Per Ardua

Title: Per Ardua
Author: Jessie Blackwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M historical romance
Length: 224 pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review
Nicely written historical set in the 1940’s where love blossoms between irascible RAF pilot, Jack, and his calm welsh butler, Ifan.

THE BLURB

Addicted to the soaring skies, brash high-flier Arthur Edward “Jack” Ratigan returns to Britain to fly bombers when his birth country goes to war against Germany in World War II. It also means a return to his ancestral home of Pren Redyn House in Wales—and risking his career and freedom if it comes to light that he is homosexual.

The drama and peril of combat will create profound changes in Jack both during and after the war, as will the influence of Ifan Griffith, the young butler at Pren Redyn and the one person who seems immune to the Ratigan charm. The sky has always been Jack’s true love, but when he faces a future of never flying again, he’ll discover he’s already found a surprising new home for his heart—with Ifan.

THE REVIEW

Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way, shall we. Per Ardua is obviously a piece of adapted Torchwood fan-fiction. I’ve only ever seen a couple of episodes of Torchwood, but even I could see the character of Captain Jack in Arthur ‘Jack’ Ratigan, and Ianto in the character of Ifan. Torchwood fans will probably find this book quite delightful as a result, and those who’ve never watched Torchwood can take the book at face value and still find it very much worth reading.

Set in Wales during the 1940’s this book spans a period from just before the end of the Second World War to a few months after peace is declared, although there are a few points where the story shifts back to during the middle of the war. Jack is the son of a Welshman who moved to the USA when Jack was a small child. When Jack’s uncle dies he inherits a large Welsh house and land, and although Jack allows his cousin, Bronwen, to live in the house, he feels a large affection for the house and Wales. When war breaks out in Europe, Jack joins the RAF as a Lancaster Bomber pilot and cheats death time and again, until a crash landing sends him back to Wales to recover, where he forms a friendship with the young, polite butler, Ifan.

The beginning of the story is tense and thrilling as we are thrown into the middle of a RAF mission in peril. My heart was in my mouth as I followed some of the intricate descriptions of the layout of the bomber and what was needed to bring her safely to the ground. After that point the story evens out and the plot is steady, but never dull. I was drawn into the life of Ifan, his relationship with his father and with the lady of the house Bronwen, both of which were interesting and well rounded characters. As you might expect, the plot itself is episodic, moving us gently through the developing relationship between Ifan and Jack, with a good balance of sexual tension, crisis and resolution. I was genuinely interested in what was going to happen to these characters and found them to be easy to like.

Another part I liked about the book was the way that Jack and Ifan complemented each other. Jack is all-action, charismatic and loves being the centre of attention. Ifan is proud of his role as butler, and is more of an observer, a quiet man, but not submissive or a push-over. In fact it’s the fact that both men are terribly stubborn which causes most of the conflict between them. I also liked that the two men were very much of their time. Jack fits perfectly into the role of RAF flying ace, and yet after his accident (and even perhaps before), his changing behaviour and attitude fit well the accounts I have heard of those who fought during WW2. Ifan too has his problems of bruised pride, summing up perfectly the feelings of those men who, for whatever reason, were never called to combat. This meant that as an historical piece, the feelings and views of the men seemed accurate.

There were other things to like too, such as the way the book gently addresses the change in social feeling after the war, for example, the growing number of women who were dissatisfied with being home-makers or the way that the gap between ‘upstairs and downstairs’ was narrowing. Although these ideas are only in the background, I felt they added yet another layer of authenticity to the historical setting.

My only real negative point about the book was that, after the initial scene in the bomber, there’s a lot of info-dump given to the reader. Whilst this was quite interesting, after a while I longed to get to the meat of the story, or even just some dialogue. This ‘telling’ also happened at intervals during the story, and whilst I understood it was an effective way of giving the reader all the information we need, it wasn’t particularly subtle.

Overall, despite the info-dumping, this was still a book which is worth reading. The time period is unusual in itself, and something I found myself able to relate to, having had relatives who served in WW2. If you’re looking for a book with a recent historical setting, with amiable characters, plenty of drama, a tender romance which still addresses some of the problems of being gay in the 1940s, and a plot which is absorbing enough to keep the pages turning, then this book will be for you. I liked it and would recommend it.

26 comments

  • Thanks to this review I purchased the ebook from All Romance and downloaded it a few weeks ago. I’d forgotten about it actually, and picked it up last night and couldn’t put it down, as they say. I’ve watched a few episodes of Torchwood but not enough for it to weep into my enjoyment of this being an original novel. I thought it was wonderful. The only downside, as the reviewer mentions, is the info dump in the beginning. I also wasn’t sure how to pronounce Ifan (Welsh name) – Ivan, Evan?

