Man & Beast
is the updated, re-titled version of Frontiers is a gay historical thriller set in the 1797-1798. It tells the story of John Chapman, a 24-year-old young man, who has to flee his home town in Lower Canada, when his forbidden relationship with a British major has been discovered. To escape from death that threatens him for sodomy, he sets out for western Pennsylvania, to a frontier outpost, where the Holland Land Company offers free land and supplies to settlers. It is his only chance to survive.
Without enough supplies (and money), without a gun, and with a bad sense of direction, exhausted and at the end of his tether, three months later, he stumbles upon a lone cabin. It turns out that Daniel McQuay, an owner of the cabin is a frontiersman, a very experienced hunter and pioneer, who not only lets John to winter over with him, but also teaches him everything a frontiersman has to know to survive in the wilderness. And a bit more… Daniel is like
Very quickly they become closer, and even if Daniel is a rough, reticent, grumpy and a very moody person, sex between them at the beginning is the best one, John has ever had. But something in their relationship is missing, John wants more than sex, and he realizes how little he knows about his host.
The longer they stay together, the more difficult their relationship becomes. As the winter progresses Daniel lets off bursts of anger, uncontrollable temper tantrums more frequent, and his alcohol consumption becomes a serious problem. Gradually he begins to feel himself like being in a trap and he decides to leave Daniel as soon as spring comes. Knowing that Daniel is not very enthusiastic about his intention to leave, he tries to keep them secret, but when he finds accidently a shocking truth about the lone frontiersman, he can’t wait any longer to run away.
It is exactly a point in the book, an unexpected twist that turns the whole story suddenly into an engaging action thriller, and…where the first part ends.
The second part starts almost with the same situation, that the first part began with: John Chapman flees fearing for his life. Again.
I’m not going to tell you the whole book, but it will be much more than this. When John’s life seems at last to be settled, his past catches up with him, and demands all his survivor’s skills to not be completely swallowed by it. Again.
I very enjoyed this novel, it seems to waver for a little before it really gets going, but it is exactly what makes it so interesting: very REAL historical settings and atmosphere, but with a healthy dose of fairy tale, a slow beginning and an enchanting speed-up towards the end. A well-done balance between the first and the second part of the book: while the first part is mostly character-focused, the second part is plot-focused, full of actions and twists, that will rope you in and not let you go until you reach the final word.
I wouldn’t consider Man & Beast as a MM romance. I see it in the first place as a historical gay fiction, though romance is present here, but it is rather as a sub-plot that accompanies a main story-line. Some parts of the book are not for the faint-hearted. But as the title of the series betrays, it was a savage time of period, and everything else would be a lie.
I’m definitely going to read the second book, and can’t wait for it to be released.Highly recommended to all fans of gay historical fiction.
P.S I have just learned that John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed
did really exist. Maybe this fact is well known for an average American reader, but it was a new one for me. It made this story even more interesting. The author gives us his idea of John Chapman's life, based on known historical facts, that is totally acceptable and realistic. ***Copy provided kindly by the author in exchange for an honest review***