Oak Island.’

The Nahanni Valley is (and has been) a place of mystery well before Europeans arrived on its doorstep. The Natives of the region – the Dene, etc. – have for centuries talked about the monsters and evil spirits that inhabited this mist-shrouded locale, as well as the fierce Nahanni tribe apparently led by a white queen.

White men too have their own tales of headless prospectors being found and of a lost mine that is somewhere in the valley.

At over 500 pages (divided into sixteen tales) this is a major work, yet it never bogs down or exhausts the senses, and – what I like about it – it can be picked up and put down without losing the trend; which is a fascinating history of a region as told by its myths and legends.

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May 19, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Valour At Vimy Ridge: Canadian Heroes of World War I, by Tom Douglas

They said that it couldn’t be done…

Non-fiction works of this kind are not star-rated

A defining moment in Canadian military history. A much-needed Allied victory. A show of valour and heroism. The battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 saw Canadian troops storm a strategic 14-kilometre long escarpment that was believed to be impregnable. This was the first time in the nation’s history that a corps-sized formation fought together as a unit under its own meticulous planning. Canadian troops persevered under heavy fire to take the ridge, demonstrating incredible discipline and bravery. The battle became a symbol of sacrifice for the young nation and a turning point in its role in the global theatre of war.

Amazing Stories Series–Altitude Press, 2007

Tom Douglas, an award-winning journalist and author, lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife Gail, also an author in the Amazing Stories series. Tom’s father, Sgt. H.M. (Mel) Douglas, was part of the Invasion Force that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Tom is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, worked as a Communications Advisor for Veterans Affairs Canada, and has written speeches for the Minister of National Defence. Recently, he self-published a book, Some Sunny Day about his family’s experiences in Northern Ontario following his father’s return from World War II.

Review by Gerry Burnie

They said it couldn’t be done, and thousands of French and English had tried it, but four battalions of Canadians succeeded; not without 10,602 Canadian casualties, including 3,598 fatalities, however.

It was known as the “Great War,” and “The war to end all wars,” but history has proven that World War I was not the war that ended all wars. What it was, was a bitter, bloody conflict with over 15 million (combatants and civilians) killed, and 22 million wounded between July 28, 1914 and November 11, 1918.

This conflagration started with the assassination of an obscure prince, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which led to posturing between two, now forgotten states—Austro-Hungary and Serbia. Serbia’s ally, Russia, then began to assemble troops, which brought in Germany as ally to Austro-Hungary. England and France then came to the aid of Russia, and this automatically brought Canada—as a dominion of England—into the fray.

Nevertheless, a nationalist fervour gripped Canada to aid the “Mother Land,” even though the militia numbered just over 3,000—and volunteers poured into recruiting stations so that by September of 1914, more than 30,000 set sail for England; making it the largest convoy to cross the Atlantic.

However, these patriotic young men who had dreamed of glory in a far off land soon learned that they had been sold a bill of goods, and that there was nothing glorious about existing like an animal in filthy, disease-ridden trenches that scarred the landscape, or seeing your friend—or lover—blown to bits by an enemy mortar shell.

Indeed, the recruiting posters showing clean-cut lads in freshly pressed uniforms sipping wine at outdoor cafés in Paris didn’t contain any scenes of a corpse-strewn no-man’s land—that stretch of barren ground that separated the trenches between the two opposing sides. “Nor were there any close-ups of a diseased rat crawling over your face as you tried to grab a few hours’ sleep before having to go “over the top” to raid the enemy trench just a few metres away from yours.”

“No mention of German snipers waiting for you to emerge from the relative safety of a muddy shell hole so that he could blow your head off. No depiction of life in the trenches, where foot rot, lice, and the stench of death were your constant companions,”

Vimy Ridge was a promontory near the River Aisne where, after a failed attempt to take Paris, the Germans were ordered to dig in to protect themselves. When the allies realized that the German trenches were a formidable obstacle, they dug in as well.

“After a few months the opposing trenches stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. For the next three years, neither side was able to advance more than a few kilometres along the line that came to be known as the Western Front. But living conditions in what amounted to little more than deep ditches wasn’t anything like the cozy bungalows or college dorms or rural family homesteads the young Canadians had left behind.”

Life in the Trenches

As part of this introduction to the battle, Author Tom Douglas describes the conditions:

“[N]o story about World War I—and in particular the magnificent achievement of the Canadians at Vimy Ridge—would be complete without a basic understanding of these inhuman and seemingly insurmountable obstacles that had to be overcome on the road to victory.

“The excavations along the Western Front were built in threes—the front line, support, and reserve trenches. This trio of long, snake-like ditches covered between 220 and 550 metres of ground from front to back and could wind for several kilometres across the terrain parallel to the enemy fortifications.”

“Running perpendicular to these channels were communication trenches for fresh troops, equipment, and supplies to move up the line and wounded soldiers to be taken to the rear.”

The trench was too deep to allow its occupants to be seen over the top, so a small ledge called a fire-step was added. The soldiers would crouch down on this protrusion, then pop up to take potshots at the enemy before ducking down quickly to avoid having their heads blown off by a camouflaged sniper who’d been lying motionless for hours in no man’s land.”

“The front-line trenches were protected by gigantic bales of barbed wire placed far enough forward to prevent the enemy from getting within grenade-lobbing distance. So impenetrable and tangled were these obstacles that they acted like the steel web of a monstrous spider, impaling any hapless soldier who came close enough to get tangled in the trap. Before a battle troops would be sent out with wire cutters to chop a path through the razor-sharp wire. It was one of the more hazardous duties to perform because of those ever-present snipers.”

 To make matters more difficult the Germans occupied the high ground, forcing the attacking allies to charge uphill while loaded down with weapons and equipment. Moreover, the allies—French, British and Canadians—were only a few feet above sea level, and would frequently find themselves standing ankle deep in water.

“Waterlogged trenches meant wet feet for days and weeks on end—and wet feetled to frostbite or the dreaded trench foot that, if left untreated, could result in amputation.”

“Dysentery was another killer that accounted for thousands of death in the trenches. Needless to say, sanitary conditions in these waterlogged ditches were appalling. Latrines were dug behind the lines, but these soon filled up and spilled into the trenches. In addition, many of those excavations had been dug in areas were corpses from earlier battles had been hastily buried, and the decaying bodies were another source of deadly germs.”

“A steady diet of canned beef, mouldy biscuits, boiled sweets, and coffee made from ground turnips left the men susceptible to boils, scabies, and other skin eruptions.”

As the author points out, a great number of soldiers suffered from mental illness after weeks and months of living under such conditions. The term “shell shock” was coined to describe this condition, but many officers and even doctors refused this as a reason to remove the victims from the battle front.

“The rallying cry “for king and country” soon took on a cynical overtone.”

The Author then goes on to document the charge up Vimy Ridge from the personal perspective of the soldiers and officers who took part; many of them being awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery—some posthumously.

At this time of remembrance, this is Canadian history that should not—cannot be forgotten. If a country’s history forms its heritage, then this is what we are all about.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Two Irish Lads: Second Edition’ Announcement…


(Put a little Irish in your Christmas giving!)

Two Irish Lads: Second Edition

by Gerry Burnie

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Available on Amazon in Print. Kindle, and Nook formats


What happens when Two Irish Lads set off for an adventure of a lifetime in the wildness of Upper Canada?

Adventure, discovery, comedy, and pathos!

From the time Cousins Sean and Patrick McConaghy board the Lovely Nelly in Ireland, travel up the Mighty St. Lawrence by voyageur canoe, and find themselves surrounded by primeval forest in Upper Canada, it is adventure and discovery on every +page.

Then, just as they are about to despair at the seemingly impossible task ahead, a champion appears in the person of a calculating squire with two unmarried daughters on hand. The problem is that Sean and Patrick are already in love – with one another. The scene is then set for an adventure of different kind.

Also appearing are a gossipy storekeeper; a hard-drinking blacksmith who befriends them; a talented but misunderstood schoolboy; a draconian priest; a sinister claim jumper who haunts the vicinity; and a loveable wolf cub by the name of “Canada.”

Adventure awaits at every turn in Two Irish Lads: Second Edition, so come along for the fun of it!

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton

A captivating read in the classic western style.



click on cover to order.

click on cover to order.

