Science Fiction Romance review: Rogue Wolf by Elliot Cooper

Rogue Wolf by Elliot Cooper

Published by: Self-published

Format: eARC

Genre: Science fiction/queer romance

Order at: Amazon | B & N Kobo

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect: Short, sharp, entertaining caper with a good romance and some interesting sci fi ideas. Read More

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Historical YA Review: A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Published by: HarperCollins

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

Format: e-ARC

Genre: YA historical fantasy

Reviewed by: Moog

What to expect: Queer historical YA full of simmering heat, loads of pining, and an irascible main character you will both love and be exasperated by in equal measure.

Bonus: Check out our exclusive interview with Mackenzi Lee and enter to win a paperback ARC of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue!
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Exclusive Interview with Mackenzi Lee, Author of A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue + giveaway!

Binge on Books is joined today by guest reviewer and writer, Moog. She chat with Mackenzi Lee about all things queer historicals and also her stellar new release, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

When I first learned about The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, I honestly thought I’d misheard. A queer YA historical road trip book? Surely I had just made that up out of my head and it couldn’t really exist. But it did! And does! And is out June 27th!

Blurb: Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

We were lucky enough to catch up with the lovely Mackenzi Lee before the release of Gentleman’s Guide to talk about YA historical fiction, weird research facts, and what she’s working on next.

Moog for Binge on Books: Hi Mackenzi! Thanks for being here. I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue from page one (especially Monty, disaster of my heart). I read a lot of YA and a lot of historical romance, but there’s not much historical fiction in YA. Your first book, This Monstrous Thing, and Gentleman’s Guide are both YA historicals with fantasy elements. What draws you to this genre in particular?

Mackenzi: Historical fiction is a hard category in YA–I feel like I’m constantly fighting against the idea that historical fiction is boring, and so many of my readers start their positive reviews of my books with the caveat “I generally don’t like or read historical fiction but…” And as delighted I am that they read and enjoyed mine in spite of that, I wish everyone loved historicals because they’re so magical! I love that historical fiction feels like fantasy, because the world is so foreign to modern readers, but it’s all real (which makes the fantasy such a natural addition, though I do tend to favor historicals that are lighter on the fantasy, or whose fantasy is rooted in the real history of the time it’s set in). But on the flip side of that, I love how, when you read historical accounts, you realize people don’t really change. We’re the same through centuries and across time and space. I was also a history major in college, and very close to becoming an academic writer, until a professor told me my papers read like historical fiction novels and I realized I might be writing in the wrong genre.

Moog: That’s so cool! What sort of things were you writing in your papers?

Mackenzi: Basically I would write things like “Henry VI was hurt and angry over this” and write dialogue for Richard III (my history degree emphasis was Wars of the Roses in England :). Which apparently you are not supposed to do. And in general I think my writing style skewed a little too narrative driven for my professors.

Moog: Le gasp! Not narrative! And writing historical fiction, like writing academic papers, comes with a bunch of research (I say, staring down my shelf full of Victorian social history books that I claim are for “research” and not just for my own heart). Was there any particular fact you found out while writing/researching for Gentleman’s Guide that you couldn’t find a way to include?

Mackenzi: Oh gosh, so much research. The trick to being a historical fiction writer is both knowing how to research (and loving it) and also knowing when to put down the research and start writing–it’s so easy to use it as an excuse to not get words on the page. My favorite fact, which didn’t end up in the book but is in the author’s note, is that there were more gay bars and clubs in London in the 1700s than there were in the 1940s. There was a thriving subculture for queer people in 18th century Europe!

My other favorite fact that didn’t make it in anywhere was that in the 1700s, the British were exporting prostitutes to pirate islands like Tortuga to discourage the pirates from just getting it on with each other. (But beyond random sex with each other, pirates also had a sort of civil marriage that bound two male pirates and their booty together, and often they shared living space and provisions on the ship. Pirates were pioneers of gay marriage 🙂

Moog: *hoards queer history facts like a tiny dragon* Speaking of, I also really loved that Gentleman’s Guide includes a PoC love interest, a bisexual hero, and a character with a chronic health condition, all of which have also been underrepresented in mainstream publishing. Are there similar themes in your future books?

