Title: The Men of Ramshire – Season 1
Author: Diane Lennox
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: June 4th 2017
Genre(s): M/M Romance
Page Count: TBC
Reviewed by: iHeartTropes
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
“The Men of Ramshire” is a gay romance soap opera based on the lives and loves of the men in the fictional city of Ramshire.
Ramshire is a small, quaint, but modern city. People have cell phones, computers, and relatively normal jobs you would recognize.
But there are just a few things you should know…
There are only men. There are supernatural creatures. And there is always drama.
In Season 1…
Rafe Desjardins’ quiet, sheltered life is turned upside down when Paris Romero, “The Beast of Ramshire”, storms into his website design class covered in blood from his latest hunt and is drawn to the mystery of Rafe’s strange scars.
Marius Amberwood, also known as the “Ice King” of the Gardenia Theatre, isn’t one to get involved in the affairs of others. However, when Ezra Scarlett, the theatre’s “Golden Boy”, is announced to play the charismatic villain in their new play – and looks completely overwhelmed in a very bad way – Marius feels compelled to help despite the fact that he’s hurt the man in the past.
Simon Kane is aware that he’s a very lucky young man. Ever since he was a baby he has been surrounded by the love and support of his family – an environment that many men never get the opportunity to experience. Which is why he can’t let his one sinful secret ever to come light lest he lose it all: He’s in love with his twin brother.
The Men of Ramshire, by Diane Lennox, is Season 1 of this new series, and it’s exactly what it implies on the tin: an amazing soap opera of tropes. This is the first time I’ve read a book paced and developed as though it were a TV series, but it certainly has grabbed my attention—and kept it! The best way to describe this romance novel is to compare it to the most decadent chocolate truffles you’ve ever eaten. It’s “tropey” in the best of ways, full of emotional drama, even a tad over-the-top in places, and it’s so good you’ll adore it anyway. This is the literary version of your favorite dessert; you can’t eat just one, you’ll gain ten pounds, and love every second of it. Just make sure to hit the gym and read Tolstoy when you’re done.
Lennox has built an interesting society comprised entirely of men, where children are adopted into their families rather than born. The art, fashion, social hierarchy, and economic system are fascinating and quite useful for creating drama at every turn. Don’t let the complex world-building stop you, though—the setting, though very different from our own, has enough familiar cues to prevent the reader from floundering in confusion.
Season 1 introduces an entire cast of archetypal characters—there’s something for everyone to love. Whether you prefer “Ice Kings” or academics, happily energetic dancers or deadly hunters, the trope basics are covered! Season 1 focuses on three sets of overlapping social circles.
The first set is primarily comprised of Rafe and Soren, friends attending university together, who face the usual trials of young adults: a school rival named Pasha; a new suitor, Paris, who is entirely inappropriate for Rafe’s social standing; and Soren’s unrequited love for his best friend. As these gents settle into adulthood, they’re faced with that age-old choice between being true to your family or being true to yourself.
An interesting bridge is revealed between Rafe’s family, who owns a successful theatre at the heart of society, and the second set of main characters. The “Ice King” Marius works for the theatre as a talented costume designer, and becomes embroiled in a scheme to help Ezra, a rising star in the acting troupe, master a challenging villainous role. How is Ezra to overcome his reservations about the part? By accepting his own darkness, with Marius’s help. Of course, the plan isn’t as easy as it looks on paper. Marius turned down Ezra’s romantic overtures five years ago, but that spark seems to be returning—especially with the unexpected entrance of a certain member of the Kane family.
In yet another clever series of links, the third main character group focuses on the youngest generation of the Kane family, twins Simon and Leandar. Simon must have been born under and unlucky star, because he’s struggling with inappropriate feelings for his twin brother. In an effort to alleviate the situation, he starts courting Marius’s son, Alexei, for whom Simon feels surprisingly genuine interest. The guilt, however, still eats away at poor Simon, especially since Alexei and Leander seem to be hitting it off as close friends.
And while all of these twisting dramas are blossoming, the background characters are right there to make everything better (and sometimes worse) for our heroic cast. The background stories hinted by the secondary characters are almost as delicious as the front runners!
While there’s so much going on in the story, the pacing is quite honestly flawless. Just when one of the storylines starts to slow down, the next chapter picks the reader right back up and draws you in right away. You’ll find yourself racing ahead to find out what happens to your favorite character next, and then reminding yourself to slow down because they’re ALL your favorite character.
The chemistry between the characters is palpable throughout the scenes and doesn’t really lag at any point, which is somewhat surprising considering there are no “steamy scenes”. The society has a strict code of proper courting conduct—something all of the characters must deal with, whether it’s struggling to abide by the rules, or deciding for themselves how fast the relationship should move forward. Throw in the disapproving families, societal expectations, and peer pressure, and you’ve got an instant hit on your hands.
The story ends in a place I can only describe as a comfortable location to hang off the side of cliff. My best-loved characters have come to terms with their choices and have grown as people. However, they face new challenges on the horizons, and still have yet to truly settle some of their old battles. I’m simply dying to know what happens next, and it’s safe to say that I’ll be first in line to grab the sequel!