Who said a cover can’t sell a book? In my search for this week’s featured novel, which I do a week-or-so in advance of m...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
Who said a cover can’t sell a book? In my search for this week’s featured novel, which I do a week-or-so in advance of my review, my eye fell upon L.C. Chase’s luscious design for Pickup Men (Volume 1) [Riptide Publishing; 1 edition, July 8, 2013]. The rodeo scene, the hunky model, and the elaborate font, all fit together to make a most evocative whole.
I liked the story too, although it stuck pretty much to the ‘road-well-travelled-genre’ of gay novels. Marty Fairgrave is a likeable, straightforward guy, out of the closet, and respected for it. He is also blessed with a pair of loving, supportive parents, and a couple of equally supportive, male friends.
On the other hand, his erstwhile lover (…of sorts), Tripp Colby, is locked in the closet from the inside, and is loathe to come out of it. As it turns out he has some justification on account of a homophobic and domineering father, but this isn’t doing a thing for Marty’s devotion.
Things finally come to a head when Marty risks serious injury to save Tripp from a rampant bull, but Tripp doesn’t have the courtesy to visit him in the hospital. Even so, after Marty has pulled the plug on their relationship, Tripp decides to make an effort to win him back.
In spite of all this, Tripp isn’t a complete heel—as we discover when he makes a trip to San Francisco, but whether he can redeem himself to the point where he regains Marty’s love is the crux of the story.
I try not to be too critical of a story simply because it sticks to the middle road, but, by the same token, there is very little to get excited about, either. Jane Jacobs once described modern, urban subdivisions as suffering from “The great blight of sameness,” and I am beginning to think the same applies to gay fiction.
More specifically I found that the writing style in this one tended to jump topics rather abruptly, making for a bumpy read, and that some of the sex scenes were just a bit loquacious for my taste. Mind you, I scan sex scenes anyway, so that is a minor quibble.
Bottom line: Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely. These are merely my opinions, and they may not reflect the tastes and opinions of others. Three bees.(less)
In my choice of Adagio by Chris Owen [Casperian Books LLC, September 21, 2012] as my featured novel this week, three th...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
In my choice of Adagio by Chris Owen [Casperian Books LLC, September 21, 2012] as my featured novel this week, three things caught my notice. First, it is about two Canadian boys, written by a Canadian author, and set in Australia.
I don’t know why I like Australia as I do (I love the accents), but for whatever reason it has a certain romance to it. Therefore, it is the perfect setting for a romance of this nature.
There is very little about Canada, or even Canadian content in this story, but that’s alright. The Australian outback makes up for it, and I think that the author has done a credible job of making it part of the story. Certainly I felt it’s vastness, and what better way to cleanse the soul than by a ‘walkabout.’
I liked the two main characters, the scarred but compassionate Jason, and the wide-eyed Ryan. They both compliment and contrast one another to produce a nice balance. I think one is more drawn to Ryan as the ingénue, but Jason is also travelling a road of discovery.
I also like the unhurried pace that allowed the two boys to get to know one another before their first sexual experience. The sex scenes were also well handled—which is ironic for me to say because I once criticized Ms Owen’s work for being a bit too ‘generous’ with her couplings. Therefore, I am happy to take that criticism back with this novel.
The quibbles I have are few. A few loose threads (meaning plot lines that either disappear or aren’t fully exploited later on). I, for one, like to see unexpected references to previous events, even if they are minor, because they are like grace notes that add a touch of brilliance to a story. It is the little touches like this that can make a good story outstanding.
Altogether, it is a heart warming romance in the classic style, nicely written, and set in a equally romantic locale. Four bees.(less)
There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (195...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956) by Dorien Grey [Untreed Reads Publishing, April 8, 2013]. It is a charming look into one man’s life at an interesting age and time I would say; although, the older Roger Margason, a.k.a. Dorien Grey has the depth of character I prefer. Therefore, I will limit my remarks to some personal observations.
I am a great advocate of journal keeping for very selfish reasons. They are absolutely invaluable when it comes to recreating someone’s life and times. Therefore, I am utterly amazed that he had the foresight to save these epistles intact. Otherwise the memories they contain might have been lost forever. Moreover, for informal writings, they are remarkably literate and easy to read.