Mackenzi: Thank you! I’ve been generally frustrated with the lack of diversity in historical fiction, and non-fiction narratives. We use “historical accuracy” as an excuse for not including characters with marginalized identities in historical fiction, or we often make them tortured side characters (especially the queer ones). And it’s not that the narratives don’t exist–I read a lot of primary sources from black, chronically ill, and queer people in England in the 1700s. They were there! We just erase them and instead keep telling the story of the straight white guys.

And I’ve been trying really hard to not be part of that problem! I don’t feel like a lot of these narratives are mine to tell, since I’m a white lady, but I try to do what I can to include minority characters in my historical fiction and nonfiction that are more than being tortured outsiders.  

As far as future books, I have an anthology of my Bygone Badass Broads essays coming out next year [Editor’s note: #BygoneBadassBroads is Mackenzi’s Twitter series about forgotten badass ladies from history], and I made an effort (which my publisher was hugely supportive of) to make sure we were including marginalized women and their stories. And my next book is about sexuality and gender identity and set in the 1600s in Holland.

Moog: It’s wonderful to hear that your publisher was so supportive! Your upcoming books both sound amazing. Felicity from Gentleman’s Guide  is 100% a Bygone Badass Broad, right? Which of the Bygone Broads do you think would get on best with her and/or best form a terrifying alliance with her to change the face of medicine forever?

Mackenzi: Thank you! Bygone Badass Broads was a true passion project for me, and to see it take off the way it has has been both surprising and incredibly rewarding. Of the Bygone Badass Broads I’ve featured, I think Felicity would pair best with Mary Anning, the paleontologist in 1700s England, or Clelia Duel Mosher, the American physician in the turn of the century who helped dispel myths about female fragility. They’re all three science minded and independent (neither Mary nor Clelia ever married). I think the three of them would make a kick ass science girl squad.  

Moog: I would 100% read that book! If you were suddenly confined to a desert island and, for some archaic island reason, you could only take queer historical books (of any sub-genre) with you, which would be the first three books you packed?

Mackenzi: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (not on-page queerness, but you can definitely do a really solid queer reading of it, and it’s my favorite book in the world so I’m bending the rules for it)

Moog: Your desert island would have the best tiny library! Thanks again for being here, Mackenzi <3 Chatting queer historical has been glorious. As a last note: three random quick-fire questions! Weirdest home decoration you own?

Mackenzi: My dad made me a to-scale mechanical arm for the This Monstrous Thing trailer, which now functions as a charming table ornament in my apartment.

Moog: How do you take your tea (or hot beverage of your choice)?

Mackenzi: Fruity. I’m generally disinclined to tea, but I love fruit teas, which are not as commonly available in most places as I want them to be. But I was just on a research trip in Holland and they serve fruit tea at almost every restaurant! I’ve never been so delighted.

Moog: What are you reading right now?

Mackenzi: Oh gosh too many things–I’ve been picking up and putting down a dozen books a day lately. At this moment, I’m deep in Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and Undercover Girl: The Lesbian Informant who Helped Bring Down the Communist Party by Lisa E. Davis.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee is published by HarperCollins and is released on June 27 2017.

***

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults, and her short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Atlas Obscura, Crixeo, The Friend, and The Newport Review, among others.  Her debut novel, THIS MONSTROUS THING, which won the PEN-New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, is out now from HarperCollins. Her second book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, a queer spin on the classic adventure novel, will be released in June of 2017.

She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently calls Boston home, where she works as an independent bookstore manager.

Moog Florin is a writer, blogger, and lacker of balance. She lives in London with her wife (lovely) and an octopus (stuffed), and can be found blogging into the void about books, stickers, and queer romance at MM Florin Writes. You can also find Moog on Twitter: @MM_Florin

***

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Urban Fantasy Review: Triad Soul by Nathan Burgoine

Triad Soul by Nathan Burgoine

Published by: Bold Stroke Books

Format: eArc

Genre: urban fantasy/queer fiction

Order at: Publisher  |  Amazon |  B&N |  Kobo

(available now at the publisher, 20 June at other retailers)

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect: Wizards, Vampires, and Demons with a heaped serving of queer found family and an unconventional not-quite-romance. Read More

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Book Talk: Interview with Julia Ember, author of The Seafarer’s Kiss

A quote from a recent article in Vice magazine came back to me vividly as I sat down to read The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember. Queer retellings of stories are a reminder, Vice asserted, that the classics don’t just belong to straight white guys—they belong to the LGBTQ community, too.

