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REVIEW: Roses in December by Fiona Glass

Dear Ms. Glass,

RosesInDecemberI started reading this book out of curiosity and couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve purchased a few gay “romances” and most let me down in one of two ways. Either they’re erotica that has left romance and character out for the most part, or they’re just not written that well. This book, on the other hand, is all about characters and romance, and you write very well.

The flow and pacing of your book just pulled me through it. It was so smooth I didn’t notice pages slipping by. I loved your dialogue too. You seem to have a gift for that. The internal monologues of your hero and his talks with the others in the hospital were completely natural. His point of view said loads about his character without you have to say more.

The language of the story is very British and very authentic (probably because you are authentically British?). It might confuse some American readers a little, but those familiar with any British literature should understand it quite well. Besides, as the story is told from the point of view of the hero it only added to his character.

The story itself reminded me of gothic romances, or the best ghost stories, ones told by someone who understands understatement. The little hints throughout the book added to the otherworldliness, and the questions I had kept mounting, even though I thought I was beginning to grasp what was going on. But the time I hit the last section I was flying through it to get to the end.

A word about the story for those who might be curious… Nat Brook is sergeant in the British army whose leg was destroyed in an IRA bombing, and he’s experiencing some realistically told mental problems as a result as well. He’s been sent from hospital to hospital until he finally arrives at Partington Towers, an old country estate that has seen better days and has been converted into a VA hospital. It’s not that pleasant a place though, not quite creepy, but uncomfortable. Nat feels out of place, and alone, and not only because of the setting. To remain in the army he needs to keep his sexuality a secret, and that’s becoming increasingly difficult to do. He starts spending time away from the people there, in the gardens, and he finds they hold much more than expected. They’re described with lush detail, and you make them almost another character, with their fickleness and mystery.

Romance comes in the form of a mischievous young man that Nat meets one day wandering the gardens. The man, Richie, is entrancing, not just to Nat but the reader, charming us in every scene he appears in. His appearance is rare which brings it into even sharper contrast with the drabness and depression Nat is experiencing elsewhere.

The rarity of their encounters might bother some readers though who prefer the romantic leads have more time together. Richie feels more like a secondary character, though an important one. And to be honest, I didn’t find their sex scenes to be erotic, more just a couple of blokes having sex. But erotic is really in the eye of the beholder, so many may not agree with me. But thank God the sex was not the Tab A into Slot B set pieces in standard erotica that I normally skim or skip altogether. It was sex, told simply and well, and readable as such.

The other thing I loved a little less was the way the ending was handled. Or maybe not. I keep going back and forth about this one. When I read it I blinked at the speed with which it was finished. By the time I got down to the last chapter, I had an inkling of how it might end, and was surprised at how very much you fit in there. And while the last few lines were lovely, part of me just wanted a little more. But I also like the rhythm of the section that led to that final point, and the fact that it feels *right*. To be honest I’m not sure which I’d prefer, to have my cake and eat it too it seems. But I’d invested so much in the characters that for once I wanted an epilogue. I know some readers would definitely want a little something extra there.

But overall I liked this story so much. It’s not for everyone, not because the heroes are gay, though that won’t appeal to some, but because it’s not action packed and there’s not a lot of talking and the heroes don’t spend a whole lot of time together. But anyone who wants a book that draws them into another world and keeps them there for the duration, this is it. A-.

Sincerely,

ジェーン
(Jān)

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.

16 Comments

  1. Keishon
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 22:45:45

    Hey Jan, I just finished reading a “gay” erotica that was actually pretty good. Bad Case of Loving You by Laney Cairo. It actually had a plot, shocker. I’ll have to look for this one. Thanks for the review. Since reading ebooks and manga, I’ve been reading a little of everything it seems and love that too.

  2. Jan
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 23:08:15

    I’ll look for that one. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of just plain gay romance out there. At least where I’m looking. Though I did read a gay romance about a year and a half ago called Hot Sauce and it was really cute, although a little flowery in its language. OK, one of the guys wrote so purple at first I was laughing hysterically (it’s written by a couple). But it got better, and the story was very romantic.

