Running Press leaps into the male/male romance pool with one of their first releases, Transgression, a historical tale set in mid-1600s England. Filled with heavily researched detail, a multitude of gay characters, and the authoritative voice of established male/male historical romance author, Erastes, Transgressions will transport readers to another world.
David Caverly is the central character, a young man bored with his life helping to run his father’s forge. When Jonathan Graie, the Quaker apprentice comes on board to assist, both men slowly start to fall in love, though hardly daring to admit it to themselves. After a few tentative sexual experiences, the civil war tears them apart. David runs off to join the army, leaving Jonathan behind to mourn his loss and ponder his own future.
Eventually, Jonathan leaves the forge to search for David, and discovers a whole world of war, adventure, sex, and religious mania. Jonathan falls in with a cult that spends its time searching for, “curing” and executing suspected witches all the while partaking of their own sadistic and masochistic rituals. For nearly three-quarters of the book, David and Jonathan are apart, living with, having sex with, and falling in love with other men. It’s an unusual choice for a genre that supposedly takes its model from traditional romance.
Marketed as a male/male romance by and for straight women, Transgressions violates many of the tenets of traditional romances. For readers that enjoy romances where the lovers overcome obstacles together and grow closer, the book may prove frustrating. In the initial sections, at times it’s a little difficult to understand the appeal of David; he’s shown as self-absorbed, pretty, shallow, largely inconsiderate, and unfaithful. Later, while involved with Tobias and living in London, David finally learns to truly care for another. When he and Jonathan are reunited, readers have more hope that the two lovers have grown up and can manage, somehow, a life together.
Like the time frame itself, the story is fairly slow moving. Months pass between events, and the lovers are apart for significant portions of the story. The author focuses on David and Jonathan’s point-of-views for most of the book then delves into a third lover, Tobias in the final third. The change may be disorienting to romance readers who are used to only the lovers’ perspectives in stories.
The sex scenes in the book are largely warm and erotic with the exception being the sadism and masochism practiced by Jonathan and Michael, the religious zealot who uses sex as a literal weapon against “sin”. I found these sections of the story creepy and unwelcome; sexual torture didn’t fit into the romance promised by the book’s promo copy. However, I’m an adamant non-reader of any sort of nonconsensual sexual activity so these sections may flow perfectly well for other readers of the book.
If you’re looking for quick-moving action-adventure that skims over historical events and sketches vague characters on the page, this book is not for you. If you like historical stories, rich with detail and lots of character interiority, and don’t mind S&M scenes thrown into the mix, then Transgressions will make for a nice, long read, maybe just right for that vacation book. With researched depth, rich detail, and scenes extended into a juicy length, Transgressions is a solid read.
© 2009 Vincent Diamond. All rights reserved.