They met in a port-side tavern, their lust-filled moments stolen from days of marching and madness. After eighteen months, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First Lieutenant Mathias Hofmann have decided to run away from everything they hold dear. Resigning their commissions is social suicide, but there's no other choice. Someone will eventually see Rudolph's partiality toward Mathias.
Now their plans have gone horribly awry... When Mathias goes to Rudolph's tent after their last battle, his lover looks at him without a hint of recognition. Mathias can hardly believe the man he knew is gone. He wants to fill in so many of Rudolph's missing memories, but the doctor says a shock could result in permanent damage. The pain of seeing Rudolph on a daily basis, when Rudolph doesn't remember their love, is excruciating. Now Mathias must decide whether he wants to fight for the man he loves or forget him completely...
This isn't the first time I've read a story about lost love due to amnesia or the rediscovering of that love but it is the first time I've read this author and it was a perfect discovery of a great story. I loved the inner turmoil Mathias shows while he's trying to decide if the rediscovery is worth the pain he feels when he's with Rudolph. Add in the fact that it's a historical and I was a happy camper when I couldn't put this down. I will definitely be checking out other works by Erastes.
A great house. A family dispossessed. A sensitive young man. A powerful landowner. An epic love that springs up between two men. Set in the post-Napoleonic years of the 1820's, Standish is a tale of two men - one man discovering his sexuality and the other struggling to overcome his traumatic past. Ambrose Standish, a studious and fragile young man, has dreams of regaining the great house his grandfather lost in a card game. When Rafe Goshawk returns from the continent to claim the estate, their meeting sets them on a path of desire and betrayal which threatens to tear both of their worlds apart. Painting a picture of homosexuality in Georgian England, Standish is a love story of how the decisions of two men affect their journey through Europe and through life.
This story had me on pins and needles the entire time. The emotional roller coaster that both Standish and Rafe ride is happy at times but it's the moments of pain that really stood out and had me reading to the point that I had no concept of the clock. It's the moments of pain that might be hard for some to read, especially since Standish suffers because of some of Rafe's actions or lack thereof, so I have to say that you might want to read at your risk but personally I loved it.
Orphaned Crispin Thorne has been taken as ward by Philip Smallwood, a man he’s never met, and is transplanted from his private school to Smallwood’s house on an island on the beautiful but coldly remote Horsey Mere in Norfolk. Upon his arrival, he finds that he’s not the only young man given a fresh start. Myles Graham and Jude Middleton are there before him, and as their benefactor is away, they soon form alliances and friendships, as they speculate upon the sudden transformation of their circumstances. Who is Philip Smallwood? Why has he given them such a fabulous new life? What secrets does the house hold and what is it that the Doctor seems to know?
Trust acclaimed author Erastes to tell a moving story in the field of gay historical romance.
Another fine historical read but at times it was a bit twisted, which for me only made it better. You can't help but love Crispin and because of it you're questioning everything the other characters say and do. Well worth all the questioning and emotions and by the time you're at the end, you really don't want to let anyone go.
I Knew Him
Harry George Alexander Bircham: Not necessarily an infamous name in the annals of gay fictional characters…yet. But readers of Erastes’ newest historical novel should prepare themselves for many pages of suspenseful intrigue as the miscreant Bircham, a man of Wildean excesses and humours, will do anything it takes to bend Fate to his will. And that sinister will is to keep the affections and attentions of another young English lad. If accidents, if murder, are necessary, then Bircham is just the villain. Or anti-hero, as he is quite the early twentieth century charmer.
“If there can be such a thing as too much fun, this is probably it. It’s Hamlet in white tie and flapper dresses, relocated to the country-house circuit between the wars; but nobody quite acts out the roles laid down for them. This is just too good to miss.” —Chaz Brenchley, winner of the August Derleth Award and author of Blood Waters
This is a story of the things one does for love. The question is who's "doing the doing?" and who's "doing the loving?" Even though I pretty much knew the answers I still couldn't put this down. The characters were well written and the story was intriguing, definitely piqued my interest from the beginning and kept me interested to the very end.
“And no more of that disgusting pomade.” Rudolph’s mouth grazed Mathias’ ear. The dark curls, artfully arranged beside it, tickled his nose.
