Review: Sail Away by Lee Rowan

Corrupt governments, divided loyalties,lovingly exchanged gifts, astral travel and sensual love; not to mention a sailors unwanted little lodgers are all combined in this charming and entertaining collection of short stories by Lee Rowan, plus an extra treat from Charlie Cochrane.

THE CAPTAINS COURTSHIP
Set in 18th century New England amid revolutionary rumblings, The Captains Courtship is a nicely written and well researched traditional romance.

Cynthia Lancaster is a well brought up English girl living with her father, Edward and her grandmother in New Jersey. Her father is eager for her to marry the unprepossessing Mr Humboldt. But when Cynthia meets the handsome and dashing Commander Paul Andrew Smith when he intervenes in an argument between Edward, a loyalist and and two staunch Patriots,she is immediately smitten.

Now, with the help of her grandmother, Cynthia must attempt to persuade her father that the commander would be a better match than Mr Humboldt.

SEE PARIS AND LIVE.
Christopher St.John, the young Baron Guilford is asked by his mother, the Dowager Baroness, to travel to Paris to supervise the safe delivery of her shipment of brandy. But France is embroiled in Revolution and dangerous ground for an English Aristocrat.

Once there however, Kit meets Zoe Colbert, an extremely pretty,if rather forward young woman who immediately invites an astounded Kit to bed. Events take a turn for the worse for Kit, however and his sojourn in Paris turns out to be longer than he anticipated.

CASTAWAY.
Forbidden love aboard His Majesty’s Frigate, Calypso. When Lieutenants David Archer and William Marshall are washed overboard during a fierce storm at sea, the two find themselves stranded on a desert island. Away from the prying eyes of their shipmates David and William are able to express their love for each other without fear of punishment and almost certain death.  And for a while at least they can live out their fantasies in this tropical paradise until help arrives.

ALL SOULS.
When David Archer is confronted by the apparition of the man whom his lover, William Marshall killed in a duel, he instinctively realises that his friend is in mortal danger. Together David and William must fight the strangest battle of their lives. Will the love they have for each other help them to survive the night, and beat this most deadly of enemies?

GIFT EXCHANGE,TOKEN OF AFFECTION,FORTUNES FAVORS,TOUCH.
Four short stories featuring Davy and William celebrating Christmas, Valentines Day, risking a  ‘quickie’ in a skiff and enjoying some shore leave… and much more besides.

Reviewed by Grace Roberts

I really enjoyed this collection of stories.Beautifully written and well researched, the author Lee Rowan has delivered once again with some classic romance and adventure set on the high seas, in the American colonies and in Paris during the ‘Terror’.

Two of the stories (The Captains Courtship & See Paris and Live) are M/F and the rest are M/M, but don’t let that put you off. I did find that a little disconcerting at first but the author writes in both genres so well, I was able to put aside my bias and enjoy them just as much as the M/M stories. And I love the book’s cover. Nice and clean and uncluttered, and no naked torsos.

Set in the pre revolutionary American colonies, The Captain’s Courtship is a very traditional romance with the requisite handsome hero and a heroine who, though no raving beauty, has attributes which far transcend mere physical attraction. A strong will for one thing, and a determination to marry the man she loves and not the man her father wishes her to wed. Here also is the ubiquitous wise old grandmama colluding with her grand-daughter in her ambition.

As I said, a very traditional romance and a very charming read.

The one quibble I had with the next story, See Paris And Live was the main female character.I just couldn’t take her seriously at all, and I didn’t like her. I tried, but it wasn’t to be. She came across as arrogant and manipulative, and I found the scene where she entices a not unwilling Kit into bed five minutes after meeting him slightly unbelievable.

Later in the story, she voices concerns about the loss of her virtue, and how it would affect her father. Hmm, one can’t help but feel she should have thought of that earlier. But perhaps it was a case, for her at least, of not knowing when she may end up riding in a tumbril to the guillotine, so live for the moment. But I didn’t like it and I found it mildly off-putting.

It’s a decent story with a good, solid plot and we even have Kit undergoing Trepan surgery after a skirmish with revolutionaries.