Story blurb: The American West, especially between 1865 and the turn of the century, was an unforgiving and brutal place to be. Tempers flared as men continued to fight the Civil War on their own terms long after it had been decided. Meanwhile, natives, such as the Lakota Sioux, continued to resist being dispelled from their homelands. The Thunderhead trilogy is a historically accurate approach to the western genre. It is mixed with real and imaginary characters and takes place in the Dakota and Wyoming Territories between 1876 and 1877. Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jack McCall, Colorado Charlie Utter, California Joe Milner, Tim Brady, Wyatt Earp, and other figures are alive and well amid three fictional protagonists. Al Franklin, a photograph artist, befriends Hickok during his last days. “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, falls for an outlaw and follows him and his cohorts from mining town to mining town. Harvey McCafferty, a bounty hunter, relentlessly endeavors to collect the reward on those traveling with Nicky. Nicky’s companions are a gang of road agents lead by the bloodthirsty Quick Maggie DeMarco, a formerly-abused young woman hellbent on finding and killing the man who murdered her family fourteen years ago. When Maggie DeMarco finally meets up with Maguire in Book Three, will she seek the revenge that has eluded her, or will she be content to walk away?


Review by Gerry Burnie

I received a call to review this book sometime ago, but regretfully it is only now that I have had a chance to read it. I say ‘regretfully’ because Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton is such rich and luscious reading that I am surprised it hasn’t attracted more attention.

The story is an amalgam of fiction and history, with a slight bias toward history – especially the three primary characters: Al Franklin, a photograph artist, “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, and Harvey M. McCafferty, a bounty hunter.

What jumps out at you right from the beginning is the due research Ms Braxtion has compiled behind the scenes. It is evident in every character, and frequently in the background scenes as well. This may have intimidated others, but it is very much my cup of tea.

Al Franklin is a hard-working 20-year-old who has made his way from Boston to Deadwood, South Dakota, during the summer of 1876. Al is a talented ambrotype photographer, and is met with all types people, outlaws as well, eager to have their likenesses taken. When Wild Bill Hickok comes to town at the same time as Calamity Jane and Colorado Charlie Utter, Al devises a money-making scheme with Bill to put his picture on cabinet cards to sell to the eager citizens in town. Because of Wild Bill’s reputation as a shootist, a law officer, and one of the stars of Buffalo Bill Cody’s show, the cabinet cards sell very well. And thus a friendship is established between them during Wild Bill’s final days.

“Spittoon” Nicky is a sporting girl who plies her trade out of a saloon called Hootie’s Lager House. Nicky meets up with an outlaw named Chad DeMarco and they fall in love. However, when things get too dangerous for him in Deadwood, Chad asks Nicky to travel with him and his cohorts so they can stay together. The most brutal and bloodthirsty of Chad’s companions is his sister Maggie who seems to live just to find the man who murdered her mother and father when she was very young.

Harvey McCafferty is a former Confederate soldier, now a bounty hunter, whose driving force in life is to get rich as quick. He therefor sets his sights on tracking down the DeMarco gang for the considerable bounty on their heads: Chad, Luke, Ray, and Otto, and in Harvey’s mind, dead or alive usually means dead.

Written in a colourful vernacular that matches the rustic time and setting, it is an enthralling story in the classic western style. Four and a half bees.


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Interested in Canadian history?

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June 23, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Archer: A novel of medieval England (The Archers #1) by Martin Archer

A credible rendering of a fascinating period in history.



archer - coverStory blurb: Martin Archer’s “The Archers” saga is set in rough and dangerous medieval Britain. It’s a dull and brutal place which forces many Englishmen to go abroad and join the crusades to escape their fates and seek their fortunes. It is based upon the tales and histories in the newly discovered parchments found under some rubble in the basement of the Bodleian Library.

The action packed books in “The English Archer” saga begin with “The Archer’s Quest.” It follows young man who joins a company of English archers when his older brother Thomas leaves the monastery to take him crusading with King Richard. Years later William himself is leading the company’s handful of survivors as they attempt to fight their way home past corrupt church officials and slave-taking Moslem pirates in a desperate effort to return to England.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

While The Archer: A novel of medieval England (The Archers #1) by Martin Archer is listed under ‘gay adventure’ on Amazon, it must be working with a different definition of ‘gay’ than I am. Nonetheless, I was drawn by the fact that it is primarily a male adventure set in the medieval era around the time of crusades (1095 – 1291), one of my favourite periods in history, and also features a company of yeoman archers – one of my favourite set of characters as well.

The story takes the guise of a recently discovered chronicle that recalls the adventures of William, Captain of the English archers, as recorded by his friend and scribe Yoram of Damascus.

The tales are many, but for the most part they capture the essence of the time fairly well. The crusades were an ill conceived, poorly organized, avaricious campaign that had little to do with Christ, and more to do with wealth and plunder. Nonetheless, as the author emphasizes, they were a relief from the drudgery of toiling thanklessly for the divine right of kings, noblemen and clergy.

The fact that they were also a complete and utter disaster only adds to the literary possibilities.

My comments

As far as I can tell, the author has done his homework regarding the grottiness of the period, and I am glad to see he didn’t try to gloss it over in Hollywood style. Life was truly nasty, brutish, and short for the burdened classes, and the avarice of the upper classes didn’t help alleviate the situation.

That said, there are some editing issues, and at times the dialogue doesn’t fit the character – i.e. where the kid says “…My arse is sore.” Considering it is said in the presence of his uncle, a monk, the expression seems questionable.

Ancillary items

Product descriptions: Something I found off-putting about this book had nothing to do with the story itself; rather, it had to do with the business surrounding it. In my opinion, product descriptions (i.e. ‘blurbs’) should describe what readers can expect from the novel at hand – not all the other novels in an author’s repertoire.

And while we’re on the topic, generally, I’ll decide if a novel is ‘exciting’ or ‘action-packed,’ so hyperbole is utterly wasted on me until I have read the story.


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Interested in Canadian history?

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For those of you who have requested a 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!

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Twisted (Lucky Jeff Ranch #2) by Jake Mactire

A good read and well recommended.




Sequel to “Two Sides of the Same Coin.”

twisted - coverDespite the celebrity their recent cracking of a cattle rustling ring has brought, Jeff Connelly and his partner, Mike Guidry, are ready to settle down and start the dude ranch they’ve always dreamed of. Following your dreams isn’t always easy, though-between a troubled new ranch hand who propositions Jeff and Mike’s past suddenly confronting him, emotions are already running high.

Then a sadistic serial killer nicknamed the West Coat Cutter starts slicing a trail though Jeff and Mike’s territory. As the body count rises, they begin to suspect that the killer may in fact be someone they know-a suspicion that is only strengthened by a sudden rash of threatening notes addressed to Jeff. Can they escape the West Coast Cutter before the worst happens?


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Review by Gerry Burnie

I gave in to my love for western-genre novels this week, even though it is a contemporary version. Twisted (Lucky Jeff Ranch #2) by Jake Mactire [Dreamspinner Press; 1 edition, July 24, 2011] is a continuation of Mactire’s “Lucky Jeff Ranch” series, and, although I haven’t read Two Sides of the Same Coin, this sequel stood alone fairly well.

Jeff Donnelly became the proprietor of ‘Lucky Jeff Ranch’ upon the untimely death of his father in a car accident. Mike Guidry was one of the ranch hands who came with it, but eventually – after a number of adventures together – they became loving partners, and now they have plans afoot to convert ‘Lucky Jeff’ into a dude ranch.

Thus begins the adventures in Twisted.

To thicken the plot, a ranch hand by the name of Smitty asks if his younger brother (Jason) can come work with them. Gay and troubled, his brother wants to make a new start in a fresh environment, and Smitty feels that Jeff and Mike would make positive role models. Moreover, there is a recent threat that is stalking the gay community in town: A serial killer dubbed the ‘West Coast Cutter’ who is preying on gay men like Jason.

Then, unexpectedly, Mike’s father appears on the scene contritely making apologies for rejecting his son when he was sixteen. Jeff views this with a certain amount of scepticism, but for Mike’s sake he stands aside to allow him to reconnect with his estranged mother, brother and sister.

However, when a body is discovered nearby, there is no question the ‘West Coast Cutter’ is close at hand.

