Mel Keegan owes me a couple of years of lifeóseriously. My lifespan has been shaved off reading this. At times I found myself biting my hand as I was reading it. Iíve never been so tense and so rooting for any characters.
I thought Keegan wrote relatively light, sort of boysí own gay stories. Thatís how heís reviewed on other sites. Well, if thatís so, then we must have lucked onto his one great novel. This is the most remarkable work of fiction Iíve read for a long time. Not only does it set up a whole new premise for vampires and their human companions, the changlings, but it spans continents, centuries and is the most moving, affecting love story that Iíve read for ages.
Do not miss this novel. Youíll be transported into a world where vampires are a gentle, ancient race who are dying out. If they have a favoured human lover, they sometimes ďchangeĒ themóhence the term changlings. By their nature, changlings are beautiful, tender creatures, often the young male lovers of male vampires. They are turned if they come into contact with any bodily fluid, and then lose their appetites, exist on blood and cannot tolerate sunlight. However close this seems to ordinary vampire myths, Keegan has thrown in a delightful curve in that the vampires and their changlings donít cause harm at all. They are intensely reverent of life. They take their blood from willing patrons, often wolfhounds, whom they put into a gentle trance and take a tiny amount of blood from in return for great affection.
Set at the turn of the nineteenth century, this gentle vampire culture is shown in contrast to the hectic, bloody, crass life of humans. When the worlds collide, you genuinely fear for the gentle, educated, cultured vampires and changlings.
The hero of the story is Vincent Bantry, invalided out of the army, having served most of his career in China. His sexuality is ambivalent. He had a male houseboy who served him in bed, whom he was very fond of, but Lee was his social inferior and that difference in rank coloured the way he saw what they were doing. He returns to England to make a new life and within a few days meets the mysterious young man Michael Flynn who is working as a Tarot reader for the amusement of Londonís wealthy society.
Bantry and Flynn are lovers on the epic scale. This whole novel is epic in its scope and yet intensely personal. Tiny little details are lovingly fleshed out. The sex is some of the most erotic Iíve read, mixed as it is with the vampire myths, blood, fear, danger and deep, abiding love.
Iíve not done this novel justice in this review, suffice to say that I donít care about losing those couple of years: this read was worth it.
Keeganís works are very hard to find in the UK. You can get them from his site in Australia (see link below), but they are very expensive when you add in the postage. However, you'd be able to sell on ebay for more than you paid for them, so rare are they. Some come up on Amazon Marketplace, but they are wildly priced. Iím now on an obsessive mission to track each one down. Iíve just bought from ebay in Germany the first of his NARC series about Jarrat and Stone, Deathís Head, and I canít wait for it to arrive (unfortunately not the unabridged version which they just released).
Mel has a wonderful website called Dream Craft, which is worth taking a look at in its own right. An amazing website to showcase an amazing author.
I adored this novel.† Good writing, well developed and engaging characters, compelling story.† A beautifully realised gay romance, with enough sex to satisfy my need for erotica alongside juicy page-turning plot: sublime, loving, lyrical, and sensuous, also hot, hard man-sex, fighting for domination and submission, giving and taking by turns.
Love is at the core, a man-to-man relationship when Ďsodomyí carried a harsh prison sentence, and male intimacy was by necessity hidden.† Though probably tolerated more than we think today, provided men were discreet, much as hetero vice was commonplace, while piano legs were covered for propriety and ladies kept sheltered.
Set in 1892, on the eve of a new century, this historical romance has fantasy, mystery and science fiction elements.† Modernity, time as a tide carrying us forward to explore a new world, imbues the book, though always with an eye on the past and those who have gone before. A deftly plotted thriller/adventure that left me gasping until almost the final page, impossible to put down until I knew one way or the other how faired those lovers.
Captain Vince Bantry is a handsome 32 year-old army officer wounded out of service, home to England, after many years in the Orient.† In the company of Phoebe, daughter of old friend Dr. David Lockwood, Bantry meets mesmerising young Irishman, Michael Flynn, occultist and Tarot reader, beautiful, gifted and strange.† Flynn suffers an unfortunate illness that makes his life peculiar, but makes him all the more attractive to Vince.† Bantry missing his accommodating Chinese houseboy, Lin, is instantly in the throes of passion, lust, and yearning, completely beguiled by comely Flynn, an angel from an Old Masterís canvas.
Flynn is a child of the night, with an eye condition that means he cannot tolerate light.† His pupils are permanently dilated and his skin blisters when exposed to daylight.† Lockwood is interested in this rare disease, which he has named phototonic mydriasis, and wishes to make a scientific study of Flynn, whoís understandably reluctant to offer himself up for experimentation.
Whereas Vince is tall and muscular, Flynn is small, slender and fine-boned, but definitely masculine, strong and lithe, with a dancerís grace and a luscious mouth Bantry aches to kiss. When he reads Phoebeís cards, Flynn cautions the coming year will not be as she wishes, but to have hope for everything changes.† Vince then asks Flynn to cast his cards, after years in the East, considerably less sceptical than most of his countrymen, having seen and heard too much to entirely believe, or discount, anything.†
The card reading predicts the course of Vinceís life for the next year with uncanny accuracy: a major decision; confinement, isolation and serious loss; the beginning of a new life, from hardship and adversity. And thus begins a transcendent love story that carries us from the elegant drawing rooms and theatres of London to Paris and a winter idyll in the watery Camargue region of France.
A series of gruesome murders, like nothing seen since Jack the Ripper, creates an atmosphere of fear and suspicion focused on the mysterious stranger who lives in the shadows, and arrived when the killings began.† Bantry is uneasy about Michael Flynn, with his deeply guarded secrets.†† Even if Michael is not the Putney Slasher, thereís something he isnít telling Bantry.† Michael is haunted by memories of lost love, reawakened by passion for Vince.† Wise beyond his years, he has endured sadness and despair.† Vince is drawn into Michaelís intriguing world of the night, a glittering place of art & music, intoxicating, and deeply seductive.† When finally he learns the truth, Vince realises heís known it all along, that heís been given everything a man could desire.† Thereís a price, but one heís prepared to pay willingly.
I donít want to spoil the story so Iím not saying any more. You MUST read the novel.†† Michael Flynn is a wonderful, seductive creation.† And warrior-likeVince his perfect mate.† Late 19th C Europe comes alive, with hints of the transformational century to come.† Phoebe is a modern woman not a prim Victorian lady, and I loved her.† This is the kind of book that inspires fanfiction.† A fully realised fantasy world with an elaborate mythology, charismatic characters you canít let go, and breathtakingly sexy.† Iíd love to learn more about Michaelís earlier life, to read the stories he told Vince when they were holed up in the Camargue, and to see his paintings.†