The next four stories Castaway, Gift Exchange, Fortunes Favors and Touch feature Lieutenants David Archer and his shipmate, friend and lover,William Marshall, the stars of Rowan’s Royal Navy Series.

Castaway has the two being swept overboard during a fierce storm and managing to stay afloat by clinging onto a chicken coop. Washed up on a desert island, the two men battle to suppress their feelings for each other with some slightly comical results. While one leaves the sleeping quarters,where they share a hammock, to supposedly relieve himself among the bushes, the other takes the opportunity of his friends absence to relieve himself in a different way. (His father once told him to do it privately or ignore it) Only later do we discover what Davy has really been up to in the shrubbery. They do eventually stop beating about the bush, ho hum, throw caution to the wind, and consummate their love. And with no threat of Article 29 to bother them and no one to witness the act, they have a lovely frolic on the beach. Very sweet, very sexy,a lovely story with a very surprising ending. I certainly didn’t see it coming, and you may need a hanky or two.

Gift Exchange begins with a charming and affectionate letter from Davy to his mother thanking her for her Christmas gift of a marzipan rabbit, underclothing and woollen stockings.

He shares his gifts with William, and in return,William gives Davy a gift he’ll never forget in a beautifully written scene of illicit passion which, because they are on board ship must be conducted in silence.Difficult for Will, not so much for Davy who’s mouth is er, busy elsewhere.

My favourite after Castaway was All Souls. The author has obviously researched the subject of Astral Travel very thoroughly and whether you believe in it or not, it makes this story a gripping read. Its the first time I’ve seen anyone mention the Silver Cord (the mystical cord which attaches the corporeal body to the spirit. A sort of umbilical cord) for many years. Writers rarely mention it in fiction or in reports of so-called actual occurrences of Astral Travel.  But it enables Davy to float from one deck of his ship to another just by the power of thought. Marvellous, this is a sea faring adventure with a difference. I loved it. And it has a very satisfying ending with love triumphing over adversity and avenging spirits.

Token of Affection and Fortunes Favors have our heroes once again exchanging cute little gifts for Valentines Day and taking a newly repaired skiff for a practice run, and in Token, there are plenty of Bottom puns from the two while discussing Shakespeare, and a mention of a ‘New little mid- Beecroft’ who could play Puck, and looks the part but has an unfortunate stutter. Oh dear!

The first sentences in Fortunes Favors raised my eyebrows a little with the ‘Carry On’ type double entendres. Upright Shafts and Wet Leather! But no, tis only our intrepid twosome rigging up a mast when, having risked a ‘quickie’ behind a tiny island in the Calypso’s newly repaired skiff they are caught in a sudden squall. There’s more talk of Yardarms with er rosy tips etc plus the lovely, vivid line, [‘Their] love being no less sincere for being hasty; like a hummingbird hovering in flight to sip nectar’.

Touch blew me away with it’s lusciously sensual and highly evocative sex scene. Playful and raunchy without being smutty or crude, it’s erotica at it’s tasteful best,and is written with skill and finesse.

Finally, With All My Worldly Goods I Thee Endow-Including Livestock By Charlie Cochrane.

This extra little vignette is typically Charlie Cochrane. Her wit, humour and sense of fun abound in every sentence as Davy attempts to rid Will of some unwanted little visitors…..head lice. Great fun to read and is a lovely, jolly finale to a book which I enjoyed immensely. Eight cracking tales with plenty of action, adventure, love, lust and humour, Sail Away has something for everyone between it’s covers. Available from Amazon at £4:53 for the Kindle edition, it’s also available in paperback, (a bonus these days) for £8:99, which is a little pricey, but for this collection I reckon it’s well worth it.

Lee Rowan’s Website

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Review: Eye of the Storm by Lee Rowan

It’s the Winter of 1802 and the long war between England and France has entered a fragile truce. But the lives of Commander William Marshall and Lieutenant David Archer, have become more complicated than ever.

As a Commander, Will is accustomed to making tough decisions. Can he give an order that will surely put his Davy in harm’s way? He almost lost his lover to a bullet once before and he fears losing him now, yet duty calls.