Yes, this. Always and forever this. Far too often the classic stories of our childhoods display a very one sided and narrow view of the world, reflecting back the conventions of the time in a pretty package. The original Little Mermaid tale of 1837 is just that–a reflection of what society expected from women at the time. The story follows a mermaid who is willing to give her all–her family, her history, her very identity–in order to marry a man, who in the end refuses to acknowledge her sacrifices, and she dies. No true page time is given to her thoughts or wants. She exists to love a man and when he can’t love her back, she has no more reason to exist.  

Enter Julia Ember and The Seafarer’s Kiss. This gorgeous young adult novel subverts the original, asking readers to view the Little Mermaid in a wholly different light. Mermaid Ersel is a strong, independent female with a layer of protective blubber that keeps her warm in the ice shelves of the northern sea. When she meets Ragna, the sole survivor of a shipwreck and befriends her, feelings blossom between the two. Ersel’s would be suitor catches them and issues an ultimatum: give up this budding relationship or be stuck under the thumb of the Mer-King making babies for the rest of her life. So what does Ersel do? Creates a third choice and takes her own destiny in hand.

Everything about this book is magic — the imagery of the frozen waters of the north is glorious and so real; the sweet new feelings between Ersel and Ragna are confusing and fragile; the questioning of Ersel’s choices and the effects they’ll have on her future underscore what all teens (and adults) feel. And while the themes and threads of the original are still there, this reimagined Little Mermaid is a fierce presence who waits for no man to make choices for her. Plus it incorporates a great deal of Norse Mythology including several killer appearances by the God of Lies themselves, Loki.

Luckily I was able to catch up with Julia Ember before the release of her book to talk The Seafarer’s Kiss, Norse Mythology, homosexuality among the Vikings, and what she ultimately wants to see more of in books.

Judith for Binge on Books: Julia, welcome! I can’t fully do justice to how much I loved the book and its haunting take on the Little Mermaid myth. What was the evolution to writing this? Did you wake up one day and decide that you needed to redo a classic story? Was there a spark or something specific that forced your hand in writing this particular idea?

Julia Ember: I’m so glad you loved the story!

Before deciding that academia wasn’t for me, I spent two years doing a postgraduate degree in Mediaeval Literature. As part of my course, I studied both Anglo-Saxon and Norse poems, as well as their mythology and history. I’ve always been truly fascinated by the pre-Christian Vikings, their legends, their gods and in the cultural shift that happened after they started living among Anglo-Saxons. In a way, it’s a myth that the Vikings conquered the Anglo-Saxons. They did invade their land, but in the end, Anglo-Saxon culture, which was part of the Latin Christian Empire already, lured many of the Vikings away from their historic way of life. There is an Anglo-Saxon poem called The Seafarer which follows an exiled sailor as he laments his loneliness on the high seas. It is a hauntingly beautiful poem. A lot of my inspiration for the character of Ragna came from thinking about that cultural war, and the clash of cultures that plays out in the Seafarer poem.

The Little Mermaid has always been my favourite fairy tale! I always knew that if I was going to write retellings, it would be the first story I would explore. The book itself started out as a short story/novelette. I actually went out on submission with that, had a few requests, but it didn’t sell.

Judith: Since you draw so heavily on Norse Myth to infuse this book, is it safe to assume that there is a Little Mermaid story in that cannon? If so, how do The Seafarer’s Kiss and that myth differ?

Julia: Sadly, there is no Little Mermaid story in Norse Myth! As a category, Norse Myths don’t tend to be particularly romance driven tales nor do they tend to be very character focused. Norse literature and myth is heavily focused on achievements and heroism – conquering monsters, far off lands. The Norse elements in Seafarer’s Kiss are incorporated into the world-building and the characters of Ragna and Loki. Ragna is a gender-swapped, very lose interpretation of Ragnar Lodbrok, a Viking leader who started the process of taking over Anglo-Saxon England. Ragnar may or may not have been a real person, but his legend is pervasive. My version of Loki is much closer to the sinister Norse God than the playful Marvel counterpart.

