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Philip Lindsay

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Taking the Gardener
Taking the Gardener
Price: 4.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes you read a book that you just know you will return to again and again., 16 Jun 2014
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Sometimes you read a book that you just know you will return to again and again. I have, in the past week, found such a book and it will take its place on my shelves with my very favourite books.
In “Taking the Gardener” TJ Masters has created a perfect little love story. It is a simple romance between two men (in terms of genre it is what is called an M/M romance) but it is crafted with such feeling that the reader responds to it from the heart irrespective of the sex of the two main characters. The author clearly loves his creations, especially Tom “the gardener” and it is that, I think, that lifts the book out of the ordinary. I think most of us wouldn’t mind a “Tom” coming into our lives, as this one does for Eric.
Without giving the plot away, Eric Broderick, escapes London for a tiny village in Buckinghamshire. There he meets Tom Bestwick, an attractive and sexy gardener – not tall but good-looking and fit. Tom lives in the guest house where Eric stays and a mutual attraction quickly develops which turns, almost at once, into a sexual relationship of kind that Tom – for one – probably never anticipated.
Eric is an experienced “dom” and Tom becomes his willing sub, despite the fact that he has a long standing relationship with Megan, a local girl. This is only one of the many complications in the unfolding story.
Sex plays a large part in the narrative, but never overwhelms the underlying warmth of the evolving romance or becomes the only pivot of the story. The sex scenes are written with a nice eye for detail, are arousing and effective, and are critical to understanding how Tom’s character develops. Each erotic scene is different and T J Masters weaves in some hot variations involving two or three other characters besides Eric and the always central Tom. The descriptions are intimate even graphic (but never pornographic) and so real I felt almost a voyeur as these attractive men find their lives being changed by what they do to and with each other.
I was particularly impressed by the way the author creates a situation that could be tense and leaves you wondering how things will turn out. Indeed, once or twice situations become quite “edgy” as new characters enter the story and the reader has to ask will they spoil the devotion that Tom and Eric have come to feel for each other. The climax of the book left me on the edge of my seat until almost the last page and I was totally unsure which direction Tom would choose to take.
The settings, whether the rural idyll that is Pittlesburne, a central London art gallery, or Richmond Park are evoked with an eye for specific detail that brings them alive. Tom has more to him than is at first obvious. Even the secondary characters, such as Megan and Eric’s housekeeper, Mrs P, also “lived” for me. Cleverly, the character and appearance of Eric – who is present I think in every scene - are only sketched in. This allows the reader, should he or she decide to do so, to imagine that they are Eric experiencing this life-changing experience.
The tale is simply (if heartfeltly) told and the style is straightforward. The author knows his stuff when it comes to bdsm – roping, spanking and several types of sex are described, and the activities are realistic but never become bogged down in jargon. One could learn from this book much about how to treat a sub of one’s own, but that is incidental to the joy the writer evidently feels in his chosen approach to sex and satisfying others.
Days after finishing the book I still find myself imagining Tom, thinking about him and wondering what it would be like to have someone so lovely come into one’s life. That’s how real he became to me. I don’t think I can find a better way to demonstrate how much this book means to me or the author’s skill.
Overall, “Taking the Gardener” is much better written than other stories I have come across in this genre and I’d rate it as at least 9 out of 10. I heartily recommend it to others and trust that they will enjoy it as much as I did. For my part, I’m already planning a re-read!

Home Fires Burning
Home Fires Burning

4.0 out of 5 stars NICE BOOK WELL WRITTEN, 10 Jan 2014
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Charlie Cochrane is a fine writer, perhaps best known for her "Cambridge Fellows" sequence of novels, about Jonty and Orlando. These two stories are rather different.

The first is set in a period dear to the author's heart, the First World War. Charlie's emotional empathy for and deep concern over this period comes though all her writing about it. this story is no different.

The other story concerns two actors in the early 1950s. While superficially similar ( an investigation by two "amateurs") to the "Cambridge Fellows" books, the two main characters are much more extrovert and boistrous than Jonty and Orlando would ever be. The tone and writing style are also noticeably lighter and more jokey that some of the Cambridge novels. I was not quite sure about the ending of the second story, but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment.

I like Ms Cochrane's work immensely, especially the "Fellows" novels, and these shorter stories will not disappoint her fans.

Highly recommended reading..

