10.4.14

BILLY'S BONES by Jamie Fessenden



BILLY'S BONES by Jamie Fessenden
With any novel by Jamie Fessenden you pretty much have to expect a 5 star rating. His books are entertaining, yes, but they are at the same time intelligent, unapologetic, and unpredictable. You don't have cutout characters with rarefied lives, looks, but real people with extraordinary experiences.

In BILLY'S BONES you have two lonely men, one a psychologist and one very much in need of one. A traumatic experience in childhood has one man unable to touch or be touched. The psychologist needs to balance his growing attachment and his lover'S need for HEALING.

Fessenden not only treats his characters with respect, he does his research and offers the reader a story s/he can rely on to be honest and credible.

The mother is just awful.. I had one like her, believe me. It's no exaggeration.

8.4.14

DUTY TO THE CROWN by Rebecca Cohen , reviewed by Mel Keegan

DUTY TO THE CROWN by Rebecca Cohen

Reviewed by Mel Keegan
ISBN-13: 978-1-62380-369-8
Pages: 210
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Dreamspinner Press, 2013
Buy now from Amazon ($6.99 for your Kindle)
See also The Actor and the Earl, reviewed by Mel Keegan

All the world had certainly become a stage for Sebastian Hewel, who continues his portrayal of Lady Bronwyn -- not at the Rose or the Globe, “dressed as girl” in the theatrical works of the late sixteenth century which have come down to us as classics, but out in London and the home counties, where discovery is a very real risk, and the wages of this particular sin could easily be death.

Duty to the Crown is the sequel to The Actor and the Earl, by Rebecca Cohen, and I definitely glimpse a third episode in the story of Sebastian and Anthony, Earl Crofton. (We’re never told the lands of which Anthony is earl, but the way home leads through the Epping Forest, so the Crofton estates can only be a tad west of Chelmsford; maybe also a little to the south, as at one point Sebastian can ride quickly to Kent.)

For me, this second episode is much better than the first. The romantic relationships are established, the sticky question of “does the earl love the actor?” was resolved in the initial book, and this time around the author introduced outside forces providing the torque to develop the story past the comfortable, relaxed “marriage” of the two men, one of whom most of the world believes to be his twin sister.

A little intrigue; a royal command -- a spy, a prisoner, the Valois siblings, brigands on the highway, kidnap, hazard, illicit seduction -- all this adds up to your actual, genuine plotline, rather than the “pure romance” we saw in the first novel. I confess, for myself, plot is where it all happens, with the romance always irresistibly appealing on the side. This one has enough actual extra-romance story to be quite attractive.

Also, this episode gives us a look at the more realistic sixteenth century reaction to the discovery of Sebastian being a man in a frock, to all intents and purposes married to Anthony. Without handing you spoilers, a day arrives when the ruse is up, and death is a whisker away. The real sixteenth century England was little less brutal than Europe, and almost as homophobic -- though not quite. Some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are redolent with gay overtones; there’s long been speculation that he swung both ways, and even dared to record his feeling in verse. It would be a mistake to assume England of the era would happily turn a blind eye to gay antics, but it would also be a mistake to assume everyone in the country was bloody-minded on the subject. As always, the truth is somewhere between the poles. Less than a dozen people know of the role Sebastian is still playing, and when one outside the support group finds out --

But that would be a spoiler!

The non-romantic action is better handled better in this book than the first, as if the writer is settling down to the story, now the romance has been mostly resolved. To plot junkies like self, this is an enormous plus.

Again, a number of Americanisms and modern day terms sneak through to jerk the reader out of that state of “disbelief suspension.” Expressions like “cleanup,” “dog person,” “delusional,” and “I guess,” belong to much more modern times; “come fetch him” is an Americanism -- Brits would say, “Come and fetch him,” just as they would say bedside table, never “nightstand” … 

In fact, some more background research was needed. Quite a few factual mistakes pop up and were avoidable, with a bit of reading. For instance, in sixteenth century England, soap was made of wood or mouse (yes mouse!) ash and animal fat, scented with flowers if one was extraordinarily lucky, was dark or even black, and had the consistency of slurry -- it was once confused with caviar! The narrative use of the musket squeaks in with around a decade to spare after the word “musket” was first documented in surviving printed history; at the time, the musket was the C16th equivalent of high-tech, say, like our current nanotechnology. Ruffians in the forest would not have had muskets, they were too rare and expensive. The arquebus was the common firearm, not very much like a musket and still fairly common till around 1700. At one point, Anthony is wounded, and the wound was stitched … in fact, wounds of the day were cauterized either with a hot iron or with hot oil. The new-fangled treatment from Europe was an ointment made from egg yolks and turpentine! Similarly, the term “cologne,” for a man’s perfume, is a misnomer before 1709, where it was first known as Kölnisch Wasser, Cologne Water. At the time of Elizabeth I, noblemen certainly reeked of perfume, but cologne it wasn’t.

