Title: The Lord Won’t Mind
Author: Gordon Merrick
Genre: classic, M/M romance
Length: 255 pages (print)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
Charlie Mills and Peter Martin are both young, handsome and well-endowed. They meet and fall madly in love. The book follows Charlie’s path from a closeted gay man to a person who accepts himself. Charlie is terrified of rejection, especially that of his rigid, moralistic grandmother whom he loves but who expects him to marry and have children. Charlie at first attempts to live a double-life, expressing his homosexuality through acting and painting. But his life is incomplete without Peter.
Charlie eventually throws Peter out and marries a woman to protect his reputation. Charlie’s wife later suspects his homosexuality, and perpetrates a horrific act of violence on her husband. As Charlie works through the aftermath of the attack, he slowly comes to realize that honesty and self-acceptance are the only way out. Charlie finally confesses his love for Peter, and they move in together.
After reading The Golden Age of Gay Fiction to review at this site, I became curious about reading some of the “classics” that are discussed in that volume. I could’ve started off with something serious and thought provoking like Maurice or A Single Man but I decided to go the soap opera/romance route and bought a used copy of The Lord Won’t Mind. Woo-hoo, what fun!
The Lord Won’t Mind was groundbreaking at the time it was published in 1970. It was one of the first books with an overtly gay theme and characters that was written for a mass audience—it was on the New York Times bestseller list for sixteen weeks. Plus, it has a HEA ending—no dead gays! Sure, Charlie and Peter know things aren’t going to be easy, but at least they are in each other’s arms when the story ends. On top of that, it has lots of sex which is quite explicitly written. Not as much as what might be found nowadays in a five-flame book, but putting this in a 1970s context, readers must have been pretty shocked at clear discussions of lubricant and penetration. You don’t have to wait long for it, either—Charlie seduces Peter on the day they meet—by use of a tape measure of all things. LOL. “Let me measure your shoulders. Let me measure your waist. Let me measure your…sex.” (“Sex” is Merrick’s euphemism for penis and is used very liberally throughout the book.) The story literally opens with a bang. As the sex story progresses, Charlie and Peter get it on—a lot—and they aren’t just giving each other handjobs. I imagine it was a jaw-dropping experience for all the suburban housewives who were reading this book. I suspect more than a few gay guys learned some things, too.
The story is a soap opera, no doubt about it, and the writing is classic 1970s purple prose. Since I have read dozens of books like this (but not with a gay theme) I felt like I was stepping back into a time capsule. In fact, when this book came out, I was in high school and reading books on the sly that I wasn’t supposed to read (Valley of the Dolls comes to mind, as does Portnoy’s Complaint). I wonder what I would have thought if I stumbled across The Lord Won’t Mind. Would I have been shocked? Disgusted? Titillated beyond all belief? Knowing me, probably the latter, and I imagine I would have hung on every word. Reading it now, I will admit that I did breeze through parts when the writing got a little too overdone for my more modern taste. The story is fairly predictable which is another reason I found myself reading fast but even so, it is entertaining.
Would I recommend this book? Yes. Even though it is dated (and has a few terms and stereotypes that some readers might find offensive), it is still quite readable. Plus, it is an important milestone in gay literary history and for that reason, it is worth spending some time immersed in its pages.
NB: The book was originally published in 1970 and was long out of print. A reprinted version was published by Alyson in 1995. While the Alyson version is out of print, too, it is pretty easy to find used copies for sale. I bought mine from Amazon for less than $5. No ebooks, though. Only print. The cover illustration at the top left is from the original 1971 paperback. The cover in the middle on the left is from the 1970 hardcover published by Bernard Geis. The cover on the lower right is from the 1995 Alyson reprint (paperback).