At the time the letters where written, 1954 – 1956, Dorien was between ‘grass and straw’—as the old cowpokes would say, i.e. past puberty but not quite matured. Interestingly the letters show this, for there is a perceptible maturing as they progress in time.
One is also struck by the candid nature as well. They may have been edited for journalistic reasons, but one does not get the impression they have been altered in the process.
His powers of observation regarding the exotic places he visits, i.e. Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul, etc. is like reading a travelogue of the time, and as an amateur historian I found this intriguing.
Altogether, therefore, this is a fascinating insight into a personality and the times, and not once did I feel it lost my interest on account of self-ndulgence. A truly interesting read. Five bees. (less)
I have long lamented (grumbled) that many GBLT books tend to be angst-ridden, depressing tales, with generous side order...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
I have long lamented (grumbled) that many GBLT books tend to be angst-ridden, depressing tales, with generous side orders of self-doubt regarding one’s sexuality. Admittedly, these have been, and still are, a regrettable part of GBLT life, but from my experience there have been many more humorous moments than sad. So when I saw the cooky cover of Shy, by John Inman [Dreamspinner Press, 2012], I felt it was time for a little humour.
The basic story has Tom Morgan, a SAD sufferer (“Social Anxiety Disorder” – not to be confused with “Seasonal Affective Disorder”), going to a party hosted by his ex-boyfriend and hisnew boyfriend—a real nogoodnic-cad named Stanley.
At this party he meet’s Frank Wells, a displaced farm boy, who also happens to be Stanley-the-cad’s brother. By coincidence Frank also suffers from a social anxiety complex, and so the two find comfort in one another’s limitations.
As it happens Frank’s father is critically ill back on the farm, and so Frank is called back to keep things going, taking Tom (an urbane New Yorker) with him.
Also playing the comic relief role is a loose-bowelled chihuahaua by the name of “Pedro,” a razorback hog, and a flock of chickens the size of Galapagos Islands. Therefore, there is no shortage of comedic circumstances, and Inman delivers on most of them.
I connected with this story in a number of ways. I too was a farm boy, and as such I took a sort of perverse pleasure from watching my urban cousins trying to steer themselves around chicken dropping, which are like trying to sidestep snowflakes. So I got a good chuckle from some of Tom’s fastidious antics.
I liked the banter as well, but here I thought it was perhaps a bit overdone. In other words, I sometimes felt that what was meant as repartee was merely bitchy, and made Tom look like a GECQ (“grand eighteenth-century queen”.)
I also join others in thinking that Stanley’s ‘no-good-ness’ was a bit overdone, but I defend the author’s choice regarding his fate. It’s his license. He created the characters, and so he can dispose of them the way he wishes. Therein lies the ‘author-as-god’ syndrome.
Altogether I thought it was a fun read with some limitations. Three and one-half bees.(less)
As you may have noticed, I am a great fan of western-style tales, especially if they are reasonably true to the true cow...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
As you may have noticed, I am a great fan of western-style tales, especially if they are reasonably true to the true cowboy lifestyle—which was by no means glamorous, or filled with gratuitous sex. This interest led to my discovery of Nevada’s “Great Basin” through the incredible photography of Adam Jahiel (see: “Search for the Last Cowboy”), so when I saw that Shadow of the Wind by Mackey Hedges (author), Robert Sigman (compiler), Joelle Smith (cover design) [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010] was not only written by an actual cowboy, but also set in the Basin, I had to read it.
The extensive blurb for this book covers the plot every bit as well as I could, so I will simply quote it here:
Dean McCuen is a young man fresh out of the Army. The son of a widowed father who owns a large and long established cattle ranch in Nevada. Dean tells in “first person” of his family’s’ rags to riches heritage; being brought up by wealthy “Eastern” relatives, and the life experiences that have shaped his character. After being discharged from the Military, Dean decides to go out on his own and gain some first hand experience before seeking his place in the family business.
Tap McCoy, a 60 year old who is a cowboy for life, is recovering from a very debauched and regretful week. On the outskirts of town, Dean picks up a very dazed Tap with only his most important possessions – his bedroll and saddle. And so, the destinies of Dean and Tap become entwined. For Dean, it is a chance to learn from “experience;” for Tap, it is a quick “getaway” out of town.
