Review: Solace by Scarlet Blackwell (short story)

Solace by Scarlet Blackwell

Down on his luck Victorian gentleman Dorian is looking for solace on Christmas Eve and finds it in the form of rent boy Benedict.

Review by Michael Joseph

It’s Christmas Eve in late-Victorian London. Dorian was once a gentleman of means, but now he’s alone and will soon have to sell his house in Chelsea. An unrequited crush on his houseboy landed him in jail. He managed to bribe his way out of prison, but he’s been disowned by his family and abandoned by all his friends. Dorian is strolling the streets of Whitechapel, looking for company despite the risk of the Ripper, when Benedict steps forward to offer his services.

Benedict is a young male prostitute, a “Mary Ann” in the language of the time used by the author, and Dorian is quite taken with him. Despite the risk, Dorian decides to take Benedict home, rather than just getting off in some darkened doorway. Back in Chelsea, Dorian takes Benedict twice in the drawing room, and it’s obvious Benedict is not “gay for pay” to use the modern expression. He genuinely prefers the company of men, and likes nothing more than having another man deep inside him. Dorian is so enthralled he asks Benedict to stay the night, and the following Christmas Day. Benedict readily agrees and they retire to the bedroom.

In the bedroom, things get mildly kinky, with a little bondage and spanking. Dorian becomes even more enamored with the young man, finding in him the potential for the kind of love he had hoped to find with his houseboy. He also begins to see that, despite his profession, Benedict has rarely known real pleasure.

The dreaded insta-love rears its ugly head in this story, but then this is a really short novella that sets a good pace. In print it’s just around 40 pages. I’m generally not a big fan of these shorts, which are all the rage now that ebooks rule. All too often it seems like the characters are one-dimensional and the plot full of holes. But Solace is complete, with a proper beginning, middle and end, with characters that are endearing enough. It’s short, but it is what it is, which is why I’ve given it a solid 3 out of 5.

Scarlet Blackwell

Buy from Silver Publishing

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

Review: Stand and Deliver by Scarlet Blackwell

When Lucien Mayer, 14th Earl of Ravensberry is taken hostage by a gang of highwaymen, he is drawn to the damaged, reclusive Ambrosius and the dangerous, brooding Dante. Torn between escaping and satisfying his body’s needs, his life will never be the same again.

Review by Erastes

Oh dear, I thought. Another kidnap/rape-non con turns to love story.  However it turns out that it’s not quite as predictable as I imagined and that was a nice surprise.

The cover is quite nice. Frilly shirt: check. Moonlight and a castle: check.  Not a bad cover at all.

The length is only 34,000 words, though – even though Total e-bound Publishing call it a novel. I wouldn’t call that size anything but a novella, so pay your £2.99 knowing the length.

Lucien is travelling the London to Nottingham road (incidentally where his parents were killed by highwaymen some years before.)  I’d thought that it was nice to see highwaymen represented at killers, rather than “give us a kiss milady and I’ll stop at taking your earbobs” which you see too often. They were as nice and chivalrous as pirates were like Jack Sparrow. Sadly the men who kidnap Lucien fall prey to this Hollywood stereotype later in the book, content with kissing the bejewelled hand of the Baron’s daughter than nicking all her bejewells.

Lucien is waylaid by four highwaymen and when he jumps out of the carriage to defend himself, his coachman sensibly runs away.  It’s a good, exciting beginning to the story, and made me want to read on, despite the editing, which was sadly lacking in commas in many places, such as before names (e.g. “I don’t want to see you suffer Lucien” which actually means that he doesn’t want to see him suffer from Lucien), and inconsistencies such as two men sticking their head through a carriage window, and the face that it was very late at night and yet eye colour is clearly noticed. There are unforgivable typos too. “Dual” instead of “duel” and Lucien’s name misspelled for two examples. All little things on their own, but put together they irritate and pull a reader out of the immersion of the story.

What happens next is pretty predictable.  Even though Lucien has been kidnapped–and he seems to have no thought that anyone would miss him– he immediately gets aroused just by looking at the sexy quartet, and rather than worrying about his life, he starts fantasising about having sex with them all, even to the point of wanking off  There’s obvious tips to the yaoi fans; Lucien has turquoise eyes (later blue green, then aquamarine), another has green/amber/gold eyes and so on.

The men are not really manly men either, there’s lots of soul-searching and I love you’s and a lover that can never be forgotten, lots of teardrops trembling on eyelashes and betrayed hearts.  If that’s your cuppa tea, you’ll revel in this.

From the clothes, black velvet breeches with embroidered work, and the fact that there are glamorous highwaymen, I’m assuming that the time period is the 18th century, rather than the late 19th, so a cottage with a fully fitted bathroom with a large bathtub “swimming in soapsuds” was a little unusual.  Granted the richest of the land could afford such luxuries, but these four bandits live alone with no servants and cook for themselves. They are not princes and kings.  There’s no real sense of fear of capture for the highwaymen, either.  They live very close to the road they predate, and they don’t worry about the watch at all–there would certainly be patrols out to capture four active highwaymen like these.

Lucien decides to seduce whoever it takes to get away, and he’s soon grappling with a few of the highwaymen, both participating willingly and watching avidly.

It’s all a little confusing and inconsistent, one minute he wants to escape, one minute he really fancies Ambrosius, the next he knows he’s going to beg the evil Dante to shag him.  It’s like a big sexy orgy in the 1800s with everyone wanting everyone else.

There’s a quite jaw-dropping “revenge” issue to the story which I won’t spoil, but whilst I don’t want any 21st century values to creep into a historical story, I found this aspect particularly repulsive, as the man being sought out for revenge had only defended himself against armed robbers!  It didn’t endear me to the highwaymen in the slightest, to be frank. Neither did the constant weeping.

I won’t spoil the plot any more than that, but if are a fan of the Black Lace type of erotica and you like a lot of sex with your story, then you won’t be disappointed with Stand and Deliver.

It’s not a bad story and as I say, if you like sexy sensual stories with your heroes finding their erections more diverting than being in fear for their lives then you’ll enjoy this.  I’ll probably give this author another go, particularly if they work harder on the editing and make their men a bit less like erection obsessed love-struck girls.

Author’s website

Total ebound

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