Davy is tormented by doubt. Will walked away before, trying to end their relationship for Davy’s own safety. Can he trust Will again—not only to stay with him, but to believe that their love is worth the risks?

Review by Leslie H. Nicoll

I had been waiting eagerly for Eye of the Storm to be released on January 1, 2009 and to my great delight, it popped up on the Linden Bay Romance website on that date. Since I have an e-reader I was able to download the book and get right to the important business of reading. If anyone reading this is waffling on getting an e-reader, let me assure you that instant gratification is tremendously rewarding.

To the story: this is the third in the Articles of War series, preceded by Ransom and Winds of Change.

Eye of the Storm picks up immediately where Winds of Change ends: Commander Marshall and Lt. Archer (now David St. John) have just been reunited. An uneasy truce exists between England and France. With the assistance of his relatives, Sir Percy and Baron Guilford, Archer/St. John has become the owner of the merchant vessel Mermaid. They are hoping that Marshall will sign on as its captain. The nature of the work of the Mermaid is vague; it seems that she will be transporting cargo but one suspects that more clandestine activities are in the offing.

The story begins with dinner with Marshall, Archer (St. John) and Sir Percy, which allows for discussion of practical matters and sets the stage for what’s to come. Then we have a joyous reunion between lovers Davy and Will which was certainly needed, since the previous book ended with nothing more than a passionate embrace and a few tears. In a post-coital moment, they have an interesting conversation about what sort of future they might possibly have together, including discussion of Will getting married “for appearances” since that is what may be best for him to advance in rank in His Majesty’s Navy.

Once the groundwork is laid, the story moves ahead briskly. Author Rowan knows how to tell a tale and the plot of this novella is tight and carefully constructed. Even though they are on the ship together – Davy as owner and Will as captain – they do not have much free time, to the dismay of the reader who might be hoping for lots of sex! Rowan stays focused on the narrative and keeps the events realistic to the era. Marshall is a very conscientious captain who does not let his own desires – and the desires of his lover – come before his responsibility to his ship and the men under his command.

Eventually they are separated and this allows for more rumination, especially on Will’s part, about the nature of their love and the potential of their lives together. Will eventually reads some letters that have long gone unread that helps him to understand more fully the relationship that exists between him and Davy. There is also another exchange – very brief, but touching – which helps Will realize that he is attracted to men in general and Davy in particular. It is only a few paragraphs but telling and deftly written.

All of this happens against a background of ships and spies, wondering who’s who and what’s what. Like I said earlier, Rowan knows how to tell a story and her skills in this department seem to get better with each book.

My only complaint – and I had the exact same complaint with Winds of Change – is that things get a little abrupt in the last one-fourth of the book, to the point of it being ragged. There are transitions that just seem too unexpected. A few conversations are so brief that they seem truncated. Characters who seem to be present one minute suddenly disappear. It is frustrating because it wouldn’t have taken much rewriting to fix these points but they are annoying loose ends that should have been corrected – and weren’t.

Even so, Davy and Will are such beguiling characters that I am willing to forgive the author for these small transgressions. Their love is so joyous and real that I enjoy every minute I am able to spend in their company.

As a reader, I am often asked if books in a series should be read in order, or can you start at any point. With Rowan’s books, they definitely should be read chronologically and to assist anyone who may be coming upon the Articles of War series for the first time, here’s the list: Ransom, Winds of Change, Eye of the Storm. There is also a trilogy of short stories called Trilogy 109: Sail Away. These stories include important backstories on many of the characters included in the larger novels. I would particularly recommend reading the Trilogy before reading Eye of the Storm because it has essential information about Baron Guilford that will definitely enhance a reader’s understanding about the events in the present novella.

In sum, I heartily recommend this book and look forward to the next installment, which I understand from the author is due out sometime in late 2009. Sigh…so many months to wait, but something to look forward to!