Readers are introduced to many characters including, a grumpy old ranch owner that hates everyone, an attractive, flirtatious girl that enjoys having men fight over her, alcoholic cowboys that spend all their hard earned money on week long drunks, prejudice that includes Indians, Whites and Blacks and an eccentric desert hermit as well as a host of other interesting characters.
There is nothing fictional about this story other than the plot. The characters are real, the adventures actually happened and the country and ranches exist. Every fight, bucking horse ride and wild wreck actually took place. It is a factual description of the working lives of the Great Basin buckaroos during the mid 1900′s. Like Last Buckaroo, it captures a time period that has all but come to an end.
Each chapter is episodic – a story within itself. Shadow Of the Wind is steeped in history with adventure, friendship, romance and a slight degree of mystery. This “buddy story” is fast moving, written with colorful descriptive language to give the reader an accurate idea of the location and view of the country without distracting from the action.
Shadow of The Wind is a “must read” for anyone interested in the everyday lives of the people that live and work on the ranches of he west.
And, as far as a plot is concerned, the author has covered this as well.
This is not a western shoot ‘em up type of cowboy story; in fact it really doesn’t have much of a plot. It is a story I wrote for my own enjoyment while I was healing up from a broken leg.
The way cattle are being run in the west is changing so fast that a lot of the old ways are being forgotten as well as the way people talk and think. I wanted to try and capture a little of this for future generations.
I make no claims to being an author. I am a buckaroo (high desert cowboy) that enjoys putting his thoughts down on paper. Because I have no formal training or education in the literary field my style drives professionals crazy. In fact when the editor got hold of what I had written he almost had a fit. He had more than a small amount of difficulty finding the correct spelling for many of the western slang terms that are used. However, the thing that came closest to driving him nuts was the fact that, as he said, “It is nothing more than a series of short stories strung together by a thin thread of unrelated facts!”
My answer to that was, “SO WHAT? It’s not supposed to be a novel. It’s a little bunkhouse tale about the lives of a couple of high desert buckaroos. It was written with the intent and hope of passing on information in an enjoyable manner.”
I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are starting out to read this with the objective to criticize you are going to find plenty to work with. On the other hand if you want to get a first hand view of real western life ranging from boring to thrilling I think you will find it in these pages, at least I hope so.
Like my first book, all of the fights, brawls and bucking horse rides are real. The characters, although fictional are in part based on the lives of actual people. Even the ranches in this story are distinctively similar to actual cattle operations I have worked on or visited. In other words “ This is the real deal” even if the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
And that, dear friends about says it all. It reads authentic because it is, and that means it is more entertaining and informative than perfect. Highly recommended for true “buckaroos.” Five bees.(less)
I must admit that it was the cutesie title, i.e. The Boys and the Bees, by Mari Donne [Dreamspinner Press, November 28,...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
I must admit that it was the cutesie title, i.e. The Boys and the Bees, by Mari Donne [Dreamspinner Press, November 28, 2012] that first caught my attention. I also must admit that I expected it to be more erotic than it is—but that’s a good thing. Between plot and sex, plot wins with me every time. In fact, The Boys and the Bees is a very gentle love story devoid—for the most part—of angst, archenemies, and anxious soul-searching.
However, editorially speaking, Mark frustrated me. It wasn’t for lack of development, because he is quite vivid; rather, it was because he was such a ‘milk toast—everyone’s patsy—especially his usurious parents and siblings. Of course, I understand why the author chose to characterize him this way. She needed some room for him to grow when he meets Jamie, and that’s fair enough.
I liked Jamie, even though I generally dislike over-zealous ‘causers’ of any kind, but I thought he exhibited a nice balance. After all, he did work at the local co-op. The pace was appropriate, too, which suited both the story and the small town setting.
So, I guess my only quibble is the lack of an original plot. As well-written as this story is, and it is, it seems the last three books I’ve read have all had a similar theme: Small town boy returns to find his high school friend, BFF, crush, etc., still there, and after some business (ranching, etc.) they settle down happily ever after.
