The first impression I had of this story is that it was lost in time; it’s set in 1936, but it could have been well 50 years before (if not for the car the hero is using at the beginning of the story) or 50 years later: the Hotel Vista atop of a mountain with a wonderful view of the valley is something you can still find in Italy, and an experience quite similar to that of the hero I did in Portugal, when I found a posh hotel in the middle of nowhere right at the top of a glacial valley. Probably the South European people tend to pick up the best places for their hotel, and it’s not a coincidence that both Italy than Portugal are favourite destinations for English travellers.
Aside from that, the feeling of being lost in time is also due to the fact that almost all the people who are spending time at Hotel Vista seem to have a reason to avoid reality. Guy, the Englishman who feigns indifference, I think is still mourning the loss of his lover, Arthur, and his escape from England and conventions is in true an escape from memories; plus, maybe, Guy is trying to live how Arthur and him would have dreamed to, without worrying of other people’s judgement; Arthur died too young, and Guy is trying to live for both of them.
Hotel Vista is also the hiding place of James Calloway and his young secretary Louis. It’s clear that they are not only boss and assistant; that James is trying to find in Louis his lost youth, same as Guy is trying to find it in the escaping. At first I thought that Louis was a gold digger profiting of a weak James, weak both in health than resistance to the allure of youth. But Louis is a more complex character of what he appears at first, and it’s not a game of who, between Guy and James is richer and though more appealing for Louis, it’s a game of understanding who, between Guy and James is more daring, who will have the courage to risk everything for the love of Louis. Among them, Louis is not promising anything to anyone, he is mobile and elusive, like youth and lost dreams, and Guy, or James, have to play careful to catch him.
The White Empire by Chris Smith
The Honourable Edgar Vaughan is a missionary, but he has not the “call”; joining a mission in Hong Kong in 1839 was another way to go far from the “gossip” of the ton, that was well aware of Vaughan’s particular inclinations. Second son of a baronet, when it was clear that his older brother would have been able to survive and reproduce, there was no real reason for him to stay around and create more trouble. Vaughan is a strange man, he is also able to pretend with himself: he claims to being fond only of men of his same social level, but then, gathering bit of info here and there, the reader understand that more r less, Vaughan enjoys men wherever he can find them willing, or maybe not even so willing but in need of money. Vaughan is not exactly a nice man, I found him quite pompous and narcissistic.
But as it often happens, even the narcissistic men find someone else other than themselves to fall in love with, and for Vaughan the man is Lord Runfold, heir to a Duke. Yes, Edgar likes to fumble in dark places with strangers, but when it’s the time to fall in love, the chosen one is someone from his same level or above. Truth be told, I don’t think it was a conscious choice for Edgar, but probably it’s in his character, he can’t really being interested in someone that is not above him, he needs to feel a sense of wonder, and respect, otherwise he will get soon bored.
Archie Runfold is a mix of debauched angel and careless chap. He is probably a better man than Edgar, but he is still young; probably in 10 years or so, the real man will be formed, for now he is still enjoying his freedom. Being him the heir, and having obligations, it would be interesting to know what he will choose, but I have the feeling that Lord Runfold could be one of those men with a wife and 2 sons (one to spare) at home, and a male lover in society.
Do you think that, since nor Edgar or Archie are behaving as perfect romance heroes, I don’t like them? Wrong, I like them even better, since probably they are more real like that, two perfect example of XIX century gentlemen.
Sand by Charlie Cochrane
Charlie Cochrane’s heroes are always good boys, even in their name they are simple and friendly, Andrew and Charles. Charles is a wannabe writer of the Edwardian England (among the two World War maybe?) who is forced to play the role of chaperon to a wealthy middle class man whose mother thinks he is better far from female temptation in a dig in Syria. Andrew is the one managing the dig and dreading the “invasion” of stranger, but at the same time, I think he is also hoping to find a matching soul in one or both the men.
The story is not long and there is not either big revelation; there is no drama, no hidden and suffered forbidden feelings, when Andrew and Charles met it’s clear there is a matching of both minds and hearts, and the step from being friends to being lovers is short. Again they have a vantage in being far from society, and so, more or less, from judging eyes and ears: who will question the strict bond between two men if they are alone in the desert with no woman on the horizon? By day they are only friends, and what happens at night is not questioned.
But Andrew and Charlie are not perfect together only since they are alone and there is no other choice around, they are really good for each other; they are very similar, clever and of few words, maybe even a bit shy, but well aware of their own worth. They are so similar that, in a way, they are first friends and than lovers, passion between them arrives only after they learn to like, and trust, each other. What bonds them is more a question of minds than guts, and so, something more lasting.
The Ninth Language by Jordan Taylor
This is the second time I read something by Jordan Taylor, and like the last time there is something in common, a slightly sadness throughout the storyline. In 1898, in some isolated land in Canada, the natives are struggling to survive the coming of different cultures that instead of mingling are clashing with the local culture. Mitsrii is willing to do everything to preserve at least a little piece of land for his people, even to kill the white man. Troy is a linguist and a dreamer, he believes that studying the language of people he will know them, but when he meets Mitsrii he finds that there is a language more that he is not able to learn on books, and it’s the language of life.
At first Mitsrii doesn’t trust Troy, not since he believes he is trying to deceive his people like many before, but probably since Troy is too naïve and innocent; men like him, in his carelessness, could be even more destruction; worst, if Mitsrii allows him near his people, and his heart, it will be hard to survive when the novelty of a new culture to unearth will end and Troy will decide that he is better in a modern city. For Mitsrii there is no choice, even if he was alone, and he is not, for him it would be impossible to live in the city; he can fight one man at time, but the hordes that are invading his homeland are too much even for him, and his only choice is to retreat even more inland, far from “civilization”.
Mitsrii’s character is so bonded with nature, that I was almost expecting from him to be some paranormal character, and instead this is a pure historical; so much my mind is contaminated by modern culture, that when I find someone who is really in line with nature, I think he is someone “unnatural”, and instead Mitsrii is only someone of a not so distant era, little more than 100 years, but of a lost, unfortunately, culture.
Amazon: Last Gasp
Amazon Kindle: Last Gasp
Paperback: 478 pages
Publisher: Noble Romance Publishing, LLC (January 2, 2011)