The Sinner’s Gamble (The Perdition Club #1) by Merry Farmer

the sinner's gamble

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Caesar Potts loves his life as a co-owner of Perdition, one of the sultriest and most hedonistic of London’s gaming hells. He is as passionate about showing customers of Perdition a good time as he is about his charitable activities on the side. But Caesar’s good nature and sensual sense of fun are put to the test when handsome preacher George Mulgrew darkens his doorstep.

George is desperate to save souls, mostly because his own is in such turmoil. He can’t seem to stay away from beautiful and intriguing club owner, Caesar, even though he believes him to be guilty of the worst sort of evils. Something within George responds to something in Caesar, no matter how much he tries to deny it.

When George finds himself trapped in Perdition as Caesar’s prisoner, everything he thought he knew and believed himself to be fighting for is thrown into question. Can Caesar show George another way to live, and will the fire between the two men light the way for a new journey?

Rating: D

Oh, dear. The Sinner’s Gamble is the first book of Merry Farmer’s I’ve read, and it started quite well in terms of the writing, which is polished and smooth, and overall feel, but that quickly went out the window when, at the end of the first chapter, one of our gambling club owners, one Caesar Potts, in a desperate attempt to stop the Reverend George Mulgrew from preaching at his patrons from the club steps, imploring them to see the error of their ways and not pass through the doors of such a den of iniquity, invites him inside – and takes him to a room in which, just minutes ago, he’d seen an MP getting it on with one of the club’s… er… gentlemen of the night, and doesn’t stop to think they might still be there. Only when he sees the ARE does he start to worry that maybe the vicar will report him and the club to the authorities. This is 1815 and homosexuality was illegal and carried a harsh punishment – death in some cases. The fact that Caesar is gay as well just makes this stupidity worse – he knows how dangerous it is to have sex with men, yet he blithely leads a vicar – A VICAR – into the room.

Jeez.

But don’t worry. He took him in there because a) he thought he’d be able to convince him that what goes on in the club isn’t so bad after all and b) because if he couldn’t he could just chloroform him and tie him to his bed.

Yep.

I considered giving up there, but as it’s only a 140 page book, I decided to persevere – and I was intrigued as to how the author was going to show and resolve George’s conflicted feelings – his calling as a minister and his desire for Caesar. After reading the beginning I suppose I should have known that she wasn’t going to do that. George has sex with Caesar several times, and the following day accompanies him on a visit to a less than salubrious area of town (it doesn’t say where – the East End maybe?) where he watches Caesar giving money and food to the poor and saving a battered wife from her abusive husband, and learns that he funds lots of charitable endeavours designed to help those less fortunate – in short, he’s practically perfect in every way. George realises that THIS is what he, as a man of the cloth, should really be doing, that practical help is far more useful to people in need than ranting at them about their immortal souls (really? I’d never have guessed!) and it takes him all of TWO WHOLE DAYS to cast off everything he’s been brought up to believe (and okay, his father is a bitter old fire-and-brimstone type who doesn’t give a shit about helping people) and doesn’t even give a second thought to the fact that his religious beliefs will have told him that his sexual desires are depraved and abnormal. Don’t misunderstand me – nobody should ever feel that way, but this is set in 1815 when, sadly, those attitudes were the prevailing ones.

George’s father is a cartoon villain, Cesar’s friends and business partners are barely two-dimensional, and the whole thing is so sugary sweet it’s a wonder my teeth haven’t rotted in the hour or so it took me to read it.

The only thing the book really has going for it is the cover – it makes a nice change to see a traditional “clinch” cover on an m/m romance. But if, like me, you cut your m/m romance reading teeth on historicals by the likes of KJ Charles and Joanna Chambers, then you really will want to give this one a miss.

Untouchable (Blake Harte Mysteries #1) by Robert Innes

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Harrison Baxter lives on a farm with his parents, on the outskirts of the village of Harmschapel. It’s picturesque, idyllic and tranquil – but Harrison is far from happy. His parent’s marriage is strained to say the least and on top of that, his boyfriend, Daniel, has been mentally and physically abusing him for years. After he finds himself with one bruise too many, Harrison has had enough. But when he plucks up the courage to finally end his violent relationship, Harrison’s life is changed forever when Daniel is found murdered in the most bizarre circumstances.

Detective Sergeant Blake Harte has moved to Harmschapel after his own relationship ended in tatters. But moving to a quiet village after working his way up the ranks in a city brings its own set of problems and Blake soon finds himself at odds with new colleagues who aren’t used to his style of policing. But when he is called upon to investigate the mysterious and impossible murder at Halfmile Farm, Blake finds himself facing the most challenging case of his career.

So how can Daniel have been shot in a locked shed that nobody could possibly have escaped from?

Is anybody really Untouchable?

Rating: C+

A quick, enjoyable read and start to this series of mysteries set in a small town somewhere in the north of England/countryside outside Manchester.

After discovering his boyfriend of five-years cheating on him (with a woman), DS Blake Harte requests a transfer out of Manchester CID and ends up moving to the village of Harmschapel. On his first day, he’s thrown straight into the most unusual case the local police department has seen; a man who was locked in a shed with only one way in and out and only one key dies of three gunshot wounds.

The victim was Daniel Donaldson, who had gone to visit his boyfriend, Harrison Baxter at his home – his parents’ farm – because Harrison wanted to end their four-year relationship. Since the death of his father two years before, Daniel’s behaviour had become increasingly violent and erratic, and finally Harrison has decided he’s been his boyfriend’s punching bag for long enough.

When Harrison delivers the news, Daniel, who is more than half-drunk, grabs him by the throat and shoves him against the wall; Seth, Harrison’s father, enters the room at this point and pulls Daniel off, then frogmarches him out of the house and locks him in the shed while he calls the police.

That’s the set-up; an intriguing locked room mystery that doesn’t play out quite as one might expect, and a solid introduction to the unconventional Blake Harte, his colleagues and some of the locals who will no doubt appear in the rest of the series. (No romance as yet, but there are clear indications that one is waiting in the wings ;)) The author sets up some interesting professional relationships and conflicts, but I did think there were some holes in certain aspects of police procedure; for instance, the ‘interview’ whereby one of Harte’s colleagues is clearly desperate to fit up Harrison for the crime felt like I was in an episode of The Sweeney, and I was just waiting for him to snarl “You’re goin’ daaaahn!” And then when Harte’s boss pretty much tells him to cut the guy some slack and warns him not to take his (Harte’s) new-fangled policin’ methods too far (my italics) I had to go back and read that bit again to make sure I’d read it correctly, because I thought he should have been saying the exact opposite.

There were also a number of typos and grammar issues that stuck out; they’re mentioned in other reviews, and although the book was published in November 2016 originally, there appears to have been no attempt made to fix them.

But with all that said, I still enjoyed the story – and the fact that I was able to get through it in an afternoon. I’ll probably read more of the Blake Harte Mysteries.