Author’s website

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Review: Winds of Change by Lee Rowan

In 1802, a love worth dying for is more than just a romantic notion. Lieutenants William Marshall and David Archer, of His Majesty’s frigate Calypso, have been lovers for more than a year. Courage, devotion, and extreme discretion have kept them from the hangman’s noose-the price they must pay if their relationship is discovered. The occasional night of passion ashore is all the more precious to them for its rarity. But in the Royal Navy, nothing lasts forever. A transfer to a new ship brings with it a bizarre turn of events: their Captain orders them to behave as though they are involved in an illicit relationship in order to smoke out a suspected traitor, blackmailer, and saboteur.

Winds of Change” is the sequel to Lee Rowan’s “Ransom” and continues the adventures and misadventures of Lts William Marshall and David Archer after their capture and escape in the book of that name. And it’s a very good read.

The two men are transferred to a new ship, together with their captain; a “Trouble ship” where there is unrest and sabotage. A method of smoking out the sabateur is proposed but it is not without a great deal of risk for David and William, and for their growing relationship.

The characters are wonderfully drawn, they would slide into any of the Hornblower novels without even causing the slightest bow wave. William is a career man and his duty is every bit as important to him as it is to Nelson himself. He puts his heart and soul into everything he does, whether it’s managing a 74 gun ship of the line, or loving the love that dare not speak its name. David is my favourite, I have to say, for his innate love of life despite everything he’s been through.

For my money, this book has everything. It’s a wonderful love story, without underplaying the very real danger that homosexuals faced in His Majesty’s Navy in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. It’s meticulously researched, but Lee writes in a way that doesn’t bore you with facts of the time, she writes simply as if she were writing in that time, and the period detail becomes as unobstruvive as if it were a contemporary novel. It’s a mystery, a thriller and it has lines that made me giggle, parts that made a hard boiled cynic like me cry (twice) and some wonderfully tender sexual moments.

If you found Ransom a little slow, then you’ll be happy with WoC, as it’s faster-paced, tighter and there’s a very real tension throughout.

If I had one tiny quibble, I was dissapointed that the ending of the mystery was done off screen, I was expecting as much adventure in the last part of the book as I’d read in the first part, but in reality, what Lee decides to concentrate on in the final pages doesn’t spoil the story at all.

In the growing genre of homosexual historical fiction, Lee Rowan is at the forefront. She never sacrifices period detail or excellent writing in an attempt to dumb down at any time.

Very highly recommended.

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Review: Ransom by Lee Rowan

For a young Englishman in 1796, the Navy is a way to move beyond his humble origins and seek a chance at greatness. Captured by accident when their Captain is abducted, Archer and Marshall become pawns in a renegade pirate’s sadistic game. To protect the man he loves, David Archer compromises himself-trading his honor and his body for Marshall’s safety. When Will learns of his friend’s sacrifice, he also discovers that what he feels for Davy is stronger and deeper than friendship. The first challenge: escape their prison. The second: find a way to preserve their love without losing their lives.

Review by Erastes

I found this book, completely by accident and I was intrigued by the blurb as it was a a Regency Gay Romance, which made me beam, because there are just Not Enough of those, but more excitingly, it’s a nautical tale, set in the same time period as Master and Commander and Hornblower – so if any of you have ever slashed Archie and Horny or Horny and Pellew – you are going to LOVE this. It’s 1799 and not only is homosexuality on land punishable by prison and death – on His Majesty’s Ships the Articles of War give an automatic death penalty for it – and very little proof was needed – if a man of a higher rank gave evidence against one of a lower, that man would hang.

But it’s more than just “oh whoopee another historical homoerotic romance do buy” This is excellently written. It could easily be Forrester on a Slashy day, and I’ll stick my neck out and go further to say that the writing surpasses Forrester. It’s also immaculately (as far as I can see) researched and what brings it alive to me is that the language is in the tone of the TIME.

Nothing jars me more than reading about 21st century men who just happen to find themselves on a 18th century warship.

The sex is beautifully described and perhaps some readers won’t find it as graphic as they’d like, but it is all there, it’s just written so beautifully and so lightly that it’s inferred rather than explicitly shown.

Anyway – HIGHLY recommended especially for all of your who moan that there’s no historical slash out there.

Don’t miss her sequels – Winds of Change and Eye of the Storm.

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