…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!
John Williams, the Viscount of Marsdale, libertine, duelist, dilettante, haphazard philanthropist and philosopher, is asked by his estranged father to start a plantation in Jamaica in 1667. He doesn’t realize that he is going to the right island for the wrong reasons until he meets buccaneers and learns he has far more in common with the wild Brethren of the Coast than he does with the nobility of Christendom. Still, he questions joining them and leaving his title and the plantation behind, until he meets Gaston the Ghoul, a mysterious French buccaneer who is purportedly mad. He quickly decides that the freedom of the buccaneer life and even the mere chance of love that a man such as Gaston might offer are better than anything he could ever inherit. But even though Gaston seems intrigued by him, can the crazy Frenchman ever love him?
I could probably sell this book to you with two words: Gay and Pirates. Ha! I know you all just imagined a whole lot of Captain Jack slash because that was my first thought too :)
But this is better! So, so much better than better, this is outstanding!
Brethren is everything you could ever want from a seafaring historical novel with admittedly not quite pirates, but buccaneers because duh, pirates came a bit later in history than 1666 ya know. But let’s not split hairs shall we…
Let’s explore the New World of the West Indies and the infamous pirate havens of Tortuga, Port Royal and Chocolota Hole – towns swarming with ‘purported deserters, dissidents, escaped bondsmen and white slaves, former convicts and all other manner of rabble’ all of whom are armed and wild and most of whom, are sodomites. Whoop! *fist pump*
Now let me tell you about the man you will journey with: Lord John Williams (aka: Will), Viscount of Marsdale, heir to the Earl of Dorshire, he is your narrator and your very awesome companion. Will is an ex assassin, a rogue, a philanthropist, a holder of romantic notions and idealistic folly, an occasional philosopher and a champion of humanity who – with much satisfaction – disregards social boundaries to embrace his fellow man regardless of social rank or standing. And so, it is through him, no – with him – that you will embark on this most epic of voyages.
Together you’ll raid Spanish galleons with cutlass & muskets and share the spoils with the wild men, your Brethren. You’ll lie on the deck and look up at the stars and scratch at the fleas crawling in your hair while listening to the sounds of sodomy. You’ll share the poop deck and contribute to the feeding of the sharks. You’ll suffer sickness and rail against the treatment of your fellow man. You will plot, you will fight, you’ll get drunk and you’ll philosophise; defining the characters you meet as wolves or sheep, leaders or followers, and those in between. You will grow and learn and fall down and be the anchor for the madman you will fall in love with. Hell! You might even fall in love a few times. I did :)
If this is not enough, know that there is more here because, for me, every single element of this story is remarkable. The setting and mood of the era is simply faultless as the author incorporates (with only slight fabrication) history and hearsay of the time to create a world that is exciting, harrowing and bursting with vitality. It’s not all action and adventure though; there are many moments of quiet reflection, journey time and not inconsequential detail about the small things. The author is in no rush to tell this story and I wasn’t in a rush to finish it.
But the stand out element for me is the romance. It’s different, it’s shadowed by haunting pasts on both sides, it’s chaste, it’s consuming and it is a constant two steps forward and three steps back, its angst and it’s crazy but it makes sense, they match. It feels right and perfect, despite the challenges and the scars. For once this is a relationship that sates the corners of my dark heart while simultaneously feeding my soul. Gaston’s madness pushes the limits of my acceptance and yet I am helplessly in love with him, just like Will.
Okay, it’s not perfect and I’ll tell you straight off that this took me a while to get into, but oh boy, once I hit the 10% mark I was flying… So be patient. This is a long book and only the first in a series and sometimes it feels like you need for it to move faster but the pace, for me, is all part of the journey. I’m not taking points away for that. In fact I’ll take nothing away. I LOVE these wild men who are now my Brethren, especially Pete and Striker. I loved the humour, the language (especially Pete’s) and the feeling of belonging … It’s like I have a relationship with these characters, I feel for them, would kill for them. I kept thinking about them, worrying about them and couldn’t wait to get back to them. So guys and girls, I can’t give you a better recommendation for a historical novel, and I’m sorry I’m going to echo the sentiments of another reader after discovering this series …
WE HAVE A GAY PIRATE SERIES PEOPLE!!!! GAY PIRAAAATES!
Favourite Quotes, without spoilers:
He was beautiful and brought to mind a fine rapier or even my grandfather’s wheellock musket: a finely crafted thing of grace and tempered strength inlaid with jewels and designed for killing
“I wish my heart could come,” I blurted. He frowned with consternation and so I explained about how I was uncomfortably swollen with emotion. “I know that feeling,” he said soberly. “I feel it.” “Then what do you do?” “Kill something,”
In my eye, men appear at their most powerful when they strain to reach that momentary perfection. Every muscle and sinew is taut, and for them there is nothing else except their bodies and the sensations. Fighting in concert, side by side, it is as if they storm the gates of Heaven demanding entry.”
This was the stuff of poetry, play, and myth. It was equally transcendent and harrowing. There was no condition that could be placed upon it. It was enduring and conquering. And I had never felt its like before.