Gerry B's Book Reviews

Allegiance: A Dublin Novella, by Heather Domin

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



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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Filly by Mark R. Probst

Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing

Story outline: Escaping into the fantasy of his books when he’s not working in the general store, Ethan Keller has lived a sheltered life in his mother’s boarding house. One day, an enigmatic cowboy passing through the small Texas town takes an immediate liking to the shy seventeen-year-old. Ethan is intrigued by the attention, and the cowboy eventually charms him into signing on to a 900-mile cattle drive. Ethan soon finds that his feelings for this cowboy run deeper than just friendship. He never knew that this kind of love even existed; and now for the two of them to make a life together in the untamed west, they must face nearly insurmountable odds if they are to survive.


An imaginative, charming story of young love

Review by Gerry Burnie

Mark Probst is an author with a marvellously rich imagination, and his first novel, The Filly, is proof positive of this statement. 

It is set in a small town in Texas in the 1870s, where we find seventeen-year-old Ethan Keller at work in Mr. Simpson’s general store. It is one of those quaint emporiums that sells almost everything imaginable, from biscuits to jigsaw puzzles, and in his spare time Ethan reads his beloved novels. 

Ethan is a nice, intelligent kid, somewhat shy and naïve due to his sheltered life with his devoted, widowed mother, so he finds adventure in reading such books as Tale of Two Cities. Therefore, it is not surprising that he is intrigued by a handsome, worldly cowboy named Travis Cain, who comes riding through looking for work. 

Travis is equally taken by Ethan, and a friendship quickly forms between them. The catalyst is “Cleo,” Cain’s beautiful and spirited mare, and from this we learn that, in spite of his bookish nature, Ethan is a superb rider. Moreover, his abiding ambition is to one day own one of his own. Both of these points come into play later on in the novel to make them quite a logical progression. 

The two other central characters are Miss Peet, Ethan’s former schoolmistress, and his older, sibling brother William. Miss Peet is a somewhat man hungry spinster, and William is a hard drinking, whore loving rebel, but intensely loyal to his “little brother.” 

Having thus created a cast of interesting and colourful characters, he then sets them to work interacting with one another in almost comedic fashion. First he establishes a bond between Ethan and Travis, and then casts Miss Peet into the arena with her with her rather rapacious eyes on Travis Cain as well. 

The Filly is far from a comedy, but I found this particular juxtaposition charming. 

The real turning point in the novel comes when Travis convinces Ethan to join him on a 900-hundred-mile cattle drive. This is where Mark Probst’s vivid imagination really begins to shine. I have read firsthand accounts of similar drives, and his account parallels these in both accuracy and atmosphere. Major drives like these were no cakewalks, and it was the making—or breaking, of a man to undertake one of them. 

Fortunately, it was the making of Ethan on this one, and the cementing of the bond between he and Travis as well. There were other challenges to follow, some of them dire, but I will leave these for other readers to discover. 

Strong points: Mark Probst’s imagination and his obvious understanding and dedication to western lore; his characterization—for they are all good strong characters, and also his courage to undertake his first novel. 

Not so strong points: Well … Travis does come across as a bit too articulate for his station. I was hoping that his mother might be a cultured lady who had schooled him, but that wasn’t the case when I met her in the novel. Nevertheless, this is only a minor quibble, and it does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. 

Recommended: The Filly by author Mark R. Probst. It is a charming story of coming out and gay romance set against the rugged background of the ‘old’ west. It is also a refreshingly unique perspective of cowboy life.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Gay historical fiction | | 1 Comment


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