Book Review: Muffled Drum, by Erastes

Muffled Drum, by Erastes. (website)

I haven’t read much gay fiction, but what little I’ve read so far I’ve been incredibly impressed by, and I know it’ll be a new favoured genre. First, I’ll be working my way through Erastes’ backlist!

Bohemia, 1866

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 43K novella was a quick read for me, but that’s not due to length. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a romance, but hardly typical. Mathias is struggling with one of the worst emotional situations I could imagine: 2 years of love with Rudolph completely wiped away, with the added difficulty of homosexuality being very hush-hush, even dangerous. To make things worse, Rudolph takes up with a former lover once he’s back in Berlin.

All throughout the novella I wondered what the final outcome would be, an incredibly good sign, since a lot of romances are fairly predictable. Would Mathias and Rudolph come to terms? Would Rudolph regain his memory? (and no, I’m not going to answer these questions for you. You’ll have to read it for yourself.)

What I really loved about this novella was the setting and the time period. It’s historical, but it’s not England, it’s not Regency, and it’s set during a war. I’m heartened to see the increasing variety in historical romance. (I was reminded of Carrie Lofty’s Portrait of Seduction, set in Salzburg.) The historical detail is sufficient to give a strong picture of Bohemia at the time, without being overly fussy and distracting from the story. It’s the perfect balance.

Muffled Drum is published by Carina Press and is available wherever ebooks are sold.