After discovering author Harper Fox in March, I spent April working my way through a chunk of her backlist. Seriously, I haven’t been able to get enough of her books. It’s been a revelation, because the male/male romance genre is not one I usually read in, or indeed expected to like. Were it not for a chance mention of Bodmin Moor in a blurb (Once upon a haunted moor – the first one I read – and awesome), I would never ever have gone there.
But I’m so pleased I did.
Harper Fox writes with lyrical splendour, her settings are fascinating and vividly drawn, and the emotional journey of her characters truly resonates with me. That’s all I really ask for in a book.
The Salisbury Key
My favourite so far (of all) has been The Salisbury Key — I liked it so much I read it twice in the month. (Yep, it’s true.) Daniel, a young archeology professor in Salisbury (UK), has been in a relationship with Jason, the head of his department, for three years, when Jason commits suicide, leaving Daniel a mystery to solve in the form of a map… Grieving and uncomprehending, Daniel decides to proceed with an important dig on Salisbury Plain, where the army has just granted access. He’s assigned a munitions expert, Lieutenant Reyne, who helps him solve the mystery of Jason’s past and why he killed himself.
The friendship between these two men develops so beautifully. Reyne is actually my favourite of all Fox’s heroes — masculine, gentle, caring, tough, totally hot. The way he handles Daniel, who’s not entirely sane with grief, is just amazing. Daniel is attracted to him from the start — then has to deal with the guilt on top of his grief over Jason. As for Reyne, well, he doesn’t even think of himself as gay to start off with, so his journey is also profound.
Yes, there are some fairly explicit m/m sex scenes in this book — as there are in all Fox’s books. But they are not the primary focus. (Nor do they go for pages and pages.) At heart The Salisbury Key is a love story and a mystery, with character relationships at the heart of it. I love the dynamic between male lovers portrayed by Fox — it’s so equal, with the roles of protector, nurturer, aggressor completely interchangeable. The book also deals with the relationship between two estranged brothers and Daniel dealing with some ghosts from his past.
Anyway, I loved Daniel and Reyne so much I had to read their story again — and you should too. Click here!
The other novel-length work of Harper Fox’s I read in April was Driftwood, set down on Cornwall’s Penwith Pensinsula — more standing stones. Tom’s a former army GP broken by his service in the Middle East. Flynn’s an air rescue helicopter pilot fighting off a different set of demons from his past. Their burgeoning relationship heals them both. I recommend this one too, although second to The Salisbury Key.
In April I also read three of Harper Fox’s novellas:
- Life after Joe — About a guy badly handling the breakup of a long-term relationship, when he meets a mysterious and caring man in a bar.
- Winter Knights — About a couple of doctoral students of mythology/religion who have to deal with the fact one of them hasn’t come out to his family… There’s also a mystical ‘threesome’ encounter with Art and Lance, two rescue workers.
- Kestrel’s Chance — About two mountain rescue climbers in Scotland, one of whom is secretly lusting after the other…
My favourite of the novellas was Life after Joe — it has a similar dynamic to The Salisbury Key, in that the first person narrator is all broken up, and is healed through a relationship with a caring yet masculine guy who nonetheless has his own demons.
There are some common threads among the works I’ve read so far — many of her heroes are academics, doctors, or involved in military service or rescue work (or similar). They’re an intriguing mix of intellectual, intelligent and men of action.
Another recurring scenario is a period of unconsciousness for one or other in the relationship — life and death, that sort of thing. A sickbed vigil is just the scenario for a fraught lover.
Many of Fox’s heroes cry a fair bit too — as in multiple times per book — which has surprised me. It’s not that I believe men don’t cry, and if their lover is dead (or nearly) then it’s fair enough; but if a woman were to cry this much in a novel she would be severely frowned upon as being pathetic. Just an observation. (I don’t find these men pathetic at all.)
So that was my reading for April (unless you count re-reads of Fox’s three Frayne and Tyack novellas as well – sshh). And a very enjoyable month it was too!
What did you read in April?