In honour of English author Mary Stewart, who died earlier this month (see my tribute), I’ve been re-reading for the umpteenth time, My Brother Michael – one of my favourites.
Sipping coffee in Athens and wishing something would happen, Camilla accidentally agrees to drive a hire car to Delphi for someone called Simon. It turns out Simon is a young Englishman whose elder brother Michael was killed on Mount Parnassus during WWII (the novel is set in the 60s) — and he has no idea who ordered the car. He’s there to visit Michael’s grave and see the place where his brother was killed, but it soon becomes apparent that the circumstances surrounding Michael’s death were not as they seem… Camilla and Simon become embroiled in a deadly plot involving local Greek terrorist types, all set amid the wild rugged beauty of Delphi and the heights of Mount Parnassus.
Readers of this blog will know that setting is hugely important to me, and Mary Stewart’s settings are always amazing. Every time I read this book, I’m captivated by the idea of gliding through the ruins of ancient Delphi by starlight, of trekking along goat paths up into the mountains, of gazing up the Pilgrim’s Way from the foot of the hill. As I’ve said before, this book captured my imagination so much that Delphi was the first place I visited outside Australia.
Mary Stewart’s characters are all wonderfully complex, and the development of her relationships beautifully subtle. Yes, it is true her books are of their time — modern readers coming to them anew may chafe at the defined gender roles, which were so accepted in the 60s. But her male heroes are dominant and protective without being overbearing — they are caring and respectful and so very capable.
Simon Lester is no different. Without quite knowing why, Camilla finds herself agreeing to accompany Simon when he visits the Greek family who sheltered Michael during the war, and again on the hike up the mountain to see where he died. Camilla is a fabulous heroine: she’s observant with brilliant recall and an uncanny ability to add up the clues to arrive at the correct conclusion; she’s brave and adventurous and independent too.
My Brother Michael is steeped in classical references — Mary Stewart, herself a classicist, called it her love letter to Greece. It’s also infused with historical references about what went on during WWII with the resistance. But at heart it’s a thriller — with Camilla and Simon forced to fight for their lives as they thwart the bad guys and make an astonishing and wonderful discovery as well.
Other books read in May include:
- Nine Lights over Edinburgh – Harper Fox (novella)
- Brothers of the Wild North Sea – Harper Fox
- Hainted – Jordan L Hawk
- Enlightenment #1 Provoked – Joanna Chambers
- Enlightenment #2 Beguiled – Joanna Chambers
- Enlightenment #3 Enlightened – Joanna Chambers
Yes, more Harper Fox… Nine Lights over Edinburgh is something of a crime novel, with the main character’s (an undercover policeman with a drinking problem) daughter kidnapped by a crime boss he’s trying to put away. He’s assisted in her recovery by a rather divine Israeli secret service agent.
Brothers of the Wild North Sea is set in the middle ages: a reluctant Christian monk on an outpost island finds himself holding his community together in the face of Viking raids; at the same time he saves the life of one of the Vikings, left for dead after a raid, and the two have to reconcile their many differences for their love to survive. [This novel was too long for the subject matter, in my view. It’s a nice story, though.]
But the good news is I managed to read books by authors OTHER than Harper Fox… Hainted is a modern day paranormal m/m love story. Dan is young guy, resolutely in the closet, raising his kid brother and sister on the family farm. He’s a ‘Walker’ (guy who can deal with hauntings and such) in denial, when Leif, a fellow Walker and multi-pierced goth on the run, comes to beg his aid with a particularly nasty evil necromancer… Both men are partly broken by events in their past, and through teaming up and falling in love, manage to defeat two sets of evil (one each) and heal each other’s souls. [Great characters, good story, more of a ‘romance’ feel than Harper Fox’s books.]
Finally, the Joanna Chambers Enlightenment trilogy is set mainly in 19th century Edinburgh — a time and place where being gay was illegal and socially unacceptable, which meant such liaisons had to be very secret. The books are about David, an advocate/lawyer from a farming background and Lord Murdo Balfour, a peer with whom he becomes entangled. Their story is told over the three books, with a backdrop of civil unrest in the city, a royal visit, social prejudices, family intrigue, helping friends in need… I enjoyed these for the most part, but two things bothered me: 1) the end of the first book is left up in the air with no HEA so that you absolutely have to read the second… which ends better, although still with not much resolved. They’re really ONE story told over three books. 2) the end of the third book just fell flat for me; for the culmination of a three-book series, the resolution and HEA ending was too rushed. Guess she just doesn’t do endings well.
Thus ends my foray into m/m, I believe. I wasn’t intending to read beyond the Harper Fox books, but the others were so strongly recommended that I felt compelled to broaden the experiment. And, although I still prefer Harper Fox for her writing and characters and setting, I did enjoy the others. But it’s definitely time for me to move on…