Now these are books I selected at random, and from different sources, so it is not as though I went looking for a particular genre. Nonetheless, individually, they are all good reads.
That said, I recommend The Boys and the Bees as a truly gentle and romantic romance. Three and one-half bees.(less)
Before I even read Lonely as God, by Dale Chase [Wilde City Press, 2013], I was taken by the cover design. Outstanding!...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
Before I even read Lonely as God, by Dale Chase [Wilde City Press, 2013], I was taken by the cover design. Outstanding! In fact, I’m jealous I didn’t find such an image for my forthcoming western novel.
Right from the beginning one is struck by the unapologetic earthiness of this tale. Told in first person by the main character, Tom Seeley, there is no doubt what it is all about. It is erotica, plain and simple, and yet it is not pornographic in the sense that the author does not dwell on every nuance of the act. Indeed, the sex scenes are perfunctory, almost utilitarian in nature, and for the most part are over in a few paragraphs (as apposed to pages), i.e.,
I’ve come up hard knowing he’ll take me, and I spit in my palm and smear it down my cock while Matt reaches back to part his buttocks. “Give me some dick,” he says, and I get behind him and shove in. He lets out a moan, and I hear a low whistle from Drew but I don’t look over.
Get a man’s dick up a butt hole and nothing else matters. Troubles, thoughts, concerns, fears, none have a chance amid a fuck and I start to pump into Matt while knowing this, my dick setting me free. Doesn’t matter I came before. My balls have filled back up and feel ready to burst so I give it to Matt good, ramming in and out, grunting like some pig in his wallow.
I can feel Matt working his cock. He moans in time to my thrusting and soon says he’s coming. When he squeals, it drives me to fuck harder. Then my juice sets to boiling which makes my mouth fall open, my tongue come out like it will taste the come. I allow whatever sounds my body requires while gaining release, grunts and groans and all manner of things except for words. I cannot speak at such a time. Then I hit the rise, and I dig my fingers into Matt as the pulse begins. I cry out as I let go into him, filling his chute with my stuff as I pound his bottom. His horse snorts approval.
I keep at Matt even after I empty because I don’t want to stop. Not ever. But nature will have her way and I go soft and slip out. I slap Matt’s bottom and he straightens up and turns. “Some good fuck,” he says as he pulls up his drawers.
I like that. Sex is part of life, and of GLBT literature, but having said this it shouldn’t be the be-all or even the ‘most-of-all’ of a plot. So, even though this tale is highly erotic, it doesn’t run away with the story.
I’m also willing into buy the notion that 18, rough-neck men, are into mano-a-mano sex at the drop of a pair of Levis, but realistically it is quite a stretch. It is, perhaps, the closest the plot comes to being pornographic.
I also like the non-poetic prose. The main character is not an educated man, and cattle drives were not a genteel affair. They were long, hot, dusty and dangerous undertakings, and the men were as tough as the trail or the cattle they drove. So the King’s English would have been out of place here.
There were a couple of places where I thought the story went over the top, especially with the loose sex issue, but generally-speaking it is as true to the conditions, interactions, and language of a cattle drive as I have read.Four and on-half bees.(less)
Although I have come across the name Josh Lanyon many times while searching through online bookstores, I had not read an...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
Although I have come across the name Josh Lanyon many times while searching through online bookstores, I had not read any of his books until I picked up Cards On The Table [Just Joshin, January 24, 2012], a short story but, oh, so satisfying.
Timothy North is a former reporter who has turned his hand to writing about an unsolved murder that is well and truly cold. However, as in all such cases, there is something intriguing about it; and sinister as well.
The next plot step up is that the case involved a beautiful Hollywood starlet and a bloodied Tarot card. However, as Tim digs further it becomes very evident that someone wants him off the case by pinning a sinister threat to his door—a Tarot card.
Wisely, Tim looks for support in the one person he knows can help—his ex-lover, Detective Jack Brady. The difficulty is that they parted under somewhat strained circumstances, so the question is: Can they warm up to before the parting?
With this twist we now have a second mystery running parallel to the first (in beautiful fashion), which only doubles the the reader’s already piqued interest.
It is subtle contrivances like these that separate the master mystery writer from the pack; this, and a list of eccentric suspects, mob connections, assorted dangers, and a cute cop with dimples thrown into the mix.