Judith: So if there’s no Little Mermaid, did you find evidence of queer narratives in any Norse Mythology you used as research?

Julia: Norse mythology is sadly pretty heteronormative, although a few pre-Christian Viking historical sources do indicate that Vikings thought homosexuality was a normal part of getting older. Kind of an odd cultural phenomenon there. The Vikings were a lot like the Romans or the Greeks, in that homosexuality wasn’t illegal or expressly frowned upon, but people did think that in a gay relationship being the passive partner undermined a person’s masculinity.

The god Loki, however, is an interesting one. They are often described as a man, but some legends show them as a woman. There is a well-known Norse myth where Odin punishes Loki by forcing them to give birth to monsters. In that legend, Loki’s gender is very obscure. They become pregnant and give birth, but retain many masculine qualities. The legend does, however, use feminisation as a form of punishment, where other legends simply present Loki as androgynous or female. In my version of Loki, I wanted their fluidity to be something they embraced. I also wanted them in full control of their own identity and self-presentation.

Judith: Even though this is a fairytale retelling, did any of your own experiences influence the writing?

Julia: Seafarer’s Kiss is an #ownvoices bisexual book, and so I wrote that aspect of Ersel and Ragna from my own life experience. I think, like Ersel with Havamal, I also have a bad habit of hanging onto people for a long time, hoping that they will change.

Judith: With that in mind, what do you want to see more of in books? Particularly in YA and NA?

Julia: I definitely want to see more diverse fantasy! I think contemporary has been charging ahead in terms of number of books published with characters across the LGBTQIA spectrum and POC. In fantasy, we’ve had a number of very high profile books that have had terrible representation when that shouldn’t be the case. I think speculative fiction offers such a perfect opportunity for writers to develop worlds that aren’t predominantly white or cishet. It’s disheartening how many books fall into that specification considering the writers are creating new worlds, where nothing else is the same as ours. Prejudice shouldn’t be the common factor between our world and fantasy kingdoms.

Judith: What is one question you would want a reader to ask about this book but they never do?

Julia: It’s not really a specific question, but I wish readers would ask more questions about Ragna and her past! She’s a really fierce, independent character, but I think Ersel and Loki steal most of the limelight from her.

***

Originally from Chicago, Julia Ember now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. She spends her days working in the book trade and her nights writing teen fantasy novels. Her hobbies include riding horses, starting far too many craft projects, PokemonGo and looking after her city-based menagerie of pets with names from Harry Potter. Luna Lovegood and Sirius Black the cats currently run her life.

Julia is a polyamorous, bisexual writer. She regularly takes part in events for queer teens, including those organised by the Scottish Booktrust and LGBT Youth Scotland. A world traveler since childhood, she has now visited more than sixty countries. Her travels inspire the fantasy worlds she creates, though she populates them with magic and monsters.

Julia began her writing career at the age of nine, when her short story about two princesses and their horses won a contest in Touch magazine. In 2016, she published her first novel, Unicorn Tracks, which also focused on two girls and their equines, albeit those with horns. Her second novel, The Seafarer’s Kiss will be released by Interlude Press in May 2017. The book was heavily influenced by Julia’s postgraduate work in Medieval Literature at The University of St. Andrews. It is now responsible for her total obsession with beluga whales.

In August 2017, her third novel and the start of her first series, Tiger’s Watch, will come out with Harmony Ink Press. In writing Tiger’s Watch, Julia has taken her love of cats to a new level.

Learn more on her site.

The Seafarer’s Kiss is out now from Interlude Press.

***

Judith is the owner of Binge on Books, as well as the boutique press, Open Ink, and the literary PR company, A Novel Take PR. You can also find Judith on HEA USA Today and  Teen Vogue talking queer fiction.