All this aside, Duty to the Crown is a very readable book indeed. If you’re not a history buff, and either don’t have an ear for the language, and/or aren’t British, you won’t notice the gaffs, and there’s a great deal to enjoy in it. Given that this is light reading with few pretensions to be literature, it would be a mistake to dwell too long on the errors --

So instead I’ll tell you there are couple of really good laughs; one or two sections where you’ll be turning pages rapidly, very much involved with plot and characters; a lot of sex scenes where you can either wallow or skim over, depending on your fancy (I think I’ve said this to one critic before: it’s an e-book, dangitall; learn what your fast forward key is for); city and countryside, the houses of rich and poor, from the royal court to the home of a simple artisan, are described with a fine attention to detail; and overall, the mood, tone and backgrounding are much more evocative of the era and the place than was The Actor and the Earl, as if the author is gradually becoming steeped in this world, this time.

In Episode Two, one is reminded even more strongly of Heyer, and I can see a most interesting Episode Three coming along to wrap the story. I’m hoping for a good, solid plot in addition to the romance; and if the development of Duty to the Crown, as a sequel, can be judged by, I don’t think Rebecca Cohen will disappoint.

Recommended if you’re looking for light, sexy reading, an occasional thrill-and-spill, a chuckle … and if you’re a history buff who’d like to partake of the above, you’ll just have to learn how to blink when an occasional gaff comes along, and -- enjoy.
Looking forward to the conclusion!
Reprinted with permission from GLBT Bookshelf

3.4.14

TOURNAMENT OF SHADOWS by S. A. Meade

TOURNAMENT OF SHADOWS  by S. A. Meade


Captain Gabriel O'Riordan and Valentin Yakolev meet on the dusty road to a citadel in a Moslem Middle Eastern land.  The British operative, disguised as a holy scholar, notices the Russian's interest in him and wonders at it, whether it is the interest of another clandestine diplomatic operative or something more personal, more intimate.  Forced to be wary, Gabriel nevertheless must trust Valentin if he wants to free the British diplomats in the Emir's dungeon.  The two men have at least one thing in common: they are each weary of their clandestine espionage work.  This most recent assignment turns out to take a hefty toll on them, especially Valentin who has spent a horrendous time in a deep hole with rats and scorpions.  They connect as men who love men, but since Gabriel suspects the Russian of having a hand in an incident in Kabul where Gabriel's friends suffered and were killed, even as they travel north through Russia he cannot let himself the trust the troubled man.
This is a fairly simple story with individualistic characters that suffers somewhat from not knowing if it is intrigue or romance.  This would not be a problem if well blended, but as the steady, even relentless action just fizzles out as they start up the river to the north, the change from adventure to conflicts of the heart is a bit jarring.  Along with some minor continuity issues, the result is an uneven tale.  The meaning of the book's title utterly baffles me.
However for the simple escapism of a couple dashing heroes getting it on in service to king – or czar – and country and the fluid writing and depth of characterization, it is certainly worth a read.

Review by Christopher Hawthorne Moss anc reprinted with permission from  MM Good Book Reviews

31.3.14

SHIREWODE by J. Tullos Hennig

A gay pagan Robin Hood in love with a Templar... what's not to like?

