The first third of the book: 4,5 stars
Venice, 16th century: Needing a cover for his mission, an English spy insinuates himself to a wealthy Venetian merchant family. But not only are the daughters of the house more than interested in the handsome family guest, the second son (nevermind being a priest) wishes to be seduced by him, demands it actually quite imperiously. The spy, alas, has no time for an interferring virgin priest.
The banter and bargaining that follows is quite priceless. Turns out the cloistered priest is not so innocent after all (interesting use of altar candles!) and our hardened ex-pirate is soon constantly out of his depth. That leads to a very nice build and hilarious dialogue.“I don’t wish a jade-boy for a lover,”
said I, whithin a hands-breadth of his mouth. “Are you secretly a harlot, Vito Alessandro?”
Must I prove my vitue to the man who is trying to corrupt it?”
For some reason the love-making hit me hard: very sensual, original and with a definite edge to it (no fluff, they're rather the biting and punching sort). The one fm scene showed some fine writing, too and was totally enjoyable. It also had some very sound and universal advice about sex: “No, sir, a woman is not meant to be dry. Nor sobbing.”
It’s pretty over the top and tacky, too sometimes, which is fun as well: “And her thighs quaked as the ground of Naples sometimes quakes. And her voice rose like the call to prayer in the lands of the Moslems.
But without Vito, the book would be nothing. Because the little priest is a piece of work allright (sharp, egoistic, needy, but also shy and sweet) - certainly one of the best no nonsense characters in m/m I’ve seen so far. “If you have me, you must have me. If you will none, you will none. I will not be some picked up, dropped again favour that pleases you for a time and is sold on like a soiled dress.”
I think this doesn't sound enthusiastic enough, though. M does
a better job raving about the book.The 2nd third: 3 stars
But sadly M leaves his little priest behind in Venice and with him the plot. The spy adventure never really takes off. The book becomes too wordy and slow-moving, although we will eventually be taken on a voyage to the new world and have the chance to enjoy more of Vito and M.The last third: tricky – 2 stars
Here the book goes crazy. Our two MCs find themselves suddenly held captive by a kinky blacksmith, who - with not much of an explanation - starts to “break” M. With that sort of title, I obviously expected kinky sex and some “breaking” way sooner but gave up after a while, because for 80% of the book nothing of that sort happens. Because the third MC is introduced so unexpectedly and late, I never connected and found the whole new plot line confusing and irritating.
That makes me think that the book would have worked much better as a serial (AND with some shortening AND some editing, but most books do...).
A last word on the peculiar language
: It's made to sound very antiquated (no idea whether it was authentic, the author added some notes at the end) and it might take the joy out for some. A more limited use would have certainly been more poignant. Anyways, for me it was all worth it, because this is witty and clever writing. The dialogue just shines, but the descriptive parts weren't half bad either!
It's a pity that it's the authors only m/m book.