“On the morning we dragged the pond for Patience White, I bent so far down trying to see beneath the surface that my own face peered up at me, twisting and frowning.”
The intro sentence: immediately you are drawn into the world of Jacob Cullen, a darkly charismatic former servant turned soldier whose sincere cravings for love and understanding are too often marred by his jealous and suspicious nature which creates a mystery, as the reader, you discover in well-timed increments.
After seeming to escape a troubled past, he falls in love with a fellow warrior, who passionately accepts and teaches him of the love between men, yet their own obsessive behavior threatens to destory everything they hoped to build.
Although written in first person, which so many people tend to be biased against because it has been lamentably done so many times, this author does it well. So well in fact, you forget your self and literally are drawn into the emotional conundrum which is Jacob. At times you can hate his viciousness but somehow you never lose empathy for his struggle to find out who he really is, and what he really wants.
For myself, I love history, I love food and I love good descriptions and an in-depth yet not overly heavy tone. Maria strikes the perfect balance with her extensive knowledge of the customs and lifestyles of the people in that era of England. Yet not only that, but the dynamics of politics and societal class are conveyed to her readers without being boring or academic.
This novel is proof positive a woman can very well write not only a good book involving gay or bisexual male characters, but do an outstanding job of capturing and revealing some of the unique dynamics such relationships have, plus heart pounding sensual scenes which are seared into your imagination long after you’ve turned the last page. The power struggles, the twists of love and hate which reflects one’s own personal doubts and biases: this novel has everything.
The Economist reviewer was not exaggerating when they proclaimed the novel: “Absorbing and historically meticulous….A fat, juicy masterpiece. An exceptional offering especially so in that it is Maria McCann’s debut novel.”
The Independent, “An electrifying erotic thriller….Part historical yarn, part picaresque tale, part poignant fable of same-sex love and taboo-breaking. Forbidden sensuality is searingly described by candlelight. Rich in secrets and surprises, this novel has its own fierce poetry.”