This post is old, so what you see here may not reflect my current opinion and mindset, certain information may be outdated, and links may be broken.
Anybody who knows me should already know my love for homosexual media, especially if you look in my room and my computer. I have files after files of Harry Potter slash fanfiction, many zip files of yaoi manga scanlations, over 150 volumes of actual hard copies of yaoi mangas, several gay cinemas, and a few homosexual literature in my bookcase. With that said, it is safe to say that I have a strange sort of fascination in that aspect of literature and media. Simply put, I’m an aficionado. Now let’s add another sub-branch into that group, my newest interest: gay historical fiction.
You see, I read a few novels that are original gay fiction, and while most struck my fancy, I read one that really turned me off. It was horribly written; actually it was bad fanfiction, and because I was burned by that book (just some random detective/police force novel thing), I avoided original fiction for a while, including the ones I actually wanted to read. I finally took the plunge, and I decided to finally check out a few books on my wishlist, where a couple were gay historical novels. One of them happened to be Standish by Erastes.
The Book’s Synopsis
The summary is from the author’s website:
A great house, a family dispossessed. A sensitive young man, a powerful landowner, and the epic love that springs up between them.
Ambrose Standish is a studious and fragile young man with dreams of regaining the great house his grandfather lost in a card game, but when Rafe Goshawk returns from the continent to claim the estate, their meeting sets them on a path of desire and betrayal which threatens to tear both of their worlds apart.
Set in the post-Napoleonic years of the 1820’s, Standish is a tale of these two men, and how the relationships they make affect their journey through Europe and through life.
Painting a picture of homosexuality in Georgian England, illegal as it was and punishable by death, at heart it is a simple love story and the tale of one man’s discoveries of his sexuality and his true feelings for the man who released it.
I admit, the synopsis didn’t really struck my curiosity that well, which might be also another reason why it took me forever to get around to reading this. However, in the end, I read it, and here’s my review.
– The characters were great. Ambrose, Rafe, Fleury, Constance, Christopher, Sebastien, and heck even Achilles and Trenberry were actually likeable to a point! But the way Erastes described them and brought them to life, they felt real. I could actually connect with them, feel for them, and love and hate their actions. They were all imperfect human, with flaws and mistakes that reminds us that no one is perfect.
– The plot wasn’t really anything original, but it sure felt different. The way Erastes told the story, the way she wrote made me want to know what was going to happen. I would read a chapter, and then I’d continue on for five more chapters because I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I was kept on my toes the entire time I read it!
– The pacing was actually really good. I’ve read stories where people quickly jump into having some sort of a rendezvous, but Erastes took some time to develop the characters and the relationship before bringing in the smut.
– The smut was actually nice. It was nice reading smexy scenes that didn’t use modern languages obsessively like today! I mean, I like profanity and the vulgar language, but it wouldn’t have fit in the setting of the book, and it wouldn’t have fit most of the regal characters, actually! This is one situation where euphemisms are a great tool to use in the literary world, and the author used it beautifully.
– The relationships between humans, the way love can be a complicated issues, and the way humans like to succumb to our own demons were all written into this book. The themes of this book, on one hand, are quite simple and uncomplicated, but if you look at it deeper and from a different angle, it’s quite complex and can make you ponder on the message the novel wants to tell you.
– One word: FLEURY!!!!! *LOVES* ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
– The antagonists of the novels at some point felt a bit two-dimensional. They felt bland. Kind of like Tom Riddle in the first book, but then as you read the rest of the series, you see who he is and see where his motives come from. I didn’t really feel that with the antagonists in the this novel, but most were minor characters. However, I still would have liked to see something that made them a little more fleshed out instead of a cardboard cut out!
– The ending . . . I’ll say it right now, I am not a fan of ambiguous ending. The ending in the last book of Animorphs is a great example where it’s a series that I adored and loved, but upon reading the ending, I grew furious. Now this book has one, and while I want an ending that ties everything up for me, this is one of those rare stories where the author does not need to tie up any missing strings! I wish for a better confirmation, but I’ll live with this one.
– The length of the book. It was actually decent, but I somehow found myself wanting more because of the ambiguous ending, I suppose! I would like more backstory of some of the characters. Especially Fleury. *hint hint hint*
– As someone who is incredibly unfamiliar with European history of the 1820s, I kind of felt a bit lost at certain times. Not lost in the plot, but more like lost as in, “Wait! Who the heck was Duke of Wellington and what was his purpose in the Napoleonic Wars?!” or “What the fudge is Newgate?!” kind of things. I blame my own ignorance on that part, though. I kind of daydreamed through that part of history class, apparently. At least this book taught me some new European/British historical facts, hence it being a historical novel.
– Considering that I’ve been reading either first person POV or third person limited POV these days, to read third person omniscient was a bit of a throwback. While I do not have a problem with that POV, I didn’t really like the way the author used it. I know this POV explores more than one character’s minds and thoughts, but to jump from Ambrose, to Rafe, to a dog, back to Rafe, to Sebastien, and back to Ambrose . . . it was disorientating. It’s a good thing I have either a good concentration skill or fast reading skills — otherwise I’d probably get frustrated at this book for its POV pinball match!
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and their relationships, both sexual and non-sexual. I liked how the plot was paced and told. I find myself wanting to know more about the Regency/Georgian/Pre-Victorian-eras, and I want to read more well-written gay historical novels! Would I recommend this particular novel? Yes. Would I re-read it in the future? Most definitely. Do I really love Padraig Fleury? YES I DO. ♥