Lessons in Love: A Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 1
Lessons in Love: A Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 1
Price: 2.01

4.0 out of 5 stars I love this series, 15 Nov 2013
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Let me be clear from the outset, I fell under the spell of this book and in particular its two main characters within minutes of beginning to read it. I am about half way through the series now - cannot put them down - and have started to acquire the print copies as I want to cherish these books and return to them. True they are not the deepest of detective novels, not literary materpieces, deep psychological studies or detailed period reconstructions. What they ARE are well-written, nicely conceived, entertaining novels, nicely crafted, highly readable and with a charm and almost an innocence that I found appealing. Not everyone will respond to the books as I did, I am sure, but they are worth giving a go on kindle (inexpensively) and if you don't know them you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

The sex scenes are romantic and sexual (not entirely out of keeping with the pre-World War One (WW1)setting) so sdon't expect gay porn, erotica or strong language. Gay bodice-rippers these ain't!!

Jonty and Orlando are two delightful young Englishmen (Cambridge academics), who fall in love with each other in a period when such love was illegal. Thus while solving their mysteries the two lads must take care not to expose their own secret to the world.

The two main characters live because the author clearly loves them to bits. They develop consistently, there is a strain of humour that has had me laugh out loud more than once, and a delicate but unobtrusive sense of the pre-1914 period. The research and understanding of period is there but understated. The language, vocabulary (something I feel the author gives great weight to) and "cadence" of the books is appropriate and nicely done.

The underlying mysteries (I feel strongly that the real driver in these novels is the relationship between the two men) get better as the series continues. One book is somewhat similar to Jospehine Tey's "Daughter of Time", though disimmilar in plot and subject matter, in that the two lads delve into an historic murder. Others have a hint of danger, touch on royal scandals, or involve at least one of our heroes going "undercover". All have a pleasing style and wit.

My only quibbles relate to the sex scenes which reflect, I feel, the difference between a man and a woman writing about male love. There is a different sensibility at work and - I may be wrong - a different set of drivers. I am not for a moment suggesting that the books should be stronger, use dirty words or be more graphic (though i would not personally have objected to any of that). What I do believe, is that two men, even before 1914, would have had somewhat different thoughts and done somewhat different things (sexually), than do Jonty and Orlando. In that, I don't find the writing wholly convincing. But it is a tiny point which does not (for me)detract from the overall achievement of the series one iota.

These are charming, elegant (even slightly innocent) novels which draw you in. I adore them and have been entertained, amused and thrilled by them. I feel I know Jonty and orlando like real friends. While i recognise that these will not suit all tastes, I have not the faintest hesitation in recommending them highly to those who like M/M books, romance between men or a pleasing detective story with a difference.

My admiration and congraulations go to Charlie Cochrane.

The White Queen [DVD]
The White Queen [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rebecca Ferguson
Price: 17.93

25 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A diappointing production, 2 July 2013
This review is from: The White Queen [DVD] (DVD)
I have been interested in the Wars of the Roses (aka - according to Philippa Gregory as "The Cousins War") for many years. I thus had high hopes of a BBC rendition of a best selling series of novels. After three episodes i am bitterly disappointing.

The basic problem is, I think, the script. It is shallow, oddly unfocused and present two dimensional characters. None of the main characters are given motivations we can understand and believe in: of Warwick (historically a fascinating and influential man) even his wife says she does not know what drives him! He shouts, glowers and that's about it. Where are the intricacies of plots and schemes, where the hint that he is linked to the great family of the Nevilles (his brother an Archbishop, his other brother an Earl) not just a maverick warlord with only his wife and daughters for support?

Why is George of Clarence so disloyal when his brother Richard Gloucester remains loyal to Edward. How did "proud Cis", the "rose of Raby"(Duchess of York) become the spitting viper that she is portrayed as being? She has not a single redeeming characteristic as portrayed, and no believable humanity.

Why are we following this series - there is no central romance: Edward and Elizabeth lust after each other, but there is nothing else to the relationship. The King might be handsome, but radiates no charisma and no kingliness. The real Edward had all the majesty, height and glamour of his grandson Henry VIII (if only Edward had had a Holbein to paint him) and was better looking. He was also notably fair-haired - England's "Sun" king indeed. Elizabeth is depicted as not a nice woman, ambitious, vengeful and murderous - why are we meant to be concerned about her? If Warwick beheaded her in the next episode, I for one, would not care.

Of the actors who actually achive three dimensionality, I'd praise Janet McTeer (Jaquetta) and Michael Malone (Stafford). Malone, a good and reliable actor, shows how warwick might have been played, using subtlety and quietness as well as a range of facial expressions. The actress playing Margaret Beaufort stands out for her ardour but it gives an odd, perfervid performance.

