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.
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.
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.