M/M challenge, books #4 and #5
So, I abandoned the plan, on the grounds that this was supposed to be fun, and did it really matter if I read the books on the list in the list order? I don’t think so.
Instead I read “Lessons in Discovery” by Charlie Cochrane and “Gaveston” by Chris Hunt.
4. Lessons in Discovery by Charlie Cochrane
This is the third of the Cambridge Fellows series, wherein the anti-social, bookish mathematics fellow Orlando Coppersmith is brought out of his shell and shown the joys of life by the golden and delightful lecturer in English literature, Jonty Stewart.
I’ve loved all of the books so far, as the relationship between these two characters is so lovely. Orlando is adorably shy and repressed and Jonty would be the perfect man if it wasn’t for his certainty that he knows what’s best for his friend. Usually he does, it has to be admitted 🙂 The relationship is lighthearted and sweet and tender without being overwhelmingly sexy. Instead of sex we get treated to many of the other sensual delights of life; tea and sticky buns eaten in front of the fire in ones own rooms, beer in the local pub, sea-bathing in the beautiful surroundings of Jersey, and in this episode a wonderful, warm-hearted family Christmas at Jonty’s stately home.
Having said that, this third episode has a hardness that balances out the sweetness a little – I like it better for that. Orlando slips on the stairs in the first chapter and loses his memory, leaving the whole year of their relationship as if it had never happened at all. So Jonty has to win him back. Mean time, in a very relevant plot line indeed, the flu is ravaging England and Jonty falls ill with it to the point where his life is at risk.
And of course there is a murder mystery. I was very happy that this time the mystery was the kind of historical puzzle one might expect to find lurking in a college – a murder unsolved since the time of the college’s foundation. Which our heroes must solve before (horrors!) all the documents have to go to the despised college next door, for one of their men to pick through.
I thought the mystery was stronger in this one than in the others, the clues controlled with a sure hand. And I think the combination of extra darkness and angst, and the more complex mystery makes this one the best yet. A real feel-good read, thoroughly recommended.
5. Gaveston by Chris Hunt
Published by the Gay Men’s Press, whose site has this to say about it:
“First of all, let it be set down that Piers Gaveston was the most beautiful creation on God’s earth, and if it had not been so, his joys and his pains would have been in proportion the less.” King Edward II and his young lower were knights in shining armour, but caught in a web of courtly jealousy and prejudice that destroyed them both.
This is an absolutely outstanding gay historical novel. The writing is glorious, and the setting shines out with light and vivid colours and wonderful detail. I know very little about the era, but the research appears to be impeccable, and is blended into the story so beautifully and seamlessly that you absorb it without being aware of it, and come away educated as well as entertained. This is seriously a spectacularly good piece of fiction which I would encourage everyone to read.
Having said that, though, I found it hard to be emotionally affected by the story. This is the story of Edward II’s love affair with Piers Gaveston, which began when Piers was introduced into the prince’s household as a landless page of noble birth, and ends when Piers has been murdered by Edward’s barons, and after Edward has taken revenge on them. I wish I could have rooted for Edward and Piers against the evil machinations of Edward’s homophobic counsellors. But unfortunately – maybe because of the wonderful historical accuracy – I ended up agreeing with them.
Scarcely any of the counsellors want Gaveston gone simply because he and Edward are in a gay relationship. In fact, they want him gone because when he’s around, Edward pays no attention to anything else. And indeed, the book shows Edward paying no attention to the affairs of state because he can’t spare a moment’s thought for anything other than Gaveston. The book shows Edward as a spoilt, profligate, hedonistic wastrel of a prince, and an ineffectual hedonistic wastrel of a king. When Edward and Gaveston are forced apart, Gaveston becomes a highly effective warlord, and Edward becomes a canny politician. But put them back together again and all they can think of is necking and coordinating their outfits.
This kind of made me think that the barons were right. And the fact that Edward was such a bastard to his wife (and such an idiot in risking war with France as a result of it) and so totally useless while Gaveston was around, did put me emotionally on the wrong side. Edward was never more impressive than when Piers was dead, and much though I wished I could be all on the side of young love, I find I’m actually on the side of good government.
To sum up, this was a fantastic book, but it did for me what Romeo and Juliet did – I wanted to bash their heads together and tell them “for God’s sake grow up.”