 

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Alternate History Review: Arising series: Sons of Devils (book 1) and Angels of Istanbul (book 2) by Alex Beecroft

Title and Author: Arising series: Sons of Devils (book 1) and Angels of Istanbul (book 2)

Published by: Anglerfish Press (Riptide)

Format: epub

Genre: alternate history/romantic fantasy

Order at: Publisher Amazon  |  B&N

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect: Fascinating “Age of Enlightenment with magic” fantasy world with well-crafted touches of horror and m/m romance. Read More

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Queer Literature Review: Outside the XY, edited by Morgan Mann Willis

Outside the XY edited by Morgan Mann Willis

Published by: Riverdale Avenue Books

Format: mobi

Genre: Queer Literature

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: Transformational, own-voice, bite-sized exploration within queer black and brown experience via writing of the highest quality. Read More

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Fantasy Romance Review: Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Published by: Less Than Three Press

Format: mobi

Genre: LGBTQIA+ Fantasy Romance

Order at: Amazon | B&N | Publisher

Reviewed by: Sara and Alex

What to Expect: A clever, own-voices retelling of a classic with realized queer characters that gets better with every read. Read More

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Authors Interviewing Authors: Sam Schooler interviews Wes Kennedy

It’s time for a little…Authors Interviewing Authors here on Binge on Books! April’s interview features Queer New Adult author, Sam Schooler, chatting with brand spanking new author, Wes Kennedy. With Wes’ quirky and diverse debut out April 27th, we wanted to learn more more more(!) about her and what else she has in the works. So here’s Sam Schooler and Wes Kennedy talking debut novellas, grammar and editing, and a love of all things Kung Fu!

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Historical Romance Review: A Gentleman’s Position by KJ Charles

A Gentleman's PositionA Gentleman’s Position by KJ Charles

Published by: Loveswept

Format: eARC

Genre: Historical Romance

Order at: Amazon

Reviewed by: Liz

Get ready for: A gorgeous conclusion to a stunning historical queer series!

Plot: Among his eccentric though strictly principled group of friends, Lord Richard Vane is the confidant on whom everyone depends for advice, moral rectitude, and discreet assistance. Yet when Richard has a problem, he turns to his valet, a fixer of unparalleled genius—and the object of Richard’s deepest desires. If there is one rule a gentleman must follow, it is never to dally with servants. But when David is close enough to touch, the rules of class collide with the basest sort of animal instinct: overpowering lust.
 
For David Cyprian, burglary and blackmail are as much in a day’s work as bootblacking—anything for the man he’s devoted to. But the one thing he wants for himself is the one thing Richard refuses to give: his heart. With the tension between them growing to be unbearable, David’s seemingly incorruptible master has left him no choice. Putting his finely honed skills of seduction and manipulation to good use, he will convince Richard to forget all about his well-meaning objections and give in to sweet, sinful temptation.

Review: The KJ Charles series “Society of Gentlemen,” which began with the short called “The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh,” is coming to end. In fact, it has, with A Gentleman’s Position. And sometimes, you really do have to wonder–will the ending live up to the promise of the beginning? Will it be everything you have ever wanted? Here, knowing this book was in KJ Charles’s very capable hands, I didn’t worry–and I was right not to. It was everything you could have possibly asked for, both as a fan and as a more casual reader (though how it’s possible to read these books ‘casually,’ I have no idea. I read A Seditious Affair three times in a row when I first got it. It’s currently in re-reads for an even four. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read Ruin).

To get back to the point at hand, however, here it is–the final chapter that we are to get with these characters. And it’s a stunning conclusion. I noted, a while back, that reading the series has felt a bit like getting pulled into a tornado, or a hurricane, perhaps. The story of Ash and Francis starts us off with a bang, so to speak, and then we are quickly sucked into the main action by Harry and Julius. Harry, as the first outsider, pulls us into this world and gets us going, as both he and the readers are familiarized with the setting and its people. All the complicated relationships begin to become clearer, but it is with the second story–that of Dom and Silas–that we get even deeper in, even closer to the center.

Everything in this series, then, has been leading up to this. In almost every way, Richard and Cyprian have been the eye of the storm, and their relationship and role in the action of each story have been crucial in a way that was almost difficult to see, you were so close. But as their relationship unravels, so do the threads of all that, between them, they have held together for so long. With turmoil between the two, the rest of the Ricardians finally begin to fully realize the sort of precipice they have been shielded from with Richard’s money and Cyprian’s nearly otherworldly abilities and ruthless attention to detail.

