CW: One scene of attempted rape; discussion of rape, assault and atrocities done to Native Americans; and lots and lots of racists dirtbags. This is the frontier, y'all, and the author doesn't shy away from how icky a lot of these people were.
This was unexpected, and in this case that's a good thing. You do need to check your disbelief at the door on this one, at least for the climax. It was a Monty Python case of horrors, that's for sure.
I'm surprised no one yelled, "Why won't you DIE?!" at any point. ;-)
The emphasis is on horror because right away you know things just aren't quite right, and by the end you've got a Most Dangerous Game situation that'll keep you flipping the pages.
What I really liked about this is that it wasn't your typical M/M novel. I would even go so far as to say this isn't a romance, though there is a love story of sorts and an HFN. But this didn't follow the standard formula that has, let's be honest, become somewhat stale. And after The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, it was nice getting an historical where the characters sound like they're in an historical. It still could've used a bit more detail than what we got, but again, still much better than Gentleman's.
John's struggle to learn to speak up and act on his own behalf and those he cares about was a nice journey to watch, even though it was painful at times. He starts off as a man who just runs from everything and has to figure out through many trials what's worth standing up for. He makes a lot of bad decisions and indecisions along the way but I was never frustrated with him. It was obvious why he acted the way he did, not least because he was trying to save his own hide if people found out he's a sodomite.
Gwennie, Thomas and Palmer are all great supporting characters, and even Samantha gets a point or two in her favor. The ending was a bit abrupt and the epilogue doesn't really wrap up the loose ends. Since the next book is centered around another main character, I'm not sure if we'll see these characters again or not. Hopefully we do because there is certainly more to see with these guys.
For this being self-published, it was surprisingly light on typos. There were a few more near the end than throughout the rest of the book, but it's still much cleaner than most self-published books out there. The story is in first-person, if that's something that concerns you, but John has an easy and approachable POV, so the writing flows rather well.
John Chapman, (loosely based on Johnny Appleseed), led a pretty exciting life towards the end of the 1700's. Man & Beast makes it even more exciting by exploring the romantic side of John's nature. This was my first book containing m/m romance and I found it to be just fine.
Chapman isn't much of a frontiersman and when he turns up on Daniel's doorstep in Pennsylvania, alone with no supplies and winter close on his heels, Daniel takes him in. "In" being a one room, two story cabin with an outhouse and a small barn. Soon snowed in, Daniel and John get to know each other better, but that soon turns out not to be a good thing. Daniel has a very nasty side and likes to drink and John can't wait for the spring thaw to make his escape.
The second part of the novel is about exactly that-John Chapman's escape. He soon begins to make a life for himself in a small town, even though he still has to hide his true nature, (being a homosexual during this time in American history is about the worse thing a man can be.) But not long after his new life is established, his past catches up to him as he always suspected it would, and John is forced to finally make a stand. Instead of running as he always has before, John turns and faces the enemy. Will he survive? You'll have to read this to find out!
Not being a reader of romance at all, never mind a gay one, I was extremely nervous to read this book. Turns out, I needn't have worried. Most romances I've tried in the past just seemed silly and the characters rather vapid, but none of that occurred here. The story took precedence, the romance being secondary, and that worked well for me. To be honest, I was a little freaked out by the sex scenes in the first half of the book, but those scenes were distinctly different in the second half and I settled down with it.
For a novel entirely out of my wheelhouse, I enjoyed Man & Beast. Not having had much experience with romances or gay fiction, my opinion may not mean much, but what's important to me is the STORY, and in that regard, this book delivers. I learned a lot about history, (this book was thoroughly researched), and a bit about gay relationships as well. I learned that in the end, we're all the same and we just want to be ourselves and to be loved. How can a book with that message be a bad thing?
Recommended to fans of historical fiction and romance!
You can buy your copy here: Man & Beast (The Savage Land Book 1)
*I was given a review copy free of charge, in exchange for my honest feedback. This it it. Additionally, I've known the author online for a while now and consider him to be a friend. This did not affect the contents of my review.*
for some reason, I'm nervous as hell. Why, you ask?
This book is historical fiction and I'm down with that, but it's also partly a romance and a m/m one at that. I've got nothing against the m/m part, it's the romance part that makes me nervous. I just don't do romance. But now I am.
I feel like I'm the one exploring a new frontier, along with the protagonist. Wish me luck!