Review by Mark R. Probst
Speak Its Name is a wonderful collection of three historical gay romances set in England that are very different from one another and yet complement each other quite well. The first, Aftermath by Charlie Cochrane is set in Cramner College in 1920 and features the alternating viewpoint of two students – the popular and higher class Hugo Lamont and the socially awkward Edward Easterby. An unfortunate incident involving shoes being spoiled brings them together and while they both are enamored with one another, neither has the courage to act upon his feelings. Hugo had a past encounter with a gigolo that caused him such guilt and shame that he fears to pursue a romantic liaison with Edward would end in the same result. Edward on the other hand is an innocent and sees only purity in the love he feels.
The story is a simple one with very little in the way of plot, but rather a character study of the complications of a burgeoning romance in a repressed time. Of the three stories it is the most chaste in its depiction of sex.
The second story, Gentleman’s Gentleman by Lee Rowan is a delightful escapade of an English Lord and his Valet. There is a prologue set in a military conflict in Afghanistan with Major Robert Scoville and Sergeant Jack Darling during which Scoville proposes employment for Darling if they should make it out of this war alive. Darling accepts the offer and then proceeds to save the Major’s life when he is almost killed. The story then jumps ahead 11 years as Lord Scoville and Jack Darling, now his valet, have been living comfortably on his estate. Scoville’s dalliances with temporary male lovers is accepted by Jack who carries on a few clandestine affairs of his own but manages to fool his employer into thinking that he’s a ladies man. Both men are attracted to one another but Scoville wouldn’t dream of imposing his desires upon a subordinate and Jack is convinced his affections toward Scoville are not mutual. During a secret mission for the government in which Scoville is to retrieve secret papers involving plans of the Germans, things get a little complicated and in the chaos the two men finally reveal their true feelings for one another, but find that they have to complete the mission before they can sort out what to do about their future. There is also a very short epilog that shows what became of them 27 years later.
The nice thing about Rowan’s story is that it really is an exciting adventure and the romantic feelings between the two leads were always just below the surface creating dramatic tension, because the reader feels that the truth could erupt at any moment.
The third story, Hard and Fast by Erastes is the crown jewel of the three. The somewhat feckless Geoffrey Chaloner, having returned from serving in the Napoleonic War, is a pawn in his father’s plans to match him with a Miss Pelham, who has no money but does carry a title which would be of benefit to the Chaloner family. Miss Pelham’s cousin, Adam Heyward, is in charge of her welfare, and is the one from whom Geoffrey must gain acceptance in order to court Miss Pelham. Adam is an enigma. He’s scathing and yet he also manipulates Geoffrey into doing what he wants. It would be impossible for me to adequately describe the plot as it is somewhat complicated. Suffice it to say, Geoffrey and Adam have a torrid encounter and Geoffrey has to make some radical decisions about the direction he chooses for the future.
Written in the first-person, the story has a style that is sumptuous and precise. The formality and structure of the language are spot-on in reflecting the rigid, polite society of the upper-class in the early nineteenth Century. The dry humor and the subtle digs that Geoffrey makes toward his father and society in general are deliciously rich. This is first-class writing and I predict that in the very near future, the name Erastes will be much wider known in the literary industry.