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Ann Somerville

GUEST REVIEW: Cold Front by Ann Somerville

GUEST REVIEW: Cold Front by Ann Somerville

The following is a guest review from Sirius, one of the reviewers for Reviews by JesseWave site. Sirius loves all kinds of mm/gay books – contemporary romances, romantic mysteries, fantasy, scifi, historicals.

Warning – there is a long and horrible torture scene. I was not able to re-read it when I was re-reading the book in preparation for this review. However, I thought it was an integral part of the story, not gratuitous in any way, but beware if it upsets you.

Cold Front by Ann SomervilleFirst, a disclaimer for readers: – I am a *huge* fan of this author. Her writing works for me in a vast majority of her books, out of her rather long back list I have only read one book that I disliked (and not because I found it badly written) and just one book which I was not able to finish. Every other book of hers I liked, and quite a few of her books I truly loved. What I am trying to say that I am probably a bit more biased than a “regular” reader, so please keep this in mind and consider seeking out other reviews as well.

And now, on to the review. As the blurb says, this book is the first part of the Pindone Files series. It could easily be read as a standalone, but in order to get the complete picture of Dek and Ren’s journey towards each other you should also read the sequel , which is called “Unsettled Conditions.”

Deklan (Dek) and Rensire (Ren) are basically cops of the future, who meet each other in BDSM club and have a very memorable one night stand. They end up working together and investigating the series of gruesome murders. I do not want to reveal more of the plot because of the possible spoilers.

In terms of genre I would characterize the book as a romance and mystery set in a complex world in the future, with some important paranormal elements built in.

The world is very vividly drawn. There are empaths, telekinetics, para-kinetics in this world and how they treat people with the talents is one of the major themes in the book. In fact, I would say that people with talents are the “others” of this world and this is where the tolerance of the rest of the population gets tested in a major way. But this is just one feature of this world. The world-building overall was superb in my opinion. I could feel the harshness of the weather. Religions were one of the most interesting that I ever encountered in sci-fi/fantasy books, it was a world which stayed in my head for a very long time. One of the major religions in this world is Spiritism. One of the major beliefs in this religion is that spirit survives the body and can undergo multiple reincarnations.

The story is told from both Dek’s and Ren’s POVs. They are amongst my favorite mm couples because in many aspects these guys are my ultimate romantic heroes, but one of the main reasons why this book left such a strong impression on me was because of their sex life.

It is ironic because much more often than not I prefer less or no sex scenes in my mm romances, but this story has influenced the way I choose my reading material. Basically, this book made me start reading BDSM romances again. I have zero personal experience with BDSM, but I have read some really bad books that I hated and I decided that if every book portrays BDSM like that, I am not interested.

But when I read this book, I saw two men who may have never seen each other before they met in the club and decided to have sex and engage in some BDSM fun, but who treated each other with respect. I saw a Dom whose main desire when they were playing seemed to please the Sub. Of course Dek enjoyed their encounter, but he was not making stupid assumptions about what Ren wanted to get from their encounter before Dek actually asked him. This was such a breath of fresh air for me.

There are not that many sex scenes in this book. Most of them are in the first two short stories/chapters of the book, which take place before the main story “Cold Front” begins, but each of them was passionate and fun to read for me.

The book is as much a mystery as it is a romance, in my opinion. I loved the mystery; I thought it was very well done. Both Dek and Ren are basically police officers and unlike the case in some mystery-romances, they actually investigate their cases. The investigation was long and , complex, and the resolution of the mystery managed to fool me. It is very hard to fool me in mystery novels, if I may say so, but this author managed to do that.

Another reason why romance worked so well for me is because it was woven into their mystery investigation. We get to know the main characters not only as two people in love, or two people falling in love, but we get to know them as individuals, while they are doing their jobs, and we can see their fallings and their successes. In other words, we get to know what is important to them outside of bed and they also get to know each other in more depth because they were working on the case together.

As I mentioned previously, the book can be read as a standalone, but I cannot recommend the sequel highly enough as well, especially in light of what is happens toward to the end of the book. [spoiler]There is no cliffhanger of any kind and it ends as happily as it could in order for the ending to work, but the second book takes the events of this book to the all new level.[/spoiler] There were several supporting characters (both men and women) whom I wanted to get to know better, and I would have enjoyed reading their own stories as well. A

Sincerely,

Sirius

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Dear Author

REVIEW: Remastering Jerna by Ann Somerville

Dear Ms. Somerville:

Remastering Jerna is a remarkable book that harkens back to the beginnings of the novel in the eighteenth century. It is a spiritual autobiography, a travel narrative, a psychological exploration of extreme stress, a prison story, the memoirs of a whore — all the stuff of the novel’s infancy and growth. Although Remastering Jerna is brilliantly constructed and a stunning tour de force, it is only a romance in its last third, perhaps its last half, which is going to make my review slightly schizophrenic.

