I gave in to my love for western-genre novels this week, even though it is a contemporary version. TwisteGerry B's Book Reviews
A solid read
I gave in to my love for western-genre novels this week, even though it is a contemporary version. Twisted (Lucky Jeff Ranch #2) by Jake Mactire [Dreamspinner Press; 1 edition, July 24, 2011] is a continuation of Mactire’s “Lucky Jeff Ranch” series, and, although I haven’t read Two Sides of the Same Coin, this sequel stood alone fairly well.
Jeff Donnelly became the proprietor of ‘Lucky Jeff Ranch’ upon the untimely death of his father in a car accident. Mike Guidry was one of the ranch hands who came with it, but eventually – after a number of adventures together – they became loving partners, and now they have plans afoot to convert ‘Lucky Jeff’ into a dude ranch.
Thus begins the adventures in Twisted.
To thicken the plot, a ranch hand by the name of Smitty asks if his younger brother (Jason) can come work with them. Gay and troubled, his brother wants to make a new start in a fresh environment, and Smitty feels that Jeff and Mike would make positive role models. Moreover, there is a recent threat that is stalking the gay community in town: A serial killer dubbed the ‘West Coast Cutter’ who is preying on gay men like Jason.
Then, unexpectedly, Mike’s father appears on the scene contritely making apologies for rejecting his son when he was sixteen. Jeff views this with a certain amount of scepticism, but for Mike’s sake he stands aside to allow him to reconnect with his estranged mother, brother and sister.
However, when a body is discovered nearby, there is no question the ‘West Coast Cutter’ is close at hand.
It is well written and easy to read: A good start.
The plot features some clever twists and turns (another plus), but for me it is clichéic. I think this is because it is angst driven – the gay but troubled brother; Mike’s expulsion from the family circle; the homophobic but contrite father – have all been done before.
I hasten to add that it is not a major issue, and it is subjective, but for someone who has read and analyzed over three hundred books for this blog, I thirst for something original – like comedy.
Nonetheless, it is a good read and well recommended. Four bees....more
Bondage, Domination, Submission and Masochism (BDSM), seems to be quite popular these days – due to the release of a movie based on that other BDSM book (which I read, but chose not to review), so I decided to offer one that is a superior story in many ways.
Behind Locked Doors by Nicholas Kinsley [Fantastic Fiction Publishing, February 17, 2015] is Kinsley’s debut novel, and a worthy effort it is, too. I would also add that I classify it as “sexy” as apposed to “hard-core” S&M.
Edward Taylor is a respected Edwardian, upper-middle class gentlemen, although he was born a bastard. However, because his biological father did the right thing, he is now a prosperous factory owner with money enough for dalliances – like Isaac Sinclair: a struggling writer who supports his ‘addiction’ by servicing gentlemen with special, exotic pleasures – i.e. BDSM.
Taylor's chance encounter with Sinclair comes about when he witnesses the latter stealing bread, and in a rather mutually agreed arrangement he coerces Sinclair into partaking of his services.
This continues, commercially at first, but as time goes by it becomes deeper – emotionally – until they are both inextricably in love.
Complicating matters is the fact that Taylor is married with a son. It is a rather odd arrangement whereby he married a French girl on a fling in Paris, thinking he would have to marry eventually – for appearances sake as much as anything else – and out of it came a somewhat estranged son.
The son is a sub-plot, for in loving Sinclair he also learns to love his son.
Overall, it is an engrossing story with strong main characters. Both Taylor and Sinclair are credible, and the story is plot-driven as apposed to sliding along on a stream of sperm. Likewise, the S&M is judiciously used as a piquant, rather than a gratuitous kink.
The insights into 19th-century mores are also well created, which suggests some research.
On the quibble side, flashbacks (retro-views) are tricky. I’ve read dozens of books that have used them, but only a few have done it well. I can’t say don’t use them, because it depends on how necessary the past is to explain the present, but otherwise use some other device, like a prologue.
