I first “met” Anne Brooke when I was quite new online, through Myspace, I think – (correct me if I’m wrong, Anne) and then tried her novel “A Dangerous Man” back in 2007 when it was published by Flame Books. I’m more than thrilled to announce that it’s been republished by Cheyenne Publishing, with a new cover and I really urge you to go and treat yourself to a copy because it’s a great read. Not a romance in the strict terms of the word, but a wonderful psychological read. Hard to define.
Here’s the review I did of the book back in 2007, and I still think that it’s as good today.
It’s taken me a day or two to mull over this book, because I wanted to think about how it made me feel. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, because mainly I’ve read gay historical stories, other than short stories – and contemporary is kind of beyond my ken. I don’t know how the modern gay man in London feels or what the scene is. (Ok I don’t know that for 1800 either but then neither does anyone else so that’s ok).
I enjoyed it. Let me say that at the first. It’s well written by someone who obviously knows how to write, who knows how to use the language to describe place with what seems an effortless grace so you always have a sense of your surrounding, whether it be a seedy bar in Hackney, or a graceful house in Islington. You can smell the leather, feel the heavy crystal, feel the grit under your shoes.
Michael (don’t call me Mikey) is an artist, struggling to make ends meet, and is not averse to a little part time prostitution to help those ends meet. He lives with Joe and Paul, Joe owns a gallery but won’t hang his paintings – Paul knocks money off the rent for a little sexual action. Then one day Michael gets the chance of a commission in a City firm and falls head over heels in love with Jack, his potential new patron.
And this is where it all kicks off. The plot moves swiftly on from this point, never leaving the reader bored. It’s a first person novel, but although Michael does spend a lot of time in introspection its rarely repetitive, not over angsty, and gradually as the book moves on and Michael is “forced” from one postion to another, you slowly get the feel that all is not quite well with Michael and the title becomes clear. The choice of first person for this book is very clever, because you don’t really get into Michael’s head at all- and that’s because he doesn’t even allow himelf in there.
Characterisation: Each character is well done, and it’s interesting from my point of view that the one character that we don’t actually get a full picture of is Paul, but that’s probably because Michael has no interest in describing him more fully for us. I particularly liked Jack’s family because Jack’s mother reminded me very forcibly of my own, with her motherly concern. I also liked the landlord of the pub that Michael pulls tricks in.
I was a little annoyed a Michael’s inability to work – he’s a bit of a sponger – and immediately turns tricks when he needs £500 when it’s not explained why he couldn’t just get a job. Artistic temperament, I suppose. But he’s not meant –or that’s how I read it – to be an attractive character. He’s an opportunist and he knows what he wants and that’s how he gets to be where he is by the end – by reacting to external stimuli and not thinking first.
The artistic pieces were particularly well done, Anne Brooke thanks a friend for help with these and I would never have known that Anne wasn’t an artist herself, she seems to get right under Michael’s skin when he draws – if we can’t understand the feeling ourselves, she describes it so well that we feel what he’s feeling as he does it. I loved the section when Michael was explaining (to Jack’s father) how he draws, and it’s totally unintelligible to everyone except Michael. I could just see their blank faces, but to Michael it makes perfect sense.
This book could easily have gone the typical romance route, and that’s actually what I was expecting, it even lulled me into a false sense of security at one point. But it’s not, so don’t go looking for happy ever afters. The ending is raw and bleak and wonderful, and I can’t say any more really without spoiling it, but there’s a lot of room for reader conjecture as to what actually happens – or at least that’s how I read it. I ended up, as I’m sure I was supposed to, feeling desperately sorry for Michael, when he’d annoyed me so much throughout.
It was a very grown up story, and the sex scenes were handled with a fade out or “We made love and it was very good” perhaps not every scene, as Michael does do it a lot, but I’d have liked some of the (no pun intended) seminal scenes to be more graphically described, particularly as the sexual aspect of Michael’s nature is so important to the book. But that’s just me and my dirty mind.
But all in all a good book. If you are looking for a predictable tale of love, then this isn’t for you, but if you like a book that gets under your skin and makes you think long after you’ve closed the last page, like it has for me, then try A Dangerous Man. I’ll certainly be looking out for more of Ms Brooke’s work.© Copyright 2010 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes