Sunday, April 1, 2012

"The Masquerade Trilogy"

Review - "The Masquerade Trilogy" by Sue Brown, Patricia Logan and Lisa Worrall

By turns touching, fun and sexy

Very Highly Recommended

"The Layered Mask" by Sue Brown

Lord Thomas Downe is an unhappy man.  Trapped in a closet we cannot imagine, his homosexuality a capital crime, he is forced to seek unsatisfactory encounters with men of his persuasion when and where he can.  Already on the fringes of society, he and his sister host an annual masquerade ball, where matrons of the town select a "lamb" for the slaughter - to find him a suitable wife from their daughters.

This year, the lamb is Lord Edwin Nash.  Send to London to marry by his father, the real reason is to dispel rumors in the town that Edwin is a homosexual.  When the two men meet at the Ball, Thomas has no idea that the lamb is the enticing young man he met a few day earlier.  And is pleased to discover that they both are lovers of men.

But with society not accepting of their attraction and love, and family pressures, is there any way for the men to find a future together?  Will Edwin and Thomas be forced to live lonely and unhappy lived?

Sue Brown starts this trilogy with a strong, gentle and beautiful story of two men longing for acceptance and love.  Her characters are so very true to the period - honor bound, respectful of family, and stifled by rigid moral compasses.  But the underlying strength and yearning, just so very touching.

Ms. Brown created so much subtle heartbreak with such few words, and then found a way to make us celebrate the small happinesses the characters found.  And I loved their Happy Ever After.

Fantastic story.

"The Slave's Mask" by Patricia Logan

Taking many chances, Captain Anthony Charles has made a small fortune running supplies between England and the Confederacy during the Civil War.  On the front London end of one such run, he stops and sells his fine liquors and tobaccos to his British clients.  His plans are to stop in port for a couple of weeks, restocking and allowing his crew their pleasures.  And he plans to take his, dangerous as they are.  Because Antony likes the company of a submissive young man, and circumstances require he hide that side of himself from his crew.

He spends one wonderful evening with Francois, a beautiful young submissive whore in his favorite brothel, and seems to be thinking of the exciting young man much too often.  When he is invited to a Ball - well, his attendance is strongly required - he finds himself involved in a slave auction, bidding on a stunning young man.  Imagine his surprise when he discovers it is Francois, and he will be the young man's master for a week.

And what a week it is.  But can it be more than just the week?  Will the secrets Francois holds drive them apart?  Or will the dangerous life of the blockage runner catch up with Anthony.

This is a wonderful tale of unexpected love, soul mates finding one another, and how faith and trust can keep a man going when nothing else can.  Patricia Logan has written an strong, erotic tale that has a soft underlining of understanding, patience, care and tenderness.  While their relationship may be based on a BDSM footing, the love Anthony and Francois find is way more than just sex.

Ms. Logan created two straightforward and strong men who show us that the heart wants what it wants, and true passion can instill a man with remarkable resources.

Another winning tale.

"Behind the Mask" by Lisa Worrall

Four years ago, Tom asked his friend Gabe to go to the annual Downe's Masquerade Ball.  He planned to share with him how he felt, how their friendship was special and how he wanted it to be more.

But, as fate sometimes does, there was another man there - Mike - who swooped in and captured Gabe's attention before Tom made his move. 

And now, four-and-a-half years later, it's time for the ball again.  Mike is dead.  Gabe is heartbroken.  And Tom still loves him.

Each man, unknown to the other, receives a final gift in the mail from Mike.  For both, it's a second chance.  And it will take place, once more, at the Ball.

Will the two men finally find their way together?  Or will Mike's final act of love be in vain?

This fine and understated story is so utterly simple, so devastatingly heartbreaking, and so full of hope, all at the same time.  Lisa Worrall does what she does so damned well - gives us terrific characters in love.  Wonderful men who have broken hearts, who need each other.  And a beautifully told story that grabs my heart and pulls me in from the first page.

This story is so lightly woven, it's almost easy to underestimate the deftness necessary to pull it off.  It could have very easily gone over the top, became histrionic, shrill or boring.  But it stays on that fine line of simplicity, truth and love.

Thank God.  Ms. Worrall always leaves me satisfied and filled with warmth for her men.

Great.  Just...great.