Review: Finding Jason by Lyndi Lamont

When Jason Huxley, Regency dandy and man-about-town, acquires a new valet, he finds himself fighting the unnatural inclinations he thought he’d outgrown.

Alfred Threadgill lost his first lover at Waterloo, but now wrestles with his desire for his new employer. He suspects that finding Jason could be the best thing that ever happened to him. But first Jason must find himself.

Review by T J Pennington

The character of Jason Huxley did not, initially, make a good impression on me. This has little to do with the writing and far more to do with me. You see, the first paragraph states:

Jason Huxley was a lucky man. He had health, good looks, an adequate income and a beautiful and enthusiastic mistress. There was no earthly reason why he was filled with ennui.

Speaking as someone who has ill health, average looks and a highly inadequate income, I saw no earthly reason for Jason to be filled with ennui, either. I would relish being bored to tedium by such good fortune. Since I have a hard time pitying someone who has everything that I lack, my immediate reaction was, “Hey, if you don’t want good health and an adequate income for someone in high society, I’ll take ’em!”

By the next page, Jason has spotted his old friend and “partner in a youthful indiscretion”, as the book calls it, Michael Penrose. Michael, it develops, is terrified of women and would rather face Napoleon’s hordes than attend a dance. And, after Michael gets snoggered on brandy back at Jason’s house, Jason invites him to sleep it off in his (Jason’s) bed. Michael does, falling asleep almost immediately.

What follows is a scene between Jason and Michael, who are talking as they lie naked beside a river. This threw me a bit at first, as I wasn’t sure whether it was a dream, a flashback, or a scene taking place some months in the future. But as the conversation continued, I realized that it was either a memory or a memory-dream of the last time that Michael and Jason were together before Michael went off to war.

In what I thought was a nice touch, dream-Michael asks dream-Jason to come with him; even if Jason’s father won’t buy him a commission, he can still join as a volunteer. It pointed out quite nicely that the two didn’t have to be separated, that Jason could follow his lover into the army and onto the battlefields of Europe if he so desired.

Jason refuses on the grounds that his parents would be furious (he’s the only son and needs to produce an heir), but at least one of his motives is selfish–“[h]e liked his comforts too much.” I knew at that moment that Jason would not have a happily ever after ending with Michael or anyone else until he learned to love someone more than himself.

After a seduction scene when he is half-asleep and a voluntary scene of mutual masturbation when he is wide-awake, Jason is forced to confront the fact that yes, he’s still as attracted to men as he was in his schoolboy days, and immediately proposes to his mistress, Rosalind, thinking that surely this will be the solution. Rosalind, fortunately, is a sensible and realistic sort who doesn’t confuse sex with love. When Jason protests that he adores her, she responds thus:

She turned to face him, expression serious. “No, Jason, you do not. If you did, you would not have gone off with your military friend last night. You are fond of me, as I am of you, but that is all.”

Outraged by what he sees as the loss of Rosalind’s affection, Jason storms off. Hurt and puzzled by this and by Michael’s actions, he retreats to the family estate in Cheshire, hoping that once he gets away from London, his attraction to men will simply fade into the background once more.

Several months later, after a short scene between Michael Penrose and his valet in Belgium–the two are physically lovers, but Alfred Threadgill’s deep love for his employer is not reciprocated–Michael returns from war and has a reunion with Jason, despite the fact that Jason said quite firmly that he never wanted to see Michael again. And he asks Jason to look after Alfred for him. Jason, unwilling to deny Michael anything, promises to give Alfred a try.

Someone who likes a great deal of sex with his or her fiction would find this tale ideal; virtually every conversation is followed by a much longer and fairly intense sex scene, which usually reveals the depths of emotions that at least one of the parties cannot admit possessing.

Personally, I would have preferred that the story be longer and show much of what was only mentioned in passing: the friendship and love affair of Jason and Michael at school; the affection and trust between Michael and Alfred that never quite turned to love on Michael’s part; Jason fighting his growing attraction to Alfred. We’re told that all this has happened, but, for a reader, telling doesn’t pack nearly the punch of witnessing key events or of seeing emotional intimacy bloom between characters.

Jason’s issues with sexuality rather jumped out at me. He thinks a great deal about what it means for him personally to want to bed men AND women. This is not a thought process or attitude of that era. Modern people define themselves in terms of who they sleep with or who they want to sleep with. Someone of the Regency era would have seen it in terms of society–what is society’s attitude legally, socially and religiously? How will I be treated or punished for these desires? I can understand Jason struggling over the fact that he wants to sleep with men even after his schoolboy days, especially in view of the penalties–but the fact that he likes sleeping with women as well would not have caused any questions in his mind, because, by his time’s definition, that was part of being a man. The struggle would not have been “oh no, I’m attracted to men and women, what does this mean for me and my identity?” because the concepts of homosexuality, bisexuality and sexual identity didn’t exist then. Jason is, essentially, a twentieth to twenty-first century man who has been transported to the Regency era.

And I was, I confess, a bit irked about Jason’s eventual renunciation of his mistress. It had already been established that Jason liked women as well as men, and was an only son and was going to have to marry and produce offspring. Jason knew the first and accepted the second, so it was rather jarring when Jason gave up Rosalind for the sake of Alfred. I’m sure that some people were strictly faithful their same-sex lovers; it just doesn’t seem to fit here, given what we’ve been told of Jason, his background, and his family’s dynastic expectations.

However, the writing overall is good, and the author has done her research on historical detail, if not historical attitude. I particularly liked the details of the molly house to which Alfred flees–it’s not the elite sex club for gentleman that so often appears in gay romances and erotica, but a low-class brothel on the poor side of town, complete with “wedding chapel” for temporary unions.

I give it two stars–it’s not a bad short story. And I’d like to see what the author could do if she had time and space to fully show her characters’ emotional pasts.

Author’s website

Buy at Amber Allure, Fictionwise or Kindle

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