Review: An Asian Minor-The True Story of Ganymede by Felice Picano

From the blurb: “An Asian Minor is unlike any book you are likely to read this year. The story of a thirteen year old boy who discovers he is “the most beautiful mortal ever born,” it examines that dubious humour in a retelling of the classical Greek myth that has attracted artists for centuries. A very contemporary, intelligent, clear sighted boy, through whose eyes adult politics and sexual attitudes are skewered, Picano’s Ganymede will remind reader of Huck Finn and the heroine of Rubyfruit Jungle.”

Review by Erastes

If you are looking for a traditional Greek tale with formal classic language then this is certainly not for you. Picano visualises a young man, given immortality at fourteen, who has aged mentally with the earth; he sees and knows the world – the modern world – and he speaks like a modern (albiet an American) boy. He decides to speak up and tell his true story because he sees that “a certain group of overconcerned busybodies are intent on making me a symbolic victim of an old pervert’s lust; and contrarily, by others saying that the perversion is fine.” He wants to set the record straight, to point out that his human rights had NOT been violated and he’s not the unwilling victim, raped and abducted without his permission.

He also says in the prologue, that he wants to give guys of today some hints

to get themselves a sugar daddy who really counts, rather than settling for whomever comes along.”

Yes – unhinge your classical brain, we ain’t in the land of Laurence Olivier as Zeus!

Now you’d think I’d be complaining bitterly but I’m really not. I thoroughly enjoyed it once I saw the tack that Picano was taking. Ganymede is a cheeky little bastard, but wouldn’t you be if you were fated to be the most beautiful youth that ever lived? Picano takes the story mentioned in The Iliad that Ganymede was the son of Troas, King of Troy and whilst some of the ends of the story are changed a little, Ganymede Explains It All with typical youthful brio. When Zeus propositions him, there’s one of my favourite lines in the book and typical of the boy:

“If you want me, you’re going to have to do a lot better than they did. I’m not going to be known as the idiot who threw over Apollo and Hermes and Ares for an instant baking.”

The fact that his dad is dying of embarrassment as his son talks back to Zeus is a perfect touch.

Ganymede learns very early on that being so beautiful is both a blessing and a curse. His father shows him off as one of the wonders of Troy and soon on the boy is exiled from his home because Troas doesn’t want any gods turning up to court his son and making a nuisance of themselves. Ganymede’s adventures begin after this, rejecting Hermes, Ares and Apollo (after giving them a little taste of what they were going to miss) because he knows he’s worth more than any old randy minor god. And who can blame him. However it’s not until he’s humbled that he gets the chance to fulfill his destiny. The fact that it was Ganymede that brought about the Trojan war and subsequent destruction I thought was nicely done. It was his face that launched those ships, after all!!

The book is illustrated with lovely black and white drawings by David Martin which are very lickable and I wish I could show you one.

This book could easily have descended into a laughable, sporkable farce-but it doesn’t. It manages to be a fun, funny read thanks to the characterisation of the narrator and if you can get hold of a copy, reasonably priced, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Buy: Amazon UK Amazon USA

Review: Regency by Megan Derr

Review by Hayden Thorne

Four short stories and one novella with a regency flavor. A lazy prince and his stiff secretary have long despised each other, but the annual Masque changes everything. Gideon has always led a quiet life, free of scandal, until a carriage accident on his way home one night. Pierce has everything a young man could want – except the secret admirer he knows only through ardent letters. Jude is a notorious rake, but desperately bored…until during a chance encounter he impulsively offers lessons in seduction to an innocent young man. Bartholomew sees a chance to prove himself when his home is terrorized by a Highwayman – but the robber he encounters is nothing like what he imagined.

I must confess that I’m rather puzzled by the book’s title since the stories themselves aren’t at all what one would expect in a historical collection. The book page on Lulu notes a “Regency flavor,” but whatever historical elements there are in the stories are so generic that they can easily be regarded as faintly Victorian just as they are faintly Regency. If anything, the collection of stories seems to be a hybrid of fantasy and contemporary with only a mild dash of historical fiction.

The first half of the book is comprised of short stories and the second half a novella, and all of them are in one way or another linked to each other. There are recurring characters that help carry the events over from one story to the next, which I think is a really clever approach. Instead of a collection of wildly diverging events, we’re given a string of romances, each segueing smoothly into the next.

Derr also writes in a strong voice that nicely catches your attention and holds it. That, in addition to the “narrative string approach” (for lack of a better term) to her book, however, doesn’t save it from a low rating.

To reiterate what I noted at the beginning – the book isn’t a historical despite the marketing tags used. Firstly, there’s absolutely no indication of place or even a specific point during the Regency that could firmly fix the events into a believable historical period. When one hears “Regency,” the first thing that often comes to mind is “England.” The stories, however, show no signs of anything English, despite the liberal use of “bloody” (as in “bloody hell”) and “pish posh” and a few antiquated turns of phrase that are distinctively English. Dialogue-wise, the characters sound more like American actors in fancy clothes, speaking in modern vernacular (there’s use of “Dad,” “Daddy,” and “snuck,” for instance) with a few English terms thrown in for period effect. What that achieves, though, is clumsy dialogue that at times sounds stilted and forced.

