The Mark of a Man

Title: The Mark of a Man
Author: Maggie Lee
Cover artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link The Mark of a Man
Genre: Historical (supposedly) M/M Romance
Length: Novella/68 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: This was an interesting beginning to a story, which in my opinion ended way too soon and perhaps should not be called a historical.

Blurb:

Kit Porter’s fear that he is being followed is confirmed when he is arrested by Alec Weston, a captain in the City Guard. Taken as a thief, Kit soon realizes that darker forces are at work. Captain Weston’s suspicions have been aroused by the Lord Chancellor’s insistence that he take an armed escort to the eastern border of the shire to pick up one lone cutpurse. As Alec gets to know Kit during their journey back to the capital, he becomes convinced that his prisoner is something more than a common thief. When Alec finally realizes the reason for Kit’s arrest, his growing feelings for the young man and his outraged sense of justice lead him to make a choice that will change their lives forever.

Review:

This story has two characters — Alec and Kit — who charmed me from the very beginning. Unfortunately the story stopped short before any significant development in their relationship happened and before anything but the very immediate threat to Kit’s life is resolved, thusly not feeling complete to me.  And related to this can I just say that I really wish that Dreamspinner Press would start posting word counts on their books? It took me less than thirty minutes — more like twenty — to finish this one. Granted, I am a very fast reader, but I was reading the book for review and I do not skim anything when I read for review. It should take more than a half hour to read sixty-some pages.

Another issue that I had with this story is that Dreamspinner bills it as a European historical (described as Historicals set from 0 B.C. to the 1970s in Europe. Examples: Medieval, Gothic, Regency, Victorian, etc.), which I had problems believing. Things I look for in a historical are time (at least the century) and place (at least a country) in which the story is set, and I had difficulty pinning down either in this book. First of all, I could barely figure out the country in which the action takes place. Granted, since Lord Chancellor is mentioned I had a pretty good guess that it is Great Britain, but shouldn’t there be other signs? So I looked for those signs and I noted that three villages/towns/cities mentioned in the book. Those are Huntingdon, Uffington and Shrewsbury. I went googling and confirmed for myself that those are indeed British locations. I wish there were more indications though, and because of this I thought world-building was mostly non-existent (or sketchy at best). The story may as well have been taken place in the unknown far away galax…er, I mean country. For the timeframe, I suppose I can place it somewhere in between the seventeenth and nineteenth century. I think. But nothing as far as I could see stops me from guessing even a couple centuries earlier, and if I missed some chronological sign, I hope somebody who has read this one as well will please let me know. I will be happy to stand corrected. Wiki tells me that one of those towns was founded in thirteenth century, so I suppose I cannot place the story earlier than that.

Adding to this problem is the feeling that the characters’ mindset was very modern—too modern for a historical. Both Alex and Kit accept that they like men rather matter-of-factly, or at least it felt like it to me. Alex’s friend also questions Alex about his feelings towards Kit as if he is totally fine with men being attracted to each other. It was all very sweet, but for a historical, rather anachronistic in my opinion.

Despite all my issues, there were good parts as well. I was rather charmed by the characters, and Alex’ genuine kindness and Kit’s horrible circumstances earned the review its three stars. If the story would have been longer and would not have claimed to be a historical I would have enjoyed it much more. Plus, I liked the writing and how author managed to maintain tension and avoid Insta!Love between the two guys. I liked how there was no sex between them in this story, which again felt appropriate because they are just developing attraction. At the same time it all tied in with my earlier issue about the story stopping too early, being too short. I was fine with beginning attraction, but it just did not feel enough. It felt like very little happened between them emotionally and I was left wanting more.

10 comments

  • The reason Huntingdon said “medieval” to me is that it is a very old town. Settled in the 13thC or thereabouts, it was a major market town. Also the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell. So it has a long and important history. But there’s no reason a non-British reader (or one without specialized knowledge) would know this.

    And I completely agree with your comment to Denni; to have medieval City Guards talking openly about being attracted to other men puts it straight in the realm of historical fantasy, i.e., comparable to the Scotland of Julie Garwood. Which is fine if you enjoy reading stories with that kind of setting, but it remains a fantasy world, no matter how many place names and other era markers the author throws in.

    Reply
    • Thank you again. Right, I definitely do not mind and may enjoy historical fantasy a lot, as long as I am clear as to what I am actually reading.

      Reply
  • “…the feeling that the characters’ mindset was very modern—too modern for a historical…” Usually wallbangers for me, I refer to them as modern stories in historical costume.