I said above that the story-telling was somewhat unfocused - I found the way the death of Elizabeth;s father and brother was handly, distinctly strange. We are not shown it in chronological order - or with time to sympathise with them and their plight, but just see a later flash-back to their beheading. To me that lost tension and an opportunity to understand the characters more.

On the visuals, I have no real objection to using Flanders as C15th England, though the architectural styles are different. But I do object to the approach to costumes which seems to be make everyone look as modern as possible - so breeches rather than hose, what could be a modern leather jacket and a "hoodie" for the King. The designers/producers may not care about historical detail - but if you are going to use a British Field Marshal's baton as a sceptre at least disquise it! You could even see where the remnants of the St George which had been cut off the head of the baton! It is also, by and large, a very antisceptic England.

I suppose I had hoped that with all the plotting and scheming, the BBC would give us something approaching an I Claudius with its real sense of a Mafia family. We did not get it. Neither though did we get the high-energy (even if anachronistic) approach of the recent "The Tudors". That was bawdy as well as vibrant (and thus got away with its changes to history through sheer drive and self-confidence). White Queen isn't even sexy: the punches are well and truely pulled in the bedroom department.

So, all in all, not what I either expected or wanted and a waste of the opportunity presented by a period of English history that allows a large measure of interpretation of events and motivations because the sources are comparatively thin and enigmatic. I have the impression that none of the actors had really researched their parts or understand them. We do not get the political intrique and detail of "House of Cards" or any real sense of historical events.

Why? - maybe the production team just did not really believe in what they were doing.

I'll go on watching but out of loyalty to the period, not because i like or admire this dull and paper-thin series.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2013 3:19 PM BST

The First Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership
The First Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership
by Gary W. Gallagher
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Pithy, insightful, stimulating, brilliant, 10 Jun 2013
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I have recently undertaken an in-depth study of the battle of Gettysburg, taking each of the three days in turn.

I bought this volume, which contains four separate essays because of its obvious relevance to the first day. I can recommend it highly. It is, however, probably not for a newcomer to the subject (although there is enough background given to make what is said intelligible. That said, the more knowledge you have the more this book fascinates and intrigues. Each of the authors writes well and I found I could not put the book down. For a short work it packs in a lot of information and comment and packs a considerable punch as well!

The four essays are well-researched with abundant footnotes so that sources can be followed up.

The first essay is, I think, written to be deliberately provoking. Fans of Robert E Lee may well have steam coming out of their ears. Lee's overall strategy, his conduct of the battle and his handling of subprdinates are all severely criticised, with reasons given. While an extreme view in a way, showing little mercy, my own reading on the battle has certainly diminished my admiration of Lee, so I was perhaps ready for this critical assault on him. Among other matters examined are Lee's orders to JEB Stuart whose absence had such far-reaching consequences for Lee's management of his army at a crucial moment.

The third essay looks at Howard and his XI Corps and offers insightful and balanced criticism of his performance on the first day, when he had effective and overall command of the battle for much of the morning and afternoon. The author looks at the handling of XI Corps, considers the alternatives open to Howard, and finally asks whether he should have the credit for spotting and holding the "good ground" of Cemetery Hill.

A further essay looks at the conduct of three of Lee's brigade commanders - Davis, under Harry Heth; and O'Neal and Iverson under Rodes. Despite the overall, and stunning, Confederate victory on 1 July 1863, each of these three
men, none of them professional soldiers, was responsible for the almost complete destruction of the brigades they led. The author looks deeply into questions of leadership, luck and co-ordination and also at the responsibility of more senior commanders, such as AP Hill, Ewell and Rodes.

Finally (though not as arranged in the book) is a study of AP Hill and Richard Ewell - both new to Corps Command and both the subject of much criticism for their conduct on the day. I found this a very well-done piece of writing with much to interest any student of the battle.

This is a short book, with pithy essays, written by men deeply familiar with their material and providing rich insights into leadership not only relevant to this battle, but to wider military history and even business.

Well worth buying for anyone more than casually interested in this fascinating battle.

Les aigles de Rome, Tome 3 :
Les aigles de Rome, Tome 3 :
by Enrico Marini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 21 April 2012
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These are wonderful, books - ravishing to look at. While the text is in French, the language is not difficult to follow. It is the artwork which glows and captivates however.