    Jack and Ifan and the supporting cast had me turning pages to find out what happens next. It was warm and loving and funny in places.

    As for fanfiction, I have to say that some of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read have been fanfiction (although I’ve only ever been interested in two, maybe three fandoms) and I’d often wished that these writers would write original fiction. I didn’t know that DSP writers, some of them, were ff writers, so this is pleasant news for me and I’ll be searching the site and hoping that some of the talented ff writers from years gone by are now writing original fiction.

    Reply
  • Good review and this one’s making it onto my monstrous TBR pile/list. I have a butler!kink that cannot be denied.

    I write fan fiction and AU at that. I’ve never been interested in filing off the numbers, but that just me. But the book I always think of (and a keeper for me) is a certain series book (non m/m) where the hero runs into a group of characters clearly inspired from a TV show (long off the air). But she wasn’t afraid of making them react differently when the situation called for it, change up their back stories to match her universe. It came off as a tip of the hat to something she loved, and a treat for fans who knew her as both as a fan in her own right, and as an original fiction writer.

    Reply
    • Hi Cally
      Thanks :).

      I liked the idea of the butler/lord of the manor too which is why I read the book in the first place.

      I get what you mean about sometimes including a character or characters in a book who might be recognisable, as either a humourous aside the the book, or in the case of the book you mentioned, sort of a tribute. If done well it can be thrilling for readers to have an author do that.

      Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Really good review. I do love Torchwood, so I will probably notice the similarities. But it won’t stop me from reading this if it’s well done, and it does sound good.

    Reply
  • Jen
    I might be clueless 🙂 but I wouldn’t have picked this book out as a Torchwood or as a fanfic spin off b/c I probably have never watched Torchwood (can’t be sure – too many shows and my brain has now caved) LOL, and I was never a fan of fanfiction. Erastes wrote an eloquent post asking readers whether they minded if the serial numbers still showed. One author who converted her FF piece into a book was so obvious that I wrote DSP since a number of readers had mentioned that the story was still going the rounds as FF and hadn’t been pulled.

    However, back to this story. I might try it because everything you said in your wonderful review leads me to believe I would enjoy it EXCEPT for the info dumping which I hate – it makes my eyes glaze over. I like the sound of the butler who would probably be my favourite character.

    Thanks for this Jen – I learn something new from you every time I check out your reviews. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks, Wave :).

      I hope you do enjoy the book. The info-dumping isn’t too bad and is most noticeable at the beginning of the book. Ifan is a great character.

      Reply
  • As I understand it, one very much loved Dreamspinner book of the last year started as Brokeback Mountain/Torchwood crossover AU fanfic, and no one seems to have noticed or complained. I think in this case the author may have done better to make the names less obvious – Ianto is a pet name for Ifan – but it should still be viewed as AU because the historical setting and circumstances for the Jack/Ianto relationship in this novel are quite different than in the TV show.

    I don’t have a problem with authors filing the serial numbers off their AU fanfic – there are some truly fantastic pieces of fanfic out there that can easily be converted into “original” with no one being any the wiser.

    Of course, I may be biased. I did love Torchwood dearly – until they killed off Ianto, that is 🙁

    Reply
    • Hi Josephine
      I expect there were quite a number of well received DSP books which started life as a fan-fic or AU books. I’ve had my suspicions about a fair number but they were so successfully re-written that I couldn’t identify the original FF characters – which is how it should be really.

      I don’t have a problem with an author re-writing their fan-fic as OF, as long as it’s done well, not too close to the original material and I’m entertained, why shouldn’t an author use what they have written?

      Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned anything about it in my review, but in the case of this book it’s so obvious that even usually clueless me could pick it out!

      Reply
      • Hi Jenre

        This one is fairly obvious, isn’t it? The cover looks an awful lot like Jack and Ianto too, right down to their customary outfits . . .

        It’s definitely true to say that many of the female m/m authors out there have started out writing fanfic, though, even if they don’t publicise the fact. It’s a great way of learning how to write in a supportive atmosphere.

        It’s a shame that this fact seems to have put readers off. That should certainly serve as a warning to other writers to make sure they file those serial numbers off thoroughly!

        Reply
        • Hi Josephine
          I think it’s a shame too that readers would be put off just because it started out as FF. I still enjoyed the book, even knowing that fact for myself.

          Reply
    • Hi Josephine, I am pretty sure we are speaking about the same book and this is just incorrect – people did notice and people did complain. No, I was not one of the people who noticed and this is why I still love this book. I know Brokeback characters and not for a second I thought that those were Brokeback characters with different names. I know the accent should have clued me in, but it did not. Now if it was crossover with Torchwood, okay, I probably did not recognize that other character was from Torchwood.