He spoke quietly so only Mathias could hear, well aware that his batman and an entire army was on the other side of their canvas walls. “I promise I shall dispose of every jar you purchase. And no more early mornings—ever—I swear it. We shall pay someone to stand guard outside our door and not rise until we have to.” There was warmth between them, everywhere they touched, skin and cloth. A moment stolen from days of marching and madness, a centre of heat between them, in sharp contrast to the chill morning wind which whuffed the canvas of the tent around them.
Mathias stirred, his arms locking more firmly behind Rudolph’s back. “Tomorrow. Even now I can’t quite believe it…”
“Believe it, and no more talk of it. Fate won’t be tempted.” Rudolph silenced any further discussion by kissing Mathias, deeply and thoroughly, rubbing his yet unshaven cheek against Mathias’ smooth, morning-ready skin. A man in full uniform is not an easy armful. The scent of sweat and horse rose up in the warmth they generated. Concentrating on the unique taste and feel of Mathias’ mouth, Rudolph swore to remember this moment throughout the day to come. When I’m cold from the death around me, or blazing with the thunder of the charge, I will remember this—this moment. It is this that men fight for—Mathias is my returning haven, my reason to fight. My home.
Outside the tent the sound of hooves and the jingle of harness could be heard.
“Sir?” Goertz’s voice sounded low and urgent from his guard site.
“I must go, anyway.” Mathias pulled away, straightened his dolman and picked up his shako. “But—”
Voices engaged in conversation from outside the tent. Rudolph blocked them, savouring these last moments. Moments which very well may be the last.
“No.” Rudolph kissed him again, swiftly and quietly. “No buts. Just fight. Then we resign. Then meet here. Then leave. No matter what.” Rudolph watched Mathias pull the control over his features and take a deep breath. Fierce with pride at the deeply brave man his young friend had become, he smiled, catching Mathias’ eye. “Say ‘Yes, Rudolph.'”
Mathias looked down once then up, sharply, executing a knife-sharp salute with a click of his polished heels. “Yes, Rudolph!” Then he swung around, and pushed his way through the tent flap.
It took Rudolph a moment or two to recover himself, then suppressing his fond smile he strode to the tent flap and looked out into the misty dawn. “What is it, Goertz?” Sound subsumed the space where it had seemed absent before: sergeants shouting as sergeants were born to do, the ever-present jingle of harness, the rumble of wheels. Goertz, Rudolph’s batman, jumped up from a chair he was occupying, polishing the links of Rudolph’s sabretache.
“Sir!” Goertz’s moustache fairly bristled with pride. Rudolph himself was still half-dressed and unshaven, but Goertz could step onto any parade ground and do justice to his regiment. Rudolph wondered if the man ever slept. “Generalleutnant von Tümpling sent his equerry over, sir. I told him you was not to be disturbed. There’s a meeting at Rumpy Tumpy’s tent, sir. Big wigs only. You are required. His nibs didn’t much like being sent away like a beggar.” Goertz gave a private grin, obviously celebrating the enlisted man’s victory over a man he considered a jumped up nothing landed in a fortunate—and safe—position as von Tümpling’s equerry.
“I’ll bet he didn’t,” Rudolph said, backing into the tent. “Come on, get me big-wigged up then.”
Goertz grabbed the pot of hot water from the fire and followed Rudolph into the tent. Rudolph sat, and forced himself to concentrate on the day ahead as Goertz warmed cloths, whipped up foam, and stropped the razor. However, by the time the shave began, Rudolph’s thoughts had slipped from his regiment, and the day to come, to the irrevocable damage he was planning to do to his own—and to Mathias’ reputation. Resigning their commissions in the midst of an active campaign was social suicide. They both knew it, but the longer they remained in the Prussian army, the more they both knew there was no choice. Someone would eventually see Rudolph’s partiality. They would see something, say something—or resort to blackmail. Whichever way you looked at it, they’d be ruined. Cashiered, or worse. Shot in disgrace. Or blackmailed for the rest of their lives. No. This was the only way—get away from this stupid muddle of a war and run as far away as possible. The Far East—plenty of opportunities there. Or America. Once Rudolph would have given everything to his country. Now, he’d give everything to Mathias.