    I loved the language of this one, but it may be too tame for people who are used to some of the wild stuff out there. Oh well, they can write reviews of their own LOL.

  3. Fiona Glass
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 03:54:55

    Thanks very much. Really. I’m delighted you enjoyed the book so much – that means more to me than all the (ahem) writer awards in the world. :)

  4. Emily
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 08:01:40

    I agree that gay romance can be hard to find–many epublishers simply don;t take it, and for others gay aut0matically gets rated spicy so you don’t get the readers you are aiming for. Fiona is a great example of a writer of gay romance not gay sexy kink (and I say that as someone probably more in the latter camp).

  5. Jan
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 09:47:45

    [quote comment="25333"]Thanks very much. Really. I’m delighted you enjoyed the book so much – that means more to me than all the (ahem) writer awards in the world. :)[/quote]

    :) It really was a pleasure to read. For the most part, when I want gay romance I have to go into the slash and yaoi communities, and we all know how hit and miss that can be, though there are some wonderful writers and stories out there.

    I noticed you have a couple of anthologies (which I plan to try). Are you planning to try another novel or are you happier working in the short story form?

  6. Jan
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 09:55:34

    [quote comment="25351"]I agree that gay romance can be hard to find–many epublishers simply don;t take it, and for others gay aut0matically gets rated spicy so you don’t get the readers you are aiming for. Fiona is a great example of a writer of gay romance not gay sexy kink (and I say that as someone probably more in the latter camp).[/quote]

    It’s a pity no one is trying to sell romance. Maybe they’ll take notice of the amazing popularity of yaoi manga and try to sell to that audience. I’ve noticed that some publishers are springing up just for that purpose, though I’ve not been impressed by the little I’ve seen from them yet. I think though, that like most epublishers, that will change in time.

    Any other writers of gay romance you can recommend? I’m not for the most part into the kink end of the spectrum.

  7. Fiona Glass
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 10:05:37

    Oh goodie, more sales. *rubs hands* :D

    I’m actually working on another novel as we speak (write?) but as ‘Roses’ took me around three years to write, it may not be available for some time yet. ;)

    I agree there’s not much gay *romance* around, as opposed to erotica. Most of the publishers who take gltb want full-on erotica, the more graphic the better. *shrugs* But I’m not sure Emily’s being fair to herself – she does a great line in gay romance when she wants to.

  8. Jan
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 10:33:11

    [quote comment="25368"]I’m actually working on another novel as we speak (write?) but as ‘Roses’ took me around three years to write, it may not be available for some time yet. ;)[/quote]

    I’m looking forward to it.

    [quote] I agree there’s not much gay *romance* around, as opposed to erotica. Most of the publishers who take gltb want full-on erotica, the more graphic the better. *shrugs* [/quote]

    It might be the audience for which they’re writing. That is the difference between gay manga and yaoi or BL manga from Japan. Gay manga, by men for men, focuses on the physical, and very masculine body types too. BL manga, by women for women, focuses on the emotional story (with sex too though), and with very aesthetically different body types, most unrealistically beautiful.

    One manga house, DMP/June, has translated a couple of Japanese BL novels, though they’ve chosen some strange ones. I’m hoping that they bring over some better choices, and get some good translators for them too, because the titles so far aren’t that great.

    But since there are some yaoi publishers springing up in the US, perhaps those might eventually be the best bet for people looking for well-written mxm romance novels. At least I hope they save room for romance among all the erotica.

    *laughs* This situation reminds me of how I as a trad Regency fan feel slighted amidst the growing number of erotic historicals. Perhaps the romance lovers will always get the short end of the stick.