For any lover of Roman history the depictions of the City itself, rural villas, German forests and army camps are beatifully done, consistently maintained (creating a vivid reality) and more accurate in archaeological detail than one might ever anticipate. The story takes place around 9AD with interaction between Romans and the Germanic tribes. The author and illustrator have done their homework and love their subject. This is a work of the heart.

We see major figures, Augustus, Tiberius, his brother Drusus and a young Sejanus; and enter the palace of the princeps on the palatine, walk acrioss the forum Romanum and even see something of the Subura.

A slight warning the content is explicitly adult - as is often the case with Continental graphic novels - with sex scenes and full frontal male nudity. Thus, probably NOT for children.

The quality of this publication has to be seen to be believed. The three volumes so far available sit on my shelves with pride alongside the collected Prince Valiant strips and the recently published complete Wulf the Briton.

I cannot recommend this series too highly either for those who love and appreciate the graphic novel, or for those who enjoy recreations of ancient history. Enjoy!!

Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies
Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies
by Martin Allen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.31

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Apparently based on forgeries, 14 Jun 2011
I have this and other of Mr Allen's works.

It appears, however, from a report in the Guardian newspaper on Monday 5 May 2008, that the books are based on forged documents.

The UK National Archives carried out an investigation.29 faked documents, planted in 12 separate files were discovered. These appeared to have been placed in the files between 2000 and 2005. All were used to support Mr Allen's contentions.

Mr Allen is said to have been the only person to check out all the files containing the forged documents. Apparently the CPS decided not to prosecute because the author was in ill-health. understand that Mr Allen denied involvement in the forgery. The NA website can, I believe, provide further information.

According the the Guardian, the forgeries were almost amateur, with telegrams and other items revealing factual errors, letterheads created by means of a laser printer; pencil outlines beneath forged signatures; finally, the 29 documents - had been typed on 4 typewriters.

Further, according to an archivist, named as Louise Atheron, (quoted in the Guardian) even where Allen uses citations from National Archives documents that were genuine, he is guilty of "significant exaggerations" and "very fluid evidence".

I think this shows that these books are highly suspect and potential buyers should be aware.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 10, 2012 5:45 PM BST

Herculaneum: Past and Future
Herculaneum: Past and Future
by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 30.12

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book I have long waited for, 26 April 2011
I know Herculaneum quite well having visited the site several times, and I prefer it in many ways to Pompeii - although the two sites are complementary. The trouble is that since JJ Deiss wrote his book (which I love) decades ago, there has been nothing knew that discusses the more recent discoveries and repair to damage of the site.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's book is not only a joy to hold and to look at, but is full of fascinating and up-to-date information. It is a lavish volume, fullof wonderful photos and panoramas that will be a valuable reference source for years.

Last time I visited the site the deterioration was such that I came away more than a little dispirited. This book demonstrates that a huge amount of work has gone on to arrest that decay and to restore buildings to a wonderful state - the great marble hall of the House of the Telephus Relief, for instance, has been roofed. It was not accessible on any of my visits (going back to the 80s) and now looks as though it might be. But more - that wing of the house is now seen as a "tower" and there is evidence of a blocked up level beneath the eruption level surface, that provides evidence about the retreat and advance of the sea (a reflection of bradyseism) in Roman times. Fascinating stuff!

A leading family in Herculaneum before the eruption was that of the Balbi. Marcus Nonius Balbus was the town's patron and several statues of him were put up. A mounted version and a togate standing sculpture have long been in Naples Museum. I have long yearned to see the head from the statue erected near his tomb (adjacent to the Suburban Baths" which he may have had built) which was found a few years ago. There is an excellent picture here, along with another of a nude "heroic" statue of which I was previously unaware. So the book more than meets my desire for information and illustrations on recvent discoveries.

We are given fresh analyses of the development of the sea front, and its interasction with a sea level that changed in cyclical patterns. There is material on the excavations at the famous Villa of the Papyrii, its possible ownership (by Caesar's father-in-law); and a new interpretation of the so-called hall of the Augustales (now potentially the towns curia or council chamber).

Wallace-Hadrill has some interesting comments on the work of Maiuri(the great populariser of the buried towns from the 20s to the 60s) and his creation of "myths" about the town that are now being dispelled.

If you have never been to Herculaneum but like Roman history, this book will take you there and provide a feast of material for the imagination. If you like archaeology this book provides past and present comment on that subject with many excellent examples and illustrations.

If you have visited the ruins, this book will probably inspire you to go again - its has me! - to follow up the new ideas and new suggestions offered by the author and simply to renew acquaintance with an old friend.

To conclude, a sumptuous book, well worth its price that will be an adornment for your shelves for years to come.