Altogether this story is a jewel; not too long, not too short, but just right. Five bees.(less)
Seeing all the five-star reviews for Tigers and Devils (Tigers and Devils #1), by Sean Kennedy [Dreamspinner Press; 2 e...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
Seeing all the five-star reviews for Tigers and Devils (Tigers and Devils #1), by Sean Kennedy [Dreamspinner Press; 2 edition, August 30, 2012] is very impressive. I liked it too (deservedly so), but I couldn’t quite go five bees.
The blurb synopsizes the plot quite well, and so I will concentrate more on what I liked and was reserved about in this book.
I thought the plot—although not particularly unique—was captivating with some nice romantic scenes, and enough angst to keep it interesting. I also liked how the author brought the two somewhat disparate characters together: with Simon defending Declan while he was present, but unbeknownst to the other. Nice touch.
The character develop is well done, over all. I had a good visual sense of Declan, but not so much his thinking. Of course, this is largely due to Simon’s first-person point of view, so it is a minor drawback. The secondary character were interesting as well—particularly Simon’s married friends who added different dimension to the story. It also goes without saying the the writing is first rate.
I did have some issues with pace. It seemed to drag in places—particularly in the first half of the story—and, as has been mentioned by others, this is partially due to the length. However, I do sympathize with the author on this point. I also hate to part with prose after I have laboured over it. It’s sort of like cutting off an ear lobe.
That said, I really did like the story and I think you will too. Four bees.(less)
A while ago some government official, I can’t remember who, was ruminating over the best way to teach kids about Canadia...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
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].
Now 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.
In 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”).
In 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.(less)
As I’ve mentioned before, I generally avoid contemporary western novels because they are too often just a series of romp...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
As I’ve mentioned before, I generally avoid contemporary western novels because they are too often just a series of romps in the sack with very little plot. There are many that aren’t, of course, and happily Texas Pride by Kindle Alexander [The Kindle Alexander Collection LLC, March 16, 2013] is one of them.
The well-written story blurb covers the plot fairly well: A famous in-the-closet Hollywood star (Austin Grainger) suddenly hangs up his make-up kit for life on a fifteen-hundred-acre ranch located in his home town.
Unbeknownst, a fellow in-the-closet case (Kitt Kelly) owns the adjoining Ranch. However, when Grainger re-encounters Kitt (they had admired each others assets in high school) he sets out to get him into his corral.
Kitt is deeply in the closet, however, and although he’s fine with the sex he makes it clear that he has a lot riding on getting the family ranch back in business—not to mention a step-mother and sisters who are counting on him.
The inevitable happens (of course), but to add some angst to the story the author employs a group of sleazy tabloid hounds who manage to out the two lovers to the shock and astonishment of their home town.
Will the two men be able to weather the outcome? That, I’ll leave for the readers to discover.
Over all I liked the main characters—Kitt in particular—and for the most part the business (i.e. action) was well-paced and plausible. The plot was interesting, although not unique in any way, and the ending was gratifying.
Unfortunately, the shortcoming came at a most fundamental level—grammar and spelling. I realize that professional editors are expensive, usually costing one or two thousand dollars for a good one, but spellcheck should pick up most typos, and a reasonably literate friend can pick up the simple grammatical errors–like tense.
All that said, it’s a pleasant romance with a happy ending. Three and one-half bees.(less)
I have frequently bemoaned the fact that GBLT stories tend to be, for the most part, a gloomy affair, dominated by perso...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
I have frequently bemoaned the fact that GBLT stories tend to be, for the most part, a gloomy affair, dominated by personal struggle and angst. So when I saw the off-beat title for this one, i.e. My Roommate’s a Jock? Well, Crap!, by Wade Kelly [Dreamspinner Press, December 31, 2012] I had to check it out.
Now, contrary to the seemingly carefree nature of comedy it is difficult genre to write. It takes a combination of wit and cleverly devised circumstances to pull it off successfully, and happily Kelly does a fairly good job of bringing the two together.
The circumstances revolve around a nerdy (and prickly) physics student, Cole Reid, whose last choice for a college roommate would be, and is, a soccer jock. Nevertheless, through a set of perverse circumstances he ends up with just such a one in Ellis Montgomery, and not only him but his two jock-type friends as well.