Don’t think of that, he mused, as the razor slid expertly over his face. Think of last night. Too much wine and not enough caution, but damn it, it was so hard to be cautious when the nights were dark, the air was warm, and Mathias was there, laughing beside him and bumping drunkenly against him as they staggered from inn to inn through the town. Plenty of dark alleys, and one they found had a handy dog-leg, shielding them from the street itself, where, hidden, they could kiss and dare to reach into each other’s breeches for swift, stolen moments, callused skin rough against a velvet-steel rod. Stifled gasps, and Mathias’ body arched back against the wall as he surrendered his most tender of possessions to Rudolph’s eager hands.
As Goertz moved away to wash the razor, Rudolph brought his hand up to his mouth, slyly licking his own palm; still imagining he could taste Mathias’ seed where it had spilled, warm and thick, onto his fingers. He often joked that he could discern Mathias’ taste over a hundred men’s’, much to Mathias’ amusement who said he would fight each of those men to the death before allowing them to take place in such an experiment.
They’d first met in Danzig; in a port-side tavern, far away from the normal regimental haunts, and Rudolph had drunk enough to sink a battleship. Rudolph had just been taught a drinking game he was enjoying hugely—a complicated card game with different instructions for each card. Obviously the more one drank, the harder it became to remember the labyrinthine rules, and the more penalties were handed out.
Rudolph treated drinking games as war, and one by one Rudolph’s adversaries slid from their chairs, or turned away to vomit violently onto the sawdust-covered floor, until there was just three of them left: Rudolph, for whom true drunkenness consisted of schnaps home-brewed by his grandfather and downed at a dizzying speed with dance and song; a blond giant from a Swedish ship whose cheeks were roundly red as apples; and an Oberleutnant Hofmann, who had walked into the disreputable place, as neat as a parade monkey and acting as formal as if he were in the officers’ mess. The sailors bet heavily on their blond giant who seemed to have a head as inured to schnaps as Rudolph’s own.
Rudolph was winning—the sizeable pile of money on the table growing slowly with every drink, and the tension in the bar was increasing with every card played. The sailors seemed to gather around the table a little closer with every hand played and bets were still passing from one to another. Rudolph watched the big sailor squinting at his cards as if he could hardly see them, let alone work out which one to play. To help maintain a façade of sobriety, Rudolph concentrated on one thing, a mole on the back of the sailor’s hand; it helped him to focus. Slowly, the sailor selected a card, gave Rudolph a smug smile and dropped the card onto the table.
Five. Shit. Five was the highest you could impose on another player – and it meant that Rudolph had to drink five shots. The glasses were filled and the sailors began the chant of “Dryck! Dryck! Dryck!” Swallowing the first with no difficulty, Rudolph reached for the second and found his fellow hussar, Oberleutnant…what was his name? Hofmann—looking at him, but not in a manner that gave the impression that he wanted his rival to fail. The young man’s face—handsome as hell, Rudolph noted, but then, anyone would seem handsome as hell after the amount of schnaps he’d drunk that night—seemed to be marked with concern.
“Don’ worry,” he murmured, in German, instead of French. “I won’t let the Regiment down.” He grinned at the young man and threw down drinks two, three and four. He was just lifting five to his lips, the demanding cries of “Dryck! Dryck! Dryck!” coming louder and louder when the blond sailor muttered ” Skall vi knulla?” and slid effortlessly and spectacularly sideways, like a great pine felled for Christmas.
Rudolph stood up, swallowed the fifth glass, and slammed the glass onto the table in triumph. Instead of playing on, Oberleutnant Hofmann threw his cards into the air with a whoop of delight and threw his arms around Rudolph, slapping him on the back with hearty congratulations. “Couldn’t play on, anyway,” he slurred. “Every card in my hand would’ve backfired at me. Fair n’ square.”
The young oberleutnant was warm and smelt delicious. Horse and sweat and alcohol, a heady mixture, and if Rudolph’s cock wasn’t numbed with schnaps Rudolph was quite sure that some interest would have been shown as the drunken embrace went on for longer than propriety expected.
“What did he say?” Rudolph said, scooping up his winnings and tucking them away. The sailors were exchanging money, seems one or two had won big by betting away from their compatriot.
“Him.” Rudolph indicated the blond giant, happily comatose on the floor and being ignored by his disgusted shipmates. “When he fell over. Scully nully or something…”
Hofmann laughed. “Oh. That’s one Swedish phrase I do know. You would too, if you came to these kind of places more often. It means ‘Shall we fuck?’ Although that’s probably a more polite translation.”
