Threadbare

Title: Threadbare
Author: Clare London
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Genre: Historical, paranormal
Length: Short story (35 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary review: This is a melancholic and at times  dark, but well written piece of gay themed fiction rather than a m/m romance story.


The Blurb: When Edward inherits the family textile mill from his deceased parents, he knows where his duty lies. As a young Victorian gentleman, he devotes himself to the family business and doing right by his customers and employees. What concern is it that he surrenders his own artistic ambitions and romantic passions? But a hideous accident at the mill one day brings him into close contact with Mori, one of his most productive workers, a beautiful yet seemingly delicate and vulnerable young man. Edward takes Mori under his protection, bringing him back to his house. At last, Edward has found a friend and companion. His fascination for Mori grows swiftly into love, and he’s drawn out of his quiet introspection into a world of delight and passion. Yet Mori has a private task that both baffles and concerns Edward: the completion of a stunningly beautiful, abstract tapestry. Edward doesn’t understand its significance, Mori’s devotion to it, or Mori’s strange behaviour when Edward tries to part the man from his mission. Mori loves him in return, he’s sure – but can that ever be enough? As Edward is tangled more deeply and irretrievably into the web of Mori’s love and mystery, what bittersweet price might he have to pay?

NOTE: This story was originally published in the anthology Masquerade.

The Review:

A caveat first, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Apparently, I always end up with the bittersweet stories, even if I don’t consciously go after them 🙂

That said, this story was intriguing. Edward, a Victorian textile mill owner, has some ideas his compatriots think rather quirky. For example, he doesn’t employ children, and he provides basic healthcare for his workers, an almost unheard-of generosity. Although he can’t become rich that way, the quality of his fabrics is beyond debate, and his workers like working for him. His mill even attracts a group of somewhat secretive, unusually skilled foreigners who keep themselves separate from the other workers, but create the most impeccable cloths.

When one of those foreigners dies in an awful accident, Edward gets to know the group’s leader, Mori. Edward, who has put aside his romantic and carnal needs for the sake of the mill, finds himself strangely attracted to the beautiful stranger, to a point where he can’t help kissing the young man.  He even goes one step further, inviting Mori to spend the night at his home. One thing leads to the next, and soon Mori is living with Edward, sharing his house and his bed, and Edward finds himself in love with Mori.  Although he’s sure Mori loves him back, he can’t help wondering at his young lover. Mori often gets up during the night to work at a mysteriously beautiful tapestry which he says belongs to his entire group, with him being its keeper. When he comes back into Edward’s bed, he’s usually voracious for sex, which Edward doesn’t mind, quite the contrary. Edward finds his life enrichened and lightened by Mori, to a point where he can’t imagine being without Mori anymore, no matter what people might think of him.

Mori, though, doesn’t come alive on the pages. As well as we get to know Edward, his thoughts and motivations, Mori remains distant, strange, an enigma. Their love feels one-sided, with Mori merely playing along, pliantly and obediently following Edward around while he goes about his goal and purpose: weaving his tapestry. Everything Mori does revolves around his tapestry, Mori’s only purpose and the reason why he is with Edward seems to be his weaving, preserving it, working on it, completing it. The only time when Mori shows initiative is in bed, but this has also always to do with his tapestry, since he’s usually the most lecherous after working on it.

As the members of Mori’s group fall ill and die one after the other, the colors on their tapestry grow fewer and fewer until only Mori’s own silvery thread remains. Although Mori,  thanks to Edward’s loving care,  is as healthy and well-fed as any young man can be, he becomes more desperate day after day, with his tapestry as well as in bed, as if he was running out of time. Edward spends more and more time with Mori and less in the mill, bewildered and scared by Mori’s strange behavior, yet willing to do everything in his powers to protect Mori, even from himself. But will it ever be enough?