Cole and Ellis nonetheless come to an understanding, and eventually beyond as time goes by. While this bonding is somewhat based on the principle of ‘opposites attract,’ Ellis has a secret characteristic in common with Cole that comes to the fore: He is in fact latently gay. However, their first attempt at consummating this new found love turns into a bit of a disaster.
I’ll leave it to the readers to discover how and where the story goes from there, but being a light comedy it does have a HEA ending.
Over all, I liked the story and the author’s treatment of it. There were, however, some elements that didn’t work. I’m speaking primarily of spreading the point-of-view around to include 3rd and 4th level characters whose views were not all that relevant—principally the mother’s. There may be stories in which this has worked, but otherwise it is merely a distraction.
Rob and Russell were likeable enough, and complimentary to the two main characters, but I found it just a little incredible that someone so seeped in religion could be so ambivalent regarding homosexuality. Of course Mike is the intended ‘heavy,’ so it wouldn’t do to have too many negative voices.
This is one of those novels for which there will as many opinions as there are readers, so I encourage you to decide for yourself. Three and one-half bees.(less)
A brief overview of the books I’ve reviewed will reveal that I like westerns, especially those written in the classic s...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
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.(less)
As a history buff I’m always on the lookout for new and heretofore unknown discoveries, and William Benemann has serve...moreGerry B's Book Reviews
As a history buff I’m always on the lookout for new and heretofore unknown discoveries, and William Benemann has served up a dilly with his intriguing biography, Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade [Bison Books, October 1, 2012].
William Stewart was a Scottish nobleman—19th Laird of Grantully and 7th Baronet of Murthly—with an adventurous spirit, and a larger than life personality. Being gay, and at odds with his older brother John (the 18th Laird), he hied himself off to North America where men were men; women were scarce; and not just a few of the men were open to a bit of manly sex.
Sir William fit into this testosterone-dominated milieu rather well, being an expert rider and a better-than-average marksman, and as proof of this he was both liked and respected by such people as William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame), and frontiersmen Kit Carson and Jim Bridger. He was also constantly surrounded by a retinue of young men, including a rakishly-handsome French Canadian Métis named Antoine Clement—undoubtedly Stewart’s lover—but if anyone noticed they either didn’t connect the possibility, or simply overlooked it.
Altogether, Stewart spent approximately seven years in America, returning to Scotland only briefly between 1839 – 1841 (with Antoine Clement in tow) when his brother John died—making William the 19th Laird of Grantully. When he returned (with a trunk full of costumes), he arranged for an elaborate, invitation only, huntin g party. It was a modest affair with only thirty-or-so guests, as well as cooks, servants, doctors, lawyers and such, but whether this was a bit beyond what frontier America was willing to accept, or whether times were changing, a fast-running scandal preceded him back to civilization, and from there he hastily returned to Scotland.
Obviously, this is merely a thumbnail-precis of the 384 pages of easily-read, meticulously researched, and fascinating story of the not-so-straight-West. My humble thanks to William Benemann for keeping this story alive, and for sharing it with us. Five Bees.(less)
Superb writing, a break-through plot, and bang-on history...
A Life Apar,t, by Roger Kean [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, January 11, 2013] can be categorized by several genres: historical fiction, historical, gay romance, and even young adult. It is also a refreshingly different story set in an exotic and somewhat uncommon setting.
The story opens on Edward and Richard Rainbow, purportedly twin brothers, and also students at the prestigious Benthenham College in England. Their relationship can be described as ‘loving,’ both in the ethereal and physical sense, but such “dirties” as transpired between them are always couched in euphemistic language—i.e. “hardness,” “bitties,” or “stiffness,” etc.
Indeed, Richard and Edward are utterly charming adolescents, and Kean has done quite a good job of portraying them as normal, mischievous and inquisitive schoolboys, who indulge in the “dirties” as naturally as they play soccer or go swimming.
However, an unexpected and devastating revelation emerges from the past, and because of it Edward is ripped from Richard’s arms and his family.
