by JP Bowie, historical (2009)
MLR Press, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-934531-88-X
I'm always looking for that one good gay historical romance out there, and really, the idea of sweaty hirsute Roman centurions lustily copulating like nobody's business does have its appeal. Alas, like so many gay historical romances out there, JP Bowie's Warrior Prince has one fatal flaw: it has teary-eyed girls with strap-on devices of doom running around pretending to be hot men.
Lucius, our hero, starts out as this earnest young soldier who is, of course, secretly a 21st-century peace-loving college student pretending to be an authentic soldier of the Holy Roman Empire. When he meets rebel leader Callistus, it's immediate love at first sight, the kind that very drunk poets pretend to believe in in order to seduce gullible liberal arts college students. Alas, with all kinds of skirmishes and angst getting in the way, it will take a while (and lots and lots and lots and lots of drama) before these two finally become complete souls or something like that.
Oh god, where do I start? Lucius, once he becomes a besotted twit, becomes a demented hysterical moron who keeps weeping and clinging on to Callistus as if he is some fragile stalk of flower that will snap in two under the slightest breeze. Frankly, his constant whining and sobbing is most unbecoming and - dare I say it? - unappealingly too girly for my liking. If I like my heroes to be screaming pansies, I would be hopelessly enthralled by this story, but alas, I like my men to be less of a spineless housewife and more of, you know, a soldier like they are supposed to be. This Lucius comes off more like someone who will spend at least week sobbing in his bedroom after killing an ant.
Callistus is the "man" to Lucius' "woman" persona - he's this perfect masculine jock character with a protective streak and some superficial emotional baggage, the latter the better for him to play the Wounded but Strong Daddy to Lucius' fragile Little Bo Peep character. Like Lucius, he is a recognizable bad fanfiction archetype. Even worse, when the story is narrated from Callistus' point of view, Lucius becomes even more of a helpless little girl who survives only because of Callistus' regular dose of manly shagging.
And don't get me started with the purple prose. "He washed my entrails with a flood of semen" - what on earth? That seems like something more appropriate for an X-rated snuff version of The Hills Have Eyes... Very Gay Eyes. It is bad enough that this story is awashed with melodrama and has Lucius running around behaving like a creepy clingy little girl too pathetic to do anything on his own for himself. The purple prose only adds to the whole train wreck feel to the story. This is bad fanfiction type of writing right down to the annoying fanfiction gender stereotypes and the comedic bad prose.
So, in conclusion, we have in Warrior
Princess Prince screaming little girls and the hot daddy figures who love them playing dress up and pretending to be soldiers in love back in those heathen days of the Holy Roman Entire. If you have a high threshold for excruciatingly obvious and terribly executed bad fanfiction conventions, you are more than welcome to read about Little Miss Roman Boi and his Hot Daddy Boyfriend here. Everyone else, it's time to put 300 back in the player, mute the sound, and fast forward to Gerard Butler's rear end nudity before sighing about the sad state of masculinity in today's gay romances.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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