ByDaniel Mittonon February 23, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
(Originally reviewed for Love Bytes Reviews with a copy provided by the author / publisher for an honest review. Rated 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.)
I’m not a huge reader of historical fiction. But something about this blurb caught my eye when the book showed up on our available to read list at Love Bytes. So I grabbed it, and I’m glad I did.
The time is 1946. The place is the Philippines. The characters are one discharged American Marine, a pure-blood Spanish family, a mixed race young man, and his mother. The plot…a forbidden love between two men…amongst other story lines which I won’t mention.
John Buchanan has just been discharged from the United States Marines and has been offered a job…if he remains in the Philippines…as an overseer of a vast set of land holdings specializing in farming coconuts. The offer came from left field since John knows nothing about farming or coconuts. The offer has come from a man that John met while he was still in the military. That man, Ignacio Saenz, we meet in the prologue as a penniless young Spanish immigrant to the Philippines in 1921. In the story itself, it is now 25 years later and Ignacio is one of the wealthiest men in the country.
John has agreed to go to the property and view the various haciendas that make up the estate, but he doesn’t know until he gets there that he will be the replacement for the other young man who is currently doing the job! He also doesn’t realize that he is being set up to be a suitable “white” husband for one of Ignacio’s daughters! Mixed race marriages are not acceptable to the Spanish families in the Philippines at the time, and white men are scarce!
Gregorio Delgado is the same age as John, but of mixed racial background. His mother is a Filipino and his father was a Spaniard, who unfortunately died before Gregorio was born. Gregorio has been raised as almost a part of Saenz family, along with Ignacio’s six daughters. There is a background story as to why, which will blow the family apart when it is revealed. We, the readers, know the story for most of the book, and honestly, I kept expecting someone to guess it far before it was revealed, but sometimes you don’t notice something if you are too close to it I guess.
As you can imagine, Gregorio is less than happy about training his replacement, when he thought the job was his for life if he wanted it. There is some fairly heavy animosity between the two in the beginning, but things change when John and Gregorio leave on their extended visit to the outlying haciendas. Along the way they are forced to overnight in the wild and share their body heat like the men in the trenches did while John was in the military. Only difference, it turns out they both might be into other men…
What follows is a rich, sweeping story of two men finding themselves in a society and land where the thought of two men is forbidden. In 1946 homosexuality was forbidden everywhere. In the US sodomy was punishable by death or imprisonment. In the UK, imprisonment or chemical castration was the norm. Enlightened times for homosexuals were still decades away worldwide. Also remember, the Philippines was then, and is still now, a very strongly Catholic country. I liked how the author brought us these characters and showed us the difference between John’s fear of discovery and Greg’s much lower fear. John had witnessed a brutal attack on a homosexual man back in the States and was afraid of something similar if they were discovered. Greg was more naive.
This is the second edition of the book, the first having been published by Dreamspinner Press in 2012. I know that the prologue was added, giving background information on Ignacio, and I’m guessing there might have been some reworking on the Filipino language usage in the book as well, since I saw an older review that complained about having to flip back and forth to figure out what the words were. I didn’t have that issue. It seemed that for every Filipino word there was a translation. I was happy to see that. Honestly, I was really worried because there is a huge list of Filipino words at the beginning of the book and I thought I’d have to refer back.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a historical type book, with an m/m theme that has enough smoulder to satisfy, without being on every other page. The landscapes and storylines were very well written, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book.