As of February 1, 2015 I’ve been lucky to receive 45 five-star reviews for The Gaslight Mysteries, on Amazon alone. Several others have been published on professional review sites. Here are just a few for the first book, Heart to Hart.
This one, from Alex on Rainbow Reviews, is unrivalled for its sheer exuberance:
I adored this spectacular whodunit mystery set in the first quarter of the 1900s Ireland. Lighthearted, enigmatic, and riveting, the riddle of the mystery almost played second fiddle to the sexy and tantalizing cat and mouse chase between its two male leads.
Handsome, earthy and seemingly Irish-American, Michael McCree is going about his daily work at his newspaper when he is love struck by a customer looking to place an advertisement. The customer is an upper-class Irishman, well-educated, and brusque to the point of rudeness as dictates his instructions. He then has the gall to accuse Michael of charging too much.
Suppressing his grief from a recent tragedy, Simon Hart barely notices the big guy behind the counter as he places an ad for the now vacant room in his apartment. But when Michael’s taunting tone demands an outrageous sum in payment, his upset escapes his control and he finds himself drawn into a wager. He will fight the strapping newspaperman, any where, anytime…for the cost of the ad.
And so begins the sparkling and passionate story of two men who are practically opposites, as they slowly find out that they have more in common than not.
This is a fantastic story! There is a mystery: who killed Simon’s partner in his investigation firm? There is romance: will Michael, who is far too knowledgeable to be the lower-class lout he appears, win the heart of reluctant, closeted, grieving Simon? There are motorbike rides, captures and rescues, a femme fatale, and a lovely pair of pint-sized helpers that brought to mind the gang of pickpockets in Oliver Twist. But best of all there is a skillful, beautiful reveal of the hidden charms and talents of each of the lead characters, that caused me to fall in love with them, as they navigate from fury to fragile trust to tenderness and love.
Michael and Simon are without a doubt one of the best pairings I’ve come across in a while and I’m so glad that Erin O’Quinn has penned a sequel to this story. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the period scenery supports the story fully, bringing to mind an almost steampunk atmosphere with dank alleys, gaslit streets, foggy rains, and crisp greenery. I swear I could smell the smoke and whiskey saturated air of the Silver Hind, the Irish pub above which the two men reside. The sex was hot, frequent, and very much lent an air of realism to this captivating and wondrous tale.
Thank you, Erin O’Quinn, for creating this exquisite pair of lovers and this adventurous, swiftly-paced mystery. “Steamy, Sharp, Sexy!”
DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.
Thank you in return, Alex, for a review at once well written, lively and entertaining , totally in the mood of what I tried to convey in the novel!
The review by Diane from Sand in my Shoes Reviews has looked deeply into the psyche and motivation of the principal characters—always a tricky subject in a novel that seeks to be at once comedic, mysterious and probing of the deep feelings between two gay men in a bygone era.
I’ve been fortunate to read excerpts from this story, and along the way I developed a very particular attraction to the tortured, grieving, uptight Simon Hart, an investigator who lost his colleague to a violent crime.
Simon is bereft, for not only did he lose a partner in his detective agency but also a friend, a very special friend. It was the kind of relationship that only needed next steps for Simon to fulfill his emotional center. That they never had time to pursue that attraction is something that will haunt Simon, setting up the essential conflict of what a man is in relationship to what he thinks he is.
Simon sees himself through a very distorted lens. It will be his curse that one Michael McCree has no such filters and indeed, once they meet, there’s no doubt in the big man’s mind that the very attractive Simon has yet to come to terms with his innermost cravings. And that makes him irresistible.
Michael McCree is that little bit of rough, living on the raw, ragged edge—a man with skills and secrets and a keen intellect. A man who, once he sets his sights on a goal, will not be easily dissuaded. He’s a man with a silver tongue, a street brawler with a bulldog mentality: in short, he is the perfect foil for the neurotic Simon.
Michael worms his way into becoming a flat mate and then a partner (of sorts) when he shows some flair for being an investigator (secrets, don’t forget those secrets). Michael didn’t just grow on the repressed Simon, he also dazzled this reader with his joie de vivre and no-holds-barred sexuality. It did not take long for me to become invested in both men.
The story is centered about Simon solving the mystery of how his partner was murdered, but it is also one of beginnings, of coming to terms with who and what you are, and the precarious nature of trust.
The story is set in the early 1920’s, in a fictional Irish small city and the authenticity in the descriptions of the architecture, modes of transportation, dress, speech patterns…everything, down to the smallest detail, was a feast for the mind’s eye.