My comments

It is well written and easy to read: A good start.

The plot features some clever twists and turns (another plus), but for me it is clichéic. I think this is because it is angst driven – the gay but troubled brother; Mike’s expulsion from the family circle; the homophobic but contrite father – have all been done before.

I hasten to add that it is not a major issue, and it is subjective, but for someone who has read and analyzed over three hundred books for this blog, I thirst for something original – like comedy.

Nonetheless, it is a good read and well recommended. Four 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: Northern Dancer … The little horse that could.


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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!

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

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It, by Harry Leslie Smith

Need a reality check? Then this is the non-accusatory read for you! 




As ‘Black Friday’ quickly approaches, with people already camped out to get first dibs on the latest bauble or gadget, I thought you might enjoy this perspective on life until you pick up your credit card bills next month. J
Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

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

‘As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it…’ ~ Harry Leslie Smith
In November 2013, 91-year-old Yorkshireman, RAF veteran and ex-carpet salesman Harry Leslie Smith’s Guardian article – ‘This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time’ – was shared almost 60,000 times on Facebook and started a huge debate about the state of society.

Now he brings his unique perspective to bear on NHS* cutbacks, benefits policy, political corruption, food poverty, the cost of education – and much more. From the deprivation of 1930s Barnsley and the terror of war to the creation of our welfare state, Harry has experienced how a great civilisation can rise from the rubble. But at the end of his life, he fears how easily it is being eroded.

Harry’s Last Stand is a lyrical, searing modern invective that shows what the past can teach us, and how the future is ours for the taking.

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and, at 91, an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. His Guardian articles have been shared over 60,000 times on Facebook and have attracted huge comment and debate. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity. He lives outside Toronto, Canada and in Yorkshire.

*Note to copy writers: While your trendiness is noted – converting most everything into a mnemonic – the problem being that only you and a handful of others know what the hell you are talking about. Communication is still a two-way process.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and Harry Leslie Smith represents nearly 100 years of history in his seminal book, Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It [Icon Books, June 5th 2014].

Browsing some of the reviews already published, I notice that the majority of them make some reference to disregarding the opinions of seniors as being outdated.

Overlooking the other issues with this way of thinking (e.g. stereotyping), it is also illogical. Who best to ask other than someone who has ‘bin der, and done dat’?

This is Leslie Smith’s point as well, and so, in a non-proselytizing way he sets out to tell you his story: from first fighting a war against tyranny, and subsequently the battles to win old age retirement benefits, social assistance for the poor, and universal health coverage, to name a few. No sooner had these been achieved, in whole or part, when the entire scenario changed with the social revolution of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Old, tried and true standards, were tossed in favour of mass consumerism that the corporations quickly embraced with an array of slick new gadgets to addlepate the public even more – a world of never-ending bliss with the newest model of automobile, TV, or smart phone.

Individuals like Leslie Smith, having been raised according to stricter standards, could see the banality of all this, of course, but as the other reviewers have already noted, his opinion (and others) were considered outdated and irrelevant in the face of such wonderful entertainments and gadgets.

To his credit, Leslie Smith does not assign blame to any one or group; rather he lays out his observations for everyone to see, in terms everyone can understand, together with his manifesto for the future.

This is inspirational reading. It is like sitting down with ‘the old man of the mountain’ for a chat about the real realities of life that seemingly are lost on modern society. Highly therapeutic and recommended. 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: Thalidomide! Canada’ tragedy.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

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

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Autobiography, Military history, non GBLT, non-GLBT, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

2013 in review

Thank you everyone!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Homesteads and Horseradish, by Kiernan Kelly

A light-hearted romance in a western setting


Short Story notification –  34 pages (201 KB)

homesteads and horseradish - cover

Story blurb: Brace is none too happy to find a greenhorn building a sod house at the base of his mountain. In fact, he’s determined to run the little fellow right off his land. Unfortunately for Brace, Gaylord Quinn has nowhere else to go, and he has a patent from the US Land Office saying he has full rights to the land. Quinn is scared to death of Brace, but he’s even more scared of having to return to a life he managed to escape. He needs the security of a new home. His dire circumstances might convince Brace to help him, but it will be the friendship that springs up between the men that endures. Will the friendship turn into something more?

About this author: Kiernan’s stories of gay romance envelop diverse themes, varying from paranormal, to fantasy, and science fiction to contemporary romance, with thirteen novels currently in print and ebook, and over sixty shorter works available in both mediums. She has published with a variety of houses, including Torquere Press, Dreamspinner Press, MLR Press, Loose-Id, Starbooks Press, Cleis Press,and Circlet. Her horror short story release, “Cletus,” appears in the Coscom Publishing’s book “Bits of the Dead.”


Review by Gerry Burnie

With thirteen novels to her name, including Homesteads and Horseradish (Spice it up) [Torquere Press, Inc., March 19, 2009], it is obvious that Kiernan Kelly likes to write. And it shows. There is a sort of ‘ease’ to her writing that catches the reader up in the mood, as well.

In this tale she pits a tenderfoot from New York City, Gaylord Quinn, against a seasoned leatherneck of the Old West, Brace Andrews, in a storyline that is solid but not overly unique. For the purposes of the plot, Quinn leaves New York to find a new life where ‘men are men’ and the boys are glad of it. He has a land patent in hand, and a destination in mind, but the first man he encounters is an unwelcoming Brace Andrews with ‘squatter’s rights’ on his side. Nonetheless, Quinn is sort of cute (in a nerdy way), and, well … Brace has sequestered himself away on account of his hankerin’ for cute nerds.

As you can tell from just this wee bit of plot, it has a tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink, aspect to it, but to her credit Kiernan never lets is get away from her. To the two main characters this is serious business, and at one level it is, but on another it is smile-provoking  as well.

It’s a quick read for those who: a) have a medium commute, b) like a western flavour, c) like western-style man-sex, and d) quite a few smiles. However, the mix had just a bit too much ‘sarsaparilla’ in it to make an A-1 story. It was fun, though, and so it gets my strong recommendation. Four bees.


Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 59,374


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

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

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

christmas dedication.


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 postKate Aitkin, Pioneer Woman Broadcaster


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.


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


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

December 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taking Chance, by Laura Harner

A fine example of the western genre from a M/M perspective.



takin chance - coverStory blurb: Officer Chance Carter is pretty sure he’d still enjoy being on either end of a good ass reaming—just not the one from his supervisor that lands him on an involuntary extended vacation. Another holiday season with nothing to do except visit an old friend.

Former hospital corpsman Bryan Mitchell doesn’t feel less than honorable, but that’s what his discharge paperwork states. Now he’s down and out in Kingman, Arizona until the charity of a stranger lands him a temporary job for the holidays.

When two federal employees go missing during a highly controversial wild horse roundup, the two Willow Springs Ranch newcomers are drafted to help in the search, but if rumors of a local anti-government militia are true, Chance and Bryan may be in serious trouble—and from something far more dangerous than their mutual attraction.*

*Available as a free download on Goodreads (


Review by Gerry Burnie

Taking Chance (Willow Springs Ranch #3) by Laura Harner [Hot Corner Press; Second edition, June 2, 2013] is number three in a series, and I am obliged to admit it is the first I have read. Therefore, I have no background with character like Cass and Ty. However, I didn’t find this to be a disadvantage.

The story line is quite conventional. Bryan Mitchell has been given a dishonourable discharge from the navy, due to ‘conduct unbecoming,’ and because of this stigma he finds himself down and out. Fate leads him to Willow Springs Ranch, and since he and Ty both have navy backgrounds, he is hired on.

In the meantime, Chance Carter screws up on his sensitive job and is given an extended leave of absence; therefore, fate once again, leads him to Willow Springs Ranch.

Both are strong personalities. but from different perspectives, so their first meeting is rather feisty; however, when they are called upon to help find two government workers who have gone missing on a controversial horse roundup, they get to know one another both emotionally and physically.

[I don’t review sex scenes since I generally scan over them, (I mean, how many ways are there that haven’t been written about?) but for those who like a little spice with their story, there are plenty to satisfy.]

Things get dicey on this search, including one of them being kidnapped, but it provides a nice bit of drama as befits a good western.

