by John Simpson, historical (2008)
Dreamspinner Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-935192-36-7
John Simpson's Irish Winter is interesting in that it is set in Cork, Ireland, during the year 1919 when the IRA is fast escalating its violent separationist agenda. I don't come across stories in such a setting every day, hence I am intrigued enough to give this one a try.
Physician Ian Mulroney doesn't believe in violence but he agrees to enlist with the IRA, if only to use his abilities to help the wounded. His new affiliation puts him in closer contact with Devlin Walsh, a hot guy whose ideology seems to be opposite of Ian's. But as the violence escalates, it remains to be seen whether the developing romance between these two men will last. Being in love can be a big downer if the other person ends up dead, after all.
Let's start with the good things first, shall we? Let me say that it is a great pleasure to read a gay romance where the men talk and behave like human beings. Ian and Devlin don't run around sobbing like out-of-control little girls or giving painfully artificial long speeches about being in love. Ian could have been the stereotypical moony little girl with a strap-on device, given that he abhors violence and is a "sensitive" man in nature - two traits that usually get a hero to be pegged as the stereotypical crybaby nelly bottom in a typical mediocre gay romance. Likewise, Devlin could have easily become another straight-acting "Wait, was I gay? Well, with you I am now!" jock top. But Mr Simpson allows these two characters to be human beings in this story instead, which is good. It gives him story a human facet that makes the emotions felt by the characters more compelling.
My problem with this story lies with the author's narration, which often comprises long passages consisting of obvious information dumping. Mr Simpson also has a tendency to tell me what is going on inside his characters' heads instead of using the characters' conversations or actions to show me what they are thinking. As a result, the narration tends to get bogged down by its monotonous tell-all style.
Still, I can't say that I regret reading Irish Winter. It's a pretty good read that takes me to a time and place rarely featured in romances. To me, wading through the occasional plodding narrative is not that much of a chore, given how the characters and their story intrigue me enough to keep me reading.
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