Simon has several cases on the docket, some of which he relinquishes to Michael, and those minor adventures provide some of the more comedic elements to this light-hearted tale. However, at the core of this story, there’s a lot of serious stuff going on: each man is multi-layered, multi-facetted; and as repressed as Simon is, he is that deep well of conflict set to detonate given sufficient provocation.
The ‘scenes of affection’ are beautifully restrained yet graphic enough to be realistic. The author allows her men to be men, not poseurs with (excuse the expression) dicks, and they come at relationships with a very male perspective. That alone elevates the author in my opinion, but then add in fine story-telling, fully-fashioned characters that I fell in lust/love with, strong dialogue, interesting minor characters (the street kids are truly a hoot) and a recreation of a time and place that, like the very best stage settings, enhanced the production without overwhelming it and you have the recipe for a read that will stay with you long after you finish the book.
There is a satisfactory denouement to the murder mystery and some lip-biting hints at other, more compelling secrets and revelations.
A sequel is planned and for that I tip a tumbler of Bushmills. For now, sit back and savor a fine tale, told well. Heart to Hart (The Gaslight Mysteries) will satisfy on every level.
Two very enthusiastic thumbs UP! and Five Stars.
I in turn tip a goblet of fine Irish whiskey to this reviewer who saw so much in the antics of two very different men.
I applaud a reader, Rebecca Poole, who took time out from a very busy routine as a full-time artist to write some nice things about the book:
This is a wonderful tale of two very different men and how they come to realize that they aren’t all that different where it counts. I enjoyed the setting, set in Ireland in the early 1900’s. The story is a rich tapestry of romance, mystery, and action.
This is very different from most of the M/M I’ve read…there a story here and not just “fluff.” Michael and Simon are written as real men and they meet the world head on as such. The character building is spot on and it’s fascinating to read how closeted Simon and open Michael bring out the best in each other.
I enjoyed my little jaunt into the past while these men solved the mystery of who killed Simon’s partner and learn to trust, love, and need each other. 5 stars. Erin O’Quinn is on my to buy list for certain, and she should be on yours too. 🙂
I especially enjoy her insight that while one is “open” and one is “closeted,” they finally need each other to make it all work. Thanks, Rebecca!
While not a five-star review, Leslie of Jesse Wave reviews seems to have enjoyed the read and looks forward to the sequel. Here is his 4-star review:
Review summary: Opposites attract in this entertaining romp set in 1920s Ireland.
Newspaper man Michael McCree is intrigued when Simon Hart, a tall, attractive man with a fighter’s physique yet who seems cold and aloof, asks to place two adverts in the newspaper. One is a death notice for a young man nicknamed Sargent; the other advertises the need for a roommate. When Simon complains at the cost of the adverts, Michael offers to refund the money if Simon agrees to fight with him. It’s been a while since a man had such an instant effect on Michael, and he decides it’s time he moved out of his aunt’s house, where he’s been lodging, and move in with this mysterious gentleman instead.
Using the skills of the streets and what he’s learned as an immigrant to Boston before circumstances forced him back to Ireland, Michael watches Simon for a while before making his move. When Simon doesn’t seem too keen to accept Michael as his new roommate, Michael suggests another wager – they have that fight now, and if Simon loses, he has to agree to Michael moving in with him.
Simon rarely loses a fight, but he’s distracted by grief. His business partner in their investigative agency has been murdered. Not only that, but Sargent was much more than just a business partner. He was Simon’s closest friend, their comradeship helping them through the Great War, and they were roommates. If it weren’t for Simon’s uncertainty and Sargent’s diffidence, they might also have been lovers. Simon swears to discover who’s responsible for Sargent’s death, but he doesn’t know how to go about it while his mind is so occupied with mourning what was and what could have been.
The arrival of the boisterous, rollicking Michael, who makes no secret of his desire, confuses Simon in every way possible. For the first time, Simon realises what it’s like to be actively wanted by another man, which both alarms and excites him. At the same time, he needs to attend to his investigative work, and Michael proves to be an able partner. Maybe it’s time Simon lets go of the past and allows Michael into his life – and maybe once they’ve unmasked Sargent’s killer, they can build a future together.
Heart to Hart is an enjoyable, light-hearted romp of a story. In the notes at the start of the book, the author says she’s deliberately steering clear of many historical issues that troubled Ireland in the 1920s, choosing instead to create a fictional city for her characters to inhabit. In all other respects, though, we’re given a good feel for life at that time and place, from specific quarter-hour blocks of time for bathing to the clothes that were worn, to vehicles and slang.