I am somewhat of an aficionado of the western genre. I’ve read dozens of biographies and autobiographies, plus the same number of fictional adaptations, and this one can take a respectable position among them all.

It’s more of an adventure than a romance (which it should be), but being an M/M story it has to have some. I also liked the fact that the romance part didn’t stray into ‘Harlequin Romance’ territory.

That said, it didn’t break any new territory, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is the difference between a good novel and an outstanding one—in my opinion, anyway. Four and one-half bees.


Viewers  to Gerry B’s Books to date – 54,233


Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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Protest the Homophobic attack on human rights and dignity in the former Soviet Union of Russia.

sidney_crosbySidney Crosby, Shea Weber Say They Oppose Russian Anti-Gay Law

Sidney Crosby, the 26-year-old captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Shea Weber, the 28-year-old defenceman of the Nashville Predators, on Sunday came out against a Russian anti-gay law.

The hockey players made their remarks during a news conference to kick off Canada’s Olympic training camp, the Calgary Herald reported.



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 books as well. Latest post: Sheriff John S. Ingram: Two-fisted town-tamer.


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.


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


August 26, 2013 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay western, M/M love and adventure, Traditional Western, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jimmy Simpson: Legend of the Rockies, by E. J. Hart

This is the way history should be taught … With joie de vivre! Bravo E. J. Hart!!


jimmy simpson - coverStory blurb: The Stoney Indians called him Nashan-esen meaning “wolverine-go-quick” because of his speed in travelling on snowshoes over the rugged landscape of the Canadian Rockies. This book is the story of Jimmy Simpson’s 80-year epic as one of the most important guides, outfitters, lodge operators, hunters, naturalists and artists in the Canadian Rockies. The story takes him from blazing the trails in the valley bottoms to ascending some of the highest peaks in the range, from leading scientists, mountaineers, big-game hunters and world-famous artists through some of the most unimaginable scenery on earth to entertaining thousands of visitors at his famous lodge at Bow Lake with his tales-both true and tall-of the pioneer days.

jimmy simpson - E. J. HartAbout the author: E.J. “Ted” Hart is the director of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff and the author of numerous popular and bestselling books on the Canadian Rockies.


Review by Gerry Burnie

A while ago some government official, I can’t remember who, was ruminating over the best way to teach kids about Canadian history. Simple: Make it interesting.

When I was going to school, and from what I’ve seen since, [see: Canadian History Made Boring], it is as if educators have gone out of their way to make history as unpalatable as possible. The fact is that Canada has a history as colourful and entertaining as any in the world, and it only remains for kids and adults alike to discover this.

We have real Sergeant Prestons who patrolled the Yukon, cattle drives undertaken though 1,500 hundred miles of primeval wilderness, pioneers who transported several stallions and breeding cattle 800 miles by canoe, great train robberies and gunfights that would make O.K. Corral look like an afternoon social, and yet very few people know about it. Fortunately, we also have people like E. J. Hart to write marvelous books like Jimmy Simpson: Legend of the Rockies [Rocky Mountain Books, First Edition, October 2009].

jimmy_simpson - portraitNow if this were being taught in school, we would dutifully learn that Jimmy Simpson (1877 – 1972) emigrated from England, arriving in Winnipeg in 1896. There he farmed for a while until he decided to go West [psst, after drinking up all his money]. He therefore pawned his gold watch and chain, and took a train to Calgary. Hearing of work on the railway he stowed away on a westbound train, but when he was discovered and kicked off he walked the 20-or-so-miles to Laggan (just below Lake Louise).

Being adventurous, Simpson signed on as cook with legendary outfitter, Tom Wilson, and began learning the outfitting business from “Wild” Bill Peyto—another legendary Rocky Mountain adventurer.

jimmy simpson - bow lake glaciersIn 1898, while working for Wilson, Simpson happened upon Bow Lake with the ice field and two magnificent glaciers above. He and his companions camped by the northern end of the lake, and it was there the he made his now famous proclamation: “I’ll build a shack here sometime,” he said.

Eventually Simpson left Wilson to strike out on his own, supplementing his guiding and outfitting business with trapping. To get around he took up snow shoeing, becoming so proficient at it that the local Indians gave him the honorary title of “Nashan-esen” (meaning “wolverine-go-quickly”).

jimmy simpson - num ti jahIn 1922 he returned to Bow Lake to build his log shack—as he had vowed to do—and when the Banff-Jasper Highway was built, bringing automobile traffic to the area in 1937, he built a small lodge to accommodate them. He called this lodge “Num-te-jah,” the Indian word for pine marten.

Business grew, and in the 1940s a major expansion to the lodge was undertaken to bring its capacity to sixteen rooms.

The original lodge became Simpson’s personal residence where he died in 1972, at the age of 95.

Interesting enough, I suppose, but as E. J. Hart has so masterfully demonstrated by way of Simpson`s own anecdotes, it says nothing about the man or his remarkable wit. For example:

[Fred Ballard was a partner in the trapping business for a (short) while.]

Ballard had been teasing me about a new suit of underwear that had been in the cabin all winter and as to how nice it was going to feel inside it when he got to it. When we arrived he got to it all right but the cabin had leaked and it was sopping wet inside so we built a bit fire outside and made camp. Fred squeezed the water out of it and spread it out in front of the fire carefully while I cooked up what flour was there and made a small bannock, and it was small. When cooked I halved it and his half past his tonsils as fast as a cable [trans-Atlantic telegraph] going over to the old country for more money while I sat on a log and ate mine slowly. That was too much for Fred. Pretty soon he snapped, “If there is anything I hate it’s to see is a man chawing on a piece of bread that I could swallow in two bites, especially when he has only one good eye to chaw with.” [Simpson had a temporary snow blindness in one eye]. I understood.

We lay down to sleep before the fire but in the middle of the night I was awakened by bad language in time to see Ballard holding up a piece of underwear with five button holes on it. A piece of charcoal had got to it while he was asleep so I thought condolences were due. “That’s not too bad,” I said, “All it needs is new arms and legs and a piece on the back to fold over the chest, those five button holes still look quite good.” The air was blue.

Another example of Simpson’s wit relates to an exploration trip he and “Wild” Bill Peyto took one winter. They had stopped for a smoke beside a huge dead spruce and Jimmy drove his axe into it. From inside came a sound like falling debris, so he hit it again with the back of the axe. He was about to do it again when, to his astonishment, it opened up and the head of a two-year old grizzly poked through. This is how he described what happened next:

Nine foot five is my record standing jump and I made it backwards. turning in mid air, and then I started showing squirrels how to climb a tree. I measured that jump next day with a copy of“Tid-Bits”that sported a foot rule on the cover. When I made the top I looked back. There was Bill cussing a blue streak and kicking that bear’s head back every time it poked its nose through. It had gone into hibernation and was in a semi comatose condition but it was fast in waking up. Bill called to me, I dropped out of the blue like dose of measles and we lit out for the camp. Next day we gathered it in.

This is how history should be taught. With some life in it. Sadly these people have passed on, but their way of life, their wit and humour, should not be buried with them.

For people, like me, who enjoy a history lesson that reads like a novel; that allows the reader to appreciate the times through the eyes of colourful characters like Simpson; and that is valid history at the same time, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Thank you E. J. Hart. Five bees.


Number of visitor’s views to date – 49,917


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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 will be looking forward to seeing you next week.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Alberta history, biography, Canadian author, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, non GBLT, Non-fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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

An erotic tale of intrigue, set in Imperial Rome


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.


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.

Visitor’s views to date – 48,671


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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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.

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

Gerry B’s Book Reviews in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 23,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

December 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.


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.


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


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:


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


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

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.


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.


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


Notice to all those who have requested book reviews

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

Thanks again!



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


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

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

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

Listening to Dust, by Brandon Shire

A thought provoking study of human nature –

Story Burb: Murder touched Stephen Dobbins when he was a young boy and left him living in a void of aching loneliness. A chance meeting with a young American chased away the fear that he would always be alone and brought him the prospect of a new existence.

Dustin Earl joined the military and escaped his small town Southern upbringing with the hope that he could give his mentally challenged brother a better life. But Dustin had never known real love, an honest hug, or a simple kiss. He considered his sexuality a weakness; a threat that had been used against those he cared about.