Another quibble is the ‘fee’ Sinclair apparently charged for his services. Fifty pounds in the 19th century was a significant amount of money. For example, a skilled engineer might earn £110 per year if fully employed.
Which, I suppose is the other lesson this review might bring: Write about flying monsters and horned aliens with impunity, but miss a fact by a day or an inch and someone is bound to catch you up on it.
A history lesson in novel form, and an enjoyable read.
One of the most grievously overlooked genres in GBLT fiction is ‘the gay adventure story’. That is not to say there are none. There are – and good ones, too – but they are few and far between.
One of the best writers in this genre is Roger Kean, and his latest offering Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) [Reckless Books, February 1st 2015] is proof positive of this estimation.
His Empire Series has taken us through the hot spots of Imperial Britain’s golden age of domination and plunder (always for ‘their’ own good, of course.) Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite eras for an overall commitment to ‘God and Empire’. It is probably the last example of a people willingly committed to a state that was ‘politely’ corrupt and exploitive, through-and through.
The blurb provides as good a synopsis of the story as I could write; therefore, I will contain my comments to some of the highlights as I see them.
First of all, I like the cover art and design by Oliver Frey. It has a rugged, masculine look about it that suits this type of novel. With a few notable exceptions, adventure novels tend to be written by male authors, and so anything less rugged wouldn’t have met my expectations.
I also love Kean’s choice of names, i.e. Harry Smythe-Vane, and Jolyon Langrish-Smith. How delicious zany! I have often observed that authors don’t give enough attention to names – especially historical names – but these certainly do add a ‘stuffiness’ to the era that fits.
The introduction of certain celebrities of the day – especially young Winston Churchill – added a whole new dimension to the already interesting historical events. There are also some who also say that Baden-Powell had interest in boys beyond scouting, and so these characters can add wonderful fodder to a story.
The writing is, of course, top notch (if, perhaps, a bit over-expansive), and so I am going to award this novel with a five-bee rating....more
Just because a novel may be dated, it doesn't render it any less enjoyable
Although published in 2000, I first read The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer [Grove Press; Reprint edition (January 6, 2000)] some five years ago – which attest to my theory that because a novel is dated, it doesn’t render it any less enjoyable.
Indeed, like a fine wine, many novels grow into currency as the society matures enough to appreciate them.
The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is a zany novel, reminiscent of the 1960s “Hippy” culture when no subject was taboo, and “far out” meant exactly that.
It is told from the first-person perspective of Shed (short for ‘Out-in-The-Shed’), a half-blood, orphaned boy, whose birth under the front porch of a whorehouse in Excellent, Idaho, sets off a journey of self-discovery over time and across two nations – Indian and white.
The town’s characters make up a good part of the story, from Ida Richilieu – the presiding madam at the Indian Head Hotel; to the blacksmith who wore Vaseline filled gloves to keep his hands soft; to ‘something-or-other’ Dave, the town’s mentally-challenged character, who pisses himself every time he became excited.
Nonetheless, there is a compelling quest that keeps the story moving, both parenthetically and literally, when Shed goes looking for his mother’s Bannock-Indian heritage.
Not surprising, it is not what he expects to find – not ideally anyway – but the adventure answers at least part of it.
However, it is not until he returns to Excellent that the rest is revealed, and his quest is set to rest. Four bees.
A word about political correctness
A number of people have assessed this book on the basis of its non-politically-correct references to Indians and Mormons. In this regard, I found nothing that could be considered offensive to either.
In my opinion, political correctness is the antithesis of creative writing. Political correctness was an artificial construct dreamed up by a gaggle of cocktail-sipping matrons who wanted to offer ‘gentility’ to the oppressed classes. Thereby, they introduced a tyranny of titles that far surpassed anything that had been in place before. Moreover, since then, it has lost any minimal relevance it may have had to become a source of division and discord.
This reviewer does not practice political correctness, never has and never will, and will never assess creativity by any such narrow-minded constricts....more