Review: Half a Man by Scarlet Blackwell

Traumatised by the nightmare of trench warfare in France, Robert Blake turns to rent boy Jack Anderson for solace. Neither man expects their business relationship to go quite so far.

It is 1919, less than a year after the end of the First World War with a recovering Britain in the grip of the influenza pandemic. Crippled veteran of the Somme battle, Robert Blake, is looking for someone to ease his nightmares of France and his guilt over what happened to his commanding officer. He turns to educated rent boy Jack Anderson for physical solace, not expecting how deeply the two soon become immersed in each other’s lives.

Review by Erastes

Rather a touching premise, a tart with a heart and a man paralysed from the waist down. You don’t at first (or rather I didn’t) twig that Jack Anderson is a prostitute but I suppose these days he’d be called an escort. He provides companionship and relief if needed from discreet and wealthy men. He hasn’t been soured by his life as a renter, and is both professional and attentive.

He’s called to the house of Robert Blake, who we discover is in a wheelchair. The two men meet once a week, a little tea and cakes, some sex and after a week or so they realise that they are becoming fond of each other.

It started well, and I was encouraged that this was something a little different, even though the tropes are well known, but sadly enough the men soon started to weep all over the place and to once they got into bed the old fanfic favourite chestnut of  “Come for me, [name here] both trends in m/m which I’m thoroughly tired of.

I liked both protagonists, Robert particularly because he seriously thought he was entirely useless to anyone being in the state he was and many men did–and do–think like this. Legs and cock not working=end of the world, and I can understand this. The interactions between them–and I don’t mean just the sex scenes which are detailed and many–are well done and believable when there’s no crying going on.

I enjoyed the read, but it’s not a keeper for me, I’m afraid.

However, it’s well-written, and thoroughly romantic with very little conflict so I’m sure that the readers of a more romantic brand of gay historicals will like it a lot. It’s not so over-the-top romantic as to spoil the story, so I did enjoy it. I also enjoyed that the ending was left a little in flux, and that Robert’s problem wasn’t magically cured entirely by all the gay sex.

Overall, well worth a try-out.

Author’s website

Silver Publishing

7 Responses

  1. “the old fanfic favourite chestnut of ”Come for me, [name here] ” Thanks for that. I think it was just what I needed this morning. I’ve been sorely tempted to write an erotic novel that subverts every genre cliche, and the reasons to do that have been piling higher every day, lately. You may have provided the tipping point.

  2. As a new writer in the M/M genre I think I may have fallen into the trap of too many ‘weepy’ scenes. Must do some editing. But no ‘come for me’. Lol. But as I do like anything with a WW1 theme and wounded heroes, I’ll add this to my TBR list.

    • Don’t get me wrong, some people like the weepy scenes–I used to, hurt-comfort particularly was one of my kinks, and Ambrose in Standish was a bit weepy to start with but i am just getting tired of it, reading the same genre over and over will probably do that for you, I guess.

      • I don’t think the problem is the genre–after all, other genres have a wide range of themes and variations. It’s that the genre (meaning male/male relationships) has been locked in into a very narrow box. It *is* intrinsically narrower than genres like science fiction and crime or mystery, but that doesn’t mean it can’t break out. A few writers have broken out, moving the sex out of central position, and introducing elements that aren’t native to romance, with varying acceptance. Alexandre Voinov’s book have become popular because they meet expectations for romance (even if it’s rather twisted at times), and sex, but also add action and violence. Dusk Peterson, on the other hand, struggles for recognition because her books are more psychologically oriented.

        I think about my own writing in terms of subverting expectations, especially in slavefic, but it’s really more about shifting expectations–trying to give readers a different way to think about the genres. I’m at a very early stage in my writing career, and I’m still trying to work all this out. Clarity about goals comes slowly.

  3. I think that a common misconception in M/M is that one of the protags’ has to be more feminine than the other, hence the ‘ Chick with a dick’ character. But, as Erastes says, some people do like that. I suppose it’s all a question of balance and whether a scene really does require a man to weep and if it’s relevant to the story line. Just my thoughts on the subject. 🙂

  4. I think the idea behind this novel was a good one and there could have been a lot done with it, but unfortunately it fell flat for me. Luckily ‘Scarlet Blackwell’ wrote a lot more books around this subject. I found almost her complete work on this online book store: Scarlet Blackwell eBooks

    Anyway, I enjoyed that I was brought through the emotions and passion that I would expect from any other romance. The loving was sweet and sexy. And the relationship was dear and real.

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