For eight months their relationship blossomed until Dustin suddenly returned home. He cherished Stephen, but felt his responsibilities to his brother outweighed his own chance at happiness.

Shattered, unable to function and unwilling to accept Dustin’s departure, Stephen flew three thousand miles to get Dustin back and rekindle what they had. But what he would learn when he got there… he could never have imagined.


Review by Gerry Burnie

Listening to Dust” by Brandon Shire [TPG Books, 2012] is not a book to tackle if you’re feeling depressed. It is both raw and uncompromising, and it is sure to evoke a gut response from most readers. Nevertheless, it is a thought provoking read and well worth the investment.

The story focuses on a chance meeting between two men with complex and troubled backgrounds, and who find solace in a similarly complex relationship. There is nothing particularly romantic about this affair, and yet it is entirely credible. Relationships do not run smooth, especially same-sex relationships when the public decides to get involved (directly or indirectly), and particularly if that public happens to be the closed minds of a backwater town.

Shire delves into all these aspects with an unrelenting frankness that defies political correctness, i.e. a “drunk” for a father, a “druggy” for a mother, and a “dummy” brother. Yet any other language would have seemed pale in context.

I liked the character development of Stephen and Dusty, and the unexpected twists in their tenuous relationship. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite convinced with Robbie’s character (his language, I think), and there were a few times when I got lost by the changing narration. But, otherwise this is a well-written exploration of human nature, both the good and the profane. Four bees.


Visitors’ count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 26,652


Two announcements regarding my upcoming novel

I announced last week that I would be publishing my new novel as a two-part series. This is because it was starting to get too long for today’s market. I am therefore in the process of rewriting Part 1 to make it a stand-alone story. This is going quite well, and I am roughly a third of the way into it. (Possible finish date – July).

The second announcement has to do with a new title. I have decided that Coming of Age on the Trail, while descriptive, is just too cumbersome. By and large, shorter titles have more impact, and so the new title will reflect this. I will announce it the final decision has been made.


IntroducingLucas Porter, 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 visits help promote the writers and books that appear here. 

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 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


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:

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

A eulogy for Steve Walker, a renowned Canadian artist and illustrator (1961 – 2012)

Since the Canadian media has so far failed to recognize the passing of a renowned Canadian talent, I have taken it upon myself to write this eulogy for a man I didn’t know, but whom I admire greatly for the following reasons:

Although I did not know Steve Walker personally, or even professionally, I think I would have liked him.

In his biography he comes across as a shy, unassuming person–as most extraordinarily talented people do–for in his own words,“I have always been inclined to let my work speak for itself, believing that should I need to explain it, I have perhaps failed.”

He was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and although his artistic talent was recognized as early as the first grade, his primary ambition was to be an actor, i.e.:

“Despite my artistic talent I was determined to be an actor “when I grew up”. At the age of nineteen, I moved to Toronto, Canada to study theatre at university. Four years later I graduated from university, moved into my own apartment, and embarked on a career as an actor and, of course, waiter.”

It was about then that he discovered his sexual orientation, which seems to have been an evolutionary process as apposed to a revelation—a not uncommon occurrence.

 “I remember feeling a strange sense of elation upon having survived childhood, a rural environment, education, and the knowledge that my sexual orientation, (which was never a mystery or problem to me personally), would forever cause some people who never met me and would never know me, to hate me and others like me.”

However all this was about to change in the 1970s when the term “A.I.D.S.” started to circulate around the gay community, not only in Toronto but around the world, and so he turned away from acting in an attempt to “find a cure for the hatred, fear, and ignorance that surrounded so many young men around the world as they lay in hospital beds and drew the last breaths of unfinished lives,” and so he began to paint.

Never having painted before, he nonetheless taught himself and began creating paintings, not about gay or homosexual men, per se, but about the things all human beings share.

“Themes of love, attraction, hope, despair, loneliness, the beauty of sky, the perfection of a horizon, the power of a person touching another were given life on pieces of canvas. I created images that came from a place of truth. I tried to make sense of and give order to a world that seemed to know neither.

“It simply never occurred to me to paint about themes in any other context than that of my own life as a person who happens to be gay. I had never had a problem relating to work created by heterosexuals in a heterosexual context. Why should I create paintings whose context was anything other than the truth of my life as a gay man?”

From there he began to display his works in gay restaurants and bars around Toronto—I remember very distinctly seeing some of these at the “Les Cavaliers” club on Church Street (now the “Gay Village”—and in a short while he was exhibiting and selling his work in high end mainstream galleries throughout North America, and reproductions of his work throughout the world.

An epilogue in his own words,

“I see my work as a documentation, an interpretation, a crystallization of singular moments rendered in line, color, light, shadow, using a hundred brushes, a thousand colors, and a million brushstrokes. I strive to make people stop, if only a moment, think and actually feel something. My paintings contain as many questions as answers.

“I hope that in its’silence, the body of my work has given a voice to my life, the lives of others, and in doing so, the dignity of all people.”


Requiestat in pace, Steve Walker. I mourn your passing as a gay man; as an admirer of great talent; as a Canadian; and as a person.

[See also: “Elisa – My reviews and Ramblings” for and excellent tribute]

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

January 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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


Review by Gerry Burnie

Note: Although this novel was found on’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.


Vistor count  to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 16,450


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


Thanks  for dropping by!!

November 20, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, non-GLBT, Uncategorized | Leave a 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.


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


Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 14,468 (up 421 visits over last week).


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


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


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


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

Long Hard Ride, by Keta Diablo

A hard-riding and entertaining adventure

Civil War divides a nation, yet nothing will stop Grayson Drake from breaking Corporal Marx Wellbourne out of a Union prison. Assigned to bring Wellbourne to Richmond, Grayson soon discovers not only is the Corporal courting death, but he’s also the same man he coveted from afar four years ago in a Charleston brothel.

Pursued by the villainous warden of the prison, Major Britton Darkmore, nothing is as it seems when intrigue, danger and passion collide on the Long, Hard Ride back to Richmond.

Available in eBook format.

Review by Gerry Burnie

The title and the Civil War genre first attracted my attention to Long Hard Ride by Keta Diablo [Decadent Publishing, 2010] and as an in-the-saddle story it delivers quite well. However, it is more of a period story, as apposed to historical fiction, for the American Civil War is merely a backdrop.  Nonetheless, I will quickly add there is nothing wrong with this except the tag.

The crux of the story is that Marx Wellbourne is being held in a hellhole of a Union prison, known by its pejorative, “Helmira,” and is in dire straights. But inside his head are battle secrets that the South is desperate to know, and so Grayson Drake is sent to spring him from this maximum security institution.

The warden, Major Britton Darkmore, is a stereotypical villain who psycho-pathetically  guards his ‘no-escape’ record, and so when Wellbourne is sprung the pursuit is on from New York State, to Richmond, Virginia.

Along the way Grayson and Wellbourne have a rather tempestuous relationship, with neither one trusting the other, but they nonetheless manage to get it on both hot and heavy—such, that an uneasy love bond is formed.


Critically speaking, the writing is both strong and mature. The sentence and paragraph structures are smooth, such that the reader isn’t stubbing a toe over rough patches, and the dialogue is effective and believable.

As I have also alluded above, the characters are well developed but somewhat stereotypical—villainous warden, macho and omni-capable hero, and a reluctant lover. Nevertheless, they are consistent and made to play their parts well.

The plot is also clever, but being a bit ‘fantastic’ it could have benefited from more development. For instance, the secretive agency for which Drake worked could have done with more expansion to make it credible, and the happenstance surrounding Wellbourne’s escape from Elmia Prison—as well the old boy’s lodge that just happened to be there when it was needed—could have used some further thought.

Nonetheless, overall it was an entertaining read that had some top-rate moments. Recommended. Three and one-half stars.


This past week I entered into a deal with Maple Creek Media to format Two Irish Lads in eBook format. This will be a stand-alone publication with a new cover design by Alex Beecroft and a separate ISBN number. Therefore, this old scribe is entering (slowly) into the 21st-century.


The manuscript for Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now in the hands of the publisher, and so it is on schedule for a July, 2011, release.

 Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 11,756

July 3, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period, Homoerotic, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My apologies…

I’m late this week, and I do apologize. It has been one of those weeks with a tragic death in the family, and preparing for eye surgery on Tuesday have both kept my thoughts elsewhere. However, I have an exciting new novel, The Soldier of Raetia, to tell you about, tomorrow. So do drop back. 