    Good review Sirius, thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Denni, the thing is I may not mind reading costume historical (thats how I classify for myself stories where characters are walking around in the costumes of the era, but have somewhat or completely modern mindset too :)) as long as it has fun characters, interesting plot and ideas that interest me. It does not matter if those ideas are too modern. I just like to come to reading the book with appropriate expectations, you know? If I see that book is classified as historical, I do not expect two members of the City Guard have matter of fact conversation (short one, but still very matter of fact imo) whether one of them has feelings for young man whom they guard. I just don’t. Actually let me correct myself, I will even accept such conversation if author will throw me a bone and establish how it came to be that Alec came to accept his feelings for men as normal being the time he lives in and how his friend came to accept him. I mean, while I am not a fan of everybody in historical stories knowing about gay person/gay couple, I believe that those gay people who managed to escape the radar of the government, church, etc, could not manage to do it completely alone. Thus I am okay if couple of their closest friends and/or family may know and came to accept them, extraordinary as it was. I just want to actually hear about it, you know? If the book is classified as historical fantasy, romp, costume historical, my expectations would be totally different.

      Thanks for commenting Denni.

      Reply
  • I read through the excerpt on the DSP website, and from information there I would place it in medieval England. The references to tunics and goldsmiths suggest medieval, and Huntingdon is an old town in what is now Cambridgeshire. But I think your instincts are right, in that it seems as if it would be very difficult to place a believable m/m romance in this setting. Also, Kit is the diminutive of Christopher, so while it makes sense for him to refer to himself that way, it doesn’t ring true to me that he would be called that by someone who doesn’t know him personally and is treating him as a criminal suspect.

    Reply
    • Hi Sunita let’s see if my blackberry let’s me post, it is usually not, good point about tunics and goldsmiths, although while the definitions go way back didn’t they still exist in 18 – 19 century? Not doubting you, just asking to be sure for myself. Yes I believe Huntingdon was the one that according to wiki was founded in thirteenth century, but again I have a question. Again, I only looked at wiki when googled, so it definitely was not the most comprehensive research. Wiki stated I believe that Huntingdon county merged with Cambridgeshire and formed modern Cambridgeshire in 1970s? Is wiki wrong? I will not be surprised if it is, but the town still exists, right? So how does it help us to place it in medieval England? Or are you saying that taking the goldsmiths and tunics together with when Huntigdon is founded we get medieval England? Again, I just want to clarify for myself. I never heard of any of these three cities before I read this story, so information is very welcomed. As to placing mm romance in medieval setting, if I am not mistaken Lion of Kent by Alex Voinov and Kate Cotoner was placed in medieval setting (that’s the only one I remember on the top of my head, maybe more later) and to me at least it was quite believable. Thanks for commenting Sunita.

      Reply
      • Or are you saying that taking the goldsmiths and tunics together with when Huntingdon is founded we get medieval England?

        Yes, exactly. The use of a goldsmith as a character makes me think the author is aiming for a medieval tone, and men wouldn’t be wearing tunics in the 19thC (or they might be, but they would probably be called smocks).

        Huntingdon was a separate shire for many centuries. The “eastern border of the shire” thing is confusing because Huntingdon was in the middle of the shire when it was separate (at least that’s what the map I looked at suggests), but maybe they go there elsewhere in the story.

        I don’t blame you for being confused, and I thought your review laid out the issues very clearly. I was just seeing if I could figure it out. I could be entirely wrong, too!

        The excerpt felt very Robin Hood-ish to me, what with Huntingdon and City Guards and tunics and goldsmiths with coins. City Guards are pre-local constabulary, I believe.

        Reply
        • No, no Sunita, I definitely want to figure it out myself as well and appreciate any help. Thank you. Let me see if I can clarify my confusion about Huntingdon. When the story takes place, the town is already there, it is not just being built, you know? So while I completely understand how tunics and goldsmiths point to medieval tone, I could not (and still not sure) figure out how Huntingdon adds to it as well. Am I making sense?

          But when you mentioned Robin Hood, I just had another revelation, I think you may be even more correct, because I can see certain bad guys in the story now as kind of contrast to Robin Hood and his gang. I cant believe that I did not think about it before. I mean, I have no idea whether this was an intent, but I am thinking it is kind of makes sense to me. I wonder if anybody who will read it will have the same feeling. Thanks Sunita!

          Reply
  • I’ve had my eyes on this…guess I’ll just wait if there’s a sequel, buy both and see for myself if your issues – which would be mine too – will be saved by a second volume. Thanks for this great review!

    Reply

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