Man & Beast, Savage Land Book 1
By Michael Jensen
Copyright © 2016 Michael Jensen
PO Box 30542
Seattle WA 98113
Cover design by Damonza.com
***This series was previously published but has been updated by the author.
The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.
John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.
With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.
Every once in a while a book comes along that takes me by the neck and throttles me so hard that I’m left in total awe. This is one of those books. I wasn’t expecting what I got. Sure, I knew it was a historical going in but man, oh man, this is such phenomenally good writing that it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I could not put this book down.
The setting of late 18th century western expansion, the ill-defined boundaries of a fledgling nation, the clash with the Native Peoples, the vivid characters and magnificent prose, the way the characters and places come to life and expand and develop throughout is what makes for a completely immersive experience. I truly cannot recommend this book highly enough.
John Chapman –
Handsome, innocent at first, John Chapman. When John’s illicit affair with a British Major in Fort Niagara, Canada, is discovered, John is forced to flee towards the newly opened frontier of western Pennsylvania to a newly starting settlement called Warren. Thus begins John’s quick learning of the hardships, and joys, of a life he’d never thought he’d have.
Daniel McQuay –
In the dark, I could only make out his silhouette — short but broad-shouldered, and as solid-looking as the trees that ringed us… He was a shade on the short side, but his massive forearms, the clear contours of a solid chest, and the broad shoulders visible under his hunting shirt gave him the presence of someone taller. His long black hair, drawn into a ponytail much the same way I wore mine, gleamed in the morning light. I thought him quite striking…
John comes upon brutal, vicious Daniel McQuay’s cabin and is taken in by him, saving his life. However, what John doesn’t know is the mind altering experiences that are about to happen.
When he finally removed his hat, I was taken aback by the smiling, tan face with bright blue eyes that roamed over me. His blond hair, pulled back in a tight ponytail, further emphasized his angular features and almond-shaped eyes… He was taller than I, and thin, but well muscled. Golden curls covered his broad chest, darkening as they descended down his stomach…
Young, handsome Palmer is the complete opposite of both the British Major and Dan McQuay. When John first meets him he is smitten by him and, as fate would have it, Palmer is also attracted to John. Palmer shows John the better, and sometimes more fun, side of this new frontier.
The round cheeks, small mouth, and dark eyes of an Indian woman…
Enigmatic Gwennie. The native survivor of the attempts to mainstream the original inhabitants has learned to trust few people. Her presence is a strong, steadying force in John and Palmer’s lives, as well as a source for the required knowledge to survive.
The story is what drew me into this book when Lisa first presented it to me. Granted, I’m not the historical romance kind of guy, and yet this story called out to me, I mean strong gay, male characters set in 1790’s frontier North America trying to survive and a love turned bad, redeemed by meeting a new, handsome settler, right? I mean, what’s not to like? Ah, mon cher, what I got was a whole heck of a lot more.
This story is a story of the reality of gay men in late 18th Century America and the difficulties, prejudices, and sometimes death, that they faced in the harshest conditions imaginable whilst still being true, proud men. The psychological difficulties of the times, as gay people acquired self realization, with the backdrop of the bigotry and stigmatization that the Native Peoples faced makes for an enthralling literary work… OK, now throw in an incredibly well written psycho-thriller and what do you get? One mind blowingly amazing novel that you cannot put down.
Holy Goddess, the writing! Yeah, it’s good. It’s deliciously good. The story just flows so freely and powerfully. There are no hiccups, no WTFs, not one, not once. Mr. Jensen quite obviously did his homework as the manner of speech, the colloquialisms, the slangs, the thought patterns are all as they were in late 18th Century North America.
The sex scenes, and there are some pretty darn hot, intense sex scenes are so vivid and realistic to the time and the people undertaking them that I venture to say they are also pretty darn unique. I mean, imagine sex between closeted men in the late 1790’s frontier? Being able to write this credibly? Amazingly well done.
Reading his work is as if I had been transported back in time and I were living the moment, really there, present in all the happenings. As I mentioned before, this was a completely immersive experience. I don’t give a lot of 5 star reviews, but this book more than earns it.
- So? Any new words to describe some of your artwork?
- What is it that called out to you to accept this work?
- How would Lisa have felt as a woman living in those times?
I was devoured by this book. Chewed up, spit out, and regurgitated. Beginning with a frantic run for survival, continuing with a head spinning, psychological thriller, settling into a completely quirky frontier Peyton Place, and culminating with an intense mountainside clash. All this while exploring heady subjects of self-worth, bigotry, and racism. Wow!
This hair-raising, action-packed read is far from the lazy, historical drama that I was expecting. I couldn’t put it down. It got into my psyche and won’t let go. What a terrific, unexpected treat. Definitely one of my best reads of the year.
John Chapman – A gentle soul in a harsh environment forced to find his core of steel to survive. John’s visible development through this book is striking.
Daniel McQuay – This gruff, brutal frontiersman had me on-edge with every encounter. He slowly devolves into a calculating terror that the reader will never forget.
Palmer – A young man ahead of his time. His ideas and beliefs feel so familiar, but are at the same time completely out of place. I connected with him immediately.
Gwennie – My favorite character. A half-breed woman who lives life on her own terms. Her intelligence, integrity, and fortitude were uplifting and authentic.
Two men alone in the frozen wilderness must survive the harsh environment inside and outside of a remote frontier cabin. To survive they will need to learn to trust each other, but when one of the men is always on a hair-trigger there is rarely a moment to let your guard down. Bit by bit small cracks in this tenuous relationship develop. Secrets, deceptions, and hints of atrocities all add up to a feeling of impending ruin.
A chance for escape leads to a new life. A fresh start. But nosey townspeople with plans of their own don’t allow much room for John to be John. They are a ridiculous mix of characters that come as unexpected levity and a reprieve from the anxiety-driven first half of this book. But don’t let your guard down.
Action-packed and heart-pounding right up until the end.
The ability to cause simultaneous heart-pounding anxiety and delirium-driven laughter is talent. This frozen wilderness, two men in a cabin story could have easily been boring and slow. Instead these months on end of winter isolation have edge-of-your-seat intensity with near constant events taking place.
Michael Jensen manages to include big, deep topics like racism, homophobia, and rape well within the context of the story. It felt both historically accurate and necessary to the over-arching plot, not just stuck-in pandering to enrich the story. Excellent.
I highly recommend this psychological thriller.
THREE QUESTIONS FOR OJ
1) Straight on to book two in the series, right?
2) Did you get cabin fever reading this?
3) Do you like John? Fave character?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Jensen is an author and editor. His books of gay historical fiction include two series, The Drowning World, which is set in 5500 B.C., and The Savage Land, which takes place on the American frontier. Man & Monster, the second book in The Savage Land series, was a Lambda Award Finalist (under the title Firelands).
Michael is also the co-founder of AfterElton.com, which covered pop culture for gay and bisexual men, and eventually became one of the largest and most influential LGBT websites on the internet. In 2006, AfterElton.com was sold to MTV/Viacom in a multimillion dollar deal. As editor, Michael interviewed hundreds of writers, directors, and actors, breaking numerous stories and advancing the issue of LGBT visibility in Hollywood.
Michael lives in Seattle, WA with his husband, writer Brent Hartinger.
We would like to thank Addison Albright and JMS Books LLC with providing Gay Guy/Straight Girl Reviews with a copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.