Rating: 4 stars
Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press
Available at: Smashwords, Amazon
Synopsis: “He could not recognize most of the items before him, which he instinctively knew was a bad sign.”
Michael is an ex-prostitute, which means that nobody in polite society wants anything to do with him. He believes that the only way to help other male prostitutes is to make their working conditions bearable. His friend Janus is an upper-class gentleman who believes that his duty to the gods requires him to fight against sexual immorality. Now Michael wants Janus to help him run a house of prostitution.
This novel is the first volume in Michael’s House, a historical fantasy series set in a Progressive Era slum. Male friendship and gay love intertwine in this multicultural series based on life in America during the Edwardian Era, a time when society seemed as stable as ever, though it was about to be turned topsy-turvy.
Review: The synopsis does a great job of telling you what the story is about, so I won’t attempt a summary but merely focus on the elements I enjoyed the most.
The author, Dusk Peterson, does a wonderful job in creating a unique world set during Edwardian times. From the buildings to the wardrobe and the attitude of the people, every detail is described in a way that drew me into the story and made the story come to life.
“The best I can do is see that the boys who are bedded are treated with as much care and respect as is possible under the circumstances.”
Michael was a great character to read. An ex-prostitute who manages to survive to be granted his freedom, he accepts his fate and tries to makes the most of it at the time. He understands the hardships these boys have to endure on the street and other whorehouses and he is determined to help keep them safe, so he turns to his friend Janus for support.
“You are the other part of me. You are my guide, my conscience.”
Janus has known Michael since they were children. They develop a unique relationship of acceptance and loyalty at a time when a friendship between a prostitute and an upper-class citizen is not the norm. Janus understands his friend’s situation and his desire to help with the boys, but he does not agree that establishing a whorehouse to shelter the prostitutes on the street is the way to go about it.
“Maybe so,” said the practical whoremaster, “but until you can show me a world where jaded ex-whores live happily in orphanages and boy-drawn men avoid their beds, I’ll stick with my ground-level plan.”
The boys played an intricate part in the story and each one was intriguing in their own right.
Wyll –the first boy to be hired at Michael’s House, he carried himself with confidence but was inexperienced. His first ‘training’ session caused Janus to question his support in this endeavor.
Lann – on his own since he was eleven, he has been living on the streets and working the trade for food. He came to Michael’s House after listening to two prostitutes talk about the new whoremaster in town.
Hasan – in love with Michael since his days at Outram’s whorehouse where they were prostitutes together, he decides to spend his last years as a prostitute at Michael’s House. It is his relationship with Michael and his feelings for him, that help Michael see how closed off he has become.
“We’ll be hiring the finest craftsfolk in the city, giving them hours of training to perfect their much-demanded skills and allow them to perform their tasks to the peak of their mastery – and the peak of the satisfaction of those who buy our goods.”
Brimming with character interactions, emotion and introspective character narrations, the concept behind the story was brought to the page in an engaging and understanding way. The topic of child prostitution is not an easy one to bring to the page especially one about an ex-child prostitute who opens a male whorehouse, but the way that the author presented Michael’s past and his intentions made it easier for me to understand and accept the content.
Although classified as an M/M Romance, for me this is more of a Historical Fantasy read than a Romance. Yes, there is the love between the characters and the BDSM services provided by the boys of the whorehouse, but since this is all done ‘off-screen’ for me the story revolved more on world setting and character relations.
The emotions that were brought to the page were varied and intense. I could see how conflicted Janus was between his loyalty to his friend and his morals. He cared deeply about Michael, but he also wanted Michael and the boys to leave the world of prostitution behind. And although Michael was so closed off emotionally, I could clearly see where he was coming from. I felt for him deeply, especially after learning what he went through as a child under his whoremaster’s hand.
“I want to go back to what I really am. I want to find the light at the heart of the darkness.”
I loved to see how these characters developed throughout the story, especially Michael. He discovered that he was missing something within himself and that it affected his ability to express and feel emotions. But instead of just brushing it away as another loss, he was determined to learn how to do it again. He took the steps necessary and asked for help and for Michael to find the strength within him to start getting over that after so many years is something that I have to admire him for.
By no means is this a happily ever after story, but it still did not distract from my enjoyment of this story. These characters still have a heavy road to travel, but I believe that they have changed their attitude accordingly and will make it through this and more.
I enjoyed this story from beginning to end and I was left needing to read more about this journey Michael, Janus and the boys have embarked on.
I would like to thank Dusk Peterson for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book in exchange of my honest opinion.
Enjoy the following excerpt from Whipster.
Michael was kneeling now on the portion of the floor that had been
cleaned, examining the contents of his package in such a way that Janus
could not see the objects. Janus forced himself to ask, "What is that?"
Michael said, without looking up, "Necessary expenditures. Expensive
ones, alas, but I can't afford to acquire shoddy equipment."
"Let me see." Janus knelt down beside him and pulled the cloth back.
He could not recognize most of the items before him, which he
instinctively knew was a bad sign. He finally let his hand fall on an
item he recognized – a hunting crop – and held it up toward the light.
It was stiff, in the manner of whips used by carriage-drivers; the
leather upon it was soft.
Michael took the crop from his hand, rose to his feet, and swished the
whip through the air for a moment before bringing it down, hard and
accurate, upon a cockroach crawling up the wall. The crushed victim fell
lifeless from the wall. Satisfied, Michael sat down cross-legged and
began to clean the remains of the insect off the crop with the cloth.
Looking over at him, Janus said, "You almost make me believe the story
"The famous one."
"Oh, that one. Yes, it's true." There was no change in Michael's
expression. He continued to wipe the crop clean, like a craftsman
polishing his work.
Janus felt his stomach tighten. Once, early in their acquaintance, he
had asked Michael tentatively what his work was like. Michael had
responded in a flat voice, "I'm the one who controls what happens," and
had left the matter at that, much to Janus's relief.
It was better not to know; Janus had instinctively realized that. Why
was he committing such folly as to question Michael now? Yet even as he
thought this, he heard himself say, "I don't understand how you could do
that. To tie someone up . . . to hurt him . . ."
"They liked it."
Janus heard the change to plural and winced. "How can you be sure of
that? Just because their bodies reacted . . ."
Michael sighed, placing the crop back with the other equipment. "Janus,
a whore has a very great advantage over any other person in the world.
Let us say you're a married man and you ask your wife whether she
enjoyed her time in bed with you. If she says yes, you have no way of
knowing whether she is telling the truth."
"So how does a prostitute know what the truth is?" Janus asked in a
"By a simple test. He waits to see whether the man he has just beaten
comes back and pays money to be beaten again." Michael rose to his feet
and gestured to Janus, saying, "The furniture was delivered while you
were in the servants' wing, clearing the kitchen. Come see what it looks
Janus could not help but notice that Michael had picked up the crop
again, seemingly without conscious thought.
About Dusk Peterson
Honored thrice in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes fantasy,
historical fantasy, and science fiction. Suspense plays an important
role in many of the tales; the conflict in those tales is both external
and internal. Peterson's stories are often placed in dark settings, such
as prisons or wartime locations. The mood of the stories, however, is
not one of unrelieved gloominess: friendship, heterosexual romance, gay
love, and faithful service are recurring themes.
For more buying options visit: http://duskpeterson.com/michaelshouse/#whipster