What is the line that separates man from beast?
The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.
John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.
With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.
Man & Beast, which The Advocate calls “equal parts romance novel and history lesson, heaped with sex and violence,” is the first book in the Savage Lands, a series that celebrates the untold gay history of the American frontier. Man & Beast is for fans of Harper Fox, Jerry Cole, K.J. Charles, and Mary Renault, as well as anyone who enjoys pulse-pounding suspense and romance.
There for several years, in my early twenties, all I read was historical frontier and wild west novels. I love the how-to about those historical novels, facing the dangers of the wild, untamed frontier, and making a life in such a backdrop. I was hoping for a similar experience here with the added plus of a romance, but I struggled with the story and it dragged in areas. I hadn’t anticipated that John’s experience with Daniel would take half the book. It soured what little romance there was when Palmer was finally introduced.
The story is told solely from John’s POV and I understand the author wanted John to be naive but honestly, I’m surprised he survived given the conditions, his overwhelming lack of knowledge about anything, and his lack of provisions. Frankly, his naiveté was too much and made it really difficult for me to believe he could cross the Allegheny in the conditions and weather described.
The writing drew pictures of what life was like in the wilderness of 1797. There was much about the story that I enjoyed with these depictions drawn by the author. Although, there were a couple of things I had to overlook when it came to the amount of whiskey Daniel made and consumed when they were low on food stores as well as the still sharing their home fire. Especially the one that was described. I had to suspend disbelief in those areas and just go with the flow.
By the end, I wouldn’t call the book a romance. It has romantic elements but it’s more of an adventure with some action toward the end. The confrontation with the “beast” and his resilience despite his injuries moved into story the OTTP realm. Definitely not what I expected or hoped to read. The ending left me with no inclination to pick up book two of this trilogy.