There are references to cravats, masques, gowns, carriages, tea, and so on, but they’re never detailed or given some degree of authenticity that would separate them from any other historical period. The Georgian and Victorian periods were all defined by the same things, after all (one more so than the other regarding different items). Factual errors bog the stories down in addition to the vagueness of period detail. In the first story, there’s a reference to tea as something that’s cultivated and blended in a temple somewhere north of the prince’s palace (the prince here being someone who’s not England’s Prince Regent). If these stories are, indeed, set in England, tea should have been imported from India and China.

The prince in the first story isn’t the Prince Regent, and all the stories, while addressing the scandalous nature of homosexual relationships, resort to extremes of OK Homo, which forced me to shift my perspective of the book from historical to fantasy. If the book were intended to be an Alternate History, there still should be specific indications of location and time against which we can compare the changes made in the actual historical events. If these stories were intended to be Alternate History, it would certainly make it understandable when two men publicly dance with each other as well as kiss each other not once, but twice in front of a crowd – yes, even in a masque. Again, there are no firm indications of an altered time in history, so as works of historical fiction, public displays of homosexual attraction are plain impossible.

The individual stories themselves certainly have a lot of potential though the writer depends too much on cliché, archetypes, and predictability. Secret admirers and misunderstandings tend to be pretty easy to figure out, and sometimes (as in the case of the first story) the character dynamics are exaggerated to lengths that strain credibility. The prince, for instance, and his secretary hate each other and verbally abuse each other, with their exchanges turning more and more cartoon-like in their over-the-top drama.

“Highness,” he said in a carefully level tone, “I know it’s difficult for you to do anything but sleep, eat, and rut, but you are one of the highest peers of the realm. Do try to act like it from time to time.”

“Then who would you harass and insult to death? I must give you something to do, since apparently you cannot even read a list of names without my assistance.”

“Damn it, Highness!” Rae slammed his hands down on the table, making the dishes rattle and his tea splash over the side of the delicate cup and onto the fine white linen table cloth. “I am an assistant, not a nursemaid. If you are going to be useless and insufferable, then take yourself off back to your bed and whores!”

Would a nobleman suffer himself to be treated that way by his secretary? While I could see Derr’s purpose in establishing a volatile foundation for a romance, the reasons given for each character (especially the nobleman) putting up with each other’s BS (as well as plans of revenge) are unconvincing, given the intensity of each other’s hatred of each other.

Regency is a very disappointing read overall. With her obvious talents, though, Derr is certainly capable of writing stories that better reflect her abilities.

Buy the book:,, Amazon UK (no link available)

Review: Better Angel by Forman Brown, writing as Richard Meeker

Written in 1933, this classic, touching story focuses on a young man’s gay awakening in the years between the World Wars and became an instant underground classic. Kurt Gray is a shy, bookish boy growing up in small-town Michigan. Even at the age of 13, he knows that somehow he is different. Gradually he recognizes his desire for a man’s companionship and love. As a talented composer, breaking into New York’s musical world, he finds the love he’s sought.

Review by Fiona Glass

The use of a pen name is important in this book. It was published in the early 1930s when homosexuality was still a criminal offence, but the subject matter is a (clearly autobiographical) account of a young man ‘coming out’ and coming to terms with his own sexuality. The author was unable to use his real name and it’s only in the last ten years that the book has been updated with Brown’s name on the cover and a new section of author’s notes and photographs at the end. The fact that the characters are at best thinly disguised, at worst wholly undisguised, real people was no doubt another reason why an alias was used and it’s only now when most of those named are dead that the true story can be told.

And an intriguing story it was too. From Brown’s early days as a penitent member of a strict Christian sect to his happy-ever-after love affair was a long and complicated journey encompassing two or three affairs with men, a misguided and ultimately ill-fated affair with his first lover’s sister, and a growing love for his first lover’s best friend.

As an autobiography it works well. As what ought to have been an important piece of social history it’s less successful, at least in my opinion. There’s little feel for the unbelievable danger of finding other gay men in such an intolerant society, and Brown packs in far too many internalized monologues on his state of mind and the condition of his love for ‘David’ which leaves too little room for anything else. Whether the hero Kurt is attending church as a child, holidaying in Italy as a young man, or having sex, he spends pages at a time micro-analyzing his life instead of telling us about it!

I found it rather too dry and tedious, and was more interested by the all-too-brief biographical notes after the story proper had finished. According to these, Kurt and his friends set up a travelling puppet theatre in the US later on in life. Oh for some (any!) description of this fascinating way of life!

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Review: The Erotic Etudes-Opus VI by E.L. van Hine

Robert Schumann, the Romantic composer, was a vibrant and complex man. Schumann’s public biography was carefully cleansed by his wife, his survivors, and his friends, but his own letters and diaries give indication of a series of passionate affairs with both sexes that sparked the creative outpouring of music that defined his artistic life. It is from these sources that author E. L. van Hine has imagined an erotic and inspired story of a remarkable, talented man. The Erotic Études Opus VI recreates many of Schumann’s intimate relationships in a series of 18 interlocking stories that span 40 years of his life, beginning in 1834 when he was at the center of both controversy and publicity in Leipzig, Germany. Arranged thematically and told in the first person, The Erotic Études Opus VI parallels the 18 section piano work, ‘The Symphonic Etudes,’ which was published in 1837 and dedicated to one of Schumann’s intimate friends.

