Title: Man & Beast (The Savage Land #1)
Author: Michael Jensen
Publisher: Buddha Kitty Books
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Genre(s): Gay Historical Fiction, Thriller, Native American, Western
Page Count: 368
Reviewed by: LenaRibka
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
What is the line that separates man from beast?
The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.
John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.
With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.
Man & Beast is the updated, re-titled version of Frontiers, that was first published in 2000. This novel has been already for a while on my TBR, so when I got a possibility to read and review the first book of The Savage Land series , I grabbed the chance immediately. I have grown up with the books by James Fenimore Cooper, Karl May and Thomas Mayne Reid, and every good written historical novel about the Wild West, brings back to me my childhood, and I’m always happy to come across a good written historical fiction about this period of time. Together with a gay mystery, gay historical fiction belongs to one my favorite reads. So yes, I’m a picky reader considering my preferable genres.
Michael Jensen is a new for me author, and I didn’t know what to expect from his novel, but it met all my expectations.
Man & Beast is a gay historical thriller set in the 1797-1798. It tells the story of John Chapman, a 24-year-old young man, who has to flee his home town in Lower Canada, when his forbidden relationship with a British major has been discovered. To escape from death that threatens him for sodomy, he sets out for western Pennsylvania, to a frontier outpost, where the Holland Land Company offers free land and supplies to settlers. It is his only chance to survive.
Without enough supplies and money, without a gun, and with a bad sense of direction, exhausted and at the end of his tether, three months later, he stumbles upon a lone cabin. As it turns out that Daniel McQuay, an owner of the cabin is a frontiersman, a very experienced hunter and pioneer, who not only lets John to winter over with him, but also teaches him everything a frontiersman has to know to survive in the wilderness. And a bit more… Daniel is like John. Very quickly they become closer, and even if Daniel is a rough, reticent, grumpy and a very moody person, sex between them at the beginning is the best one, John has ever had. But something in their relationship is missing, John wants more than sex, and he realizes how little he knows about his host.
The longer they stay together, the more difficult their relationship becomes. As the winter progresses Daniel lets off bursts of anger, uncontrollable temper tantrums more frequent, and his alcohol consumption becomes a serious problem. Gradually he begins to feel himself like being in a trap and he decides to leave Daniel as soon as spring comes. Knowing that Daniel is not very enthusiastic about his intention to leave, he tries to keep them secret, but when he finds accidently a shocking truth about the lone frontiersman, he can’t wait any longer to run away.
It is exactly a point in the book, an unexpected twist that turns the whole story suddenly into an engaging action thriller, and…where the first part ends.
The second part starts almost with the same situation, that the first part began with: John Chapman flees fearing for his life. Again.
I’m not going to tell you the whole book, but it will be much more than this. When John’s life seems at last to be settled, his past catches up with him, and demands all his survivor’s skills to not be completely swallowed by it. Again.
I very enjoyed this novel, it seems to waver for a little before it really gets going, but it is exactly what makes it so interesting: Very REAL historical settings and atmosphere, but with a healthy dose of fairy tale, a slow beginning and an enchanting speed-up towards the end. A well-done balance between the first and the second part of the book: while the first part is mostly character-focused, the second part is a plot-focused part, full of actions and twists, that will rope you in and not let you go until you reach the final word.
I wouldn’t consider Man & Beast as a MM romance. I see it is in the first place as a historical gay fiction, though romance is present here, but it is rather as a sub-plot that accompanies a main story-line. Some parts of the book are not for the faint-hearted. But as the title of the series betrays, it was a savage time of period, and everything else would be a lie.
I’m definitely going to read the second book, and can’t wait for it to be released.
Highly recommended to all fans of gay historical fiction.