29.12.14

That's All I Read: TURNBULL HOUSE by Jess Faraday

TURNBULL HOUSE

Jess Faraday


Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (February 16, 2014)

If you read THE AFFAIR OF THE PORCELAIN DOG you know the
characters that make up the basis of this novel, Ira Adler, and his villainous lover,
Cain
Goddar
d
.  Ira was a street
prostitute who was taken in by Goddard but had to leave the lap of luxury when
Goddard’s criminal involvement became too much for him.  It is now a few years later, and Ira has
been on the board of Turnbuvll House, a place where children forced onto the
street can have a second chance.  Someone
has made an offer to buy the building however, and Turnbull House may
close.  Ira turns to Goddard for a loan
reluctantly and gets embroiled in intrigue that might rival his involvement
before.  He gets the loan and agrees to
establishing some way for the organization to pay for itself and to doing
certain favors for Goddard, namely delivering odd assortments of flowers to two
sugar factory men who wind up dead.  One
of these men is the father of Jack Flip, a girl disguised as a boy who comes to
live at Turnbull House and may just be its savior.


This is a wonderfully intriguing and involving novel, more
so than its prequel.  The complexity not
only of the mysteries but of Ira’s reaction to them and to Goddard is original
and entirely credible.  You hear this
tale in Ira’s own words, and Jess Faraday does something not many writers I’ve read
can pull off, and that is staying within the narrator’s limited view of the
situation and how the situation should affect him.  There is usually evidence of a wider
perspective that clouds the story.  Not
Here.


I enjoyed the character of Jack, arguably a transmboy,
though of course we run into the ambiguity of gender in his case.  He seems to me to have adopted boy’s clothes
and a boy’s persona for safety, but as I am becoming aware, the chance to live
in a man’s world is seductive.  He may go
back to being Cathy.  He may stay Jack
and become a lesbian.  Or, as as I hope
he does, he may become a true transman and see himself as a man, perhaps even
wanting a man as a partner.  The ambiguity
of the situation comes up in novel after anovel, and as a gay transman, I am
ancious to find characters like myself.


The other characters, the detective St. Andrews and his idol
Arthur Conan Doyle, the couple who run Turbull House, and the theater director
Bram Stoker are just a few of the tantalizing characters, real or imagined,
that Faraday brings for the  reader’s
enjoyment.


And the time and place are wonderfully accurate, full of
historical detail well worth soaking up.


This book is a treat, no matter how you look at it.. and the
story isn’t over yet!

22.12.14

Split (The Eternal Dungeon)

Split

"The High Seeker surely could not know in full what Vito was thinking and planning. If he'd known, he'd have ordered Vito strapped to a rack."

It was his duty to transform the prisoner's soul. But which one?

When Vito de Vere is assigned a prisoner who is not quite what he appears to be, Vito must penetrate the mystery of his prisoner's unexpected appearance in the Eternal Dungeon, arrested for a crime that is no crime.

But Vito himself is hiding a mystery from the other members of the dungeon. Increasingly filled with tenderness toward his vulnerable prisoner, can Vito accomplish his secret mission without sacrificing his prisoner?

This suspenseful novella (short novel) can be read on its own or as the third story in the "Sweet Blood" volume of The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips. Friendship, family, gay love, and rebellion are intertwining plotlines in the series.

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Split.

Tags: prison fiction, gay love, friendship, bisexual characters, mentally ill characters, torturers, prisoners, guards, rebels.

Excerpt

The narrow breaking cell was warmer than the corridor. Although the Eternal Dungeon, with due caution toward the ingenuity of its prisoners, refused to place stoves within the breaking cells, the prisoners were kept in relative comfort. The ceiling held electric lights behind unbreakable glass, while a vertical hypocaust blasted warm air through the old furnaces, located behind glass blocks along the short end wall of each cell. The old stone ledges in the cells were in the process of being replaced by tall beds that matched the design of beds in the Seekers' living quarters; this particular cell had already made the change. In this redesigned breaking cell, there was also a washstand, a small shelf beneath it for toiletry articles, and a shelf on the wall on which were placed a copy of the Code of Seeking and the prisoner's choice of a prayer book. There were even plans to add a toilet and running water to every breaking cell. In design, the prisoners' cells of the Eternal Dungeon offered the appearance of being quite modern.

Vito could well guess why the High Seeker had sought to disguise, through superficial changes, the antique cruelty of the dungeon. Inconspicuous against the long wall was the whipping ring, while the dungeon racks were kept in separate rooms, never shown to dungeon visitors, other than the prisoners.

The prisoner in this cell was hard to see, for he had somehow managed to cram himself under the tall bed. He was sitting on the hard floor, his arms wrapped around his legs, his face pressed against his knees, his body rocking back and forth.

