Monday, March 15, 2010

Out of the Blue by Josh Lanyon

TITLE: Out of the Blue
AUTHOR: Josh Lanyon
PUBLISHER: Liquid Silver Books
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 25k)
GENRE: Gay historical erotic romance
COST: $4.50

Captain Bat Bryant is an ace pilot in WWI France, knowing that every time he goes up, it just might be his last time. When his lover and fellow pilot is killed, the last thing he wants to deal with in his grief is blackmail. He lashes out, but the deadly consequences threaten his position as flight leader…until Cowboy, the brash American newcomer to the Squadron, offers to take care of the body. For a price…

This story had so many things going for it before I ever read a word, I’m not sure where even to start. Josh Lanyon. WWI fighter pilots. A fantastic April Martinez cover. I had high expectations going in, and thankfully, wasn’t disappointed.

The story opens with Bat, a British pilot stationed in France, getting blackmailed by a fellow pilot, a man who claims to have knowledge of Bat’s romantic relationship with a recently deceased member of his squadron. In a moment of impulse, Bat decks him, but when the blackmailer hits his head as he falls, a simple fight turns into murder. The entire scene is witnessed by Cowboy, an American in the squadron, who volunteers to take care of the body so Bat won’t get in trouble for what was obviously an accident. Bat gives in, and opens the door for Cowboy to later collect on the favor in other ways.

Bat’s fascinating. His relationship with Gene was romantic, and slightly sexual, but their physicality was limited, so he’s unprepared for just how much Cowboy really wants. His grief is kept in tight rein, but as it starts to break through his brittle control, his behavior grows increasingly erratic. He recognizes it, but doesn’t really care about doing anything about it. In fact, it’s Cowboy who provides the strength and support Bat needs to get past it, taking control while Bat learns how to survive without the man he loved. Cowboy’s behavior is more than a little pushy, and I can see how some people might be incredibly turned off by it. Taken at face value, he pretty much blackmails Bat, too, using the fact that they’re tied together now to get sex. He doesn’t give Bat much of a chance to say no.

However, I never saw malice in anything Cowboy did. His attitude and demeanor toward Bat before anything sexual happened felt like genuine interest and affection. He recognized Bat’s weakness in the face of his lover’s death, and did everything he could to keep the man who interested him from falling apart. Though he’s firm with Bat, he cares what Bat thinks. He tells him so, and he shows him on a daily basis in a myriad of ways. Bat’s emotional turmoil was more obvious, but Cowboy was the one who really got to me. He risked as much, if not more, with his actions. I wanted desperately for it all to work out.

The story’s greatest strength lies in the verisimilitude of its setting, though. Lanyon has done his research. Every word feels authentic, and the action is tight and densely packed. In fact, the prose itself feels far denser than standard Lanyon fare. It rolls and weaves in complicated measures, forcing a careful reader to slow down and truly savor each word. Reading it was a joy. I liked that the fight scenes were as essential to the romance as the sex scenes. As much, if not more, attention was paid to the military aspects as it was to the men, but that’s vital to understanding and appreciating the arc of their relationship.

This was one of the richest Lanyon stories I’ve read in a long while – thought-provoking, with complicated men at its heart. Or rather, as its heart.


8/10 – Some minor editorial issues pulled me out a couple times, but otherwise, dense and active

Hero #1

7/10 – His brittle control is often heartbreaking

Hero #2

8/10 – The buttress Bat needs

Entertainment value

8/10 – Action, both internal and external, makes it taut and emotion-filled

World building

10/10 – Fine detail, precise action, truly excellent



1 comment:

Joely Skye said...

I really loved this one, I have to say.