Skipping forward, Richard has received his commission to the army, and England has become caught up in Egyptian affairs to protect its financial interests and the Suez Canal. Consequently, it is also drawn into a vicious guerilla war instigated by the Islamic cleric, Muhammad Ahmad, who has declared himself ‘Mahdi’ (a messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith).
After considerable bloodshed, the English decide to withdraw from the southern regions, including the Sudan, and Major-General Sir Charles Gordon is sent to oversee the evacuation of Khartoum. In the process, however, he becomes isolated and trapped by the Arab and Mahdist forces. A relief expedition led by Sir Garnet Wolseley is sent to rescue him, but due to several delays they arrive too late to save Gordon. At the same time, however, it is the perfect opportunity for fate to reunite Richard and Edward, and Kean takes full advantage of it.
The writing is superb, the plot is refreshing, the description is vivid, and the history is bang-on. Five bees. ________________________ Your are invited to visit my other sites as well.
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.
The 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.(less)
Review by Gerry Burnie I have done a fair amount of research into WWI (1914 – 1918), and because of this I have developed a real admiration for the young men and women who fought and died in unfamiliar places like Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. It was hell on earth with the “mustard” gas, the relentless mud, the rotting trench feet, and the barbarity in general, and their sacrifices should never ever be forgotten. Because of this, Fallen Snow, by John J Kelley [Stone Cabin Press, December 19, 2012] appealed to me as an appropriate memorial.
The story follows the experience of one young man from the rural uplands of Virginia to the battlefields of Alsace Lorraine, France, and back again. However, the man who left Virginia is not the man who returned; not emotionally, anyhow. For want of a better name hey called it “shell sock” back then, but we now know it as PTSD (“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”)
Complicating this even further is the fact that Joshua Hunter is also gay, which in the context of the time and rural setting was yet another source of emotional distress.
Along the way he meets a variety of characters, each with their own story, but only Aiden has the strength to help Joshua come to grips with himself.
I thought the author did quite a good job of depicting the battlefield scenes, although I would have liked to see them a bit more stark to reflect the reality of it, and even though I am unfamiliar with Virginia, I was able to visualize the Appalachian setting quite well. I could also identify with the insular society of his village, and with his ultra-conservative family.
I understand this is John Kelley’s debut novel, and so I look forward to reading more. Four and one-half bees.(less)
Ever on the lookout for gay Canadian content, when I saw the Toronto connection in K.C. Burn’s latest novel, Cover Up (Toronto Tales #2) [Dreamspinner Press, December 2012], I was immediately interested. Unfortunately the Toronto connection was merely a generic setting, and so there was very little by way of landmarks, etc., I could actually relate to. Not a big deal, but it would have been so much more meaningful to me, as an ex-Torontonian, to see a few more reference points.
Cover Up is the second in the “Toronto Tales” series, and although it is the first I have read, I do believe it would have been best to read them in order.
Gay Detective Ivan Bekker has just wrapped up a messy take down of some Russian Mafia drug dealers, during which his partner (and friend) was critically wounded, when his boss hauls him into his office to assign him to an undercover case—so undercover it isn’t even on the books. An alleged young up-and-comer in the Russian organization has advertised for a room mate, and Bekker is to take advantage of it to find out what he can about the kid and his involvement with the mob.
Inevitably the two meet and connect, but because of the secrets they individually harbour there is an invisible barrier between them. Nonetheless, Bekker finds himself becoming emotionally involved with his suspect, and more intent on saving him from the criminal element he is drifting toward than making an arrest. The angst, therefore, is the tension created by double lives they are each living.
There is a bad guy too, but since he is rather transparent from the beginning, he doesn't really add to the tension.
Some of the things I liked about this story are its adherence to plot, rather than eroticism, and the technically solid writing. It reads very smoothly, and there are some very nice descriptive passages. The dialogue is also quite effective in giving a personality to the minor characters, “Sarge,” especially.
Otherwise, I fear the plot devices sometimes stretched the boundaries of credibility to the limit—beginning with Parker conveniently advertising for a room mate at the right time to involve Bekker. I’m not saying it couldn’t have happened that way, mind you, but the odds don’t favour it.
Still, if you are a fan of romantic mysteries, there is much in this novel to like. Three bees.(less)