Bethany reviews ‘Man & Beast (The Savage Land Book 1) by Michael Jensen. Published by Buddha Kitty Books on November 29, 2016, 307 pgs.
Why I read this book: This week is Historical week and I wasn’t sure what to read. When Marc send me the blurb for this one I thought it sounded different from what I normally read.
NOTE: We were provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.
John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.
With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.
(Man & Beast was previously published under the title Frontiers. This edition has been extensively revised.)
Ok. For those who know me, know I read romance. Yes, I do push those boundaries with angst and taboo books but this one was different. I need the romance. It makes me happy to see people, any people, fall for each other. After finishing the blurb I wasn’t sure what I would be getting, but I can tell you this. I would not call this a romance. Its savage, barbaric, vicious, and sometimes downright brutal.
From the very beginning of the book till the very end I was conflicted. It started out with a death, which shouldn’t have surprised me given the timeframe and were it was set. In fact nothing in this book, for the time period, should come as a shock. It started out intense and drew me in very quickly. When John stumbles on the cabin with Daniel I thought, “ok, now the romance part can start.” Well that’s not what happens and the way Daniel acts and treats John left me confused and in all truth, pissed off. And as the story continues to unravel the more and more upset I became, because I was ready for the HEA. Not so fast.
Daniel is not who you think he is, and this is where I felt disappointed and confused. Like the story should start wrapping up and this would be the point where Daniel sees the error of his ways and changes for John. Oh how disillusioned I have been. This part of the book is where I had to stop, remember what I had read, what tidbit the author gave me, and piece together what was actually the truth. And, oh holy hell! The truth is seven kinds of F*#Ked up.
Now here is where things change for me. I stopped expecting the normal to happen. I gave up on the “typical” romance. What I got was so different from what I would normally read, yet I couldn’t stop reading it. John flees the cabin and comes across a new settlement where he will ultimately meet the family he chooses for himself. I loved this so hard because I have by blood family and I also have the family I chose (yall know who you are) and sometimes those are the ones that get you through the hardest time in your life. This is what John’s family did for him.
This book is downright hardcore, like pull on your big girl pants and hang on for the ride. There were times that I didn’t think I would be able to finish. There were times it pushed my limits so flipping hard, I wanted to walk away. But I’m glad I didn’t. The author paints a picture about what it possibly was like back then for men who loved men. It was a history lesson, when I HATED history in high school. The writing was vivid and emotional.
The one big thing I wish this book had was more of John and Palmer. This part felt rushed and focused so much on the backstory of John and Daniel. Don’t get me wrong. That was vital to the book. BUt I could have used more of John and Palmer.
All in all, though, I would recommend this book. But I will warn you it is very different from the “normal” romance books out there now. But no less powerful. Yes, it was gritty at times and yes, I felt the need to walk away from it a few times, but for me that is a pretty brilliant book.
Where to buy: Amazon
BIO: Michael Jensen is an author and editor. His books of gay historical fiction include two series, The Drowning World, which is set in 5500 B.C., and The Savage Land, which takes place on the American frontier. Man & Monster, the second book in The Savage Land series, was a Lambda Award Finalist (under the title Firelands).
Michael is also the co-founder of AfterElton.com, which covered pop culture for gay and bisexual men, and eventually become one of the largest and most influential LGBT websites on the internet. In 2006, AfterElton.com was sold to MTV/Viacom in a multimillion dollar deal. As editor, Michael interviewed hundreds of writers, directors, and actors, breaking numerous stories and advancing the issue of LGBT visibility in Hollywood.
Michael lives in Seattle, WA with his husband, writer Brent Hartinger.