Vito paused at the entrance, hearing the cell door lock behind him. Then he cleared his throat. "Mr. Gurth?"

The rocking continued, unabated.

He tried again. "Edwin Gurth?"

A face looked up cautiously. It was young. It said nothing.

Vito did not make the mistake of walking forward to take a closer look at the prisoner. Seekers died that way. "Sir, will you stand up, please?"

He expected, at best, a cautious rising; instead, the prisoner scrambled quickly out from under the bed, leapt to his feet, and stood rigidly at attention. Fear was stark upon his face.

So much for the guards' assessment of this being a dangerous prisoner. Vito lowered his voice accordingly. "Mr. Gurth, I am your Seeker—"

"Seeker?" The prisoner's face took on a look of bewilderment. "Seeker? Am I in the Eternal Dungeon?"

Once again, Vito paused, taking in the prisoner's appearance. Prisoners in the Eternal Dungeon were permitted to keep their own clothing, other than their jacket and vest. This prisoner's shirt and trousers were manifestly commoners' clothing, yet his accent, unexpectedly, was that of a mid-class man. Perhaps he or his family had received a downturn of fortune.

"Yes, Mr. Gurth. Were you not informed at the time of your arrest that you would be brought here?"

He was prepared for anything at this point, but even so, the prisoner's response took him off-guard. A look of shock blasted across the young man's face, like a storm-wave. The prisoner fell to his knees. "Oh, no!" he cried. "Is Gurth in trouble again?"
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Split.

11.12.14

WINDS OF CHANGE by Lee Rowan - ROYAL NAVY SERIES, Book 2

WINDS OF CHANGE

Lee Rowan

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, October 30, 2014

Royal Navy Series, Book 2

This novel is published in a single edition with EYE OF THE STORM, which I will review in a few days.  Rest assured, you want both, I promise you.

Captain Smith is being promoted to a higher rated ship that has  had a number of odd circumstances occurring of late.  Weapons have been found drenched with mud.  Food in great quantities has been found dumped in a passageway.  Sailors have found broken equipment and more.  The conclusion: there is a saboteur aboard.  Smith takes Marshall and David Archer with him to the new ship to help him identify the saboteur and for whom he is working.  Their first assignment is to act like they are lovers.  Of course, we know they actually are, though they are quite circumspect aboard the ship.  Marshall is quite nervous about playing in to the saboteurs hands.

But this is just half the story, the other half giving the reviewer a headache with one [SPOILER] after another.  When the young men have provoked the saboteur into revealing himself, it is when he shoots Archer right in his chest.  Marshall is devastated, facing the loss of his life’s love.  He is faced with holding his emotions closely in check, not only not to express the depth of his grief, but not to seek a new love and risk losing again.  He arrives in Kingston, Jamaica, just in time to attend Archer’s funeral.  He soon learns that Archer is not dead but living with his cousin on Jamaica, deathly ill but expected to live.  He has the opportunity to spend two weeks alone with him, then faces an end to their love just the same.  The final spoiler is finding out whether the parting is final and irrevocable.  Now aren’t you glad I had to write this and not you?

WINDS OF CHANGE is a remarkably complex and expertly choreographed book.  I was quite astounded at how well Lee Rowan handled all the elaborate plot twists and bits of evidence.  She has a tendency to go a little overboard with the emotions, with Marshall agonizing over his loss and how to handle his future life, repeating himself at least twice, but other than this the story is so well told and so involved that I can’t say much about it except to praise it.  Her knowledge of tall ships seems authoritative to this landlubber’s ear, and the characters are distinctly drawn and credible.  The story will keep the reader riveted to the book, waiting every minute for the next action, the next bit of evidence to be revealed, and to find out just who is committing all these crimes.  Then in the second half of the book there are the heart wrenching sequences, the warm and loving and fairly explicit sex scenes, and watching how the two men will cope with the inevitable.

Read at your heart’s own risk.

And come back in a couple of days for a review of the sequel

, which is included in this publication.

10.12.14

That's All I Read: FINDING FORGIVENESS by Ari McKay

FINDING FORGIVENESS by Ari McKay

FINDING FORGIVENESS

Ari McKay


BlurbBoston in 1888 is quite urbane, but unfortunately for Gil Porter, that isn’t the same thing as being understanding. When his sexuality is exposed by the scandalous suicide of his lover, Gil is exiled to the small town of Mercy, Texas, by his domineering father, George, who believes life on Vernon Porter's ranch will cure Gil of his “unnatural” desires. Grieving and ashamed, Gil is determined to keep his distance from everyone until he can return home. To his surprise, he finds acceptance at Bent Oak Ranch, especially from Matt Grayson, the handsome son of the ranch foreman. Knowing he must fight his attraction to Matt, Gil courts a local girl, but an unexpected encounter with Matt leads to his discovery of Matt’s feelings for him. Torn between Matt and his desire to be “normal," between returning to his old life and building a new one in Texas, Gil is faced with a choice—appeasing his father or becoming the man Matt knows he can be.