Gerry B.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Song on the Sand, a short story by Ruth Sims

A 24-carat nugget of a story, and highly recommended.



Story blurb: Tony Dalby finds himself on the wrong end of his 80s, confined to a nursing home, with his days as a dancer a thing of the past. The appearance of Drew into his life brings a welcome distraction, as well as a bit of mystery as to why Drew constantly visits the wheelchair-bound, comatose Jesse. As secrets are revealed, Dalby finds he may have a renewed purpose for living after all.

Kindle edition, 44KB (19 pages).

About the author: Ruth Sims has lived her entire life in small town Mid-America, surrounded by corn, wheat, and soybean fields. Like Emily Dickinson she has never seen a Moor and has never seen the Sea, but she’s seen plenty of silos, Amish buggies, whitetails, and amber waves of grain. She’s the wife of one and mother of two … or vice versa. She gets a little confused by the rush of living.

Though many years past schooldays, her education is continuous and far-ranging, with interests running the gamut from Shakespeare to awful puns and limericks; from criminal psychology to the science of baking towering chocolate cakes and artisan bread. Her special love of theatre (as reader and observer only) is apparent in The Phoenix. Her passion for classical and romantic music comes to life in Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story, published by Dreamspinner Press, July 2010. The Phoenix, originally published in 2004, was revised and republished by Lethe Press in 2009.

Though best known as a novelist, she is proud to have several short stories published.

Review by Gerry Burnie

As someone who knows, I’ve always said that a sure sign of getting old is when nearly every topic begins with, “I used to.” Ruth Sims has captured this regrettable fact remarkably well in her poignant short story, Song on the Sand [Untreed Reads, 2010]. In fact Tony Dalby and I share quite a few “I used tos.” I was a former dancer who now only walks with the aid of a walker.  I was also an actor and singer (who once played Curly in “Oklahoma”—like Jesse), so I could relate to Tony Dalby at a very personal level. However, unlike Dalby I have never developed a resentment for the loss of these abilities. That’s what makes Song on the Sand so poignant, though. Conflict and resolution, which Ms Sims weaves into the narrative with remarkable believability.

Tony Dalby is a somewhat bitter old man, irascible as well, confined to a wheelchair in an impersonal nursing home. He is in fact what we all fear about getting old; finding ourselves helpless, alone and lonely. Redemption is on the way, however, in the person of a handsome young stranger named Drew. He is a frequent visitor to the nursing home because his “cousin” Jesse is a comatose inmate—the victim of a hit-and-run. Drew befriends Tony and it is then revealed that Jesse (a former amateur actor and singer) is really Drew’s lover, but because same-sex relationships are not recognized as kin, Drew has had to fabricate a kinship in order to gain access to him.

The pathos of this situation begins to inspire Tony to help, and in fact gives him a reason to help himself. He therefore suggests a form of musical therapy by playing music from Broadway musicals, and one of these is Song on the Sand from “La Cage aux Folles,” in which Jesse and he have previously played the same role.

Will it work? Will Jesse respond? Those are questions that I will leave with you, but like me I think you will be as surprised with the answers.

This is a superbly written story about a topic we rarely see in GBLT literature, i.e. the elderly. Nevertheless those usually hot young things do get old, and I am so very pleased to see aging dealt with with such insight and understanding. Do read this story for several reasons. First—as I’ve already mentioned—because of the uniqueness of topic, and also for the masterful way inwhich Ms Sims has crafted it.

A 24-carat nugget of a story, and highly recommended. Five stars.

News: Earlier this week Gerry B’s Book Reviews welcomed its 10,000th vistor. Thank you all. I am humbled.

Read an excerpt from Nor All Thy Tears by Gerry Burnie, scheduled for release in hardcopy and e-book formats, July 2011.

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

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Silver Saddles: The Dakota Series #2, by Cap Iversen

A fun read.




This week’s review is rather short. After spending all day Thursday and Friday travelling back to Canada, I arrived home to find that technical reasons prevented me from getting online until a few hours ago. My apologies.

Publisher’s blurb: Dakota Taylor, the gay gunslinger, is back. Here, Dakota leaves his lover Bennie on the ranch for a short trip into town. But as he heads home, somebody tries to use him for target practice. Soon Dakota finds himself two hundred miles from Bennie, with no chance of returning until he finds out who wants him dead—and why.

Review by Gerry Burnie

Having read Arson: The Dakota Series by Cap Iversen, and enjoyed it, I then went on to find (not that easily done) Silver Saddles [Alyson Books, 1993].

In this tale, gunslinger Dakota Taylor is now happily partnered with Benjamin Colsen, whom he met in the first of the series, and all is well until he get’s the news that his mother has passed away at the family’s homestead. After hearing this news in town he is ambushed on his way home, and discovers that someone has posted a bounty for him, dead or alive. When he recovers from his injuries, he sets out on a nine-month odyssey to find out why someone would hate him enough to go to all this effort to see him dead.

To this point it is classic western fare, i.e. good guy v. bad guy(s), but then the author takes off on a flight of fancy that is both complex and incredible at times. It is the sort of thing that requires not only tight writing, but also tight control of the characters and events that are galloping all over the place. In this regard Iversen does quite well for the most part, and almost pulls it off…that is, almost.

Fundamentally, the story suffers from too many characters doing too many things, as well as a plot that is too clever-by-half. Still, having said that, if you read it as being a “let’s pretend the West was like that,” it is a fun read and an evening’s entertainment. Three and one-half stars.

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sal Mineo: A Biography, by Michael Gregg Michaud

A life story, an adventure, and a romance – highly recommended




Blurb: Sal Mineo is probably most well-known for his unforgettable, Academy Award–nominated turn opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and his tragic murder at the age of thirty-seven. Finally, in this riveting new biography filled with exclusive, candid interviews with both Mineo’s closest female and male lovers and never-before-published photographs, Michael Gregg Michaud tells the full story of this remarkable young actor’s life, charting his meteoric rise to fame and turbulent career and private life.

About the author: MICHAEL GREGG MICHAUD’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and publications, including the Los Angeles Times. He is also a playwright, editor, artist, and award-winning photographer. An animal-rights defender, he is a founding director of the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation. He lives in Los Angeles.

*Available in e-book format – 2137KB

Review by Gerry Burnie 

When I first came upon the title “Sal Mineo: A Biography by Michael Gregg Michaud [Crown Archetype, 2010], I knew it was something I had to read. You see, in 1965 I spent an intimate evening with Sal Mineo in Toronto, and although this time was brief I can attest to some of the characteristics Michaud writes about; certainly Mineo’s disarming charm, his impetuousness, and his passion for life at whatever he happened to be doing at the time.

Sal Mineo’s impoverished childhood in the Bronx is a testament to several things: i.e. if you stay true to your dreams they will come true (in some measure), and anything worthwhile is worth working for. Mineo did against formidable odds. Along the way luck also played a role when he was cast with Yul Brenner in “The King and I,” and Brenner became his inspiration as well as his mentor.

Eventually Hollywood beckoned, and on the basis of his accomplishments, youthful good looks and luck, at the tender age of fifteen he was cast in a supporting role opposite the (now) legendary James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” The female lead in this cinematic classic was Natalie Wood, and it is particularly interesting to note that all three of these individuals met an untimely and tragic end.[1]

Mineo idolized Dean, who was known to be bi-sexual, and for the first time Sal began to realize how love between men could arise. Nothing ever transpired between these two, however, and eventually Dean’s brilliant career and unorthodox lifestyle was cut short by a tragic car accident—September 30, 1955.

In the Halcyon days of his career, Mineo was managed by his well-intentioned but domineering mother—the quintessential stage mother—who spent his considerable income faster than he could earn it.  Moreover, lacking the business acumen to realize this, and being a bit of a spendthrift himself, the plot was set for a financial crises.

Also contributing to this downturn was Mineo’s inability to make the transition from a teen idol to more mature roles. Ironically, it was his baby face and stereotype casting as a juvenile delinquent—the very characteristics that had made him a famous—that worked against him in the eyes of the public. Consequently, he joined the ranks of childhood stars whose careers were short lived.