Rudolph’s drunkenness slid away from him a little as he processed what Hofmann had said, although—he’d already guessed as much, the bar was a known haunt for men seeking men, masquerading as a really rough bar. The absence of quayside tarts was a give-away for anyone who was looking for that kind of clue. “Really.” He looked down at the blond sailor. “That’s a shame. Although I’d have had to stand on a box.”
Hofmann roared with laughter, put his arm through Rudolph’s and they walked out together. “I’m more your height,” Hofmann said, and Rudolph reached down, grabbed a handful of firm arse before pulling the door open. The sailors were standing around their fallen comrade, singing what could only be a drinking song, as they toasted his failure. The door closed and Rudolph and Hofmann wove down the dark street, with the song’s words drifting after them for a good quarter of a mile.
Later, in an inn that asked no questions, on a creaking wooden bed that had more of a promise of a mattress than anything else, they had fucked like dogs. Then, like friends, and the third time it was like men addicted to each other, men in love. And it had remained that way ever since.
Paris spread out from the window like a magic carpet. Rafe’s house was on the Champs-Élysées, and from where Ambrose sat, he could see the construction of the Emperor’s Arch at the top of the majestic road. He hardly registered the magnificence of it all, as his pulse was racing; his loins were still aflame from what he had just experienced in Rafe’s loving arms.
They had awakened early, which was surprising given the lateness of their arrival at the Paris mansion. They had kissed, Rafe’s hands exploring every inch of his lover’s body as he encouraged Ambrose to do the same. He had, timidly at first, but when he saw the look of pleasure and desire on Rafe’s face, he became bolder. He’d straddled the man at the hips and had run the flat of his palms over the muscled chest, touching the hard nipples and seeing Rafe’s eyes close. Encouraged, he’d leaned forward and kissed them, and Rafe had clasped his head, groaning each time Ambrose’s tongue flickered over each hard little peak. Ambrose had taken the lead, and had manipulated Rafe’s prick for the first time, as had been done to him so many times now, feeling unutterable joy when Rafe had come violently, calling his name.
Afterwards, Ambrose had found himself pulled close to Rafe, then kissed thoroughly, as though Rafe’s spending had increased his stamina, rather than having diminished it. Rafe’s hands had travelled everywhere over Ambrose’s body, leaving warmth where they passed. Then one hand had touched Ambrose’s member, a mere brush, but enough to make Ambrose arch off the bed, seeking more, wanting more. But Rafe was cruel, and he did not accede to any unvoiced demands. He had left Ambrose’s mouth and had trailed his tongue down over his chin and onto his neck, kissing and biting the soft flesh, making Ambrose experience shudders in places he had never felt before. Then Rafe had moved further down, sweeping lightly over his nipples, hardly giving them a thought before continuing still lower, finally pausing near Ambrose’s prick, so near that Ambrose had felt Rafe’s breath, seemingly burning hot, gusting over its exposed head. He had wanted to speak, had wanted to order Rafe what to do, but he hardly had the words for it and he hadn’t wished to break the spell. Rafe’s mouth had caused such delight while exploring, seeming cool and fiery by turns, leaving a blazing comet trail behind it. Every touch had caused an inferno in Ambrose; he had felt Rafe was both creating and consuming the very emotions he was bringing into being.
He had thrashed upon the bed and grasped the covers and sheets, trying to stop himself floating from the bed. When Rafe had paused, leaving only that delicious, hot breath ghosting over his cock, Ambrose had broken his silence. “Don’t stop. Please. You will kill me.” He’d felt close to fainting away as the softest, warmest wetness had encompassed him. He hadn’t been able to speak thereafter; he could only whimper with pleasure in time with the bobbing of Rafe’s head until he felt pressure and warmth and release and joy.
He had lain dazed for a full minute at least, only aware of the lethargy in his limbs and the heaviness where Rafe’s head lay pillowed on his thigh. Then he had struggled to open his eyes and focus on Rafe’s anxious face, which had been peering up as if he’d thought he killed his lover. Ambrose had held open his arms and Rafe had swarmed into them, his body hot and hard against his own, safe, sure, reassuring. Clinging to the solidity of Rafe, Ambrose had drifted into sleep.
