This is #2 in the Trowchester Blues collection
Author: Alex Beecroft
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars
Billy Wright has a problem: he’s only visible when he’s wearing a mask. That’s fine when he’s performing at country fairs with the rest of his morris dancing troupe. But when he takes the paint off, his life is lonely and empty, and he struggles with crippling depression.
Martin Deng stands out from the crowd. After all, there aren’t that many black Vikings on the living history circuit. But as the founder of a fledgling historical re-enactment society, he’s lonely and harried. His boss doesn’t like his weekend activities, his warriors seem to expect him to run everything single-handedly, and it’s stressful enough being one minority without telling the hard men of his group he’s also gay.
When Billy’s and Martin’s societies are double-booked at a packed county show, they know at once they are kindred spirits, united by a deep feeling of connectedness to their history and culture. But they’re also both hiding in their different ways, and they need each other to be brave enough to take their masks off and still be seen.
This book was at once wonderfully entertaining and incredibly informative, at least for me. I’m nuts for reenactment events, and both main characters are involved in that: Martin’s group focuses on ninth century Vikings while Billy does morris dancing, some kind of ritualized English folk dance that started in the fifteenth century.
Martin was a really interesting character. He was so proud of his ancestry and the history of black people in Britain but at the same time very aware of the fact that, as a black gay man, he belonged to not only one, but two minorities at once. Since the color of his skin is too obvious to hide, he is firmly in the closet – first, because he’s a teacher after all, and also because he doesn’t think being gay has a place in the macho world of his Viking warrior society. It was touch and go for a while if he’d ever find the courage and/ or the right incentive to stand by himself and his lover.
Which would be Billy, who is struggling with serious depression. His condition is portrayed very well, in my opinion, down to the fact that he feels unworthy to the point of invisibility unless he can hide behind his dancing mask, which allows him to connect to his own inner strength. I loved his character, plain and simple, his resilience despite the almost crippling disease and his seemingly never-ending ability to forgive. I wanted to smack Martin upside the head several times for how thoughtless he treated Billy at times. But they were also a wonderful fit as a couple.
There was no magical cure, no healing power of sex. And yet, the love both men feel for each other as well as for their mutual hobby, offered realistic hope for a positive outcome.
I learned a lot about historical reenactment from this book, about the motivation of the people behind it and why it might seem so important to get it exactly right even if the details border on ridiculous at times. Much of this was described in this author’s compelling prose, which I happen to like a lot but others might find tedious, especially those not interested in history or reenactment.
There wasn’t much sex in this book, which I thought fit both main characters’ personas well. Their relationship was definitely not platonic, but not focused on mattress sports either.
This was a rather quiet read, sweet rather than raunchy and thoughtful rather than action-packed, beautifully written and featuring a lovely romance. Highly recommended.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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