This is what you call a period piece in historical fiction.  The atmosphere of the time and place is what’s important, not the actual historical accuracy.  Even so, with some minor details, I’d say this charming and very gratifying story will provide plenty of warm fuzzies for the reader.

Two things stand out as not being my historical cup of tea.  One is that there seem to be a lot of gay men in 1888 Mercy, Texas, who though not out and proud have managed to gain acceptance from a broad number of people.  The ranch owner is gay, the ranch foreman’s son is gay, the ranch owner’s nephew is gay, and, [SPOILER] the ranch foreman is, as I suspected all along, gay.  Oh and one of the hands, too.  This is hardly impossible, but you’d think someone on the ranch would suspect, especially when Gil’s father shows up and starts screaming about his son’s “unnatural” desires.  The worst I would call this is sloppy, but it’s with good intent.

The other thing is that at one point early in the novel Matt tells Gil that the Bent Oak Ranch has 150 ranch hands.  Where do they put them all?  How do they feed them all?  They explain the bunk house is a bit off from the main house and complex, but it must be the size of a Motel 6, and the ranch hands carefully stay away from the rest of the ranch as they never seem to show up and ask questions or for a drink of water or anything.  Yes, a few do make their appearance from time to time, but I have this image of dozens of ranch hands wandering about the corral, gathering in small groups to gossip or drink or eye the daughter of the house or at least try to lasso something.  Some of the ranch hands are of Hispanic descent and it’s nice to see that at least in one pocket of 1888 Texas society Mexicans are fully accepted and integrated.

What this points out more than anything is that there are historical novelists and then there are historical novelists.  Some track down every little detail, as I do, and others just want their readers to sit back and enjoy the story.  This is clearly the latter.  I am the sort of historical novelist this book is not intended for.

However, in spite of these two slight flaws, I did enjoy the book.  The Bent Oak folks are warm and lovely and the work hard and manliness-building, and Jeannie is sweet if  bit doormattish, and Gil really needed a place like this to get over himself.  So close Wikipedia and sit back and enjoy.

Oh, and I don't understand the title.  I guess everyone in the story needed forgiveness from everyone else, but it did not seem especially compelling.

9.12.14

Trans Ponder: Get Romance Reviews Runner Up BELOVED PILGRIM for...



BELOVED PILGRIM isn't just about a transgender man and his exotic lady love in Constantinople.  It is also about Albrecht, whose love affair with the young knight Wlias is tragically cut short, but who meets and falls in love with Andonikos, the Byzantine Emperor's cousin.  This is definitely a well round GLBT novel!  It has a cool fighting horse too.



Learn more at:



Trans Ponder: Get Romance Reviews Runner Up BELOVED PILGRIM for...: What could be better than a novel about a transgender knight heading off to fight in the most devastating of all the Crusades?  How about on...



Elias and Albrecht


8.12.14

NOBLE'S SAVIOR by Jerry Sacher, reviewed by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

NOBLE’S SAVIOR

Jerry Sacher

Buy at Amazon.com *
http://www.amazon.com/Nobles-Savior-Jerry-Sacher/dp/162798450X/ref=as_sl_pd_wdgt_ex?&linkCode=wsw&tag=arsgabo-20

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, (March 27, 2014)

Blurb:  To purge Benjamin of his desire to join the Army, his father, a senior British diplomat, entrusts him with a mission to Tsar Nicholas II's headquarters. On the way to Russia, Benjamin encounters Sergei Breselov, an officer in the Imperial Army, lying wounded in a field hospital. He persuades the authorities to let him escort Sergei to Petrograd, but their trip is halted when their train is attacked by deserting soldiers. Sergei and Benjamin must band together to survive and make their own way to the capitol. The handsome Sergei Breselov stirs something in Benjamin, and to his surprise, his feelings are returned. Despite the forbidden nature of their association, their bond tightens as Sergei heals, and they are again thrust into the thick of war as the revolution rages around them, threatening to topple the Russian court forever.

Told individually and together, the stories of these two very different men keep the reader constantly on edge and fascinated.  Sergei is from a simple farming family but forced to try to make his way in a changing society that was on the brink of ruin, the Russian economy.  Benjamin, his “Angel”, is from comfort and wealth in a diplomatic family from England.  In spite of their disparities, the two men find each other on a hospital train on its way to Petrograd, and, with no consideration of social standing or rank, fall in love.  There road seems continuously blocked by the circumstances of their times, the Great War, the dissolution of the imperial government in Russia and the Bolshevik Revolution.  All I can say is thanks be it’s a novel or these two men would never have found each other again, but.. there is a psychic connection , of Sergei reaching for Benjamin and Benjamin reaching for Sergei that [SPOILER] explains the inevitability of their reunion.
Along the way the two men have liaisons that in no way detract from their focus on the other.  This was refreshingly real to me, the reviewer, as having them tragically alone would have not felt right.  Benjamin finds colleagues, both well and ill intentioned, seek his company, but he is ready with his arms wide when Sergei steps into them after that fateful wrong turn.  Sergei has a long term affair with a Bolshevik rabblerouser which leads him into danger but ultimately provides him with the shelf where he can wait until time to find Benjamin again.

Along the way one encounters the people of history, in particular Nicholas II, that hapless czar almost too poetically doomed to be believed, though every bit of his description is historically accurate.  The massacre of the workers in 1905, the slow dissolution of society as soldiers in Russia walk off the field after assassinating their officers, all is familiar from numerous account the historically literate has at hand.
Their backgrounds so different the two men are spiritual twins, a condition necessary for them to connect.  The stories of life first on the battlefield in Russia and later in the deteriorating Petrograd and later on the killing fields of France keep one forever guessing what will happen to our boys next.

There were a couple times when the back and forth storytelling styl seemed to get mixed up, particularly when in Petrograd Benjamin is looking for Sergei and just misses him that left me bemused and confused.  Why have Benjamin take the actions that were just described from Sergei’s point of view?  This is a brief sequence that does not take away from the story however.

All in all a fascinating storytelling style from an author who appears to know his history and how to weave it effortlessly for the reader.  Well done.

7.12.14

FINDING FORGIVENESS Ari McKay

FINDING FORGIVENESS

Ari McKay


Blurb: Boston in 1888 is quite urbane, but unfortunately for Gil Porter, that isn’t the same thing as being understanding. When his sexuality is exposed by the scandalous suicide of his lover, Gil is exiled to the small town of Mercy, Texas, by his domineering father, George, who believes life on Vernon Porter's ranch will cure Gil of his “unnatural” desires. Grieving and ashamed, Gil is determined to keep his distance from everyone until he can return home. To his surprise, he finds acceptance at Bent Oak Ranch, especially from Matt Grayson, the handsome son of the ranch foreman. Knowing he must fight his attraction to Matt, Gil courts a local girl, but an unexpected encounter with Matt leads to his discovery of Matt’s feelings for him. Torn between Matt and his desire to be “normal," between returning to his old life and building a new one in Texas, Gil is faced with a choice—appeasing his father or becoming the man Matt knows he can be.

This is what you call a period piece in historical fiction.  The atmosphere of the time and place is what’s important, not the actual historical accuracy.  Even so, with some minor details, I’d say this charming and very gratifying story will provide plenty of warm fuzzies for the reader.

Two things stand out as not being my historical cup of tea.  One is that there seem to be a lot of gay men in 1888 Mercy, Texas, who though not out and proud have managed to gain acceptance from a broad number of people.  The ranch owner is gay, the ranch foreman’s son is gay, the ranch owner’s nephew is gay, and, [SPOILER] the ranch foreman is, as I suspected all along, gay.  Oh and one of the hands, too.  This is hardly impossible, but you’d think someone on the ranch would suspect, especially when Gil’s father shows up and starts screaming about his son’s “unnatural” desires.  The worst I would call this is sloppy, but it’s with good intent.

The other thing is that at one point early in the novel Matt tells Gil that the Bent Oak Ranch has 150 ranch hands.  Where do they put them all?  How do they feed them all?  They explain the bunk house is a bit off from the main house and complex, but it must be the size of a Motel 6, and the ranch hands carefully stay away from the rest of the ranch as they never seem to show up and ask questions or for a drink of water or anything.  Yes, a few do make their appearance from time to time, but I have this image of dozens of ranch hands wandering about the corral, gathering in small groups to gossip or drink or eye the daughter of the house or at least try to lasso something.  Some of the ranch hands are of Hispanic descent and it’s nice to see that at least in one pocket of 1888 Texas society Mexicans are fully accepted and integrated.

What this points out more than anything is that there are historical novelists and then there are historical novelists.  Some track down every little detail, as I do, and others just want their readers to sit back and enjoy the story.  This is clearly the latter.  I am the sort of historical novelist this book is not intended for.

However, in spite of these two slight flaws, I did enjoy the book.  The Bent Oak folks are warm and lovely and the work hard and manliness-building, and Jeannie is sweet if  bit doormattish, and Gil really needed a place like this to get over himself.  So close Wikipedia and sit back and enjoy.

Oh, and I don't understand the title.  I guess everyone in the story needed forgiveness from everyone else, but it did not seem especially compelling.

Gay Boys - Abstract by Jade