Review by Erastes

Etudes: an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill.

I admit that I don’t know much about Schumann, and perhaps I should have learned a little bit about him before launching into this book, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of it. However as a reviewer I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend that the reader at least know a little of him and his life before reading it, even though many (although not all) of the characters are fictional imaginings of the author.

It’s a clever little novella, split into eighteen ficlets, echoing Schmann’s Symphonic Etudes, eighteen studies as it were, following Schumann’s life from his life in his home town through his struggles to free himself from his family’s ambitions, to become recognised to gradual fame and fortune – but never – or so it seems, to find happiness.

Being “Erotic Etudes” gives a clue to what we are in for, and indeed most of the little studies are erotic in tone, and quite beautifully rendered, layered with an obvious knowledge of time and place. Some of the writing is at times heartbreakingly beautiful, and quite fitting for the story is heartbreaking too. Some books of this type (having small erotic vignettes strung together) are often not terribly interesting, but van Hine strings you along with Schumann’s life, dipping backwards and forwards in time which keeps the reader hooked and wanting to know more. The sex doesn’t jar, and the plot doesn’t intrude; there is a nice balance of each.

At first I was a little confused with the timeline, and the way it jumped from the time as a young man to his boyhood days and then back again, but this makes more sense as you progress through, and you see all the losses and grief that he suffers – and how this affects him and his mental processes.

As an imagined biographical account of Schumann, I think it reads very well although Schumann scholars argue long and hard to this day as to whether he was homosexual or not, and I enjoyed it greatly, and it works nicely as a portrayal of passion, too, of the need for physical desire, for love and for very great music. It inspired me enough to go and research Robert Schumann after reading it, so that can’t be all bad.

Buy from Amazon USA Amazon UK LULU

Review: Icarus In Flight by Hayden Thorne

James Ellsworth is a bit jaded, especially for his young age. He hates school, and longs for his parents’ estate, where life is far more pleasant. Meeting new schoolmate Daniel Courtney is a much-needed distraction, one that will prove more and more engrossing as James and Daniel grow older. When his father dies, James is thrust into a position of responsibility, not just to his estate, but to his mother and sister as well. … As they grow older, James and Daniel discover that life is not what they thought it would be when they were schoolboys together, and that, even as they try to make their own way, they always come back to one another. Can they find a way to make things work, no matter what their friends and family think?

Review by Mark R. Probst

Hayden Thorne’s debut novel, (a bit about that in a moment) Icarus in Flight, is a truly remarkable Victorian love story and had I not known better, I would have believed it had been penned by a successful, seasoned writer. It’s not quite accurate to say Icarus is solely Ms. Thorne’s debut, as it is one of a trio of her novels, all published simultaneously. The other two are Masks: Rise of Heroes, and Banshee.

The story begins in Wiltshire, England in 1841 when 12 year old James Ellsworth is introduced to a new boy in school, Daniel Courtney. Daniel is poor, frail and orphaned, making him the target of bullying, whereas James is upper-class and heir to his family’s fortune. James takes Daniel under his wing, offering him protection and takes on the task of enriching Daniel’s life with culture thereby making him suitable as a comrade.

The novel quickly advances to 1847 where James’s father has died and James is now the master of his house, having the responsibility to financially care for his mother and two sisters. Meanwhile Daniel’s brother has been killed, leaving him with no family at all and he leaves school to take over the position left by his brother as a secretary to an old gentleman writing his memoirs. The two boys, now young men, continue their friendship with Daniel occasionally visiting James’s Wiltshire home. Needless to say romance blossoms and within a few years the relationship is consummated during a trip to James’s secondary house in London. James makes plans to take care of Daniel, provide a home for them both, and to sponsor Daniel’s budding career as a writer. But someone gets to Daniel and convinces him that he would be soiling his brother’s memory as well as James’s good name, so Daniel flees to Norwich with the hope of making good on his own. James is crushed and sinks into despair, eventually leaving England for Venice where he takes up a life of empty sexual encounters. Thus, either boy could be Icarus, the character in Greek mythology who escaped his exile on Crete by flying away with wax wings, as they both fled from a life that felt to them like imprisonment. I won’t disclose how the story ends except to say that you won’t be disappointed.

Both boys are richly-drawn, likeable characters. James, due to his being born into wealth and inheritance, is understandably a bit of a snob from time to time, and Daniel is so humble and demure that you just want to scoop him up and cuddle him. The fact that he idolizes James makes him particularly vulnerable.

