Monday, August 4, 2008

Trilogy No. 111: Speak Its Name by Charlie Cochrane, Lee Rowan, & Erastes

TITLE: Trilogy No. 111: Speak Its Name
AUTHOR: Charlie Cochrane, Lee Rowan, and Erastes
PUBLISHER: Linden Bay Romance
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 72k)
GENRE: Gay historical romance
COST: $6.99

A trio of gay historical romances, each offering love amongst Englishmen.

The anthology starts out with “Aftermath” by Charlie Cochrane. The story of two young men attending Cranmer College in England in 1920, it describes how two men of supposedly opposite demeanors and upbringings can come together and find love, in spite of the societal and cultural pressures. Edward Easterby is a chemistry student, awkward and antisocial, while Hugo Lamont is revered by all on campus as the man to be. Discovering they share a secret is both the best and worst thing to happen to them. As sweet as the potential of this romance is, however, it’s characterized by a device that very rarely works for me. Sections of the story are told in third person omniscient POV, which, while it’s reminiscent of other classic historical works, is always something I’ve struggled enjoying. For me, the intrusive narrator that both describes backstory as well as makes blatant connections for the reader distances me from getting involved. I’ve always found the need to draw lines within the text mildly patronizing, like I can’t do it myself. In this story’s case, since it happens as early as the third page, I’m shoved out of experiencing the story almost right away. I never find that footing with it. Dialogue that makes me cringe, even for the setting (I've fallen in love with you, Edward; I knew it from the moment you laid your precious head on my manly chest, that day by this same river.), doesn’t help that.

I moved on to the second story, Lee Rowan’s “Gentleman’s Gentleman,” with mild trepidation, then. If all three stories employed this device, I very likely would have set the entire thing aside. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Rowan tells the tale of Lord Robert Scoville and his valet, Jack Darling, as they undergo a diplomatic assignment for the Crown. Darling served under Scoville in the armed forces, and took the post of valet afterward because he’s in love with the man. For his part, Scoville is very aware of his own proclivities, and though he’s always held a desire for Darling, he hasn't, and never would, acted upon it. Because they’re of different stations, the last thing he would ever want is to force a man to accept his advances, so they live comfortably in this stasis for over a decade. There’s an elegant charm to this entire tale, as the plot thread about their assignment wends along, that sucked me in. I delighted in both characters, chuckled along at their camaraderie, and was more than pleased with how they eventually found the truth of their feelings.

The final story is “Hard and Fast” by Erastes. Major Geoffrey Chaloner, the third son in a family of means but not title, has returned from the Napoleonic Wars to find his father determined to marry him off. The most recent candidate is Lady Pelham, but first, Chaloner must get through her cousin, Adam Heyward. Heyward is a very mystery of vexation, driving Chaloner to distraction more than once, and when their odd relationship explodes in an entirely unexpected direction, Chaloner is left adrift at what to do. Where the first story left me cold, this final offering thoroughly and utterly enchanted me. Told in 1st person from Chaloner’s perspective, I found myself tumbling along with his confusion, charmed by his responses, and just as eager to find a resolution to all the madness of his feelings as he was. Adam is suitably enigmatic, and provides an interesting foil for Chaloner. Ultimately, it was the romance I got swept up by the most. This story is different in tone and focus than Rowan’s, reflective of the various environments they chose for their heroes. Where Rowan’s story focused on the escapade as a means of breaking down the walls between them, this one utilized more internal monologue in order to accomplish the same feat. Both succeed, just in different ways.


7/10 – My difficulties with the first story are the only thing holding this back.


8/10 – I invested in varying degrees with the romances, though all have something to offer.


8/10 – The best overall aspect of the anthology.

Entertainment value

7/10 – It’s hard for a multi-author anthology to be perfect, and my difficulty with the first story illustrates that.

World building

8/10 – A reverse here, I actually had the best sense of place and time with the first story.



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