A Night at the Ariston Baths (LenaR’s Review)

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Title: A Night at the Ariston Baths
Author: Michael Murphy
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 25, 2016
Genre(s): Historical, MM Romance, Literary Fiction
Page Count: 230
Reviewed by: LenaRibka
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

In rural Pennsylvania, Theodore McCall lives on his family’s farm and works as a clerk at the local general store. While his best friend, Martin Fuller, thrives in New York City, Theodore trudges through life. But on New Year’s Eve, 1902, Theodore’s world is turned upside down, and big changes call for bold action.

Theodore, who has never ventured more than eight miles from home, undertakes the daunting journey to New York City to join Martin. But the Martin he finds in New York is a stranger, a different man, doing things Theodore finds shocking. After just two months in the City, Theodore’s world is upended again as he and Martin are swept up in the events at the Ariston Baths.

Haunted by his experiences in New York, Theodore returns home, wondering whether he’ll ever find happiness in life. When he meets Jasper Webb, Theodore must boldly risk everything for the love he so longs for.

I love historical fiction, especially those books, that in spite of being the product of the author’s imagination are accurately researched and tell me something new that I haven’t yet known, that make me think a lot even days after I finished them.

A Night at the Ariston Baths is one of those books. It starts with a Saturday evening in June 28, 1969, when Theodore and Jasper, an old gay couple, listened to the evening news. “They did it. By God, they did it! […] Our people. Our…people.” If you consider yourself not just a passionate MM reader, but also a person who supports gay rights, you have to know what that the Stonewall Riots largely regarded as a catalyst for the LGBT movement for civil rights in the United States.

The Stonewall Riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States. So yes, the Stonewall Riots is well-known. But I bet, not many of you have ever heard of the first recorded riot on a gay bathhouse, the Ariston Hotel Baths. On February 21, 1903, 26 men were arrested and 12 brought to trial on sodomy charges; 7 men received sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years in prison.

This book dedicated to the memory of the men whose lives were forever altered one night in 1903.

I have to admit, that I found the title a bit strange, more suitable for a short PWP. But the blurb attracted my attention, and I’m glad that I had a possibility to read this book among the very first readers. In retrospect I think that the title reflects the best way the story of two friends, Theodore and Martin, for whom this night at the Ariston Baths happened to play a crucial role. The book starts in 1969(Prologue), and then goes back in 1903, where the story of Theodore and Martin begins…

Michael Murphy created a wonderful piece of prose, atmospheric, realistic, and though hopeful and romantic. I appreciate the way the author used to tell his readers about two gay men, best friends since their childhood, who were involved in this event. It is sad to read what a tragic turn a single fate could have taken, but it is also good to know that in spite of the horrible period of time for gay men and women, when to be in a homosexual relationship were very dangerous, there were still couples that managed to overcome difficulties and stay together life long.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It makes you wiser, but it is a well-written and enjoyable historical novel, that surely won’t leave you indifferent.

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Galley copy of A Night at the Ariston Baths provided by in exchange of an honest review.

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