Review: Funeral Games by Mary Renault

After Alexander’s death in 323 B.C .his only direct heirs were two unborn sons and a simpleton half-brother. Every long-simmering faction exploded into the vacuum of power. Wives, distant relatives, and generals all vied for the loyalty of the increasingly undisciplined Macedonian army. Most failed and were killed in the attempt. For no one possessed the leadership to keep the great empire from crumbling. But Alexander’s legend endured to spread into worlds he had seen only in dreams.

Review by Charlie Cochrane

Alexander the Great; for the lover of history, adventure and valour, the name alone is enough to send shivers up the spine. Whatever one might think of his conquests – and how can we judge a man at a remove of over two thousand years? – what can’t be denied are his charisma and qualities of leadership. The supreme leader by example, the affection he was held in by his men is undeniable.

The love affair between Alexander and his army makes for one of the great historical love stories. Mary Renault explores Alexander’s story in the trilogy of books Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy and Funeral Games. The last of these isn’t technically a gay romance, which might beg the question why I’m reviewing it here. It’s the sequel to The Persian Boy, which firmly falls under the Speak Its Name umbrella, and the suggestions of romance lingers.

Like the faint odour of a candle once the flame has been snuffed, the relationships of Alexander and Hephaistion, Alexander and Bagoas (the eponymous Persian boy) drift around this story too. I feel that’s enough to warrant at least a brief mention. Funeral Games is not an easy book to read, although not because of style. Renault was accomplished at capturing the atmosphere and spirit of an era and her characterisations here, particularly of women, are strong. Partly it’s the amount of incident and personalities crammed into a small book. I had to keep referring to the list of principal characters because I couldn’t remember who was who. And the events following the King’s death are harrowing, not least the treatment of Philip Arradaios, Alexander’s mentally deficient half brother, who becomes a pawn in the bloody power struggles around him.

The only character who seems to emerge with any credit is Bagoas himself, his love for and service to Alexander, even after death, his sole motivation. There are some lovely lines, such as Ptolemy’s thoughts on the grieving boy: “He had come remembering the elegant, epicene favourite; devoted certainly, he had not doubted that, but still, a frivolity, the plaything of two kings’ leisure. He had not foreseen this profound and private grief in its priestlike austerity.”

Just as in The Charioteer, Miss Renault manages to convey the deepest emotions in the simplest of words.

Buy: Amazon UK Amazon USA

Review: The Butcher and the Beast by Sean Michael

Stephen is a doctor, a practical man who wishes his sister wouldn’t worry so about the pirates that plague their island home. So it’s ironic that Stephen himself is set upon by just those pirates, who carry him off to heal their wounded captain. John is a pirate Captain, master of his fate, and used to getting what he wants. And he decides he wants Stephen, even when the good doctor wants nothing more than to run away from him. Can the beast convince the doctor the sailors call the butcher to stay with him?

Review by Erastes

First off – the cover. I don’t get the cover. I don’t know what that triangular shape is in the middle of the shot, it looks like a nose– I’ve seen this pose on a couple of books now and I still don’t get it. Perhaps it’s sort of like one of those pictures where there’s an old woman and a young woman in the same picture and one day I’ll see what it’s supposed to represent. But it’s creepy.

I admit that I nearly gave up reading within the first six pages due to some extremely clunky prose, and then I wanted to give up when it went downhill from there.

Very hard to ascertain when this was set by the clues set therein. Ether wasn’t used until the 1840s, “roustabout” wasn’t used until 20 years later, “hooligans” not even in the 19th century and yet, pirates were in their heyday a lot earlier than this.

The main character, Stephen, was so obviously a girl that I couldn’t help but think that this book had been converted from a hetero romance to a gay romance without any care for re-characterisation. He stamps his dear little feet, he shouts “Demon. You beast!” at every available opportunity, along with “Unhand me ruffian” and my eyes were rolling madly. As for the Pirate Captain, I think he’s a cat as the only thing he ever seems to do is purr.

The story is predictable: eroticised rape, lots of “unhand me you imprecator of penisy goodness!!” which gradually turns to desire and love–it might hit someone’s buttons but not mine. There’s no plot. It’s just sex.  “Do you do nothing but rut?” asks Stephen at one point. No. He doesn’t.