Visit That's All She Read for a review of Shirewode by J. Tullos Hennig

http://kitmossreviews.blogspot.com/2014/03/shirewode-by-j-tullos-hennig.html

29.3.14

That's All I Read: YOUNG DIG BY SWANK by Owen Keehnan

YOUNG DIG BY SWANK by Owen Keehnan
BUY AT AMAZON.COM
Poor Digby started out on the wrong foot by being an unwanted pregnancy of a woman who had all the kids she wanted, thank you very much.  When he proceeds to show every indication of being aan oddball, he is seemingly doomed.  He will never fit in.  For one thing even as a baby his usual facial expression was a smirk.  He loves show tunes, Judy Garland, and to dress up in girly clothes and act out beauty pageant fantasies.   His mother's solution to all problems is snack cakes and ice cream, so he has to deal with chubbiness too.  All his family seems to care about is how things will look to the neighbors.  Raised Catholic Digby puzzles through why God made him the way he is.  At his parochial elementary school he is constantly being punished for just being himself.  He doesn't feel like he's a bad kid.  In fact, he doesn't see the problem with his own behavior.  No surprise then that he begins to question the reasoning involved, if any, in religion.
Digby's redemption occurs through the appearance of anther boy who does not fit in, whether Doug, whose parents are ultra born-agains, or during his brief stint in public school the "Noel Coward" of the school, when he finds another who also does not fit in.  The reader watches him slowly realize that his little town, Running Falls, is not the sole arbiter of what is right and proper.
This novel was a joy to read, clever, funny -- especially in its observations of Catholicism -- and intelligent.  I laughed out loud every time I picked it up to read.  I am sure there were some in-jokes I did not get, but that just means the book is funnier than I even thought.  It is poignant too, with the reader inevitably witness to a childhood squandered by parents, siblings, teachers, peers and others.  It unerringly puts the spotlight on how convention stifles growth, creativity, and, saddest of all, one's self esteem.
As I was reading I wondered if Digby was transgender.   Apparently his dress-up was not a desire so much to be a girl but just not to have to pretend to be the sort of boy he really is, as well as showing Digby's colorful dramatic flare in a monotone world.
Even before I finished reading this delightful book I was on Faqcebook telling everyone, "If you haven't read this book, you must, especially if you are Catholic."  The same goes now that I have finished the book.

That's All I Read: YOUNG DIG BY SWANK by Owen Keehnan

YOUNG DIG BY SWANK by Owen Keehnan
BUY AT AMAZON.COM
Poor Digby started out on the wrong foot by being an unwanted pregnancy of a woman who had all the kids she wanted, thank you very much.  When he proceeds to show every indication of being aan oddball, he is seemingly doomed.  He will never fit in.  For one thing even as a baby his usual facial expression was a smirk.  He loves show tunes, Judy Garland, and to dress up in girly clothes and act out beauty pageant fantasies.   His mother's solution to all problems is snack cakes and ice cream, so he has to deal with chubbiness too.  All his family seems to care about is how things will look to the neighbors.  Raised Catholic Digby puzzles through why God made him the way he is.  At his parochial elementary school he is constantly being punished for just being himself.  He doesn't feel like he's a bad kid.  In fact, he doesn't see the problem with his own behavior.  No surprise then that he begins to question the reasoning involved, if any, in religion.
Digby's redemption occurs through the appearance of anther boy who does not fit in, whether Doug, whose parents are ultra born-agains, or during his brief stint in public school the "Noel Coward" of the school, when he finds another who also does not fit in.  The reader watches him slowly realize that his little town, Running Falls, is not the sole arbiter of what is right and proper.
This novel was a joy to read, clever, funny -- especially in its observations of Catholicism -- and intelligent.  I laughed out loud every time I picked it up to read.  I am sure there were some in-jokes I did not get, but that just means the book is funnier than I even thought.  It is poignant too, with the reader inevitably witness to a childhood squandered by parents, siblings, teachers, peers and others.  It unerringly puts the spotlight on how convention stifles growth, creativity, and, saddest of all, one's self esteem.
As I was reading I wondered if Digby was transgender.   Apparently his dress-up was not a desire so much to be a girl but just not to have to pretend to be the sort of boy he really is, as well as showing Digby's colorful dramatic flare in a monotone world.
Even before I finished reading this delightful book I was on Faqcebook telling everyone, "If you haven't read this book, you must, especially if you are Catholic."  The same goes now that I have finished the book.

28.3.14

That's All I Read: A FOOL AMONG FOOLS by John Terracuso

A FOOL AMONG FOOLS by John Terracuso

A FOOL AMONG FOOLS by John Terracuso


In the 80s Michael Gregoretti would love to be writing plays, but the need to pay rent and buy food force him into copywriting for one of those insane advertising agencies in New York City.  It is hard to decide which is more ridiculous, the products, the ads created for them, or the toxic personalities who are leads for the campaigns.  In spite of the inane nature of what he's writing ads for, Michael works hard to get it right, only to have his best ideas shot down by cranky clients or delusional and unreasonable bosses at the agency.  The author takes the reader through the tortuous path from first efforts through lunatic videotaping, to meetings with obstreperous company execs to the day to day mix of over-achievement, overwork and daily humiliation.

I really enjoyed this book.  The main character is gay, but that's beside the fact, the real story being the characters with all their quirks and inanities.  If you aren't laughing at their antics you are shaking your head fatalistically.  The trouble is that you don't have to be working in the outrageous ad industry to recognize these "madmen" who are such utter fools and yet wind up running the whole show.  I guess the Peter Principal about workers rising to the level of their incompetence was wrong.. they can rise all the way to the top.

Gay Boys - Abstract by Jade