Until this stage his sexual orientation had been strictly heterosexual, particularly with a British starlet by the name of Jill Haworth.[2] That was until he met Bobby Sherman; a virtual unknown until Mineo used his influence to launch Sherman’s singing career in the 1960s. Following his fling with Sherman, the floodgates seemed to open to a variety of attractive, young men who ended up in Mineo’s bed—some with familiar names from the era, i.e. Jay North (Dennis the Menace), David Cassidy, and Jon Provost (Timmy of Lassie fame). Nevertheless, when he met a handsome actor by the name of Courtney Burr, he finally formed a love that lasted until Mineo’s death in 1976.

Not surprisingly rumours of this began to circulate, and since Hollywood’s attitude about sex was oddly (and not just a little hypocritically) guarded, Sal lived his private life under the radar for fear and professional recriminations.

“Sal knew that outing himself, declaring his sexuality, would destroy what little was left of his career. Though Sal never publicly came out in a conventional manner, there was a subliminal coming-out that began years before. He wanted his lifestyle and his choices to be accepted. He wanted a normalcy and legitimacy in his life.”

Not an unreasonable wish in a town where almost anything goes, sexually, and sensuality is a packaged product.


This exhaustive biography is not only a tribute to Sal Mineo, a talented and misunderstood individual who lived life to the fullest—no matter what he did—it is also a tribute to the author’s unrelenting dedication. For example, the writing of “Sal Mineo: A biography” took ten years and three-years of research to complete. Moreover, numerous interviews were conducted, most particularly with Jill Haworth and Courtney Burr, to give it a personal insight beyond the written record. Bravo!

Full of details and previously undisclosed anecdotes, the biography captures a career of ups and downs and a private life of sexual impulses. Highly recommended. Five stars.

[2] With deep regret, Jill Haworth passed away January 03, 2011.

January 23, 2011 Posted by | biography, Contemporary biography, Gay romance, Hollywood, Non-fiction, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Finding Forever (an unpublished short story) by Jacqueline Castillo

A discussion on ‘the short story’



Story blurb: Jess and Amber are two gal friends who are off on a vacation under the hot sun of Cuba. Jess is just recovering from a break-up with her longtime boyfriend Chris, and not quite ready to sample romance again, while Amber is making a meal of it and urging a reluctant Jess to do the same.

Enter a handsome Cuban entertainer named Vincente, with dark eyes and a gentle but persistent nature. Add a few Cuba Libres to the mix, and the ingredients are set for Finding Forever.

I don’t usually review either individual short stories or unpublished works, but with finding forever by Jacqueline Castillo it gives me a chance to talk about ‘the short story.’ 

In my opinion the key word is “short;” which means that the writer must step in with a hop-skip-and-a jump, deliver their best shot, and then step out with a resolving kiss or a tear. All in quick-quick time.

Overall Finding Forever is an admirable effort for an unpublished writer, and shows great promise. Jounalistically, it is well written, the sentences flow, the description is colourful, and the dialogue is realistic and meaningful. However, what is lacking is any real sense of drama or tension—i.e. the “punch” that leads to the resolution, and without it the story doesn’t reach its full potential.

Very much part and parcel with the above are the characters. Jess is pretty, Amber is precocious, and Vincente is dark and handsome, but these characteristics alone don’t make them interesting. What’s going on inside them? How deeply is Jess grieving over the loss of Chris? How shallow is Amber’s idea of happiness? And how smitten is suave, handsome, Latin Vincente? In a short story these have to almost literally jump off the page to grab the interest of the reader.

Nonetheless it’s a great start, and the key to good writing for first-timers or pros alike, is: rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!

 Still awaiting Coming of Age on the Trail from the editor, but making progress on The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Broken H, by J.L. Langley

The Broken H needs a bit of repair



Publisher’s Blurb: A rocky past that sent Shane fleeing his home and seeking refuge on The Broken H has kept him from the one thing that has always been dear to him. Grayson.

Sheriff Grayson Hunter hasn’t felt like he belonged for a long time. Once he loved The Broken H, his ancestral home, and Shane Cortez with all that he was. Now he tries to stay as far away from the ranch and the man as possible until an accident brings them together.

Gray didn’t count on Shane’s decision to let go of the past…and get a hold of Gray.

Publisher’s note: This book is a male-male love story and contains homoerotic sex acts that may be offensive to some readers.


Review by Gerry Burnie

As a self-proclaimed homoerotic novel—“one-handed reads,” as I refer to them—The Broken H, by J.L. Langley [Loose Id LLC 2007] is better than some. Oh, there are plenty of sex scenes (15 in all, give or take one or two), but journalistically speaking the writing is quite solid, and the author has made an attempt to build a plot between the romps in the sack. Admittedly the plot is a bit short on originality, but the point is that there is one.

Shane Cortez is a runaway with a mysterious past—although we don’t find out what that is until quite late in the story. Nevertheless, he now seems well adjusted as foreman of The Broken H Ranch. The Hunters, a remarkably liberal family—including their gay son, Grayson—have unofficially adopted Shane as a son, and Grayson has fallen lustfully in love with him. It is nonetheless a rocky romance, made more difficult by a teenage bimbo who accuses Shane of knocking her up. Her father, a somewhat stereotypical loudmouthed redneck, then sets out to demand that Shane make an ‘honest woman’ of her.

Meanwhile, he and Grayson are filling page-after-page with “homoerotic sex” at the drop of an elastic band [see the story for an explanation].

If a nice light read without too many challenging plot twists is your forte, then this story is bound to fill the bill.


See a preview of  Coming of Age on the Trail: An M/M adventure and romance

See a collection of interesting photographs of cowboys taken around the turn of the century.

August 1, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Amazon Dot-CA & Dot-Com

The World’s biggest book seller seems to have forgotten those of us who buy and supply it.



On April 25th I ordered the book I was planning to review this week, i.e. Strings Attached by Nick Nolan. Today, May 14th, I finally got a notice that it had been shipped, “Express.”

I have previously complained about Amazon—not directly to them because trying to contact them directly is like writing to God. My complaint on that occasion was that they had neglected to include a ‘product description’ for my second novel, Journey to Big Sky. As you will no doubt understand, a book without a synopsis is a dead issue in the sales department. It was.

The other irony is that my publisher, Createspace, is owned by Amazon.

Nonetheless, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good, so it has given me the opportunity to become acquainted with Maureen Ash, author of  A Templar Knight series, and in particular Death of a Squire. A review of this delightful story is found below.



May 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Transgressions by “Erastes”

Masterfully written as usual, and a very inspirational topic – Recommended

Publisher: Rnning Press Book Publishing



Story outline: 1642, England: David Caverly’s strict father has brought home the quiet, puritanical Jonathan Graie to help his dreamer of a son work the family forge. With war brewing in Parliament, the demand for metal work increases as armies are raised.

The fair David is drawn to his father’s new apprentice. And though his father treats them both as if they were brothers, David’s feelings toward the shy Jonathan develop as they hide their growing physical relationship. Until the fateful moment when local gossips force David’s father to banish him, to protect the family name.

Freed, directionless, and whimsical, David is eager to experience the drama and excitement of war, and follows two soldiers headed for battle, but the reality is a harsh awakening for his free-spirited nature. Seizing the opportunity to desert, David heads to London to lead a secret life, unaware that Jonathan too has left the forge in search of him. Lost and lonely, the vulnerable Jonathan quickly falls in with the Witchfinders, a group of extremists who travel the country conducting public trials of women suspected of witchcraft. Jonathan is drawn to the charismatic Michael, finally embracing a cause for truth so wholeheartedly, he doesn’t recognize the danger—physical and emotional—that Michael represents. For the fanatic puritan is desperate to purge Jonathan of his memories of David in any manner possible….


Review by Gerry Burnie

The storyline of Eraste’s recent work, “Transgressions: A M/M romance,” (Running Press Book Publishers, 2009), has been well served by the product description, so I will cut directly to the elements of the story. 