What makes this novel so impressive is its tone. Thorne has wonderfully captured polite, privileged Victorian society with the manners and mores of England in the 19th Century, the cadences of proper dialog, and prudent behavior all coming together in grand style. I definitely felt the influences of Forster (and dare I say, Austen?) The female characters are as well-drawn as the male characters. In a time of Britain’s history where women were not allowed to own property, Thorne demonstrates how the mother and daughters dealt with having their livelihood left in the hands of a young son. While they would never cross him directly, for he did legally have all the power, carefully crafted language was the tool they used to manipulate him into serving the interests of propagating the family.

Icarus in Flight is a bit light on plot, which is to be expected from what could essentially be considered a parlor drama. The real strength of the writing is Thorne’s dialog, which just sparkles with wit and intelligence. A lot of historicals I’ve read have modernisms and gaffes that pull you right out of the story. Not so here. The dialog is so polished and authentic to the British period, that it would be comfortable on the lips of actors in a production on the BBC. What’s more, I was surprised to learn that Ms. Thorne is an American through and through!

One last point I’d like to make is that Icarus in Flight is being marketed as a young adult novel. That’s fine, in that there is nothing inappropriate for younger readers, but if you are thinking of skipping it because you are not inclined to read YA fiction, you’d be making a mistake. The novel is completely geared toward adult readers, and there is no “dumbing down” to make it more palatable to youngsters. The publisher states it is for 16 and up and I would say that’s about right because the language is probably too sophisticated for younger teens.

Buy from Prizm Books

Buy from Amazon USA Buy from Amazon UK


My Top Ten: Historical Yaoi Manga by Zehavit Lamasu

I am compiling this list with a ridiculous level of reservation. Most historical fiction reviews I see tend to ponder and dwell on historical accuracy and I admit , quite bluntly, that this is NOT why I read historical novels. Hell, it isn’t why I read ANY fiction – full stop!

I read stories set in the past because I want to remove myself from the present and be transported to “the olden days” for a short time. I am addicted to escapism so I shun accuracy like the plague. Speaking of plague, if it appears in a novel I like it to be a device for character building, adventure setting, angst infusion. A narrative obstacle rather than an accurate account of the time. I have history books for that and I read them on times when I am curious about the reality of those time.

Fiction REMOVES me from reality, personal preference but a rather strong trend with me. I swallow stupid romance novels by the buckets and not ashamed to admit it.

And this is how I came to yaoi. I am worried that I would have to justify myself. My fantasies, my indulgences, my *gasp* FETISHES. I don’t want to do that and I rather not get drawn into defending the genre. It is what it is. Riddled with faults, vastly misunderstood and in my opinion, utterly brilliant because it is nothing more than what it is. It doesn’t TRY to be high literature.

I am not going to divide it into definitions and sub genres and I am going to CHEAT. I added some titles that aren’t labelled YAOI but they feature gay romance as central or part of the plot.

1) Avalon Eien no Ai no Shima (Avalon – Island of Eternal Love)(2 volumes) Akai Toreno

Akai Toreno is largely unpopular with western yaoi fans. Her Semes are too beefy, her Ukes too effeminate. She overdoes the angst factor and her sex scenes can be uncomfortably brutal. She also very rooted in the narrative aspect of the story rather than the smut. I confess that everything about her work appeals to me despite and maybe due to its faults. In this case the angst is well placed. A romance between an SS officer and his Jewish butler in Nazi Germany can hardly be a cheerful easy going affair.

This has been swiftly written off by people who never read the manga as fetishist. I fail to see how since Aloise is forced into his position in the SS having the life of his childhood friend (David – a boy from the Jewish serving family in his family’s estate) dangled as a threat before his eyes. He doesn’t spend too much panel time in uniform and is the UKE.

The premise of their affair (and this is quite an intricate relationship and story) is that Aloise feels responsible for the death of David entire family and as a sacrifice he offers himself to nightly humiliating series of brutal sexual encounters in which David takes out his frustrations upon his body.

It is a love-hate relationship, soaking in more angst than the law should permit and when the love finally creeps up gently into their encounters – it jerks the tears and dishes out some melodrama that is probably a lot to swallow for some fans.

It is perfect for me. It also hits a personal note. Similar story in my family’s past… without the gay angle XD It wins top spot without contest.

2) Gerrard and Jacques (2 volumes) Fumi Yoshinaga (mention lovers in the night)

This is one that a lot of fans will point to as the hight of historical yaoi. Rightfully so. It is witty, smart, sexy and romantic in all the right places. The art is very different. There is none of the big sparkling eyes, the lush hair and the willowy grace of the majority of yaoi out there. Once you get used to the style, though , it is just as highly detailed and eye-candy as the best. (the image is from LOVERS IN THE NIGHT though… same time period and I liked how you spotted the anachronistic glasses which illustrate the Yaoi Rule of “Historically correct? FEH! It looks good! It goes on the bishie bridge of his nose!”)

At the cusp of the French Revolution Jacques is a sold into prostitution as a child. Gerard, a successful novelist (we later learn he writes Lesbian smut for a living) hires his favors for the night at the brothel were he is forced to work. The child arrogance intrigues him and after he does what a gentleman does with a young boy at a house of disrepute, he buys his freedom… just to see if young Jacques wouldn’t be back whoring soon enough.