I am told there is a companion volume on Pompeii which I am now searching for.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2011 9:57 AM BST

Scorpion, The Vol.1: The Devil's Mark
Scorpion, The Vol.1: The Devil's Mark
by Desberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-layered and satisfying, 26 April 2011
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This is, I think, the best graphic series I have ever encountered and I have no hesitation in recommending it highly to others.

First the story is many layered, exciting and intriguing. It is fantasy, but based on the real 18th Century, though reaching back to the early years of the Christian era. The first book is set in Rome, the others open out to embrace Istanbul and Anatolia.

The characters are also first-rate - the hero, handsome, athletic, charming, sardonically witty with an enigmatic past but dare-devil, cunning and romantic is just right; his chicken loving side-kick is called "The Hussar" provides some comic moments.

There are two main female characters, both beautiful, both opposed to our hero but also drawn to him.

The villain, quite original but clearly influenced by the historical Cardinal Richelieu in appearance; and by actor Vincent Price also I think, is evil, but brilliant, disdainful and dangerous and hugely ambitious. His chief lieutenant and henchmen, are genuinely scary in their robes and face masks.

The plot, which starts with our hero as a seeker of religious relics (such as bones of saints) has real (if invented) depth with a pseudo-history of the Catholic Church to be explored. The story is fast-miving and with sufficient complexity to be intellectually satisfying.

Turning now to the artwork, the research on Rome in the 18th Cenury, on costume (and on the religious and historic background) shows through. Backgrounds and characters are depicted in slightly different styles, but the contrast helps and does not jar. The backgrounds of Rome and its environs, its palaces and the Vatican are depicted as delicate watercolours. the characters are a little more cartoonish, but realistic enough to carry the realism and slightly erotic subtext. The hero frequently loses his shirt, but nothing else; the woman are posed suggestively on occasion, but show nothing.

Like a previous reviewer, I noted that the English version has been edited so as not to offend. I could spot a couple of frames where bare breasts appear to have been covered, but unless whole episodes have been removed - which seems unlikely - there is nothing here to cause concern. I have ordered a French version of a later volume to see how different the "feel" of the artwork might be.

If you like high adventure, Errol Flynn type heroes, films like Prisoner of Zenda, an adult vibe and something deeper that one dimension, I am sure you will enjoy these books. They will occupy a place of honour in my collection.

Prince Valiant Vol.3: 1941-1942 (Prince Valiant (Fantagraphics))
Prince Valiant Vol.3: 1941-1942 (Prince Valiant (Fantagraphics))
by Hal Foster
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 21.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book, 14 April 2011
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This volume arrived yesterday.

I am familiar with the Prince Valiant strip and have some of the version published in 50 parts about 20 years ago. This volume covers pages that I already have, but I was interested to see this more recent version - its is excellent in quality, and in the additional material provided.

There is a very interesting essay about parts of the strip that were edited in some editions aimed at specific audiences, in terms of violence or images considered too "erotic" for the time.

It goes without saying that the artwork - very much of its time - is masterful. "Val" is heroic and grows ages and develops over time. In this volume he is initially in the Mediterranean, captured by pirates and made to row as a galley slave. Escaping he hits upon a mysterious island, but departs in search of his sword (taken from him by the pirate captain). He is again enslaved and enters upon a new series of adventures. In course of time, via escapades in Africa with a Viking friend, Valiant arrives in the north of Britain, where he is captured by the Picts and vilely tortured...

For those unfamiliar with the Prince Valiant series, "Val" lives in 5th Century Britain, at the time of King Arthur. His adventures take him to Rome itself in some volumes, and he fights the Huns, but the strip is heavily anachronistic - Arthur and his Knights wear armour and clothes of the high Middle-Ages; there is magic, dinosaurs appear, as do castles that Ludwig of Bavaria might have envied, but somehow it all fits and works. (There is a film, made in the early 50s, with Robert Wagner and James Mason that does well in capturing something of the visual stylisation of the strip.)

Personally, I find the stories carry me along, and the visuals call me back time and time again to admire their detail and richness. This book does the artwork full justice and gets the colour balance pretty spot on. Incidentally, there are no "speech balloons" to interupt the eye - the narrative is contained in boxes below the images. This might require more concentration than the more usual "comic book" approach, but it does allow the draftsmanship and penwork to shine.

I do recommend this book - the price is really quite reasonable, and encourage those who have not yet discovered the world of Prince Valiant to do so.

On the basis of this volume, I immediately ordered volume 2.

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