Gerry B's Book Reviews

End of the Trail, by Jane Elliot

An enjoyable western novel written in the classical style – 

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end of the trail - coverWill Connors is struggling to hold together a failing farm; his wife has died, his son has gone, he’s not without enemies and he’s dealing with the after-effects of a debilitating accident. It’s a life of toil which doesn’t allow for very much pleasure, and he’s in danger of becoming embittered until a chance acquaintance wanders back into his life and everything begins to change. The problem, however, is that John Anderson has a price on his head – and, very soon, Will and John find themselves desperately concealing more than one dangerous secret.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A brief overview of the books I’ve reviewed will reveal that I like westerns, especially those written in the classic style, and here’s another one: End of the Trail by Jane Elliot [Manifold Press, February 23, 2013].

I was first attracted to it by Robert Plotz’s cover image—two men riding hard with unfurled lariats in their hands. It is evocative of the old ‘penny westerns,’ with lots of action portrayed; however, the only problem being that it has little to do with the story except the western theme.

The story itself is set in the old west, although no specific time period is mentioned. The main character, Will Connors, is a lonely rancher: hard working; honest; and mildly handicapped (game leg). He is also a widower whose son has gone east, and so he is left to work the ranch on his own.

He first meets John Anderson three years prior when Anderson rides onto his property, wounded. Connors and his wife nurse him back to health, but it is only after he leaves that they learn that Anderson is an outlaw. In the meantime Connors’ wife dies, and John Anderson unexpectedly reappears looking for sanctuary. In need of both the help and company, Connors consents, and the two men form a friendship that ultimately evolves into a sexual relationship as well.

I like the pace the author uses to bring it about. These are mature men, after all, and Will is anything but impetuous, so there is no hopping into the sack at the clank of a belt buckle. Neither are there any moments of high drama: i.e. shootouts, stampedes, or murderous villains. There is one scheming neighbour who is trying to for Will into a sale, but no range war erupts. Which brings me around to the blurb.

Story blurbs are important because these help the shopper decide whether the plot is interesting enough to invest money into it. Consequently, the writer usually gives it their best shot with a handful of colourful adjectives and superlatives. However, one must also be careful not to over do it either unintentionally or intentionally. In this case, while the blurb was well written, I felt the story didn’t quite reach the dramatic level suggested by it.

Mind you, I hasten to add that I was quite satisfied with the story as it was.

All-in-all, I feel justified in recommending End of the Trail for your reading enjoyment. Four bees.

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

       

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April 8, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Traditional Western | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Allegiance: A Dublin Novella, by Heather Domin

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

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Bluebird Calls (The Heart of the Mountain #1), by Leiland Dale

For lovers of true romance in the Harlequin style –

Devon Reid, veterinarian, had a partner of 2 years, a beautiful house, and a fantastic job. Then, life as he knew it, changed.

Six months ago, he became his mother’s sole caretaker when her cancer returned. With his constant absence from home, his relationship ends leaving him alone in one of the most emotionally draining points in his life. When his mother passes, he is lonely and loses his zest for life.

With his emotions and life in turmoil, Devon decides it’s time to make a change. Leaving the city life behind and taking a job in a small town in Montana, was just what the doctor ordered. Then, he meets the hunky ranch foreman, Greg Elliot.

Greg has lived most of his life on a ranch. Living in a small town didn’t offer many prospects for a relationship, until he meets the new veterinarian in town.

While they try to resist the obvious mutual attraction, a fateful call during the night changes it all.

What is a city boy to do when a small town cowboy ropes him in?

Available in ebook format, only – 223 KB

About the author: Initially, Leiland began reading Harlequin Romance and Silhouette Desire but later transitioned to Silhouette Nocturne. But after reading the first M/M erotic romance, tons of M/M material soon followed. As an avid reader, Leiland decided one day to take a stab at writing a book. These days, when not writing something new, Leiland can be found reading a steamy romance (shifters are a fav!), taking the pet dog for a walk or watching movies such as A Walk to Remember.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I think what first attracted me to When the Bluebird Calls (The Heart of the Mountain #1) by Leiland Dale [Silver Publishing, 2010] was the award-winning cover by Reese Dante. It’s sexy without being overly erotic. The second thing was that the blurb didn’t mention “hot,” “steamy” or “lusty” even once, and that was enough to overcome my usual avoidance of contemporary western novels.

The plot is rather simple. Devon Reid is an urban veterinarian, gay, and with a boyfriend. Tragedy strikes when his mother is stricken with a fatal form of cancer, and with her loss, as well as the break-up of his relationship, he decides to escape to the rural town of Bridger, Montana.

Here he continues is veterinary practice, and one of his clients is a ruggedly handsome, ranch foreman by the name of Greg Elliot.

It is very much a situation of ‘love at first sight’ for both of them, and a courtship of sorts follows. However, it is not until they are fortuitously brought together when Devon is called to assist the birth of a colt, and from there it is pretty well a situation of happy-ever-after.

My views:

It’s interesting that the author started off by reading Harlequin Romance novels, because this is definitely a romance: A lonely ingénue dreaming of love; a storybook town nestled in the rolling hills of Montana; and a hunky foreman ready to settle down with the right guy. It`s not the way it generally happens, but it is the way we`d like to see it happen. Nothing wrong with that.

However, even Harlequin Romances have some sort of tension (angst) written into them, a ‘pinch of salt’ if you will, and this is what wI wias missing from the mix. Everything was just too idealistic. It is not so much a credibility problem as a lack of colour and variation.

The pace was also a bit frenetic at times—especially the opening scenes with the death of the mother and the alienation of the boyfriend. It was all over so briefly that I just didn’t get to feel Devon’s desolation quite as much as I should have. True, this is a novella (about 85 pages), but a paragraph or two to describe Devon’s sense of loss would have helped throughout the remainder of the story.

Having said that, however, it is a good read for lovers of happy-ever-after romances. Three bees.

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November 12, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | , , | Leave a comment

Cut Hand, by Mark Wildyr

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

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

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

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

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

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

   

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