Of course he doesn’t. Few years later, teenage Jacques finds employment at Gerrard house, where he finds the novelist bed filled with young male whores and his own loins behaving completely against his will… dragging him in the direction of the same bed.

The story of THIS love affair stretches throughout the turbulent times as Jacques grows from boy to man and the two banter and bicker and have lots of lovely-lovely filthy sex. Laced with humor which just adds to the eroticism of the tale and a typical Fumi Yoshinaga clever dialog – this one is NOT typical to the genre. It is highly recommended and – JOY – available in English.

you already know how the anachronisms creep it… switch the historical accuracy goggles off – in my opinion it is worth ignoring them for this bit of fun. (anything by Fumi Yoshinaga is gold, even when not historical and even when not gay – try ANTIQUE BAKERY – it is … just… *swoons*).

3) Romance (3 volumes) Moka Azumni

Not one for the plot. This is complete eye-candy. Antwan a beautiful man in stunning clothes who never ties his lush hair and escapes marriage is pursued by an artist who asks to paint his portrait and ends up teaching him the art of man loving. Throw in a cousin who also expresses a romantic interest in him and you have thousands of excuses to show off beautiful men in hundreds of 18th century frilly attire… and take them out of it just as frequently.

Moka Azumi story telling never caught me but her art style and attention to detail takes my breath away. I find myself leafing through her books as one would do with an art book, pausing to take in favorite panels and shamelessly drooling over how pretty it all is.

Anachronistically speaking – there is probably enough to make a historian explode. I don’t think the mangaka cares… I certainly don’t. ^^;;

4) Song of the winds and trees (13 volumes) Keiko Takemiya

This would not be considered yaoi but it is the mostly undisputed work that sprung the genre of Boys Love. about to be born when slowly other mangakas picked up their pens and ventured into far more gratuitous Keiko Takamiya was a Shoujo mangaka who got very bored with her genre. So when it came a time to write a historical tragic love story … she simply changed the girl into a boy and the concept of Uke and Seme was territory (not always explicitly sexual but still a lot less plot based than this).

19th century tale set mostly in an exclusive boarding school. The very promiscuous Gilbert a student with a bad reputation for wildness, Serge a kind hearted fellow pupil offers him his friendship and receives a lot more in return. Not just a reluctant romance and eventual sex but also the full brunt of Gilbert twisted past.

Very angst ridden, very poetically written, very tear jerking. The style of drawing lies firmly in the 1970s and the characters look even younger than they really are (which is 14) so you have to switch off the political correctness here. There are no sex scenes as such but we are told they happen and we see the aftermath quite often. Scenes of child abuse can be a hard pill to swallow. This one is story all the way through.

5) Seifuku … (1 volume) Akai Toreno

A very early Toreno. I tend to favor these. Set in Roman times. The Seme is a Roman general who brings home a Celtic prisoner of war as spoils of war. The prisoner happen to look just like his mother which opensbrings up a big can of worms as he finds himself attracted to him and faced with the shadows of the past.

The romance is violent to begin with , filled with tears and carries the characteristic “invisible penis” style… all typical Akai Toreno.

We travel from Ancient Britain to Rome to the Holy land. The Uke goes from Chief son to Slave to Whore. All of this in one volume. Cheaply pushes all of my fangirlish buttons. Pulp Romance if I ever came across one – but it works for me… no surprise there XD.

6) The lily and the rose – Dany & Dany

The only GloBL title on my list. I love Dany & Dany. I know the plot is predictable and old but I am forever a sucker for a story that sets a priest against a decadent dandy. Good excuse to play with pretty 18th century and angst. Can a fangirl ask for more? YES SHE CAN! I am not going to – I am quite happy with this.

7) Ludwig II – Higuri Yuu

I am cheating again. This is shoujo. The famous love story between the king and his stable boy. Beautifully handled and apparently actually RESEARCHED!!! I can’t back up the claim but Yuu Higuri fills this 3 volume manga with all the political intrigue and manipulations at the time.

I spotted one huge anachronism (I got this after visiting Ludwig II castles), the king never grows fat and he is a lot less… ahem… eccentric than he was in real life.

Still – this is a proper historical manga (which might not be up to accuracy standards with western historical novel but it makes the effort at least) and the plot follows history. Lots of dialogs and story. Sex scenes are subtle, the love story is central and heart breaking. It plays the romance of the time for all its worth.

8)Wild Rock – Kazusa Takashima

Ah! The stone age as it never was! Two stories of utter fluff and eye candy. Uke is very feminine and young looking. Seme is all muscle and manliness. They wear very little when they wear it at all. Let me try and remember the plot – I am still trying to peak under than loin-cloth!

The uke is made to dress as a girl in order to seduce the handsome son of rival clan for this or that reason. They fall in love and live happily ever after. There is another story that reveals the steamy past of their fathers.

Unlikely to the extreme… but who is going to be able to prove that… who is even going to TRY! WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO???

