M. Kei's Reviews > Memoirs of Colonel Gerard Vreilhac

Memoirs of Colonel Gerard Vreilhac by Anel Viz
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's review
Mar 29, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: ebooks, gay-adventure
I own a copy

Anel Viz’s bio notes that he writes m/m romances, but they are not traditional romances. This is an apt description of The Memoirs of Colonel Gérard Vreilhac. The novel is very much a ‘memoir’ that focusses on the intimate aspects of the main character’s life, but I would call it ‘gay historical fiction’ rather than ‘m/m romance’ because it lacks the traits typically associated with romances.

The focus is the main character’s love life and the novel contains a great deal of sex, but the details are limited. Having reached an age at which I know very well how sex works, I didn’t miss the details, but the author’s reticence will frustrate readers seeking a sensual experience. Unfortunately, it may also frustrate readers who expect a lush costume drama for their historical fiction.

Viz is at his best when he focusses tightly on a limited scene; for example when the protagonist is working as a clerk of the Tribunal during the Reign of Terror. Authors rarely focus on the non-entities—the ‘nameless’ clerks and other minor functionaries—yet Viz makes our protagonist one of these. This gives an insider’s view of great events, yet focusses on the troubles of an ordinary man, someone much like ourselves.

That the main character is not a heroic figure is part of his appeal; he is an Everyman competent at his duties, not extra-ordinary, and is sometimes put into positions where he is not qualified. For example, when he winds up as a cavalry officer under Napoleon, he has no idea how to lead a cavalry charge. There is no martial arts movie redemption in which he learns to master his combat art; no, he gets wounded and sent to hospital, which is what happens to soldiers who aren’t good at their jobs.

Although he is an ordinary fellow, he is a lucky one, and through a combination of his own skills, having sex with the right men, the influence of his friends, and the fortunes of war and politics, he advances from his boyhood job of gardener to bank director and is regarded by society as a war hero—once everybody old enough to have known his actual career has died off, leaving him the luster of having served in the Grande Armée without the embarrassment of having to actually perform. Along the way he has fantastic sex and falls in love with several men and continues to love them over an extended period of time, eventually retiring to the country with a younger man.

All in all, it is an interesting and well-written story and kept me reading to the end, but I cannot give it my whole-hearted endorsement. Although the protagonist makes it clear in the beginning that he is giving only the history necessary to provide a framework for his story, events important to the character, such as when he is a prisoner in Saint-Lazare during the Reign of Terror, really do deserve a larger treatment. For this reason I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
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