Friday, January 23, 2009

Frost Fair by Erastes

TITLE: Frost Fair
AUTHOR: Erastes
PUBLISHER: Linden Bay Romance
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 36k)
GENRE: Gay historical romance
COST: $5.99

When the printing community turned its back on his dying father, Gideon Frost decided never to have to rely upon another again. He does what he must to try and make the printing business he inherited survive, and if that means he must occasionally sell himself in order to pay a bill, so be it. But he does so on his terms. The only man who even tempts him to bend those personal rules is his client, the richer, older, attractive Joshua Redfern. When the Thames freezes over, circumstances bring them even closer together. Gideon has to decide whether the opportunity Redfern offers is charity, or something more…

The heart of this long novella is Gideon Frost, a young man beset by troubles yet determined to prevail without having to accept charity. There is a dignity to his strength, a pride and gentility that creates an aura superior to those of the supposedly upper class. He conducts himself professionally, providing strict boundaries for himself even when he is forced to seek out other means to pay creditors. There is never any doubt he will do what he must, and do so with his respect intact, which makes him a pillar amidst the chaos rampaging around him.

Therein lies my difficulty. In his attempts to protect himself, Gideon has thrown up walls that hold other characters at bay, including Redfern, a man he’s mad for. Those walls do a lot to shield the reader as well. While I certainly felt for Gideon in regards to his personal situation – both financially and professionally – I found it much more difficult to engage with his feelings regarding Redfern, much because as a general protective measure for himself, he tries not to dwell on them too much. He opens up very, very gradually after his circumstances change halfway through the story, but it’s just not quite enough to fully invest me in the romance aspect of the story.

The romance isn’t aided by Redfern’s characterization, either. His initial attraction to Gideon is well done and utterly believable, and I had high hopes once the river started to thaw. That promise isn’t quite followed through, as Redfern proves to suffer from the same sort of rigidity Gideon does. It’s apropos for the period, don’t get me wrong. But Redfern’s swiftness to take things on faith without proof is much harder to empathize with than Gideon’s drive to be self-sufficient. His quick reversal is even more so, and I was left with the feeling that I had missed something somewhere along the line. It just felt a little easy, when throughout the first half, a strong part of the story’s charm was that it wasn’t easy, that sometimes life meant hard choices.

In spite of my distance from the romance, this is solid storytelling. Period detail is vivid and puts the reader completely in the moment. At first glance, the parallelism of the frigid weather with Gideon’s walls isn’t exactly subtle, but it works anyway, primarily because of the author’s clear sympathy for her lead and her love of the environment. It contributes to the melancholy air pervasive of the entire story that serves both Gideon and his professional dilemmas very well. Above all else, this is an engrossing character study, with solid writing and detail that should please any fan of the genre.


9/10 – Mostly uncomplicated and quite readable, a much swifter read than I expected.


7/10 – Multi-layered, but the distance he holds other characters at works against him with the reader


6/10 – A nice enough man, though many of his various transitions of mindset seemed overly simplistic

Entertainment value

7/10 – Though I liked Gideon, I didn’t really trust the romance aspect of the story.

World building

9/10 – Vivid, very much puts the reader in the moment



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