Now sitting alone in the morning light, Ambrose held the paper in his hands. He had found it on the day they were due to leave Standish. It had been on top of his pillow in his own room, which he had found strange. He could not understand why Rafe had left him a note in that place, as he had not slept there since their first night together. He was holding it now. He had kept it with him for weeks, in London and all through the journey to Dover and to Paris. At times it seemed as if it was burning a hole in his side, and he would take it out in the rare moments when he was alone and read it.
It was not from Rafe. It was not even to Ambrose. It was just a few stanzas of a poem, written in an unknown hand on an old piece of parchment, the ink faded. Ambrose knew the poem, of course, and had long loved it, but now the sight of it sickened him. Jealousy had entered every line of the love song of Solomon and had eaten it away like a canker worm. He knew now that the paper had been placed there by the tramp in the park, and the implications behind that were almost too monstrous to contemplate, but he had done nothing but think of them ever since. The only time he could forget his jealousy was when Rafe was touching him and kissing him. As soon as they were apart, the doubts began afresh.
Ambrose hated himself for this. He remembered how disdainful Rafe had been over Trenberry’s jealous neediness, and he had tried so hard to push the accusations he longed to throw at Rafe to one side, but he ached to know the truth. How had the tramp entered his bedroom? What was his relationship to Rafe? Why had Rafe denied knowing him? Why did Rafe keep so much from him?
Hot, jealous tears fell onto the parchment, and the writing, elegant and upright, smudged and blurred.
“Ambrose?” Rafe’s voice was tinged with worry.
“I’m here.” Ambrose emerged from the curtains, tucking the parchment into the bed sheet and dropping them both on the floor.
I allowed myself to think of Arch, then, of the first time I’d seen him, dazzling in cricket whites with his hair blowing in a summer breeze – and the last time I’d seen him, being bundled into his family’s coach, as I watched from our study window. I allowed myself, as I hadn’t done for the year since that fateful night, to remember the hot fevered feel of his hands on my skin, and the way his tongue knew just where to tickle the crease where my leg met my arse. I remembered our first kiss, sudden and shocking as a summer storm as we returned the bats to the pavilion, and I closed my eyes, my cock swelling at the memory as I remembered our last kiss, interrupted by someone banging furiously on the door –
The knock on the door had frightened us to death, and my eyes flickered open, coming to my senses on my bed at Bittern’s Reach when I realised that someone was knocking on my door too. The coincidence had my heart pounding like a drum. Pushing Arch to the back of my mind again, I slid off the bed and opened the door. It was Smallwood.
“Come in, sir,” I said, stepping backwards, swiftly. “It wasn’t locked.”
He entered, his eyes raking around the room taking in every detail, like a housemaster looking for dirt and disorder. I wished I had thought to smooth the counterpane after leaving the bed, but then I realised, as he pushed aside the heavy lace curtains and examined the windows and the window seat that had I hadn’t even seen was there, that he was inspecting the room, but not for any upheaval I may have made.
He turned to me at last. “We knock before entering rooms, Crispin.” His face was altogether transformed. He looked warm, relaxed and handsome in his composure. “The family at least.” I found myself beaming inwardly, for it was clear that Myles was right, he had had no intention of throwing us out. “It sends a measure of respect and privacy – which I know none of you will have experienced at school. The servants do not knock, and that is something that you will have to work out for yourself; the difference between why they don’t and why you do. If you are indisposed, and wish for complete privacy you may simply lock the door and your wishes will be respected, although we may have to be reassured you are not ill, of course.”
I nodded.“Thank you, sir.”
“Philip,” he said. “Sir – if you absolutely must when necessity takes you – but I am not your headmaster.” He paused and seemed to taking a calming breath. “Sit down, Crispin.” He took one of the fireside chairs and I sat opposite him. It was probably the most comfortable thing on which I had ever sat. “I wanted to talk to you all in turn alone – and indeed would have done after breakfast –”
“I’m sorry about that, sir…Philip.”
“We’ll start afresh.” He smiled at me and I couldn’t help but grin back. He was right, he wasn’t at all as I imagined a father to be. More like the type of older brother who had inherited the responsibility of raising his younger siblings, or a stern but fair prefect who garnered respect and loyalty by the force of his personality. “I know that to move from school to here – your new home – must be a period of re-adjustment. For all of you, and me too, in a way. But I hope that you will soon settle in, get to know me – and each other.”
