PD Publishing, $16.99, ISBN 1-933720-09-3
Historical Romance, 2006
Erastes’s Standish is a homosexual historical romance. I haven’t read too many historical romances with a gay theme – for some reason I seem to come across more lesbian historical romances than gay ones – so I’m pretty interested in getting into this particular story. Unfortunately, I can only conclude after I’m done with this book that no matter whether the characters are gay or straight, such cartoon characters are still unappealing at the end of day.
Standish in the title refers to this manor that both Rafe Goshawk and Ambrose Standish covet greatly. The thing is, the house was handed on by the Standishes to the Goshawks when Ambrose’s father lost Standish in a card game with Rafe’s father. Ambrose wants Standish, but Rafe is now the legal owner of Standish. And now, the widower Rafe is returning with his son to claim Standish. The rather sickly and wispy Ambrose is worried that the Standishes will be tossed out of the house onto the streets. What will happen next?
This one is written in a very melodramatic manner (“I think the touch of your pale hands would bring me back to reality, instead as it is, locked in a vortex of sin and madness”) that it’s like watching a play where every member of the cast is on the verge of a tearful breakdown. I mean, who speaks in such a manner?
“I was coming to you tonight. To give myself to you, finally, completely, to meld us together into one indivisible soul, and I find that your words are ashes in your mouth, your promises worthless, and your soul corrupt and weak.”
Then again, I’m impressed that Ambrose manages to say all these big words in one go without pausing to catch his breath. I still think the author should have replaced the full stop after the “weak” with “!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. In fact, many dialogs in this story should end with “!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, the more exclamation marks the better, because that’s only appropriate given the way both Rafe and Ambrose make such melodramatic speeches to each other while the villains hiss, snarl, shriek, and claw at the magic private parts of Rafe that everybody wants to do skanky things with.
Everything is depicted in extremes: the characters either hate or love someone intensely and everyone is either very pure and noble or cartoonishly vile and evil. There is no much-needed shades of grey among the extreme and cartoonishly strong emotions running wild in this story.
With everyone in this story rushing to make the most far-fetched conclusions possible, it is to expected, I suppose, that there are many big misunderstanding issues here that tear Ambrose and Rafe apart like they are cheap tissue paper. Once the misunderstandings are cleared, the characters won’t make up because that would be too easy, instead they will then come up all kinds of excuses to play the martyr and write dramatic letters to the other person, wailing about curses that prevent them from shagging and how they will cherish the memories of “perfect bodies” for the rest of their bleak miserable lives. It’s not only the melodramatic tone of the story that I object to, let me make this clear. The characters’ ridiculous and always unnecessary dramatic theatrical flounces and weepings and shoutings and angry letter-writings also give me a headache. If these characters are less self-absorbed and, oh, think for once, much of the Wagnerian melodrama going on in this story would not have occurred.
The only thing that saves Standish from being an overwrought melodrama too painful to read is the unintentional comedy that arises from the purple prose in this story. Otherwise, it is excruciating to follow Ambrose’s increasingly unfunny antics to martyr himself so that he can write letters to Rafe telling him not to worry even if Ambrose is living in some unpleasant conditions (which Ambrose the passive-aggressive snit will of course describe in detail to Rafe) because Ambrose is happy, peace to the world and amen and all that. Rafe’s antics could have been charmingly sociopathic if he doesn’t turn out to be a colossal idiot as well, sigh.
The author should really think about exercising some self-editing in his next book and remove all those purple prose. I’m not saying that these characters should speak like modern-day emo rock band frontmen, I’m only suggesting that the author should realize that the line between historical authenticity and cringe-inducing tackiness has been crossed when phrases like “one indivisible soul” start showing up in the story and every other dialog requires the use of more than four commas. There is too much of the wrong things in Standish: too much overwrought melodrama, too much of the main characters acting like unreasonable drama queens, and too much purple prose.