  9. Emily
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 12:06:29

    Gay romance I enjoyed, off the top of my head, would include:
    Cowboy Up: anthology (Torquere again)
    The Phoenix — by Ruth Simms
    The Lord in Flight — by Laura… something
    Comfort and Joy — by, um, you know, that guy

    um, it’s hot here and I am inadequately caffinated. I am sure others can suggest things along the line of “if you liked Roses n December…”

  10. Emily
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 12:11:08

    p.s. even on the sweet end of M/M there are genres. I tried a lot of shonen ai and yaoi and ultimately found it was not what I was after. I have more luck in the literature secition, and sometimes fantasy sci fi (Flewelling, Lackey, Patton, Huff etc). In fact the long tradition of M/M by women in fantasy deserves a lot more press than it gets–it goes back to the 60’s well before the modern ‘M/M’, fan-fic and all that.

  11. Jan
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 12:33:28

    Hmm, since I love BL manga our tastes may not run the same, but I’ll look into the titles you recommended. Thank you for them. :)

    I’ve read most of what’s on the fantasy shelves and didn’t really care for most of it to be honest. The Flewelling was great, and the Huff was pretty good, but I thought most of the rest was kind of blah. (There’s another one I liked a lot but I can’t recall the author…)

    Which of the BL titles did you try? They come in a wide variety too, so perhaps you didn’t pick up the kind you might prefer? I’ll be reviewing some titles here actually. But manga will tend not to be as in depth as a novel simply because of its length.

  12. Jan
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 13:22:46

    Yay I bought Phoenix and Comfort and Joy. I’ve read another of Grimsley’s books, Kirith Kirin, a fantasy that I didn’t like too much, but I think the things I didn’t like might be minimized in contemporary fiction. I couldn’t find the Lord in Flight.

    (Someone needs to seriously revamp Torquere’s online store btw.)

  13. Emily
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 16:35:52

    I didn’t like Kirith Kirin either, I think I gave it 2/5–it was like a fantasy from 30 years ago. I terms of manga I tried Demon Diary, Fake, Banana Fish–then I decided that paying novel price for a manga didn’t make a lot of sense unless I *really* liked them. I would try yaoi prose so long as I got a reccy that steered me clear of my squicks which include anything at all like rape, and rigid sexual roles (bet that limits the options?)

  14. Jan
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 18:22:49

    [quote comment="25439"]I didn’t like Kirith Kirin either, I think I gave it 2/5–it was like a fantasy from 30 years ago. I terms of manga I tried Demon Diary, Fake, Banana Fish–then I decided that paying novel price for a manga didn’t make a lot of sense unless I *really* liked them. I would try yaoi prose so long as I got a reccy that steered me clear of my squicks which include anything at all like rape, and rigid sexual roles (bet that limits the options?)[/quote]

    None of those three is actually yaoi.

    Rape is a tough one, since what the Japanese see as rape and what we do are two different things (tears for them for example are a sign of release and pleasure, and “no” doesn’t always mean “no”, in manga; one’s partner is supposed to be able to tell what one really means). But there are a number of books that don’t include that that you might try, and some only one or two volumes long. But at that length you don’t get much exploration of sexual roles.

    One series where you do get that exploration is called Embracing Love, by Youka Nitta. It’s about two male AV (adult video) stars who meet and fall in love and rise out of that industry to become major TV and film stars. It’s graphic sexually, incredibly sexy, and a very good romantic story. It contains no rape (except a couple of bad guys try it on a occasion), but none between the heroes. And they both play seme on occasion, but more after they’re married than before. This is an ongoing series about their relationship, though comprised of a number of short stories within it. It’s kind of like the In Death series if you know what I mean. But the first vol reads kind of piecemeal since it wasn’t to be a long series when she wrote it. Vols 1-4 are released in English.

    For something shorter, Shout Out Loud is a 5 volume series about voice actors, and very sweet. DMP/June’s titles tend to be sweeter than other lines, though some have more depth, like Desire (1 vol), about how settling for sex when the person you love doesn’t love you back hurts everyone involved (and it’s about growth too). Other series out there you might consider are Yellow (4 vols), Your Honest Deceit (1 vol), Only the Ring Finger Knows (1 vol), Wild Rock (1 vol), Last Portrait (1 vol), Lies and Kisses (1 vol), Seven (1 vol), Close the Last Door (2 vols, 1/2 out), Everlasting Love (2 vols), and Ichigenme (2 vols, 1/2 out, and I’ve already got a review written for this one but not posted yet). None of these contain rape. Some like OTRFK don’t even have sex, just love and kisses. Most do contain sex though in some form.