I can’t reveal more of the plot in order to avoid spoilers, but I have to say, this story wasn’t the usual m/m romance. I’m not even sure I’d label it as romance at all, although it was sure the story of a deep, lasting and all-consuming love. In fact, putting a label to this story gave me a hard time; “gay themed romantic literary fiction” comes closest, I guess. “Threadbare” reminded me of some works by Romantics I read back in school , Novalis, for example, or the young Goethe – a tragic, fated love, very sad, very mysterious, bizarre and yet  so beautiful.

Don’t expect a “normal” historical m/m romance, for this “Threadbare” is not.  Although I must admit I didn’t particularly like this story in itself, I must also clearly take off my hat to the author’s poetic, skillful writing and to her courage in setting about to publish such a story.

Threadbare can be recommended for those who are open to new and unusual experiences and don’t mind untraditional endings.

Author

Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.

18 comments

  • Feliz, thanks so much for your review. I genuinely appreciate the thought you put into this, and the description you’ve used, especially as it wasn’t your “like”. You help me see my own story even better!

    (Sorry for a late reply, I was away from the ‘net yesterday through work)..

    Reply
  • Okay, good to know I am not crazy. This one scared me and then I was thinking oh, I know I have a low scare threshold, probably other people will not find horror elements there, good to know I am not the only one who did. And this is really the main reason I really should have waited for your review Feliz if I knew it was coming 🙂 There is absolutely no way I would have read it and not even because of the ending, but because of the scare factor mostly 🙂 When the ending came instead of being annoyed I was like oh whatever, the creepiness factor made me not think of it as romance anyway if that makes sense. Great review though.

    Reply
      • It is very sweet of you Claire, but you are not responsible for me being scared so easily and actually yes, you are at fault, but only for writing so many good stories that I loved, that now every time I see your name I just click that buy button without waiting for the reviews :).

        Reply
          • No problem at all, I’m thrilled to have you as a reader :). I’m glad I managed to talk to you about this one. Drop me a line privately some time and I’ll ‘warn’ you in advance if any future stories are likely to have the same effect :). Have a great weekend!

            Reply
  • Hi Feliz, thanks for the review!
    I read this story last week so was quite interested in your take on it. Clare London is one of my “must read” authors, and this story is certainly a tribute to her talent.

    “a tragic, fated love, very sad, very mysterious, bizarre and yet so beautiful”

    I certainly agree with your words here. I was surprised at elements of the ending (both provided and “missing”). In the end, I wasn’t sure if this story was intended as a social commentary, or just a fantastical tale of which I could fill in any blanks myself. Both?! Bottom line, I enjoyed it very much, much due to it not really fitting any box.
    Horror never crossed my mind, but perhaps my definition of such would differ from that of others?

    Reply
    • Hi Dianne,
      this is interesting ’cause I felt quite the same. There are certainly several blanks to fill.
      When the others mentioned it, I’d guess it’s the E.A.Poe kind of horror they had in mind, not the Nightmare on Elm street kind. The more I think of it, Leslie’s Gothic “label” might fit best.

      Reply
  • The story sounds interesting and I love Clare’s writing. I generally prefer HFN/HEA endings but lately I’ve read some sad ones too. I’ll keep this one in mind. Great review, Feliz! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Lily,

      the writing was very good, but I’d agree with Wave and Leslie that this hasn’t only a sad ending, but some traces of subtle horror. Let me know what you think?

      Reply
  • The ending surprised me back when I read the anthology. Left me conflicted and going “huh”? Generally I like my HEA but it is really well written and when you’re in the mood for a taste of something quite different and yet with a romantic edge it’s a great choice.

    Reply
  • I agree with Leslie that this story could be considered Gothic, which is a mix of horror and romance. Regardless, this sounds like an interesting premise especially the horror aspect. Great job Feliz.

    Reply
  • Hi Leslie,
    gothic, maybe you could call it this, although I’m not quite sure of the concept of Gothic. To me, Threadbare is quite “literaric”. I’d be interested what you thought of it.

    Reply
  • I really want to read this one. From your review I get the impression it could be a sort of moral tale, sort of Gothic? Thanks for the thoughtful review, Feliz 🙂

    Reply

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