The editing…well there’s no word for it but appalling. Unforgivable homonyms such as passed instead of past. Missing apostrophes, plurals where there shouldn’t be plurals.  Standard Torquere output. Some people have said that it’s not fair to mention editing in a review but I disagree hugely. The author and the publisher are jointly responsible for bringing a book to the public eye and the book–any book–deserves better than this.

Quite aside from all that, endless repetitive conversations, 90% sex, and the blatant rip off of the Pirates of the Caribbean themes of kidnapping due to a misworded promise and phrases like “so we have an accord,” this is simply a book that will make you laugh, but for all the wrong reasons.  The only research that went on for this book seems to have been watching cliched pirate movies, and is nothing better than a bad wallpaper historical.

I can’t recommend it in the slightest.

Buy at Fictionwise

Review: I Do! An Anthology in Support of Marriage Equality

0002kqd92Do you support the right of any human being to marry the person they love? The right to say ‘I Do’ to a life of commitment and sharing with that one special person? We do. All profits from this anthology will go to the Lambda Legal Fund to help fight Prop 8.

There are 2 historical stories in the anthology which are reviewed by Tamara Allen

Desire and Disguise by Alex Beecroft

Desire and Disguise is the plain-spoken title of Alex Beecroft’s contribution, a hurricane force story that knocks you flat. Robert Digby is young, healthy, and miserably celibate (if you don’t count the frequent, not-quite-satisfying relief he finds by his own hand). His wife, Lydia, has just endured pregnancy and childbirth in beautiful but hot and primitive Bermuda and she has been in no frame of mind to accommodate her husband during that time period. They’re at odds as the story begins—Robert aching with need and unrequited desire for his wife, Lydia angry and upset that her husband seems to have no regard for her feelings. I have to say that my sympathies were with Lydia and that I felt Robert had a thing or two to learn about putting himself in someone else’s shoes. To my pleasure, over the course of this lively, erotic story, he does learn, and in a most satisfying and entertaining way.

Beecroft does just a fabulous job of world-painting, with such vivid, living colors that the reader leaves his own world behind and resides within the world she creates. From Lydia’s sprigged cotton coverlet to Bill Wilkins’ crutch slipping on rounded cobblestones, to the ladies of the Walk with their Bird of Paradise feathers and powdered wigs, this story was a visual feast, even more so than the one I recall from Beecroft’s novel, Captain’s Surrender. In a lush, seductive setting that practically vibrates with eroticism, the reader does muster some sympathy for Robert, too. You can’t blame him, after a year without, for wanting to make some physical connection, even if it’s with a complete stranger. Beecroft so thoroughly convinces the reader of Robert’s state of near madness born of basic physical hunger, we believe it when he naively dives into a situation where he gets far more than he bargained for.

The Roaming Heart by Charlie Cochrane

Alasdair Hamilton, Toby Bowe, and Fiona Marsden are forever locked in a romantic triangle, but only on the silver screen in post-war Britain, where their popular films provide escape for a war-weary world. Cochrane’s tale begins with a fun twist and concludes with an even more delightful one, encouraging readers to daydream along with her in imagining what those wonderful old black-and-white films might have been like if they’d come about in a world less afraid of the different paths love can take and less squeamish about sexuality, generally. As delicately and deliciously layered as a pastry, Cochrane’s story invites the reader to consider the ways in which people must mislead their friends, family, and all of society, just to be able to live as their hearts guide them. Alasdair, Toby, and Fiona make do as they move from the chaste onscreen world to the “real” world where, for some of Cochrane’s characters, the acting is forced to continue. For some, the facade can only be dropped behind doors forever closed. It’s a situation all the more poignant in light of today’s lax onscreen rules. Movies today might be more eager to tell everyone’s story, but society is still quick to pass unjust judgment on those who don’t fall in love in the approved fashion.

Written in the same chummily engaging style as her novel, Lessons in Love, The Roaming Heart is pure fun to read. Cochrane’s affection for her characters shines through, as does her affection for romantic old films and their sometimes silly and repetitive plots. The ironies in her characters’ lives, including disparities in their war records, add to the sense of layers of deception going on. There’s a tremendous wistful quality to the story as Cochrane’s characters cope with the world’s expectations, keeping a sense of humor firmly intact; and when they finally rendezvous for that scene behind closed doors, we are allowed a heart-melting glimpse into the real romance before the credits roll.