Set in…an alternate world (?) that is very much like our own but with a different political system, different money, and a matriarchal religion, Remastering Jerna is the first-person narrative of Jerna Setiq, teacher, husband, father…and repressed masochist. He agrees to tutor Davim Korei, the apprentice of his former master, Kimis, the master he broke with when he fell in love with and married his beloved wife Tyrme, mother of his two young children. Davim is almost 17, underage in this society where the age of consent is 18 for everything, and when Jerna finds out that Davim is Kimis’s current sexual submissive, he forces Kimis to stop the relationship until Davim reaches his eighteenth birthday. Davim is furious and as punishment, comes on to Jerna then lies when they are discovered in a compromising embrace. Jerna is arrested for, charged with, and in very short order convicted of the very “child perversion” he is trying to prevent.

This set-up all happens within 28 pages. Another 40 pages follows Jerna as he narrates us through the awful abuse, dehumanization, and hopelessness of the penal system. He is then “hired” in his capacity as a prisoner at a brothel, where we follow him for another 80 pages as he describes his life and duties at the brothel. As first-person narratives sometimes do, the story feels strangely conflictless. This is a direct effect of the book not truly being a romance until more than halfway through. Because the story as a whole follows the ancient conflicts of Man Against Society and Man Against Himself, rather than a romance trajectory, there is no progress in a relationship to track to provide the story with the form we’re familiar with. Jerna doesn’t even meet his future love interest until after he’s well-established at the brothel and it says something about the narrative that I can’t reveal who Jerna’s love interest IS without huge spoilers. The result of this format is that the reader is left following Jerna’s own blind endurance of his extreme suffering without much surcease or hope. Which is kinda depressing, most of the time.

Which is not to say that this book isn’t a brilliant psychological portrait of the effects of the extreme stress of torture and imprisonment and a devoted, almost loving exploration of the unbelievable limits of the human mind and body to endure without hope:

Lady, what do you want from me now?

I sank to my knees, ignoring the freezing wind against my bare arms. I wanted to be cold, to suffer. Maybe, when I’d suffered enough for the Goddess, she’d end this. Or maybe that was what she was waiting for me to do — not to force other people to do my dirty work for me.

I couldn’t tell. I didn’t know what anyone wanted any more. I’d tried so hard to do the right thing, and all that had happened was that I’d make them angry, been punished, imprisoned, shouted at.

“What do you all want?” I whispered, bending low over my knees, crouching around the pain inside me. “Please, tell me what you want and I’ll do it, whatever it takes.”

It is indeed brilliantly done and completely compelling. I read until 4:30am the day I received the book, completely unable to put it down or even to read ahead as I usually do because the picture of Jerna was so perfectly constructed. But it’s not the happiest of books, let’s say.

As for the BDSM—it’s as brilliantly, beautifully done as the psychological portrait. Jerna is a sexual submissive and a masochist. He has been suppressing this side of himself for seven years, all through his very happy marriage to Tyrme, because he does not believe she will understand or approve of his sexual predilections. The brothel’s female owner, however, recognizes the masochist in him and uses him in her BDSM show, re-awakening his need for masochism. The scenes of BDSM done right and BDSM done very wrong are both perfectly enacted, showing the “synergy” (your word) between the emotion and the acts that is so necessary to — the point, in fact, of — BDSM.

When the romantic interest finally shows up, it’s the last person in the world I would have guessed would or could be a successful partner for Jerna. I have never been surprised like that before in a romance. The plot twist — more a wide turn, really, than a sharp twist — to reveal Jerna’s partner is perfectly executed. Although I could never have imagined Jerna’s partner to be who it was, you make me fully believe that he is the perfect person for Jerna by the end of the book. The only niggle I have here is that there doesn’t seem to be quite enough interaction for the depth of Jerna’s emotions at the dark moment when the two men are parted. Jerna’s emotions are so exquisitely laid out and dissected throughout the novel, that to have the depth of Jerna’s romantic attachment be slightly underdeveloped only makes it that much more glaring a concern.

However, that aside, the writing and emotions expressed were strong enough that I was crying at the end of the book, both for the lovers’ parting and for their reunion. Whatever the rest of the book, the ending is pure, exquisite romance, beautifully portrayed. My grade is slightly lower than it would be if this weren’t a romance review site, because most of the book is NOT actually a romance. If this were a general lit review site, I’d give it an A- (notice, for example, how many times I use “brilliantly” in this review). As a romance review site, though:

Grade: B

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

This book can be purchased at Amazon. No ebook version.

EDITED TO ADD: I do have to add, for the record, and because it needs to be said even though I keep forgetting to say it, that Jerna is a sanctimonious prig. In the nicest possible way, of course, and I was rooting for him the whole way through. But if he’d been able to bend some of his morals just a leetle now and then….well, there wouldn’t have been a book, but it does make me want to slap him around a little and, like Cher in Moonstruck, yell “Snap out of it!” But that in no way detracts from the novel — in fact, it adds to the reader’s involvement with the book. But still. It had to be said. :)