Author: Lucius Parhelion
Cover Art: BSClay
Amazon: Masked Riders
Genre: M/M historical / romance / western
Length: Novella 25,600 words
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Intelligent, interesting and unusual……must be a Parhelion historical.
Blurb: Jesse Putnam, once a union cavalryman and now a California rancher, has no one but himself to blame when he realizes the foreman assigned to help him investigate the problems on the Southern Californian acres of a railway baroness has a face that’s all too familiar. Even on the Barbary Coast of 1869, unknown vaqueros who share Jesse’s inclinations are few and far between, and Jesse didn’t even try to resist the heated attraction between them. But he never counted on his nameless companion of the previous night turning out to be Wardley Bridger, now his colleague and fellow investigator.
Bridger, at peace with his nature in a way Jesse is not, proves to be a calm and canny companion as they travel south and start sorting through a mystery that stretches out from the dusty Pueblo of Angles into the brush-covered hills of Ranchero Los Robles. But as the ghost rider’s threat overshadows both them and the ranchers of Los Robles, can Jesse still learn that friendship might merge with his shadowed hungers to gift him with a kind of bond he has never even dared to desire?
Originally published in Under This Cowboy’s Hat
This writer’s work is always of a high standard, no matter what the period setting it has an articulate and genuine historical voice. The question – after my usual whine about novella rather than novel – usually is just how good is the most recent publication. This cowboy story has been previously published in an anthology, but is new to me.
To answer my question, this is good classic Parhelion. It didn’t grab my heart the way ‘ Faster Than the Speed of Light ‘ did, but that novel is possibly one of the best historical M/M’s I have read. At least three of my other favourite books by this writer are set roughly within the Western genre, ‘ Dry Bones’ ‘ The Emperor ‘ and ‘Oil Well Ben and the Hollywood Rustlers’.
In this case the characters perhaps did not speak quite as personally to me, but they were well realised and very believable. These are two strong adult men who have experienced hard and complicated lives. Jesse’s self questioning and unease with his sexuality is balanced by Bridger’s more serene approach to life. This allows Jesse to develop as a character under Bridger’s influence, but Jesse also has a reciprocal effect on Bridger. In general though there is a very enjoyable laconic ease to the give and take between them. This felt very real and understandable.
Parhelion effortlessly interweaves the historical perspective, environment and atmosphere with authentic secondary characters who grab the attention as vividly as the main protagonists. In this particular story this had extra resonance, as Bridger says, ” We’re all the heroes of our own tales. “ I was very impressed by the unusual and historically acute plot. The texture of the landscape and the work it takes to make a living here is vividly displayed.
To add to the depth of the writing many of the characters not only have some kind of back story along with the present story there is also a gentle display of what likely to happen in the future, something I find particularly satisfying. The final conclusions about masked riders felt a little unnecessary, I had got there on my own but I guess it rounded everything off neatly.