      I have no problem with AU fanfiction being reworked in the original work, but I am sorry, if I for example I as Harry Potter fan pick up a book and recognize that one of the characters is let’s say professor Snape, whose only difference from the JKR’s creation is the fact that he has a different name, I see a huge problem here.

      I just think that characters should not be recognizable except maybe as source of inspiration. If taking my example again the character is simply as snarky as Snape was, that for me will be a different story. My opinion of course, but I am surprised that is so shocking that I do not want to see the characters from somebody else’s work in the book which attempts to pass up as original work. Of course we will often recognize the influences of the famous works, that to me is again completely different story.

      And I am making no judgment about this work either by the way, as I said I have not seen a single episode of Torchwood and cannot judge how easily I would have recognized the characters. But as I told Jenre, the fact that she did recognize them so easily leaves me annoyed with this book. Just my opinion of course.

      Reply
      • Hi Sirius,
        I’ve no doubt that there are many Brokeback fanfiction adaptations, but the crossover one I’m referring to is so very AU I’m sure that no one who doesn’t already know would suspect it. Ennis and Jack Harkness are the main pairing, and are given very different roles to play. The only reason I know of it is because I used to read a lot of Torchwood fanfiction, and read the post the author made about having to take it offline because it was being published. I’m not going to say what it is, because I wouldn’t want to spoil anyone’s experience of a very popular novel.

        As to characters remaining the same – everyone interprets characters from the screen differently, so even within fanfiction there are widely differing ideas about particular character’s inner life and behaviour. I agree, though, that it is better for writers to create original characters – although I’m not going to object if they’ve been inspired by some other fictional character!

        Reply
        • Yes Josephine in that book it was very very AU and people still recognized it and found out about it. Sorry, I was not trying to find the name of the book, I was just saying that I KNOW the name of the book which matches your description to boot, that’s all. Could it be that there are two much beloved DSP books that started their life as fanfictions of that universe? Of course, everything is possible. But this book is extremely well known among many m/m fans and no, I will not say the name either.

          And yes as I said, I am also not objecting if characters are inspired by recognizable (classical or not) source, but if they are more than that I feel that writer is making money off something that is not his or hers. That is how I feel.

          Reply
          • I must have missed that! Okay, I reckon we’re probably talking about the same book, then. I’ve certainly seen comments in reviews about the accent, but nothing specifically linking it to BM. I shall bow to your greater knowledge 😀

            I see what you mean about the money issue. I don’t consider it to be morally wrong, but I can understand why you might. I’d probably feel differently if I were fortunate enough to create a much loved character and then read something where I felt the author had simply copied my creation.

            Reply
  • See, I never watched Torchwood, but I was loving this book much better when I did not know that it was adapted fanfiction. If fanfiction is AU, it does not bother me, but when characters are easily recognizable, ugh it does bother me. Oh well. 🙂 Thank you for another great review Jenre 🙂

    Reply
      • Jenre, no worries, you did not completely put me off the book and even if you did, how could it be your fault? You cannot predict every reader’s individual reaction 🙂

        It helps that I actually did not watch Torchwood, not a single episode, I will not lie, the fact that you recognized the characters so easily does leave a bitter taste in my mouth about this book, but I still like it just less than before.

        Reply
  • Hi Larissa

    Thanks 🙂

    Don’t let the fan fic thing put you off, this is still a great book. Many of DSPs books are adapted fan fic so it doesn’t bother me. This one is just more obvious than other books I’ve read.

    Reply
      • Hi Larissa

        DSP was set up originally to be a way for fan-fic authors to get published. Much of the stuff which comes from DSP is original fiction from authors who used to write fan fic, but some of the books which are released began life as a fan-fic piece. This is why there are so many new authors coming out of DSP.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an author adapting their fan-fic into an original fiction, and most of the time I can’t tell whether a story is wholly original or adapted fan-fic. In the case of this book though, the similarities between the fan-fic characters and the characters in this book, just made it more obvious where the story had started out its life :).

        Reply
        • Holey moley, I did not know that. I did know in some case, like Rayne Auster, that they write/wrote original fiction. But, for me, that’s logical, because you have to start writing somewhere.

          But I didn’t know that DSP was originally set up that way. I did have my suspicion over the years with some stories, because they reeked fanfiction, but not all were from DSP. Though i do understand that a lot of authors find there inspiration in other stories, movies or books.

          Not that it is a bad thing, because some of the books that come from DSP are very good, but I was surprised to read about this. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

          Reply
  • Gah. I like Torchwood, but not that it was the basis for this book. No matter how good it was.

    I do like your review. It paints a good picture of the book! 🙂

    Reply

Please comment! We'd love to hear from you.

%d bloggers like this: