Monday, 18 March 2013

An alternative to reading 'Cawnpore'

'Lord of Endersley' is another story of a gay relationship set against the background of the Indian Mutiny. It's rather more explicit than 'Cawnpore' but it may well appeal to some of the people who like my books.

I'll be posting an excerpt and an interview with the author in the next few days. Meanwhile, here's my review as seen on Amazon.


'Lord of Endersley' starts in India in the mid 19th century. The natives are getting restless and Captain Billington warns the young Lord Endersley to ignore the official reassurances and flee while he still can. Endersley is gay and decides to take the Captain's advice, as much because he has developed a crush on the officer, with his military bearing and confident manner, as because he believes he is in danger.

The more Endersley sees of the Captain, the more he desires him, but homosexuality is illegal. This is, indeed, the love that dare not speak its name.

Endersley and the Captain set out together to Agra, where a British garrison promises safety. Almost as soon as they start on their journey, the Indian Mutiny breaks out. As they flee in terror of their lives, Endersley discovers that Captain Billington is not as averse to his overtures as he had expected. They become lovers, but, when they arrive at Agra, they are separated. Billington has his duties as an officer, while Endersley is billeted with the other civilians. In the crowded conditions of the fort, there is no opportunity for them to express their feelings for each other.

Billington finds a hidden spot where they can be alone and they take up their relationship again.

Both survive the Mutiny and Endersley returns to England. There, he is eventually joined by Capt Billington, who has now left the Army. Billington finds it hard to cope with the fact that he is now in reduced circumstances, while Endersley is a wealthy aristocrat. This puts a strain on their relationship, but eventually this is resolved and they settle in Endersley's magnificent home. Endersley's brother, though, is disgusted by the homosexuality and denounces him to a local magistrate. It seems that this will spell the end to their relationship and possibly the disgrace and imprisonment of Endersley. A remark from his faithful butler, though, makes Endersley realise that their secret is, in fact, common knowledge to the household. Victorian hypocrisy will triumph. Provided the two men are discreet, they will be able to continue their relationship.

The narrative runs more smoothly than this crude summary, but it is definitely on the episodic side. The opening is unpromising but, once the action moves to Agra, the historical detail is convincing and you begin to get caught up in the narrative. The romance at its core, though, still failed to involve me, because the two protagonists are so clearly attracted to each other that there is no real obstacle for them to overcome. For example, the practical difficulties of making love in a crowded fort are circumvented by the simple device of finding a hidden pavilion where they can be together. This may indeed have been possible, but convenient pavilions can seem a bit like lazy plotting.

It is only in the final part of the book that I found myself really involved. Victorian law and social norms pose a real threat to their relationship. Only now is there a real obstacle to overcome and it is overcome in a way which is not predictable but which probably reflects the reality of their situation. I found it credible and quite moving. Certainly, by the end of the book, I was enjoying it and I'm happy to recommend it.

Like most gay romances, this book offers scenes of explicit physicality. It's what the readers expect and S A Meade provides just the right amount of titillation. The sex will appeal to gay men and (so I'm told) quite a lot of straight women. Straight men may be less comfortable with it, but they should not allow this to get in the way of an entertaining and reasonably well researched read

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