But I’m getting more into plot than anybody wants. What struck me most about this book was how unpredictable it truly was. Not just in how the main issues are dealt with–and I wouldn’t spoil you for it if you paid me, it was so deliciously diabolical–but with how the action unspools. The true crux of this story–the love between Richard and Cyprian and the seeming inability to make it into anything concrete due to the differences in their roles–underlies everything, and the conflict comes quick. The resolution? Now, that takes much, much longer.

In a very realistic way, that makes sense. It takes time for us to unlearn habits, time to truly begin to understand what we have been missing all our lives due to how we have lived them. Between them stand power, privilege, and the sort of misunderstandings that you can only realize are misunderstandings the hard way.  This is what happens when Cyprian puts a problem forth to Richard that Richard is unable to solve on his own.

Which is, of course, the opposite of how problems get solved in Richard’s world–Cyprian has always done it for him.

So many people who’ve read the previous books have been waiting for Richard to get his comeuppance for all the ways in which he’s made so many others miserable with his principles and the stick that is so far up his arse, it probably polishes his teeth when he’s sleeping. But what we get with this book is far more than that–it is a look at the actual man behind the facade, the life that has been both privileged and anything but. It’s poignant, beautiful, and, yes, still entirely satisfactory to watch him get hit over the head with anvil after anvil of his own mistakes.

(Sometimes I felt like Jed Bartlett, pointing my finger at him, going, “Just stand there and be wrong in your wrongness!”)

And then, of course, there’s Cyprian. The mysterious, sly, vaguely amoral, red-headed valet who hides in plain sight and solves everybody’s issues with seemingly but a click of his well-turned fingers. And he, of course, is so much more than he appears. Cyprian’s story and Cyprian himself are key in understanding just what it means to “step into someone else’s shoes” and whether that’s even enough. As Silas points out in at one point, that is not how you truly get to understand the other person’s point of view. You must think the way he could think–not the way you would think, standing in his shoes.

So much of this book, this whole entire series, is about accepting the differences instead of trying to smooth them over or pretend they don’t exist altogether. It’s a complicated endeavor, and KJ Charles pulls it off beautifully. Her characters are difficult, imperfect, and yet always human in a way that resonates.

If A Seditious Affair involved saying “no” and meaning “please understand that I am really saying yes and trusting you with it,” A Gentleman’s Position is about learning to say “no” and mean it even when your entire being wants to scream out “yes.” Equally, it’s about learning to say “yes” despite your brain and entire outlook on life telling you that it could not possibly be the right thing to do.

This book is about love of every kind–that between lovers, between those who feel they cannot be lovers no matter their feelings, love between brothers, sons and fathers, sons and mothers, friends, and every iteration hidden within all of them. It’s a beautiful unraveling and coming together of people who have chosen to be with each other, either through circumstance or despite it, and it satisfies on every level. Intellectual, emotional, erotic–you name it, it does it.

It is such a joy to see Silas and Dom in their happily ever after, a joy to watch Julius move heaven and earth to protect Harry once again, a joy to see Francis hover over Ash in a way that shows he’ll stop at nothing to shield the love of his life from those who’d threaten him. Quex and Shakespeare and Zoe all make an appearance, when Charles takes us even further behind the veil that separates servant and master. We also get a beautiful look at the inner sanctum of Richard’s family life, the home of Philip and Eustacia. Both characters get their shining moments in the sun, and both are so compelling, I want their book, as well.

The subtleties of human nature are handled with infinite care by Charles. Philip’s learning disability, Richard’s complex sexuality, what it means to be truly moral and principled and how your actions behind closed doors reflect on your actions outside of them–all of it is rendered with such compassion, yet never simplified and nothing comes easily to anyone here, not even privilege.

In conclusion: everything about this book is as satisfying as it can get, apart from one minor flaw: that it even has to end.

What May Not Work For You: The only thing I can even remotely think of is if you have no interest in historical queer fiction. In which case, what are you even doing here? *perplexed look* (Or politics, which are not as prominent in this book as they were in the previous one, but still play quite a large and integral role.)

What You Will Love: Uhm…all of it. The humor (this book is fucking hilarious, okay?), the love stories, the sex is SCORCHING, the characters fully realized and imperfect, etc, etc, see above.

 

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