9) Stolen heart – Maki Kanamaru (writer) and Yukine Honami (illustrator)

It is a simple and pleasant enough Regency story. A spoiled young nobleman hops from party to orgy until he is utterly bored. In comes a mysterious highwayman who brings back the fire into his desire. It isn’t the most surprising theme. The only interesting twist here is that both sides are far from innocent and willing participants in all the bed exploits. It is a shame that for this story there isn’t more explicit depiction of these.

This is the longest of three stories in the book. The other two are not historical. This is quite typical since historical BL romance is far more common in novel form… but that would have to wait for another top 10…

10)Temptation – Maeda Momiji

I am not a big fan of short story anthologies but this one captured my attention. Small installment of old frilly themes. Dandy nobleman and his devout love interest, pirates and noblemen. A nice frolic in fangirl fetishes which I enjoyed very much. A first from Maeda Momiji. I only ever saw illustrations for novels or teaser images in anthologies. These tend to be one-of pictures with no story attached so I was pleased to see her try her hand in manga.

This list turned out to be more problematic than I thought.

To begin with – there is a lot less of it out there than I realized. I compiled a large folder of historical yaoi images through the years of collecting but it is a rather misleading collection (although very beautiful).

To begin with – most of the images are from NOVELS. Then there is the separate genre set in alternative universe in which the setting is historical but it allows mangakas with more conscience to shrug of anachronisms with the excuse : “it isn’t REALLY our history” (think LIONS OF AL RASSAN in Western terms). This is before we even touch upon all the Fantasy stories (in manga form as well) who set magical tales in magical lands where characters get to dress in historical gear for the sheer heck of it. This is before we even start stepping into Gothic vampire territory… it is as overdone in Japan as it is over here and I am no fan of vampire romps whether it comes from here or over seas.

The last problem is that the vast majority of the images I have come from magazines and anthologies. In the good cases these are attached to one shot short stories and SOMETIMES those end up stuffed at the end of a takubon as page filler but not always. The problem is that a lot of these are just cover or insert commissions from illustrators and there is no story attached to any of them.

And when I threw myself happily into this I suddenly found myself having to select from… well… not very much. Since I felt I had to at least LIKE what I listed I bunched it up with some shoujo and had a good go at it.

This is the muddled result.

Author Interview: Marion Husband

In 1998 Teesside small press Mudfog published Marion Husband’s first collection of short stories, entitled Three Little Deaths. This was followed by a run of short story and poetic publishing successes.

In 2005 Accent Press published her first novel The Boy I Love. (Reviewed on this site HERE) Its sequel Paper Moon was published in 2006. Two more followed: Say you Love Me and The Good Father in 2007. She is currently working on her fifth novel.

She holds an MA in Creative writing and is a recipient of the Northern Writers’ Andrea Badenoch Award.


SiN: Hi Marion, Thanks for agreeing to be quizzed!

How long have you been writing? What inspired you to pick the pen up one day and create characters that capture the imagination?

MH: I’ve always written but stopped when I was about 18 only to start again when my children were about 3 & 4.  My inspirations come from lots of sources but mainly I wanted to write about sexy men in difficult situations….

SiN: What is the most memorable and most forgettable moment you’ve encountered on the writing path?

MH: Most memorable is being rang by my present publisher to say that she was going to publish my first novel The Boy I Love – most forgettable?  I forget…

SiN: *Laughs* Are you a full-time writer?  What other jobs did you have before becoming a writer?

MH: Really I am part time, because I also teach creative writing for the Open University and various colleges and universities.  I used to be a bank clerk, I’ve also been a receptionist and data processor and one of those women who answers the phone when you have a query on your mortgage

SiN: What was your first published story? What was it about?

MH: My first published story was called The Lilac Tree about a man remembering his First World War experiences and his love for a fellow officer. This story was a spin off from the Boy I Love which I was writing at the time in its first incarnation.  The Lilac Tree can be read on my web site:

SiN: Which of your story characters do you love best and why?

MH: Paul Harris from The Boy I Love – because he’s stoical, brave and loyal and very gorgeous…

SiN: Do you have a writing routine that you follow?

MH: Yes, I write as often as I can, work, family and housework permitting – I try for 1000 words a day minimum, more when I’m racing towards a deadline as I am now.

SiN: The Boy I Love was based in the North, are all of your books based in your part of the world?

MH: Yes, they are all based in Teesside (Thorp is a mix of Stockton and Thornaby which are towns near to Middlesbrough where I was born and have always lived).  My characters often escape to live in London although they mostly come back to Thorp

SiN: Out of all your books, do you have a favourite? If not, then which one is closest to your heart?

MH: My favourite book is always the one I am writing at the time of asking…

SiN: When I was writing a 1960’s novel, I found the research every bit as hard as researching the 17th Century. Did you find the 40’s and 50’s difficult to research?  What kind of research tools do you rely on?

MH: I didn’t find the 1950s more difficult – I was born in 1961 and the early 60s were a hang-over of the 50s, I think, so I have a feel for the time.  I research mainly by reading lots and lots of books, history, biography, poetry, fiction, plays, memoirs.  Also I look up facts on the web – even in the middle of writing a sentence – yesterday for instance I looked up Herring Gull on Wikapedia…very useful it was too.  I also draw on stories my parents told me, particularly my father who fought in the Second World War and whose own father was killed in the First World War.

