Why I read it: I bought this one a while ago and dug it out of the TBR of Doom when Willaful was rhapsodising about how good it was. (I have chronic FOMO – fear of missing out). Here review is up (I haven’t looked yet, but you can read it here).
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.
Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.
As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.
As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…
Trigger warning: Racial and Anti-Semitic slurs are used by some of the characters in this book. My sense was the narrative wasn’t approving but YMMV. h/t to Willa, Sunita and Janine for reminding me about this.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): What a delight this book was. I loved the Edwardian setting and the references to the (2nd) Boer War and the wonderful sense of place the story had. I enjoyed watching Archie begin to truly see Daniel and not just the facade he displays. I liked how Archie, through Daniel, came to question things he’d not before even really thought about. Archie is a stand up guy but he’s not a deep thinker. It’s not until the second sexual encounter he has with Daniel that he even questions his sexuality. He’s had a sort of “what happens at school/during the war, stays at school/on the field” kind of sexuality.
Because the story is told entirely from Archie’s point of view, we see his gradual awareness of Daniel, his sexuality and the people around him. Daniel is cynical and sly and wears a mask (not a real mask) because it is easier to laugh at people before they laugh at you. It is easier to project an identity for people to laugh at or sneer at that protects the real you underneath the facade. The barbs can’t damage as much if they are misdirected, yes? Daniel is a character of wonderful depth and I enjoyed very much his slow reveal of character throughout the story.