Monday, June 30, 2014

Think of England by KJ Charles ~ Review, Guest Blog and Giveaway

Think of England

Downton Abbey meets M/M romance ~ an absolutely brilliant historical novel with industrial espionage, murder, blackmail and two unlikely heroes up against the odds. What more could I wish for?

We also have KJ Charles with us today talking about the attitudes of being gay in 1904. Seriously interesting ~ check it out below!

A Word from KJ Charles

“A Gay Old Time”

Historical Attitudes in M/M Romance

My new book Think of England is set in 1904. This was a pretty remarkable time in many ways, with social change, political upheaval, and the old order clinging on to power. One of its most interesting aspects was the way a gay identity was developing – at least for some people – and that was something I wanted to tackle with my heroes in the book.

Daniel da Silva is a cutting-edge intellectual, educated in Germany, the powerhouse of European thought. He’s read Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), one of the first books to study homosexuality (and use the word), which argued that homosexuality was caused by changes to the embryo creating a ‘sexual inversion’ of the brain; and Havelock Ellis’ Sexual Inversion (1897), which described homosexuality as natural and said it should be accepted, not treated. These guys were saying ‘born this way’ over a century before Lady Gaga put on her meat dress. Daniel believes that he is homosexual, that it’s something he is, not something he does, and that, as a fair few thinkers argued even then, his desires and emotions are as legitimate as anyone else’s – even if expressing them physically was illegal.

Archie Curtis is different. Archie gets cold chills at the word ‘intellectual’, and would guess that Krafft-Ebing was a nautical term or maybe a kind of German cake. He’s never heard of homosexuality. The love that doesn’t speak its name? Archie can’t even spell it. In his world view, which was a lot more widespread than Daniel’s, you have ‘poufs’, a disturbing, deviant threat to the social order. Queer, Oscar Wilde types like Daniel da Silva who pluck their eyebrows, speak effeminately, wear flamboyant clothes. And then you have men, who aren’t like that. And if men happen to give each other a hand, as it were…well, boys will be boys. It’s perfectly normal to need relief, and if you spend your life in the company of men, then you’ll seek it among your fellows. It doesn’t change who you are, it’s just something you do. And it definitely doesn’t make you one of those.

It’s always an act of guesswork and impersonation to convey historical attitudes, and Think of England is a romance and an adventure story, not a Ph.D. thesis. But I hope I’ve got the differing attitudes of these two men right, brought out some of the complex attitudes of this fascinating time in their characters and interactions, and shown some of the difficulties Archie faces when Daniel brings his simple certainties crashing down.

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ThinkOfEngland72lg

Title: Think of England

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: Samhain

Release: 1st July 2014

Genre: M/M romance       (historical / crime)

Rating:

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Synopsis

Lie back and think of England...

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.
As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…

Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

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Mark’s Review

Downton Abbey meets M/M romance ~ an absolutely brilliant historical novel with industrial espionage, murder, blackmail and two unlikely heroes up against the odds. What more could I wish for?

I devoured this book from beginning to end. Loved the period it was set in and the whole plot was intriguing and gripping to say the least. Curtis has been invited to visit the Armstrong residence Peakholme high in the Pennines along with others. KJ sets the period fantastically and the reader is taken back to a time of Downton Abbey, big country estates, servants, aristocracy and huge country estate houses. I was in my element as an historical fan. Curtis was wounded in Jacobsdal in Africa after a faulty shipment of rifles from Layfette backfired and exploded in his hands along with others in his regiment. this accident caused some their lives, but Curtis is now only left with his thumb and forefinger on his right hand and a wounded knee.

However, the competition is high for weapons producers and this incident obviously bankrupted Layfette and not shortly afterward committed suicide, or was it? Curtis suspects foul play on the behalf of the Armstrongs, another family whose wealth is based on producing weapons. Did Armstrong sabotage the Layfette rifles delivered to Jacobsdal? Curtis is determined to find out. Curtis is from a titled family and although a military man through and through is possibly not the most academically intelligent person obviously enjoys the status his class of people enjoy.

I loved the characters in this book too, true to the time, however one particular guest of Mrs Armstrong is Daniel Da Silva. An effeminate poet of the Oscar Wilde sort and of Jewish and Mediterranean  descent to boot. His quick and caustic, but extremely intelligent remarks are cause for some antipathy among the men, but is tolerated as the women find him highly entertaining and enjoy his poetry and company.

Da Silva looked up. “Absolutely marvellous. There is nothing I like more than a good fuck with someone who despises me.”

However, there is more depth to Da Silva’s character than first meets the eye with his frivolous appearance. Curtis also finds Da Silva quite an objectionable character and these two couldn’t be more opposite if they tried. So the enemies to friends situation is set and I must admit I was very intrigued as to how the author was going to bring these two very unlikely characters together. Well, I suppose you have to find common ground, something they share and when Curtis finds out that Da Silva is also at the Armstrong’s with a hidden agenda, then they find their common ground and start to tolerate each other. I was still asking the question though how the hell are these two seriously going to get down to physical? – lol! Well, WOW, KJ delivers such a turn in the plot that these two end up in the sack, in totally realistic terms for the situation and time given. Brilliant! But you realise there is still a very long way to go before you can start to talk about a relationship or love.

This for me was the most historically accurate part of this book. For men like Curtis, men don’t love men, as KJ mentions above, it’s just what boys do when being boys. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, mutual sexual relief, but to think of oneself as Gay would also have been not acceptable. Da Silva on the other hand has fewer problems with his identity / sexuality and is tolerated by the aristocracy due to his “art,” like anyone who is that artistic being a “pouf” comes with the territory. However, he comes from a very working class background but climbed the academic ladder, therefore probably having not so much to lose as Curtis. This reminded me very much of E.M. Forsters book Maurice. Maurice was middle / upper-class and had a much harder time of coming to terms and accepting his sexuality, whereas Scudder the gardener was a lot more realistic about his sexuality.

