elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Gaywyck by Vincent Virga

When I started reading Gay Romance and browsing the few available titles (yes, you have to believe me, no longer than 5 years ago, the availability of Gay Romance novels was sorely lacking), Gaywyck was one of those titles that more than once appeared in my search results. But as for many other titles of that same period, late ’70-beginning of the ’80, I was scared to read it since I was not sure the author was daring enough to give his characters an happily ever after. Truth, having a novel ending with “our love endures” is not necessary for it to be good, but isn’t it better? I’m a romantic and even if it’s not realistic, or maybe not so much realistic, I want to be able to think the heroes of a novel I like, a novel I will maybe re-read in the future, will live happily ever after once I leave them at the end of their story.

So, yes, I confess, I didn’t pick up this novel sooner, justifying myself with the lame excuse that it was out of stock, that for me, living in Italy was not so easy to find a second-hand copy, that even if I found one, the shipping cost would have been to high, and on and on. Then Greg Herren listed Gaywyck as one of his favourite books, and I had the chance to exchange some emails with Vincent Virga, and from his own words I understood he had my same idea on romance, that he believed in romance, and so I was sure it was impossible for him to be bad with his heroes. Plus Gaywyck was re-released in both print then ebook format and that was the definitive sign.

He wrote how he was tired to read about gay characters in gothic novel (“While working in publishing, I read some modern romantic gothic novel where the Jane-Eyre secret was not a crazy wife in the attic but--GASP!--a queer husband!! (There was actually a spate of these.)) and how he chose to write the story from his own perspective (“So, “Gaywyck” was born in 1977 as a way of proving that genres have no genders and romantic love is democratic realm not a het's kingdom”) and how he fought for this story to be published (“The book was rejected by over 30 publishers and the editor who eventually bought it had to be convinced that gay people wanted romance: "If they want romance why hasn't anyone ever written a gay romance?" she asked me”).

One thing that is clear in this romance is that nor Robert or Donough are afraid to love and being in love with another man (“My Robert Gaylord is exquisitely gorgeous but has NO crisis when he falls in love with Donough Gaylord whose secrets in the attic generate enough grief for anybody. Their love is not the issue for Robert. He is only concerned with their happiness, not easily won but lasting forever after...as in all fairy tales”); true Donough has his own issue to overcome, his private secret in the attic that by the way has more facets than you could imagine, and only to the very end of the novel you will be able to see in its wholeness. I read minor complaints about this novel such that everyone seems to be gay (something that is not true, for example Brian, one of my favourite character, and one that could easily being mistaken as gay for his prettiness and interest for “womanly” things related to the kitchen and the garden, is not gay). Another thing I read is that it was not realistic for “public” men like Donough, or his friends Mortimer and Goodboy, to be openly gay at the beginning of the XX century (the story is set on the turn of the century, between 1899 and 1901), something that I soon discovered not only was possible, but even “allowed” in some cultural circles (see the lives of Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler and George Platt-Lynes).

So not only Gaywyck is a romance, it’s even a right on the spot picture of an era, something that is even more clear if you pay attention to all the details Vincent Virga scattered here and there in the novel, misguided as background description. Again if you read a little about Vincent Virga’s curriculum vitae, you will understand that Gaywyck is also like an essay on custom and design of that era (Vincent Virga’s today occupation is as designer of picture sections, meaning that he not only searches for the right picture to be included as pictorial reference for essays, but he also plans the best way to present it).

If all of above was not enough to convince me to read the book, my never-ending love for the first gay romance I have ever read, Maurice by E.M. Forster, would have given me the final match point; Vincent Virga and me share the same love for this novel, even if his story is better than mine (“Jimmy gave me this novel as a 7th anniversary gift, Memorial Day 1972. (I just showed the inscribed edition to him; he exclaimed: "How sweet! Now don't cry! Don't burst into tears!" Why do I write romantic novels?!) I love this book so much that its two central characters, Maurice Hall and the heavenly Alec Scudder are currently frequent guests at Gaywyck and are the greatest pals with Robert Gaylord in “Children of Paradise”. And why not? I love them! Forster thinks they "still roam the greenwood." He may have written one of favorite novels, “Howard's End”, but he can be very silly. They needed to "connect" with their brothers in this our life. So I've given them the community Forster never had while he was alive. "A happy ending was imperative," he writes in the novel's "Terminal Notes, even though Maurice says: "All the world's against us." Forster was right and helped inspire me to act accordingly with “Gaywyck”. (If I had a happy "ending" why couldn't they?) Meanwhile, my heart swells every time Alec says to Maurice: "And now we shan't be parted no more, and that's finished."”) 

Gaywyck is a gothic romance in all its glory, and so of course Robert is the fainting-heroine type so notorious in those novels, only that he is a boy; of course Donough is handsome and damned like many villain-heroes of those same novels. Gaywyck did want to be an "according to the gothic rule" novel, and it did manage wonderfully its target.

Amazon: Gaywyck
Amazon Kindle: Gaywyck, First part of the Gaywyck Trilogy
Paperback: 392 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (May 18, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439235554
ISBN-13: 978-1439235553

Reading List:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading list&view=elisa.rolle

Tags: author: vincent virga, genre: historical, length: novel, review, theme: breeches rippers, theme: cinderfella

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