Michael is a larger than life character with simple desires, but he’s hiding a secretive background. He makes no bones about his lust for Simon, but though he’s over the top, he’s got charm. Beneath his blarney he’s smart, seeing clues that Simon has missed, and for all his levity, a lot of it is an act that can be dropped as the situation requires.
Simon is a more enigmatic and complex character. It seems his mother died when he was young, and his father is a shadowy figure who may or may not still be alive. Well educated and appearing like an ‘uppity-muppity’, as Michael calls the upper classes, Simon is physically fit and has an agile mind. He doesn’t consider himself gay, perhaps from fear, yet he was in love with Sargent; Michael’s easy, open affection frightens Simon and makes him question himself.
I’m leery of waving the InstaLove label, but Michael does fall for Simon pretty much straight away. At first it’s lust, but he does declare himself after a fairly short space of time. However, what makes this story different is Simon’s complicated reaction. Some readers may dislike it, but I found it believable, even if I did want to knock some sense into him at times.
The only thing that doesn’t sit well with me is that Michael knowingly pursues a grieving man. Even though Simon and Sargent weren’t lovers, they were extremely close and Simon loved him. Part of Simon’s resistance to Michael’s advances is because of this, but his capitulation is also tied up in his feelings for Sargent. Basically it’s a very messy way to start a relationship, and were it not for the fact that this seems to be the first book in a series, I’d be uneasy about the romance aspect. I hope that Ms O’Quinn explores the ramifications of this in further books, because there’s a lot of potential for internal conflict between these two very different men.
The mystery part of the story bowls along nicely, with two minor cases to develop the characters and their relationship. The baddy is fairly obvious from early on in the book, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment as the motivation was unclear until the resolution. I liked the secondary characters, especially the street urchins employed by Simon, and also Sargent’s brother Jackie. Overall a good, solid read, and I look forward to seeing more of these characters in future installments of this series.
Thanks, Leslie, for a fair read of my book. I think you and other readers wll find in the sequel that the lovers do become more complex in their response to each other, and in their own growth as individuals.
Here is another 5-star review just submitted to the amazon sales site. By a reader, Susan Wilson, I cherish it for its natural excitement, rather like a shout to the sky, and its down-to-earth language. This woman also knows how to write!
Michael McCree had me from the first line: “Michael’s life began all over again on Monday.” A perfect way to let us know that this man has a past, and a past that hasn’t been fulfilling at that, as well as anchoring the story firmly in time. Not “on that day” but Monday. That Monday. The rest of the book delivers the same way—solid, specific, hinting that there’s much more without resorting to smoke and mirrors so that our uncovering of characters, events, motivations proceeds in perfect sync with Michael and his new partner (in every way) Simon. Michael’s skills and talents blend well with Simon’s to solve several cases brought to them by Simon’s clients.
Erin skillfully weaves the cases in and out of the larger story of the mens’ relationship with one another: how they get the kidnapped pugs back pulls Simon off the shelf crammed with stuffed shirts and shows us his fun side as well as giving us another look at his readiness and ability to take on street toughs; how they free a client from the stranglehold of blackmail moves the draperies of ‘hooligan’ aside so Michael’s utter comfort in the world of ‘uppity-muppity’ golfers is revealed. Some (but not all) of the smaller cases are found to tie in to the larger issue of uncovering a murderer. Erin’s skill means those tie-ins don’t feel artificial. She doesn’t ask us to walk a plot-pretzel to prevent a premature ending to the story; there is no ‘well, why didn’t they just …?’ with an elaborate—and contrived—complication that prevents their having figured everything out on page two.
The larger story—that of two men finding that trust does not weaken us but instead makes us strong—is always present rather than being set down and returned to after a bit while the problems are worked on. Like their relationship, it is there in their conversations about the cases, in their visit to Michael’s contact, in their dealings with the small spies Simon employs. Their trust, their love, unfolds at a very natural pace: there is nothing that makes us say ‘come on and get on with it’ or ‘really? But you just met.’ Erin has found the balance point and lets Michael and Simon live the story at their own pace.
Erin’s balancing of description with direct action is also, in a word, elegant. She tells us enough to transport us into the book’s time and place without the weight of describing each freckle Simon’s small spies have. Her minor characters are just that—they are minor and don’t intrude upon the story; they are characters, not photos cut from a magazine and glued to a stick like poverty’s paper dolls. The sex is well-described and explicit without being crude and draped in purple prose. Her writing throughout is pure, crisp and engaging.
My only problem with the book—and it’s one that’s easily remedied—is that it came to an end. Fortunately, there is a sequel. I’ll be buying that immediately.