February 8, 2016 by kitmoss
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (July 1, 2014)
This is one sweet novel. There is just enough recovery from isolation and disappointment to go around making fulfillment of the dreams so satisfying.
Gerard is a rake, traumatized by seeing his mother murdered, trying to forget it all in the life of a libertine. Miles is a lonely estate bailiff, never able to stay put in one place long to put down roots, which he could not do without a single love in his life anyway. They meet when another lost soul comes on the scene: Ipsial, the nine-year old boy whose dying mother sends him to Gerard telling him he’s his father. The three need each other so desperately, you wonder if they can actually stop, listen and accept.
In steps the awful cousin Hubert who is vapid, greedy and vain. He wants Ipsial, who is actually his own son, more to blackmail Gerard or to have what he cares for than any real interest in the boy.
One very interesting thing about this book, which takes place in rural England in the 1880s, is that there was a movement there and then that suggested that sexual relationships between the upper class and lower class males is the catalyst for crossing the class barrier and creating true democratic societies. This book and its main characters definitely bear this out.
There is a clever double meaning in the title. Gerard is the gentleman, and Miles is mistakenly referred to as his “gamekeeper”.
My favorite scene in terms of some very clever writing is when Hubert takes Ipsial for a walk in the garden. Hubert is trying to get something on his cousin Gerard to blackmail him with:
“You mean you’ve seen them touch?”
“First night here, Mr. Gerard and Mr. Kenway came to blows.”
“Oh. Well, that’s strange. A gentleman is set upon by his bailiff and yet keeps him in his employ? Are you certain you didn’t see them do anything besides fight? Maybe they were wrestling on the ground together, thrashing around and grunting in a… a playful way. Is that what you saw?”
“I saw Mr. Kenway punch Mr. Gerard in the jaw. A good ’un, too. Snapped his head right around. That what you mean?”
Miles smiled . He recognized Ipsial’s dry tone. It sounded exactly like Gerard’s. The boy knew perfectly well what he’d seen that night—men kissing. He was feigning ignorance for Hubert’s benefit. No. Not for Hubert’s, but for Miles and Gerard. The boy was protecting them. Miles’s heart swelled with affection for the child he’d once thought was a lost cause.
The boy’s answer seemed to take the wind from Hubert’s sails, but he gamely tried another tack. “I’m certain these two men you’re so fond of have shown you great affection. Are there any instances you can remember where one of them touched you—something beyond a pat on the head?”
White-hot rage blistered through Miles at the insinuation that either of them might have interfered with Ipsial. He was seconds away from charging out of the shadow of a tree like some wild bull and goring the despicable Hubert Gerard. But he maintained his calm and listened as Ipsial once again neatly turned the tables on his questioner.
“Had to go in the tub once, and Mr. Kenway and Mrs. Billings scrubbed my neck something fierce. I hate baths. If I went with you, would I get to stop taking ’em?”
Miles had no doubt that clever Ipsial was toying with the man like a cat with a mouse as the boy pressed on. “And would you let me shoot your rifle? Mr. Kenway taught me how to shoot and how to use a knife to skin things.”
Miles had never heard the boy lie so fluently. He felt appalled and proud. “I’m really good with a knife and so quiet I can sneak up on rabbits and catch them in a snare. Do you live where there’s animals to kill?”
“No. My home is in the city.” “Too bad. I like to kill things.” “At any rate , a young man of your age should be off at boarding school, meeting chums his own age and learning how to be a gentleman. I’m sure you’d do well in the classroom, a bright lad like you.” Hubert seemed to have caught on to the fact that Ipsial was vaguely threatening him and so offered to cage him with headmasters and vicious peers. Touché.
Ipsial suddenly abandoned all pretense. “Mr. Gerard may not want me here no more. But I’m not goin’ anywhere with you.” With that abrupt statement, he turned and ran off into the darkness, leaving Hubert staring after him.
Knowing what one does about the situation you can’t help but appreciate and admire the young boy’s cleverness and loyalty, and it is more than satisfying to hear him get the best of the scoundrel. And it is done with asperity and a careful hand on the part of the authors. It is especially satisfying to see a child use his simplicity and innocence to get one over on the grown man.
There is nothing extraneous whatever in this book. It is basically perfect.