Review: Hyacinth Club by B A Tortuga

Devlin Montebanc knows that a Victorian man needs a place to go, some place he can be at ease, enjoying his port, his cigars, and some special male companionship. That’s why he maintains the Hyacinth Club, a traditional men’s club with a twist.

The sophisticated men of the Hyacinth Club find their pleasure in this series of bawdy tales, from a Scottish earl who falls in love with a Texas rebel, to a bored noble who finds an innocent young scholar to instruct in the ways of dominance and submission. See how repressed those Victorians weren’t. Read Hyacinth Club today.

Review by Alex Beecroft

I feel I need to start this review off by explaining where I’m coming from as a reader. If you know what I like in a book, it’ll be clearer to you whether you share the same perspective, and whether you might expect to agree with me on the review or not.

I freely admit I am a narrative junkie. What I’m primarily looking for in a book is a gripping story; characters who I can love, or at least sympathise with, overcoming obstacles and challenges in an effort to obtain their hearts’ desires.

That makes me unsuitable to review this book, however. The Hyacinth Club is not really a narrative at all. I would say it was stretching it even to call it a ‘series of bawdy tales’, unless you think that ‘A meets B, they have lots of sex’ is a tale.

Essentially, the book is a series of sexual encounters between several different pairs of men, though I believe there’s a threesome towards the end (my brain had become oversaturated by then and had switched off.) Each pair follows the formula ‘A meets B, instant attraction, sex, vows that the other is the most perfect person ever, more sex, calling each other pet names, more sex.’

There is some differentiation of characters; ‘the Texan’ has a Texan accent and he calls his Scottish lover ‘my Scot’, which helped me to remember which pair we were talking about in their case.

There is an extremely seme/uke pair. A pair I couldn’t tell apart other than they called each other ‘my Fox’ and ‘my Dragon’ (they met at a masquerade). A slightly lower class pair whose re-union at the docks I found quite touching. A big Scotsman and a little actor, who seemed to belong in a different book entirely (a book which I would probably have enjoyed more.) But all these promising beginnings lead so inevitably to the sex and the declarations of perfection that I lost interest about 30 pages in and almost despaired when I reached page 92, only to discover there were 100 pages still to go.

I’m not in any way saying that this was a badly written book. On the contrary, apart from the stilted ‘olde worlde’ dialogue of the first couple, which did get on my nerves, it’s clear that BA Tortuga is a good writer. I believe it’s entirely possible that she is good at characterization, though it’s all but impossible for that to come out when the characters do nothing but have sex. The settings were nicely drawn, and though I admit I had thought they were 18th Century until I read the blurb, that might be more a product of my own obsessions than any fault of hers.

And the sex scenes are very good; well drawn, lush without being tasteless, hot, varied and prolonged. It’s an amazing achievement considering how technically difficult it is to write sex. It’s just not my cup of tea.

I wanted conflict, drama, heroism, true love winning out over almost insuperable obstacles, but there was no conflict whatsoever. Not even conflict of the internal, psychological kind. None of these Victorian men, not even the innocent ingénue, seemed at all troubled by the thought that they were doing something their society perceived to be criminally immoral. True love turned up and everyone skipped directly to – heh – the climax.

I might even have preferred ‘Victorian men fuck like bunnies’ if it had not been overlaid with the ‘A+B+great sex = automatic HEA’ message, which I found a bit, well, shmoopy. But that’s probably just me being cynical.

Basically, if you read m/m fiction for the sex, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a story of some kind – if sex only becomes meaningful for you in the context of everything else the characters have gone through together – I would advise you to give it a miss.

Available from Torquere Books

6 Responses

  1. Hi Alex,

    you write very good reviews. I like that you explained beforehand how your literary taste forms and influences the basis of your reasoning and thus the review itself. I think that even someone who doesn’t share your specific taste as a reader gets a good and pretty much unbiased impression of the book.

    Maybe I’ll give this book a try myself. There are times when all I need is some kind of light reading without all the angst. Helps me to … relax. 😉


  2. I would say it was stretching it even to call it a ’series of bawdy tales’, unless you think that ‘A meets B, they have lots of sex’ is a tale.

    You do write very entertaining reviews. That one line alone was pretty much enough for me to know I have no interest in purchasing this book. Thanks for the warning.

  3. Thanks Christian! Yes, that was the thing I really wanted to get across – that *I* didn’t like it, but I didn’t think that was a reflection of its quality. If you enjoy a good PWP (porn without plot) then this one is well worth having. Very… relaxing 😉

  4. Thanks Girluknow! I am glad! And yes, this is an excellent version of a type of book I don’t like. It seems a bit pointless to say ‘this is the sort of book you’ll enjoy if you enjoy that sort of book’, but in this case it’s true 🙂 But if you don’t, then definitely steer clear!

  5. Great review as usual, Alex. But I’m curious about something. Is B.A. Tortuga a pseudonym for one of Torquere’s owners? Maybe I’m confusing this pub with another, but I could swear I’ve read something lately about TP’s owners publishing their work under multiple pen names.

    This could possibly make a difference where quality is concerned. Doesn’t have to, mind you, but it could. (I think the owners of Blind Eye and Loose Id publish under their own names, which seems a bit more upstanding, and their stuff is usually pretty good.)

  6. Eek! Sorry, I didn’t see this comment until now (several months later!). I don’t know about whether BA Tortuga is one of Torquere’s owners or not, but I wouldn’t say that this book is low in quality. I actually think that it’s a well written piece of erotica. It’s more a case that as a reviewer I don’t really like erotica. Although I didn’t like the book, I think that was the fault of my own tastes, not of the book, which is a very good one of its kind.

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