I felt both of these stories were supremely fitting for an anthology in support of marriage equality. I haven’t yet read the other stories in this volume, but if they are anywhere close to as good as these two, this will prove to be the best anthology I’ve read in a long time. Consider also that the anthology’s profits will be donated to the Lambda Legal Defense to fight Prop 8 and you have all the more reason to purchase a copy.

In addition to the stories by Alex Beecroft and Charlie Cochrane, there are stories by Tracey Pennington, Clare London, Storm Grant, Lisabet Sarai, Sharon Maria Bidwell, Jeanne Barrack, Marquesate, Z.A Maxfield, P.A Brown, Allison Wonderland, Erastes, Zoe Nichols and Cassidy Ryan, Emma Collingwood, Mallory Path, Jerry L. Wheeler, Moondancer Drake, Fiona Glass, and Lee Rowan.

I Do is available now at Amazon or, if you prefer ebooks, at All Romance E-books.

Submissions call:GLBT Military History




A Joint Venture of


CHEYENNE PUBLISHING and BRISTLECONE PINE PRESS are teaming up for a special publishing project.  This joint venture will be an anthology consisting of three novellas. This submission call is to select two novellas (20,000 to 35,000 words) to be included with an already selected novella about the battle of the Little Bighorn.  The theme will be gay/lesbian military personnel in a historical setting.  Stories can be set in any era circa 1600 forward, up to and including the Viet Nam War. Military personnel can be interpreted to include soldiers, officers, and support staff such as nurses; key is that the action of the story takes place in a military setting during war, truce, or peacetime support. Any military conflict within the past 500 years (circa 1600 on) or country is acceptable. While sexual relationships can be discussed and intimate acts implied, we   prefer the material to be non-explicitly sexual in order to accommodate a young-adult crossover readership. Please note that the main characters must be gay or lesbian and issues regarding their sexuality must be a primary element of the plot. Cheyenne Publishing and Bristlecone Pine Press allow the writer complete freedom in regards to genre – meaning your story does not have to fit into any particular mold such as “happy ever after” – in other words, soldiers can die.

As this is a small press project, there will be no advances offered. Cheyenne Publishing will publish the print version and Bristlecone Pine Press will publish the e-book versions. Authors will be paid a flat fee of $250 upon final acceptance of a completed manuscript. Final contractual details will be negotiated at the time of acceptance; note that Cheyenne Publishing and Bristlecone Pine Press are not vanity publishers and follow standard industry practices with respect to publishing and distribution.

You do not have to complete the full manuscript in order to submit an idea for review. To be considered, send a 600-1000 word synopsis of your story and a sample of at least 5000 words to and . Include “Military Historical Submission” in the subject line. Include complete contact information including name, address, telephone, and email address in the email. The synopsis should be included in the body of the email; the sample should be included as a Word attachment. Submissions not following these guidelines will be rejected without review.

Theme: Gay/lesbian, historical, military personnel

Length: 20,000 to 35,000 words

Submission deadline:  April 30, 2009 for synopsis; acceptance by May 30, 2009; completed manuscripts due August 31, 2009.

Projected publication date: January 2010

Submissions and inquiries email to: or


Jane Austen Short Story Competition

As the judge is Sarah Waters – I think it might be worth having a go submitting a GLBT story…

ETA: Check the rules: The competition is open to writers of any nationality who have not had a work of
full‐length fiction published

Jane Austen Short Story Award 2009

…the competition that celebrates the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s arrival in the Hampshire village of Chawton – where she spent the most productive years of her literary life.

Our intention is to publish the very best short fiction inspired by Jane Austen or Chawton House – a place she knew well.

We are looking for short stories of 2,000-2,500 words in length. The inspiration for your story can be taken from any theme in Jane Austen’s novels: it might even be a character or a single sentence that sets your creative juices flowing. Or perhaps your imagination will be fired by the Elizabethan mansion, Chawton House, where Jane Austen and her family often gathered, and now houses a rare collection of early women’s writing.

