February 10th, 2010

andrew potter

Downtime by Tamara Allen

Do you know what can happen when you buy a book only thank to the trust you have on the author? That a nice surprise can wait you. I didn’t read Downtime’s blurb, I read Tamara Allen, the author of Whistling in the Dark, the book who came first in the Rainbow Awards, and a book I really liked, and I bought the book. I didn’t know what Downtime was about, but thank to the nice cover I was expecting a late nineteen century historical novel. So I was quite surprise from finding me reading about Morgan Nash, an FBI agent in special mission in today London. Well after the first puzzlement, I stubbornly continued to read, without again bothering to check the blurb, truth be told, Morgan seemed a nice character and I was already wandering what could be his story. That Leonard London police detective was not a bad character, could be him Morgan’s love interest? And then Reese, Morgan’s American boyfriend, even him was not a bad chance… I was already immersed in the story, and building in my mind Morgan’s possible story development, when the unexpected happened… Time-Travel!

Oh yes, a real, good, old-fashioned Time-Travel romance. Can you believe it? Time-travel was one of my favourite genre when I was a teenager, but truth be told, I didn’t find many good book after that. It’s not easy to write a good book with an abused theme. Anyway, thanks to a spell found in an ancient book, Morgan is sucked back in time, in 1888. I think the author chooses a far enough time to give the reader the taste of an historical era, but not so far to put Morgan on a difficult situation. As he later thinks, if the time was 1388 with outdoor bathroom… well it wouldn’t have been the same.

So Morgan is obviously out of place, but not so much to not being able to integrate. The group of friends who summoned him, nice Derry, brooding Ezra, and flamboyant Henry, help Morgan not only to find a place where to stay (Derry’s home turned lodging house from his sister Kathleen) but they also try to help going back “home”. The problem is that the book, the only lead they have to do that, is vanished. Plus it seems that fate doesn’t want for Morgan to be back yet. Through Ezra’s psychic powers (he is a sensitive and can see and speak to ghosts), Morgan understands that he isn’t allowed to go back, but at the same time he is neither allowed to chance the future. Morgan is “arrived” in past London right at the time when Jack the Ripper is perpetrating his crimes, and Morgan would like to help. Plus there is another reason to enjoy his time in nineteen century, handsome Ezra who, even if engaged and soon-to-be-married, seems to be quite interested in Morgan, and not since he comes from the future. The love story between Morgan and Ezra is sweet and quite, not overtly passionate, but not for this reason less romantic.

I think the author did a good job in not overloading the Time-Travel theme; there are some antics of Morgan, like some slips he has when he talks about airplanes or electricity, but more or less, he fits quite well in the 1888, and most of his oddities are charged to him being an American fellow. I think that also in his own time, Morgan is an “old-fashioned” man, that type of cop who prefers to look and search more than to wave a gun.

There is also a good description of the life of homosexuals in Victorian time, basically they needed to not be noticed, to avoid the forced hospitalization in some asylums (obviously this was the solution if they were from a wealthy family); but if they managed to stay put, the solution of living in all male lodging house maintained by a lady with a good reputation was not a bad solution…

Amazon: Downtime

Amazon Kindle: Downtime

Reading List:

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Cover Art by Lorraine Brevig
andrew potter

Wishbone by Lauren P. Burka

Wishbone is at the same time classic and innovative. It’s classic where it retells the story of Pygmalion, or My Fair Lady, or Pretty Woman (see how many time it was told?): a wealthy and cultured man picks a filthy whore from the streets and teaches him how to behave. It’s innovative since, what the wealthy man teaches to the whore it’s a totally different thing from the usual lessons on good manners or polished language, but is instead the power you have in surrendering.

From the very first night, to Wishbone, the whore, Sir, a shih-aan, an alien creature that it’s not exactly human, not exactly beast, teaches the fine art of the pain/pleasure games. Without not much than few words, Wishbone experiences a fisting session and we can say that he is happy to be a whore. But it’s not much the physical pain (or pleasure) that makes Wishbone come back to Sir, and maybe not even the prospect of living in comfort, it’s more the curiosity: Sir gave him enough to momentarily sate him, but not enough to placate his thirst of life. Wishbone doesn’t know at the moment, but Sir is preparing him not to submit but to dominate. In many points we understand that Wishbone is stronger than Sir, first of all the fact that Sir gives out his real name almost immediately, and instead Wishbone lets it go much later in the story.

What at the beginning the reader, through Wishbone’s eyes and mind, can’t understand, is the philosophy of Sir and his people. For them being the one to receive pain during a sexual game it’s not a sign of weakness, but almost a privilege. When Sir “plays” with Wishbone it’s not to punish him, but instead it’s a sign that he is very pleased with Wishbone. Same with Terefar, Sir’s bed slave; he is from a lesser breed, a population that was defeated in battle. To Wishbone, Terefar is someone to commiserate, true, they more or less do the same work, but at least Wishbone is the only owner of himself. What Wishbone doesn’t understand is that Terefar is happy with his life, he has no desire at all for something different. Terefar is not to commiserate since he is “forced” to be a slave, he is to commiserate since he doesn’t know how to desire more; Terefar is comfortable with his life since he has no wish for something different. To prove to Wishbone how Terefar’s people is really defeated, Sir tells him that they are no more able to write poetry… poetry is the language of the heart more than the mind, and where there is no heart, there are no desires.

Terefar is not contender to Wishbone for Sir’s affection: first of all he has no desire to be, and second, and more important of all, Terefar has no feelings for Sir other than the ones he would have for everyone who was his master. And probably for this same reason, Sir is searching, needing for someone different. He is not displeased by Terefar, Terefar is doing perfectly his job, but he can’t be nothing more than a pet. Wishbone draws Sir since he can play the role of a pet, but for sure he is not.

To appreciate this tale you have to put back some of the boundaries that usually people who read romance have; there is no concept like fidelity or exclusivity, everything related to sex is more a question of amount of power than a simple stress relief. When Wishbone enters the story, he craves sex like and addicted craves a drug; at the end, he will be able to sip it like a expensive vintage wine. That is probably the main lesson that this fantasy “Galatea” learns during his particular tutorage.

http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=2476

Amazon Kindle: Wishbone

Reading List:

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