Curtis wasn’t like that. He simply didn’t feel queer, whatever that might feel like. He felt like a normal chap who, now and then, enjoyed encounters with other chaps, that was all. Some people might not see the distinction, he supposed, but there was definitely a difference. He wasn’t sure what it was, but there was one. Well, there had to be, since he wasn’t queer.

Like, yeah right, who are you trying to kid! A seriously bad case of denial, but totally normal for this day and age. Here I loved the chemistry between the characters. Curtis dealing with his internal conflicts and Da Silva blatantly out as it were for the time, but guarded with his emotions as to protect himself from being hurt. Here an emotional tug-o-war starts, with Curtis falling more and more for Da Silva, but Da Silva constantly trying to push him away to protect his own heart from being broken as in this day and age he really couldn’t see a possibility for a relationship. I just loved the way this was dealt with and they do find their HEA, at least an acceptable one for that time. You won’t read words, like “love you” because this would have never happened then, but you have to read between the words and know that the love is there.

The whole murder-mystery plot is well paced and cleverly thought out. As the noose begins to tighten around Curtis and Da Silva I was even left thinking how the hell are they going to get out of this fix now on several occasions and keeps the suspense moving along nicely. As with any crime story it’s difficult to write too much without giving too much away, but here the crime is clear from the beginning it’s all a matter of proving it and Curtis and Da Silva trying to get the proof for all this downright industrial skullduggery to the authorities. Here they have to play a skillful game of espionage, not letting on to their guests why they are really there as their lives depend on it.

This book is a five star read for me, loved the way it was written, very true to the time, loved the period it was set in, loved the murder-mystery plot and felt like it was all over far to soon which wasn’t the case but for me is a sign of a great book. Enjoyed the whole experience.

 

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About The Author

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I'm a writer of romance, mostly m/m, often historical or fantasy or both. I also have a contemporary thriller coming out soon. I like to mix it up.

I'm a commissioning editor in my daily life and I blog about writing and editing at www.kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com.

I live in London, UK, with two kids, a tolerant husband and an even more tolerant cat.

Connect with the Author

FACEBOOK | WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS

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Purchase Links

samhain

AMAZON BUY LINK

Other titles by KJ Charles……….

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Giveaway

KJ Charles will be giving away on ebook copy of Think of England to one lucky winner. Just enter the rafflecopter draw below for your chance to win.

Good Luck X

a Rafflecopter giveaway

40 comments:

  1. I am really looking forward to reading this book. I love the Charm of Magpies series, and all the critics of Think of Englans I've read so far make me think it is going to be a great book. I just can't wait!

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  2. For he himself has said it,
    And it's greatly to his credit,
    That he is an Englishman!

    For he might have been a Roosian,
    A French, or Turk, or Proosian,
    Or perhaps Itali-an!

    But in spite of all temptations
    To belong to other nations,
    He remains an Englishman!

    It was either this or Home Thoughts from Abroad by Robert Browning

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  3. Great review and a so interesting blurb... I love romance novels to be more and this one seems to be exactly that! Thanks for the giveaway.

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  4. I've been looking forward to this one. I adored the Charm of Magpies & Simon Feximall series' and I have Non Stop Til Tokyo on Mt. TBR too.

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  5. I love KJ's books and this one sounds like it will be great. Please count me in.

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  6. It sounds awesome. I would like to read it.

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  7. I can't wait any longer for thissss! LOL, thanks for the giveaway!

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  8. KJs books are great, looking forward to this one.

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  9. I'm looking forward to reading the book I've enjoyed all K J's other books.

    ShirleyAnn(at)speakman40(dot)freeserve(dot)co(dot)uk

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  10. Looking forward to this! Thanks for the interesting post and the giveaway!

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  11. Still looking forward to this! Thanks for the giveaway!

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  12. Thanks for the interesting post and the giveaway!

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  13. Absolutely fascinating period of history. This sounds terrific!

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  14. I love Historical!! This sounds like just the little something different I've been wanting to read.

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  15. I love historical reads, especially M/M. Great review!

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  16. I am looking forward to reading Think of England. I just love KJ Charles' books. Thanks for the review and giveaway!!

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  17. Another great review and recommendation. I've been eager to try this series.

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  18. Great recommendation, sounds fantastic!

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  19. love the sound of this book!

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  20. would love to win and read

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  21. I look forward to reading Think of England. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  22. Thanks for post and giveaway.
    cvsimpkins@msn.com

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  23. sounds great! count me in please

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  24. I have only started reading historical books recently. Everything about this book intrigues me starting with the cover. Thanks for a chance to win a copy.

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  25. I think it sounds great & I look forward to reading it!

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  26. It sounds so intriguing--thanks so much for the interview and review!

    --Trix

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  27. Great cover and thanks for the giveaway!

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  28. Sounds truly wonderful! Thanks for the chance to win!

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  29. Great review! The book sounds great!

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  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  31. I've never read a M/M historical romance before...sounds amazing :) I can't wait to read it! Thanks for the giveaway!

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  32. I love reading historical romances but I haven't really dipped my feet into m/m historical romance yet. This should be interesting.

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  33. I hadn't the time to buy this yet but I'm off to get it now, I can't wait any longer.

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  34. I'm really looking forward to this book. I enjoyed the review (and quotes chosen).

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  35. I love MM books but haven't read any historical fiction ones- looking forwards to it!

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