Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Secret Societies by William Holden

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, October 2012
Pages: 264

How did young Thomas Newton end up a male-male prostitute in 18th Century London? It began when his aristocrat father walked in on a dalliance he was having with a male servant, after which they were both banned from that home, and Thomas was disowned. He found his way to London, where he was fortunate enough to find a surrogate parent in Mother Clap, half of a married couple who run a discrete tavern and male brothel. Unfortunately, their peaceful enterprise is soon targeted by a homophobic group, called The Society for the Reformation of Manners, which has appointed itself the ultimate authority in "crimes against nature." Those charged by these vigilantes are soon tried, convicted and executed, often by closeted officials who may have used their services. 

When Mother Clap is arrested and imprisoned, awaiting trial, Thomas knows he needs to risk his own life to get her freedom. Knowing things will never be the same again, he fights for the only person who has ever showed him unconditional love. 

I don't usually like "period" novels like this, but I found this one very engaging and well-written. While some of the characters may seem stereotypical, by today's standards, one needs to consider the context of the times depicted. My rating is four stars out of five.

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