To begin, all the protagonists—David Caverly, Johnathan Graie, and Tobias—are good, strong characters; well-defined and distinct. Likewise their personalities are distinct, and except where circumstances require it they remain consistent throughout. David, the indolent and ‘typical-teenager-type’ who matures under fire (literally), and who comes to seek and honour love over hedonism; Johnathan, the serious-minded-Puritan and wide-eyed innocent of sorts, who is mesmerized first by the more head-strong and charismatic David, and later by the possessive and sinister Michael; and the worldly Tobias who is content to screw his way through partners until he meets his “virgin farm boy.” All are quite believable, as well; although I did find Johnathan a bit hard to fathom at times.  

As usual Erastes has chosen a powerful atmosphere and setting in the English Civil War(s) (1641-1651), between the forces of Parliament and the Royalists; more specifically, between Oliver Cromwell and Charles I. It was a truly brutal conflict on both sides, with an estimated death toll—from all causes including war-related disease—of 190,000 individuals; or nearly 4% of the population. 

Socially, it was a brutal time as well, that divided families against one another, and afterward the so-called “Loyalists” were hunted down as outlaws. 

Erastes has also included the equally powerful and brutal practice of hunting witches. This was an ongoing religiously-sponsored atrocity that lasted until it was finally outlawed (in England) in 1735. Nevertheless, in spite of the dark era that all this represented, love prevailed. A celebration of the indomitable human will to find beauty in the midst of darkness. 

Masterfully written as usual, and a very inspirational absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!


See a preview of Gerry Burnie’s forthcoming novel, “Coming of Age on the Trail” See some interesting “Related Images”; Read an excerpt


April 15, 2010 Posted by | Gay historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Important Annoucement For Viewers- good news!

A complete list of titles and authors that I have reviewed is now available at:


List of authors and titles


March 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

He’s Bewitched by Ryan Field

A campy little story not really intended to be taken seriously, and if read in this context it’s a fun read 

Story outline: Brett Samson is a young warlock who longs to be just like everyone else. His only dream in life is to fall in love with the right man and live happily-ever-after. But he becomes disillusioned with everything when his latest lover breaks off their relationship. Realizing he may never be able to live a normal, mortal life, he takes off on a road trip to Cape Cod in a vintage Lincoln convertible, with his best friend and cousin, Michelle, his outrageous little dog, Tag, and his faltering witch of a grandmother, Eloise. Rhys Phillips, a handsome young man living with a werewolf curse, is hitching to New York to find an alchemist who can remove the curse, when he meets Brett at a small filling station in Maryland. When Brett and his family are forced to spend the night in a small motel because of a flat tire, he and Rhys start out as buddies who are bunking together in the same room. But the next morning Brett wakes up with handsome Rhys pinned to his back, a broken bed frame and sexy bruises on the back of his legs. Brett, Rhys, and the rest of the family, including the remarkable dog, embark on a summertime journey that takes them to the magical tip of Cape Cod, where they all discover the meaning of true love and brilliant erotic romance. They conquer their fears, learn how to deal with a sinister dark witch, and they all wind up finding the normal lives they’ve been craving.


 Review by Gerry Burnie 

“He’s Bewitched” by Ryan Field (Ravenous Romance, October 2009) is a campy little story, a parody of TV’s “Bewitched,” and I don’t think it was ever intended to be taken seriously. Certainly I didn’t approach it that way. In some respects it is ‘over the top,’ and in other respects I would have liked to see even more camp—i.e. with regard to the aging, somewhat befuddled Eloise—once again a parody of “Aunt Hagatha” (Rita Saw) on the TV version. 

The sex scenes are one of the ‘overdone’ bits in my opinion. Okay, Brett’s masochistic leanings are one thing, but his penchant for gang-bangs is gratuitous, not overly meaningful to the character or story, and repetitious. A few less of these wouldn’t have gone amiss apart from reducing the word count. 

The plot is also somewhat trite with the quest for a magic elixir, dark witches and alchemists, but to give it a complicated storyline wouldn’t have worked. Nothing else about this story takes itself seriously, so a corny cause and ending fits the bill quite nicely. However, even I raised my eyebrows on account of the writer’s interpretation of ‘pure and good!’ 

Personally I found it a hoot. It’s definitely not a Pulitzer Prize contender, and from that perspective I wasn’t at all disappointed.

February 5, 2010 Posted by | Gay fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Captain’s Surrender – Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Linden Bay Romance 

Five Stars

Ambitious and handsome, Joshua Andrews had always valued his life too much to take unnecessary risks. Then he laid eyes on the elegant picture of perfection that is Peter Kenyon. Soon to be promoted to captain, Peter Kenyon is the darling of the Bermuda garrison. With a string of successes behind him and a suitable bride lined up to share his future, Peter seems completely out of reach to Joshua. But when the two men are thrown together to serve during a long voyage under a sadistic commander with a mutinous crew, they discover unexpected friendship. As the tension on board their vessel heats up, the closeness they feel for one another intensifies and both officers find themselves unable to rein in their passion. Let yourself be transported back to a time when love between two men in the British Navy was punishable by death, and to a story about love, about honor, but most of all, about a Captain-s Surrender. 


 A superb read, authentic to history, and a touching romance 

Review by Gerry Burnie 

“Captain’s Surrender” by Alex Beecroft (Linden Bay Romance, 2008) is a swashbuckling tale with real meat on its bones. Set in the late eighteenth century, mostly aboard British Royal Navy vessels, this tale bounds over the imaginary mane like an elegant clipper ship in full sail. On the one hand there is the powdered wigs and spit-and-polish of the officers, and on the other the lowly ‘tars’ who carry out their imperious commands; never the twain to meet … except. It is also set at a time when sodomy was considered the vilest crime on the books, and subject to an ignominious death if convicted of it. 

The action is equally fast-paced, including a near mutiny; bloody engagements with privateers; and a skirmish with an imperial, French invasion force on the icy waters of Hudson Bay. There is also a duel to the death for good measure. 

At the same time a touching m/m love story unfolds that is as tender as the non-stop action is rollicking. Joshua Andrews is a young midshipman (apprentice officer) with a dark secret that has indirectly caused the death of a friend and sometimes lover—hanged from the yardarm; therefore, he has developed a complex loathing for what resides within him. Sensing something like this, the Draconian captain has singled him out to be the next “catamite” to swing from the topsail in his crazed, sadistic campaign to restore ‘God’s order to things’—according to the said captain, of course. 

Enter First-Lieutenant (later Captain) Peter Kenyon, a highly principled Adonis whose own order of things begins to falter when he confronts Andrews’ boyish, Irish charms. Still, Kenyon finds an acceptable compromise in lust with Joshua while keeping a weather-eye on Miss Emily Jones, the ward of Mr. Summersgill, comptroller of the Island of Bermuda, and a much safer harbour. 

Albeit, compromises often catch the practitioner uncomfortably in the middle, and Miss Jones turns out to be very much her own gal, not to be taken for granted, while Josh becomes more desirable but elusive. Still, the final resolution is not revealed until the last page of the last chapter. Brava! 

Interestingly, in resolving all this, the biblical assurance that mankind is created in God’s image, and is therefore fundamentally good, is argued. In support of this philosophy the idea of two-spirit culture is introduced; whereby it is believed that mixed-gender individuals (i.e., male-female, female-male) were endowed with special powers, and were considered a blessing from the Great Spirit. 

Two spirits is a theme that is entering into the mainstream of GLBT literature, i.e. “Two Spirits: A life among the Navajo,” (Walter L. Williams), and “The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon” (Tom Spanbauer), but it is also one that is fraught with the complexities of various Native cultures, languages, and geographic territories. 

For example: Andrews is supposedly rescued by “red Indians” somewhere in the vicinity of Hudson Bay, and these Indians undertake to teach him the ways of “agokwa” (meaning “genitaled-women,” or mixed-gender). It is an ingenious way of weaving this message into the fabric of the story, but … the Indians in the Hudson Bay region would have almost certainly been either Inuit, or Cree—not “Anishinabe,” which is not a specific tribe, per se. Moreover, linguistically speaking “agokwa” is an Ojibwa term, not Cree or Inuit. The equivalent Cree term is, “ayekkwe,” “a’yahkwew.” It is a truly brave soul, therefore, who navigates these waters without a reliable map. 

I hasten to add, however, that this purist perspective in no way detracts from a superb read, or the meticulous research that has gone into making this a most convincing look at 18th-century naval practices, and sailing ships in general; thus fulfilling the best in historical fiction—to educate while entertaining.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | Gay historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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