    There are other series like Challengers (that’s a really funny one), or Gorgeous Carat, or Antique Bakery, which are more along the lines of what you’ve already read, but are still good reads. AB especially.

    (LOL it’s never a good idea to get me started talking about yaoi manga. ;D I’ll stop now.)

    (and I figured out the Torquere website and bought a few more things :))

    Oh, Japanese BL novels. Of the 4 novel series released here, only one contains rape. But the others are nothing to write home about so I wouldn’t recommend any of them. OK, now I’m done. ;P

  15. Jan
    Mar 27, 2007 @ 18:27:07

    OK, let’s see if this one posts…

    [quote comment="25439"]I didn’t like Kirith Kirin either, I think I gave it 2/5–it was like a fantasy from 30 years ago. I terms of manga I tried Demon Diary, Fake, Banana Fish–then I decided that paying novel price for a manga didn’t make a lot of sense unless I *really* liked them. I would try yaoi prose so long as I got a reccy that steered me clear of my squicks which include anything at all like rape, and rigid sexual roles (bet that limits the options?)[/quote]

    None of those three is actually yaoi.

    Rape is a tough one, since what the Japanese see as rape and what we do are two different things (tears for them for example are a sign of release and pleasure, and “no” doesn’t always mean “no”, in manga; one’s partner is supposed to be able to tell what one really means). But there are a number of books that don’t include that that you might try, and some only one or two volumes long. But at that length you don’t get much exploration of sexual roles.

    One series where you do get that exploration is called Embracing Love, by Youka Nitta. It’s about two male AV (adult video) stars who meet and fall in love and rise out of that industry to become major TV and film stars. It’s graphic sexually, incredibly sexy, and a very good romantic story. It contains no rape (except a couple of bad guys try it on a occasion), but none between the heroes. And they both play seme on occasion, but more after they’re married than before. This is an ongoing series about their relationship, though comprised of a number of short stories within it. It’s kind of like the In Death series if you know what I mean. But the first vol reads kind of piecemeal since it wasn’t to be a long series when she wrote it. Vols 1-4 are released in English.

    For something shorter, Shout Out Loud is a 5 volume series about voice actors, and very sweet. DMP/June’s titles tend to be sweeter than other lines, though some have more depth, like Desire (1 vol), about how settling for sex when the person you love doesn’t love you back hurts everyone involved (and it’s about growth too). Other series out there you might consider are Yellow (4 vols), Your Honest Deceit (1 vol), Only the Ring Finger Knows (1 vol), Wild Rock (1 vol), Last Portrait (1 vol), Lies and Kisses (1 vol), Seven (1 vol), Close the Last Door (2 vols, 1/2 out), Everlasting Love (2 vols), and Ichigenme (2 vols, 1/2 out, and I’ve already got a review written for this one but not posted yet). None of these contain rape. Some like OTRFK don’t even have sex, just love and kisses. Most do contain sex though in some form.

    There are other series like Challengers (that’s a really funny one), or Gorgeous Carat, or Antique Bakery, which are more along the lines of what you’ve already read, but are still good reads. AB especially.

    (LOL it’s never a good idea to get me started talking about yaoi manga. ;D I’ll stop now.)

    (and I figured out the Torquere website and bought a few more things :))

    Oh, Japanese BL novels. Of the 4 novel series released here, only one contains rape. But the others are nothing to write home about so I wouldn’t recommend any of them. OK, now I’m done. ;P

  16. Robyn
    Oct 13, 2007 @ 13:17:21

    Hullo. There is a story that I would like to recommend, but it is a litttle more on the sci-fi side. It is called Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite. There is violence in it, but I can’t recall anything relating to rape. It really messes with your mind throughout, and makes you wonder what is real and what really happened. I liked it. I don’t know if that has any merit though.

    I cannot think of any manga that I would like to recommend so…there you are. Thank you.

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