SiN: When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.

MH: I was always up for being published – it was the main reason I went to creative writing classes in the mid 1990s so that I would (I hoped) meet people who might have a bit of influence with local publishers or a least point me in the right direction.  I was very lucky to be taught creative writing by a poet called Bob Beagrie who encouraged me to submit The Lilac Tree and two other stories to the Teesside publisher Mudfog.  I have had other teachers, especially those who taught me at Northumbria University on the MA course, who really liked my writing and encouraged me to send The Boy I Love to their agents…I have been very lucky in the teachers I’ve met…

SiN: Tell us a little about your success in getting published in the UK, most of the British authors who read Speak Its Name have had to flee to America in order to get published.

MH:It was very difficult to get The Boy I Love published because of its very strong gay theme. I sent it out to lots of agents and independent publishers and got lots of rejections, some of which were very encouraging and even flattering but all said that the gay angle was a no go especially since I was a untried writer (and probably because I was an uncool middle-aged women living in the north east).   But Accent Press, my present publisher, was quite new and innovative and liked the book for its writing style and weren’t put off by the controversial theme.  Also, they didn’t have lots of too cautious marketing people to worry them into turning The Boy down.  The Boy I Love is about to be published in the USA in February 2009, but I’ve always felt that the US market is even more conservative so I don’t hold our great hopes that it will be a best seller over there.

SiN: What did you spend your first advance on?

MH: Can’t remember – it just went into the great bottomless pit of house and kids

SiN: What do you feel is the most important aspect a new author should remember when writing/creating their own stories? Any advice for aspiring authors?

MH: Write and write and write – as much as you can as often as you can – really stretch yourself, really think hard and carefully to make your writing true to how you see the world but also to how the world actually is.  Write strong, grammatical sentences, polish your syntax so that every sentence is as elegant and clear as you can make it.  Edit and then edit again.  Then edit some more.  Remember that you should be entertaining your reader, giving hints at what is to come to draw the reader in.  Avoid all clichés, and think hard and deeply about every description, every adjective/adverb – make every word count…I could go on, but really, writers need to write a lot, and it’s hard, hard work to write something half decent.

SiN: What I particularly like about The Boy I love is the small-town ordinariness of it – despite it’s not ordinary at all. What made you take this tack? So many authors write about extraordinary events rather than such realism.

MH: I can’t really answer that – it wasn’t a conscious decision.  I write as I write, just as I look as I look, I can only hope to improve on what ever talent I have with practice

SiN: Have you ever been nervous over reader reaction when a new book comes out? How much does reader response mean to you over your books? What do you hope readers get from your books after they read them?

MH: I don’t get terribly nervous – although I was a little over Say You Love Me because I panicked that I has shown Teesside in a less than fabulous light…I love feedback (as long as it’s good…)  I hope readers are entertained by my books but most of all that they have been so entertained that they go out and buy another one of my novels.

SiN: How long does it take to write a book for you?

MH: No more than a year and usually much less – probably on average nine months, including many days when I don’t write at all

SiN: The editing process: Heaven or Hell?

MH: Both – it’s satisfying when I’m editing a finished novel for the last time before its printed, but very disheartening when I’m editing what I laughingly call a ‘finished novel’ for the first time – I end up with a m/s defaced by crossings out and scrawled, exasperated notes to myself which usually say More here!!!  (I know that it means…)

SiN: Can you tell us what you are working on now?  What are you plans for the future?

MH: I am working on my fifth novel – which is a ghost story set between 1922 and 2002.  Plans are to write more novels, I suppose, and hopefully to make a living as a novelist without having to teach (a very tall order, a big wish…)  I have always said that I would like a shelf in Waterstones full of my books by the time I am fifty, which is probably too tall an order…

SiN: Thank you so much, Marion – I hope that some of the readers here try out your work, particularly The Boy I Love, which I really really adored.

Marion’s website, with links and news can be found here.

Next time we have Mark R Probst, author of The Filly.

Review: Speak Its Name by Charlie Cochrane, Lee Rowan and Erastes

A Three novella anthology from Cheyenne Publishing

Aftermath by Charlie Cochrane
Gentleman’s Gentleman by Lee Rowan
Hard and Fast by Erastes

Expectations riding on young Englishmen are immense; for those who’ve something to hide, those expectations could prove overwhelming.

When shy Edward Easterby first sees the popular Hugo Lamont, he’s both envious of the man’s social skills and ashamed of finding him so attractive. But two awful secrets weigh Lamont down. One is that he fancies Easterby, at a time when the expression of such desires is strictly illegal. The second is that an earlier, disastrous encounter with a young gigolo has left him unwilling to enter into a relationship with anyone. Hugo feels torn apart by the conflict between what he wants and what he feels is “right”. Will Edward find that time and patience are enough to change Hugo’s mind?