Stories can have a historical or a contemporary setting – anything goes as long as it is well written and you state on the entry form exactly what inspired you to write it.

The Chair of judges for this award is Sarah Waters, author of Tipping the Velvet, and Fingersmith. Futher details about Sarah can be found Here.

First prize: £1,000. Two runners up: £200 each. All three finalists will also win a week’s writers’ retreat at Chawton House. Fifteen other shortlisted authors will receive £40 plus publication in the winners’ anthology.

The closing date for entries is the 31st March 2009.
To Download an entry form click here (PDF)

To Download the rules and entry criteria click here. (PDF)

Review: Barbarian Tales:The Inheritance by Sabb

This is the story of how Hilaron was in danger of losing his life to his evil father s greed. And how Konan, perhaps with the gods help, arrived at his farmhouse on the very day that help was most needed.

Konan, the Great Barbarian, is legendary throughout the ancient world for his huge size, his strength and his appetites. He is a famed lover of men, taking them wildly and often and in his wild, free, wanderings and adventures he finds many men who have longed to meet him, and know him fully. But there are also men he meets who have whatever magic it is that makes Konan want them dangerously too. And none of them are ever the same again once they have been taken and filled by what the great barbarian has to offer.

And one of the men who had the magic to make Konan want him was Hilaron the young man who he met on the day he was to come into his inheritance and become the master of a fine estate.

ebook – novella

Review by Erastes

I’m afraid that I was immediately put off that the author couldn’t find a more original name for the barbarian–I mean, Konan? There’s no set time and place to the tale other than “there’s a barbarian calls at a farm.” There is mention of someone called The Great Mongol, who could be Genghiz Khan, could be Akbar the Great.

It’s rather more porn than anything else, to be honest. There’s a thin plot which intersperses the sex scenes – and the sex itself stilted, graphic and frankly laughable at times such as when Konan’s tongue is described as being as long as a sword.

There’s a different POV with each chapter, the son, the father, the guests, the servants which all gets a bit confusing and there’s a hefty sex scene in each chapter as everyone is homosexual and happy to have sex with just about anyone.

Historically I couldn’t warm to it, at all–and the the sex wasn’t to my taste either. You can find the same level as this on any porn fiction site. The title implies there might be a sequel. I hope not.

I’m not sure who Sabb is, I couldn’t find a website and had not heard of him before – this is all I could find, which is obviously a spoof!

Buy from Excessia

Review: Over Here by Jamie Craig

Harvey Kramer shipped home from the European front with a damaged leg and memories of a man he couldn’t have. Ten years later, on the first official Veterans Day holiday, that man knocks on Harvey’s door and turns his world upside down.

Zach Jones never forgot Sergeant Harvey Kramer. Though he made it through the Second World War uninjured, he bears the scars of a love he thought he lost forever. Using the new holiday as an excuse, he tracks down his old friend in hope of a sweet reunion.

ebook-22,000 words

Review by Erastes

And that’s it really, it’s a reunion story and a very nicely written one, Jamie Craig’s writing speaks for itself, it’s mature, confident and going on the books I’ve read by the writing team of Pepper Espinoza and Vivien Dan enjoyable.  I can’t say that I was set on fire with this story though, it rambled on a bit at the beginning and I would have appreciated a lot more of the men’s backstory–perhaps a few flashbacks because their conversation of their spent in WW2 fighting and loving was intriguing to say the least. It struck me as slightly discordant that they’d been apart for ten whole years without tracking each other down, went into the bedroom with some alcohol, then lay on the bed together half undressed and just lay there and chatted.  It’s not that I wanted heavy sex at that point – the chatting was good, but it would have seemed more believable in the sitting room – or at least from any man I’ve ever been in a bedroom with, half undressed after a long absence!

When the sex does kick in, it’s very hot, and again, nicely written and won’t disappoint the reader who is looking for a hot read.

But sadly, apart from the sex, I found it all a bit dull, which was disappointing–nothing much happens, it’s like a cozy gay erotic episode of Touched by an Angel and didn’t do much for me, I’m afraid, in 100 pages, there seemed to be to be able to add a little bit of conflict.

However – if you want a heartwarming, undemanding and very romantic read, then this will be right up your street.

Author’s website

Buy from Amber Allure

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