“May I ask you something?” I was dismayed to find my voice quavering with emotion.
“You…aren’t…are you my –”
He sat forward swiftly. “No, Crispin. I’m not your father. Nor do I know who he was. I’ve seen your birth certificate and…” he touched me gently on my arm, his eyes fixed earnestly on mine. “Forgive me if this distresses you; this is why I needed to see you alone. Your birth certificate gives no names. From what I can surmise your mother died in the workhouse where you were born, not telling the management who she was, nor where she was from.” He paused, obviously able to tell how I was struggling with myself as the last of my hope dissipated like fog in sunshine. “I’m sorry, Crispin.”
“Did you pay for my education, sir?”
“I did not, other than for your final year.”
I found I was breathing deeply, but I retained what little composure I had.
“Then I thank for that. The others?”
“It is not my place to tell you their history, Crispin, you know that. Would you really like me to tell them of yours?” He looked into my eyes, and his expression was like a deep, deep well into which I could fall forever. He left me in no doubt as to what he meant.
I felt heat rise in my cheeks. “No. No. I wouldn’t. Thank you, Philip.”
He stood, and I followed suit. “You are pleased with your room?”
I Knew Him
He walked into my study-room, and threw himself on the bed as if he owned it. It was hard not to stare at him, so I didn’t even try not to. His shirt had pulled itself loose from his flannels, displaying a delicious portion of his midriff, and the first few dark blond hairs which led downwards to some of his nicer points.
“It’s a frightful bore,” he said. “But I suppose there’s no way around it. You’ll come, though?”
He had this habit, endearing and irritating by turns, of talking to me as if we’d been having a conversation, and I’d simply not been listening for half of it. How dare I be in a different room while he was having his portion of the discussion?
I put my pen down with deliberate effect as if to emphasise that I had actually been working, rare as that was. “If I had any idea of what you were talking about, I could say one way or the other.”
“The summer vac, of course. I’ve been summoned home. It’s loathsome. Mother knows all too well that I wanted to take you to Paris. What does Somerset have to interest us, when there are the hidden decadencies of Paris?” He stretched out like a cat, his arms well over his head, and more of his torso came into view. It was too much for one with as little willpower as I possess. I threw my pen down on the table and joined him, kneeling by the side of the bed and latching my mouth onto his skin.
“Mmmmm,” he said. “That door’s not locked, you know.”
My tongue took a break from etching circles on his stomach. “The only chaps likely to barge in without knocking are Richardson and Gilbert. I can’t see either of those two dropping dead from shock discovering a couple of queers in my study.” I chuckled at my own puerile wit, my mouth reverberating on his skin, making him laugh too. It was good to hear him laugh, it was a rare enough sound and one I never tired of hearing. “And I’m not entirely sure that decadencies is even a word.”
“Of course it is. It must be. Look it up.”
“I’m busy. You look it up.”
He leaned over and pulled my dictionary from the windowsill. There was silence for a minute or two, while pages rustled and I took outrageous—but not entirely indecent—advantage of his inattention. If I were a man more given to introspection, I might complain that he found it so easy to thumb through my copy of The Concise Oxford while I was taking such liberties with his person. But then, I was doing it mostly for my own gratification.
“If you do much more of that,” he said, his voice dusky with want, proving me wrong as usual, “then I’m neither going to notice if the door does open, nor am I likely to care.” He pushed himself up along the bed and propped himself up against the bedstead, removing the temptation of his skin, to my very great annoyance.
Born in Essex, England in 1959, Erastes attended Southend High School for Girls.
Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in Norfolk, UK. She drew her inspiration to write historical fiction from works such as Gaywyck by Vincent Virga and the novels of Mary Renault. Erastes was the Director of the Erotic Authors Association for two years and is an active member of the Historical Novel Society. She is the moderator of Speak Its Name, an influential blog dedicated to gay historical fiction.
Erastes has been writing since 2003, and details of all her books and short stories can be found on her website.
Her second novel, "Transgressions," was one of the flagship releases by Running Press in their M/M Historical Romance line which is being marketed directly at the existing romance market and was shortlisted for a Lambda award in 2010.
I Knew Him