Review: Comstock by Aaron Michaels

Reggie Grayson has a secret admirer. A traveling Shakespearean actor in 1883 Virginia City, Reggie’s already been robbed at gunpoint by a masked bandit, and now he’s receiving drawings and roses from a mystery man who won’t leave his name. Is this any way to make his debut as a leading man?

Desperate to discover if his secret admirer is the ruggedly handsome man who watches the stage from the shadows of a private box, Reggie’s quest to meet the man of his dreams plunges him headlong into danger and intrigue in the lawless days of the silver rush on the Comstock Lode.

Review by Erastes

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I rather liked the set up of this, a travelling understudy of the San Francisco Shakespeare Company out to gain his spurs in provincial theatres in the West, and at first I liked Reggie and his sense of doubt about his abilities and the way that a drawing from an admirer gives him impetus to do as well as he can. I cooled to him somewhat throughout the book as he struck me as rather self-centered, concerned with issues only pertaining to himself, his watch, his admirer, his performance blah blah — and when there’s a cave-in at the mine, Reggie paws over the drawings of himself left by his admirer and ponders about this rather than rushing out to see if there was anything he could do to help!

However the pairing was a little obvious, and if there’s a “mystery admirer” I’d like a wide choice of possible suitors or to drag out the mystery for a bit longer – but perhaps that wasn’t possible in a book of about 60 pages. And when they do get together, of course they are instantly in love, and I get a bit tired of that, as it’s a bit Romeo and Juliet instead of Deadwood, but that’s deliberately done, I think.

That being said, it’s a solid little story with good characters and a fine balance of plot versus romance, which again is tricky for a short book like this. Somehow the author manages to introduce a wrong that has to be righted, several interesting people, and the research seems well done. I did like the clever way that Cole’s motivations for what he did were actually exactly the same as something that Reggie had experienced himself, this gave a good reason for the empathy he feels in a tricky situation. There’s even an exciting finish and anyone who can balance all that in one book gets a tip of the hat from me!

The fact that I didn’t particularly like Reggie shouldn’t put anyone off buying and enjoying this book, because I’m sure you will.

There are a couple of editing and tense issues, which was a shame, but overral, I’d say it’s worth adding to your collection, particularly if you are a fan of Frontier fiction.

Buy from Torquere Press

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