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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/14/2006 Archived Entry: "Book review: An Agreement Among Gentlemen"

An Agreement Among Gentlemen
By Chris Owen
A Torquere Press ebook, August 2006 (also available in paperback)

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

Being a devotee of period romances, usually set in England's Regency and Victorian Periods, I was curious to see what this kind of romance was like from a gay man's point of view. So when it was suggested that I review an e-book about gay romance during the Victorian Era, I rose to the challenge. So does our intrepid hero Edward Munrow, the second son of a deceased, untitled gentleman who has been living on his older brother's largesse in his London home since their father passed on.


Though not a true gentleman by the stuffy standards of Queen Victoria's England, Ned (as he's known to his friends) has some well-connected friends, thanks to his membership in one of London's exclusive gentlemen's clubs, which caters to gay men. When one of these man-loving gentlemen (an earl, no less!) invites him to his country estate for the weekend, Ned is happy to oblige.

Upon his arrival at Red Oak Hall, he hears rumors of an "interesting announcement" to be made after dinner that night. When he finds himself seated at dinner next to a young lady, and the earl keeps staring and smiling in their direction, he thinks that the earl intends to marry her, since he has no heirs (his late wife was a shrew whom he married out of duty to get an heir; she died in childbirth bearing a stillborn girl who was not her husband's). But the interesting announcement turns out to be that young Ned has been chosen by the earl to inherit his sizable country estate, so that his lordship can retire to France. No mention is made of the handsome young footman who is accompanying his lordship to provide manly companionship. Ned gets to enjoy his companionship as well that same night, only one of a series of spicy encounters throughout the novel.

His reversal of fortune makes Ned very popular, especially to those with eligible daughters, sisters and nieces who want to see them well provided for. But no sooner does his lordship leave for France when the Duke of Langton, an old friend (?) of the earl's, descends upon our hero, demanding that he marry the duke's widowed sister-in-law Julia or be ruined with the evidence His Grace has collected about Ned's private life. Homosexuality was illegal in England back then, and any man convicted of sodomy could be imprisoned and socially ruined, like poor Oscar Wilde was. Naturally, Ned has no desire to marry on command, not even when he learns the duke is mortally ill and will be dead within the year, and his estates are so heavily mortgaged there will be very little left to leave his eighteen-year-old nephew, Henri, who will inherit both the title and the heavily entailed holdings. From the duke's point of view, it makes perfect sense to marry off his sister-in-law to a gentleman with money, so that she can be provided for and his nephew can pay off the debts and make wise investments to recover the family fortune. After some verbal arm twisting, Ned reluctantly agrees to marry the lady and make her son his heir, the gentleman's agreement the title refers to.

At first relieved to learn that Lady Julia's son is not a babe in arms, our hero's hopes are dashed when the duke warns him to keep his hands off the boy or else. This, of course, only makes him more determined to seduce the boy and throw it in his uncle's face before he dies. When young Viscount Langton shows up at Red Oak Hall, tall, blond and handsome, with a fondness for poetry and an eagerness to please, it only makes Ned more determined to seduce him. To this end, he invites some of his friends from London to spend a weekend, all members of the same gay gentlemen's club, all eager to see how soon he can have his way with the innocent lamb under his roof.

It soon becomes apparent that young Henri is not that innocent; Ned catches him studying a volume of erotic art in the old earl's library consisting wholly of nude males, alone and frolicking with one another. He also seems awfully fond of one of Ned's past lovers, a dashing young gentleman named Christopher Truitt, who's been initiated by Ned in the privacy of their club and now seems eager to initiate Henri in turn. This Truitt later stars in a private show put on in Ned's bedroom late one night for the entertainment of his London friends, most of who have paired off or are in a threesome. It turns out that this kind of private showing is customary at their club, along with several other naughty practices like bondage and flagellation. But will young Henri end up succumbing to Ned's charms or to Christopher's? The answer may surprise you, along with several other unexpected plot twists along the way.

In short, "An Agreement Among Gentlemen" is a fine, dirty tale fit to spend a lonely night with, or a series of lonely nights. I haven't read anything so hot about the Victorian Era since I discovered "The Pearl" in my teens, a collection of erotic stories and poems from an underground Victorian newspaper, published in London from July 1879 to December 1880. "The Pearl" consisted of both straight and gay subject matter, but "An Agreement Among Gentlemen" is part of an on-line publishing company that is strictly gay and lesbian. To find it, just go to www.TorquerePress.com and select your favorite genre; period romance, contemporary, fantasy/sci-fi, horror, etc. and download it for your reading pleasure at a reasonable price. Now that I've sampled period romance, I'm eager to go on to the next e-book offering, which happens to be a space opera. What more could a Star Trek fan that is into "/" fan fiction ask for?

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