Gentleman’s Gentleman
Lord Robert Scoville has lived in a reasonably comfortable Victorian closet, without hope of real love, or any notion that it’s right there in front of him if he would only open his eyes and take notice of his right-hand man, Jack Darling. Jack has done his best to be satisfied with the lesser intimacy of caring for the man he loves, but his feigned role as a below-stairs ladies’ man leaves his heart empty. When a simple diplomatic errand turns dangerous and a man from their past raises unanswerable questions, both men find themselves endangered by the secrets between them. Can they untangle the web of misunderstanding before an unknown attacker parts them forever?

Hard and Fast:
Major Geoffrey Chaloner has returned, relatively unscathed, from the Napoleonic War, and England is at peace for the first time in years. Unable to set up his own establishment, he is forced to live with his irascible father who has very clear views on just about everything—including exactly whom Geoffrey will marry and why. The trouble is that Geoffrey isn’t particularly keen on the idea, and even less so when he meets Adam Heyward, the enigmatic cousin of the lady his father has picked out for him… As Geoffrey says himself: “I have never been taught what I should do if I fell in love with someone of a sex that was not, as I expected it would be, opposite to my own.”

Review by Alex Beecroft

It won’t be any secret that I’m a fan of both Erastes and Lee Rowan, so I’ve been looking forward to this trilogy ever since I first heard that it was on the books. That’s an uncomfortable position to be in, or at least it is for me, because I’m always afraid that if I look forward to something too much, it will end up being a disappointment.

So colour me very happy indeed that this was nothing of the sort. All three stories are carefully observed, beautifully written and emotionally very engaging. All three also share an emphasis on romance, on following the burgeoning relationships of their protagonists through discovery, doubt, problems, conflicts external and internal, towards an eventual satisfying resolution.

Of the three, Aftermath is probably the one I liked least. I loved the setting! Who could not love flannel-trousered beautiful young men at university, strolling across the green lawns, talking about the meaning of life, while slowly, deliciously falling in love? My main problem was the structure. A flashback at the beginning left me wondering whether now was now or then was now or…. I got a bit chronologically confused as to when the shoes incident was happening. Reading back a second time I realised that that was the dramatic first meeting of the two heroes, but the impact was lost on me at the time.

Having said that, though, when I got my bearings, I became thoroughly invested in hoping that these two highly principled young things would throw their principles to the wind and settle down to making each other happy. Much praise to the author – whose first professional story this is – for making that happy ending so very much desired while also showing how unlikely, even impossible, it could seem. You can see both young men growing up even in so short a space.

Gentleman’s Gentleman by Lee Rowan is a delight from start to finish. It felt a little like watching an episode of the Lord Peter Whimsey detective stories, if Lord Peter had been secretly in love with his manservant instead of with Harriet Vane. I don’t mean that in any kind of derivative way, but more to illustrate the feeling of place, from the battlefield to the first class carriage of a train racing across Europe, to the final meeting with the spy in the hotel in Vienna. And yes, there was a spy too, and a snuff box full of cocaine, and secret plans that had to be retrieved and taken to the Embassy before the Germans got their hands on them… In short, it was an exciting read just at the level of an adventure story. But add on top of that the wonderful familiar-but-repressed relationship of Lord Robert and his manservant, the conveniently named ‘Darling’ (Jack Darling), and there’s a whole new world of entertainment.

I loved the many convincing reasons why neither man had acted on his attraction so far, and the equally convincing way that the story unravelled every objection, from Robert’s principles to Jack’s reputation as a ladies’ man. It’s obvious that both characters are already comfortable and well suited to each other – and I liked both of them very much – so the final coming together is a coming home for both of them. Beautifully done and very touching. And a big thumbs up for the excuse they came up with to tell Lord Robert’s matchmaking mama!

Hard and Fast by Erastes is also a story in which matchmaking family members have a big impact. In this case it’s Geoffrey Chaloner’s father who wants him to get married to Emily Pelham, despite the fact that Geoffrey himself is fascinated by Emily’s cousin, Adam Heyward.

Normally I’m not a fan of stories told in the first person, but this is just lovely! Geoffrey’s ‘voice’ is delightfully in character for a man of his times, but he still comes across as very much of an individual. A rather lovable, bemused, good humoured, chivalrous, but none too bright an individual. Adam too immediately leaps off the page as a fully rounded person; clever, cynical, defensive. And it’s a treat to find that Geoffrey’s father, Emily Pelham and Lady Pelham are well drawn, likable characters too.

This is another story where I was able to really luxuriate in the sense of place – the settings were so beautifully detailed and real. The writing managed to be lush but powerful at the same time. I did really enjoy the fact that Geoffrey, who is all kitted out to be the ‘alpha male’ of this relationship – he’s big, powerful, a trained soldier, and literally at one stage so moved by passion as to sweep Adam off his feet – is also such an innocent. Adam, the physically frail, slight, non-combatant is three steps ahead of poor dim Geoff at every stage. And speaking of sweeping off the feet, the passion between the two leads is breathtaking.

With three very high quality stories, I thoroughly recommend this book. It left me with a smile on my face that hasn’t worn off a day later, and I’ll be buying it myself as soon as it comes out in print.

Cheyenne Publishing Amazon UK Amazon USA

Erastes would like to blushingly say that the views of the reviewer are not necessarily shared by the management, however much the management appreciates said view.

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