The Lord Won’t Mind

Title: The Lord Won’t Mind
Author: Gordon Merrick
Publisher: Open Road Media
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: classic, M/M romance
Length: 255 pages (print)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A guest review by Leslie


BLURB

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.

REVIEW

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).

12 comments

  • I did indeed stumble across The Lord Won’t Mind in the mid 70’s. At that time I was into The Valley of the Dolls, Sweet Savage Love and other hot and illicit romances. I also remember reading Fanny Hill at that time. The book did shock me a bit, I knew about homosexuality only in the vaguest terms so it was an eye opener to realize ‘wow THAT’S what they do! But I do remember being titillated, so when I moved to L.A. at the end of the 70s I wasn’t overly shocked when I started meeting gay men. Then I came across even more explicit material and started writing it myself in the early 80s. Who knows what would have happened if I’d tried to get published back then. But that book can be said to have been the genesis of my writing career today. Talk about Deja vu.

    Reply
  • Wave,
    You can see that Mark has a 5 star review of this book at Amazon. Teddypig didn’t like it. Lee Rowan also commented at SiN and for her, it was also a “once is enough” read. I fall in between, leaning a little more towards it’s worth reading (I did give it 4 stars, after all). But as I said above, it is dated and does contain some elements which some readers would find offensive. Depending on who you are and how you put things in context would probably determine if you would enjoy it or not.
    *
    There is quite a bit of discussion of Merrick’s work in The Golden Age of Gay Fiction — he even merited a whole chapter, “Gordon Merrick and the Writing of Romance” by Joseph M. Ortiz. I would suggest reading that and then deciding if you want to give the “primary source document” (ie, the book) a go.
    *
    As an aside, my print copy of The Golden Age of Gay Fiction should be arriving any day now. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands!
    *
    L

    Reply
  • Leslie
    I was interested to read Teddy Pig’s perspective on SIN on East Coast vs West Coast literature in the day, and how he felt about the book.

    “This was one of those “privileged” gay fantasy books that still sets my teeth on edge because there are so many stereotypes at work here it’s hard to pick one. They are so wealthy and so white and so entitled they don’t have the problems of the little gay people causing all those public scandals.”

    Reading your review, the book certainly sounds interesting, but reading between the lines of TP’s comment I’m wondering if I would find it enjoyable.

    Reply
  • Leslie, the cover at the top is from the Avon Trade paperback from 1971. I have the original 1970 Bernard Geis Associates Hardcover which is here: http://pics.librarything.com/picsizes/92/47/9247f4be000d8515977485152674141414c3441.jpg
    There have been many different covers as Avon (HarperCollins imprint) put out both trade and mass-market paperbacks. It was also published by the Quality Book Club in 2000.

    Personally I love the story, though the first sequel “One for the Gods” is not nearly as good. I haven’t yet read the third book in the series “Forth into Light”

    Mark

    Reply
    • Thank you, Mark. You are absolutely correct. I got my info on the covers from The Golden Age of Gay Fiction and when I just went back and looked at the pictures, I realized I read the captions incorrectly and then mis-specified them here. I have corrected the post and added the picture of the hardcover book. Thanks for pointing this out!
      *
      L

      Reply
    • Actually, in The Golden Age of Gay Fiction, in the essay by Rob McDonald, he spills the beans. So if you don’t want the story spoiled, don’t read that. But if you don’t feel like reading the book, you can find out what happens from Rob.
      *
      L

      Reply
  • Interesting, indeed. And woo-hoo! the Berkeley Public Library has it! Thanks Leslie! *runs off to the library to snatch it up*

    Reply
  • Karla, I *wish* I had read this book back in 1970. I was reading adult stuff by then (I was 15 at the time) much to my mother’s dismay. But I was one of those voracious readers who buzzed through any book that came into the house (my father belonged to a bunch of book clubs) and I also made regular trips to the library. How I missed this, I don’t know. Oh well, it was fun to read even 39 years later.
    *
    L

    Reply
  • OMG

    I read this book in 1970 when I was a teenager and worked at Waldenbooks. It was the first sexually explicit book that I ever read, nevermind the gay sex. It made a big impression on me, and probably is the beginning of my interest in m/m books.

    Karla

    Reply
  • Thank you for the review! I’ve not read this but it’s often mentioned and commented as a great book for its time and I can imagine the prose and characters from your descriptions. This review definitely makes me want to pick up the book and indulge in some classics.

    Reply

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