Michael never really had many prospects for a good life. His parents died when he was a child and he was barely able to get by in his uncle’s home. He started selling himself as teenager, and eventually earned enough money to attend medical school and travel to Europe. Things seemed to be turning around for him until WWI struck. He endured the horrors of war for years. And when he finally returned, he was a broken man. He survived earning money working in the baths. But even that was taken away once his uncle discovered his homosexuality and blackmailed him into taking a job in the country.
It was there he met John. The reclusive master of the house was badly injured in the war. And though Michael was actually hired to be the gardener of the estate, he ends up taking on the responsibility of helping John through rehab. The process of John’s recovery and the relationship that grows between them changes their lives in ways neither could have ever imagined.
It was hard to relate to Michael at the beginning of the book. He lives life without care for himself; he’s had sex with countless men and is basically an unrepentant whore. He loves his sister and her children, but even they don’t really know him. Of course, he begins to soften as the book progresses and even begins forging some attachments to the family of caretakers there. But his growth is slow in coming. And so is the relationship between him and John. In fact, for half of the book, there really wasn’t even much of a romantic or even sexual undertone between them. It was very slow moving, with uneven pacing, and not much of a climax to speak of.
The book is dark in the sense that it’s seeped in the main character’s self-loathing. There are some gratifying moments, as John begins to physically recover… and as he and Michael realize their feelings –and later, act on them. The sex is not gratuitous; it’s a natural extension of their relationship. But everything is just so heavy. Between the PTSD and the flashbacks and the rejection from Michael’s family — not to mention his own self-destructive behaviors… When all was said and done, I just felt worn-out.
It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t the best fit for me. 3 stars.
*ARC Provided by NetGalley
Bonds of Earthby GN ChevalierRelease Date: January 9, 2012Publisher: Dreamspinner Press