Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical, Romantic Suspense, GLBT (M/M)
Length: Novel (print 224 pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK
A great house. A family dispossessed. A sensitive young man. A powerful landowner. An epic love that springs up between two men. Set in the post-Napoleonic years of the 1820’s, Standish is a tale of two men – one man discovering his sexuality and the other struggling to overcome his traumatic past. Ambrose Standish, a studious and fragile young man, has dreams of regaining the great house his grandfather lost in a card game. When Rafe Goshawk returns from the continent to claim the estate, their meeting sets them on a path of desire and betrayal which threatens to tear both of their worlds apart. Painting a picture of homosexuality in Georgian England, Standish is a love story of how the decisions of two men affect their journey through Europe and through life.
It was the early 1800’s in post-Napoleonic Europe and Ambrose Standish recognized from a very young age that the reversal of fortune his family had suffered because his great-great grandfather had gambled away his ancestral home meant that he would never inherit his beloved Standish. This fact coloured his life and changed more than his fortune, or lack thereof. Living in poverty and required to be the wage earner as head of the family, according to the mores of the time, Ambrose is forced to accept an offer of employment as tutor to the young son of the new owner of Standish, Rafe Goshawk, recently returned to England. Rafe had his own reasons for employing Ambrose which had little to do with his qualifications as a tutor. He had seen the innocent and beautiful Ambrose swimming naked in the river and was instantly attracted to him and wanted Ambrose for his very own.
Rafe had suffered through the most brutal teenage years when his father discovered that he was homosexual and proceeded to punish him horribly for years, with the assistance of the new tutor he had hired to take the place of the man Rafe loved at the time, his previous tutor Quinn, and the physical and mental scars could never be erased. Rafe’s cruel childhood foreshadowed the man he would eventually become – a man who used everyone ….. until he met Ambrose, but even he did not entirely escape Goshawk’s machinations as Ambrose found out to his peril. Eventually Goshawk was the unwitting cause of Ambrose’s shame, downfall and eventual imprisonment but he managed to prevail with the help of the new man in his life, an unlikely saviour, Padraig Fleury.
“Fleury” continued this author’s tradition of creating amazing secondary characters that tug at the heartstrings. He was so wonderfully drawn I felt that I knew him. No doubt he was a scoundrel but he was emotionally vulnerable, even more than Ambrose, because he had such a great capacity for love and loyalty. There were other equally three dimensional characters including Goshawk’s former manipulative lover Francis, and Simon Mauvaise, the cruel and vicious tutor. The other characters of note in this book who provided relief and had a lot of redeeming qualities were Christopher Dunstan, the rector who befriended Ambrose and his sister Constance who, despite their religious beliefs, were staunch in their regard.
Standish is a sweeping epic with extremely well defined protagonists in Rafe Goshawk and Ambrose Standish. The author created two flawed characters who initially were at odds with each other but ultimately fell in love which, of course, tempted the gods because they lived in a time when homosexuality was punishable by death. Initially this was not a public issue for them in terms of the law because of Rafe’s wealth and his ability to keep their affair secret, but Rafe’s old and new paramours conspired to separate our lovers by death if necessary, in order to wreak revenge for both real and imagined wrongs.
Ambrose Standish was an innocent young man in precarious health, cared for by his loving sisters and he knew nothing of the world, so when he ventured out it’s no wonder that trouble found him immediately. Rafe Goshawk was a hawk, no doubt about it, but he had some redeeming qualities and there were extenuating circumstances, going back to his treatment at the hands of his father and tutor and the lack of love in his life except for his young son and Ambrose who meant the world to him. The sex in this book was vivid and detailed which was quite unusual for a historical book (although certainly not for a contemporary romance), but is a trademark of this author whose sex scenes leave nothing to the imagination.
This book is more than just a story – it’s an experience. All of the characters were incredibly well defined in an era that stifled love, when anything could be obtained for a price in a historical period so vividly portrayed that as a reader I felt as if I lived it! Unfortunately I do not have the eloquence to do justice to Standish in this review, but if you’re a fan of history, which is exquisitely detailed with rich characters whose lives in the post Napoleonic period in Europe span the spectrum from extreme poverty to wealth, with danger, greed, incarceration, murder and gross self interest thrown in, and all of the seven deadly sins, then this book is a “must read”.
Did I enjoy this story? I can’t say I did because it is intense, dark, grim and horrific in parts, and the author makes no apologies for exposing the reader to the seamier side of the era. Most of the characters had no redeeming qualities but the writing was brilliant and Erastes did an outstanding job of drawing me into the story. This is definitely not a book for the faint hearted and I don’t know that I can classify it merely as a romance partly because it’s so complex a story, and also some of the horrific scenes are very detailed especially the rape, but I have to admire the author’s superb writing and her desire to produce a story which she thought was truly representative of the era.
Standish is not to be missed! I think it’s Erastes best work to date despite the fact that it is her debut novel.
This book is extremely violent and contains scenes of rape and may not be suitable for all readers