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Tall Girls Have Short Memories

Aspiring Author Who Loves Books, Writes About Books, and Tells the Truth As She Sees It (From Way Up Here)

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Bonds Of Earth - G N Chevalier I just finished reading “Bond of the Earth” and I have to say, I ADORED this book.It’s set in one of my favorite time periods, one that I think doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserves. The book starts in 1919, post WWI, and revolves around the lives of two WWI veterans, both of whom had horrific experiences while in Europe that they have not been able to leave behind.POVI really like the fact that we are in Michael’s point of view for the entire book. Unlike many traditional romances, that switch POV between the hero and the heroine/hero, Chevalier chooses to maintain only one. I think that made the story more powerful, if only because we only know what Michael knows, we don’t get Seward’s side of things, only Michael’s interpretation of Seward’s words and actions.LanguageI thought the language and the writing were beautiful without being flowery and pretentious. There were many passages that really spoke to me, some beautiful, some sad, some just incredibly insightful, and throughout it all, it felt like it was coming from Michael, which just made his character all the more rich and deep.Plot and CharacterThe plot is deceptively simple when you try to blurb it for something like a review. The point of the book is this love story, between two men in a period of time where they could have been arrested and sent to jail for being in love with each other. That’s incredibly powerful, with stakes that are set enormously high. I liked that the hanging threat of being caught out hung over both Michael and Seward throughout the entire book, and it wasn’t just a device to get Michael to Hudson. Even after Margaret found out about Michael, there were still repercussions. She didn’t understand and she cut off contact from him, which was what he was afraid of, but the legal danger didn’t lessen at all for him and possibly increased, if Margaret decided that he needed official “rehabilitating”.I was sad that Michael had not reconnected with his sister by the end of the book, but that felt more true to life than any other plot option. It made me feel like there was more story, even though it didn’t appear in this book, like there could be more adventures for these guys, perhaps one where Michael gets to see Margaret again and perhaps she will have opened her heart a bit more.I loved that Michael’s work at the bath house, with the massage and such, allowed him to both help Seward regain his mobility and find a place in Seward’s life. That felt like a natural progression and not just a needed plot element to get the boys together. The story of how Michael found the St. Alex bathhouse, how he became a rubber, what he did there, how he found his way to medical school and then to the war- it all worked for me as something that could have happened and that would have happened to this guy. That he was forced into the gardening job felt natural, as well, and then to find out that the guy he’s working for needs the skills that he, Michael, has, feels more like fate than a plot contrivance. The theme of fate was well used here, lightly touched but powerful when it was brought up.Seward is fascinating. His path to Europe is believable and real, his decisions that got him to the front just the kinds of things that I could see a kid in his position making at the time. The kind of tragedy and horror that he saw over there, and the pain that he had to live with every day, not just physically but mentally as well, seemed like much more punishment than he deserved, even if Seward himself didn’t believe that. I liked that Seward maintained his attitude even after it was clear, at least to the reader, that he was starting to have feelings for Michael. I liked that he was a bit surly, that surliness might just be a part of his personality and that’s fine- it’s so different, really. There are a lot of stories where there is a surly character but once that icy exterior is cracked, the turn into a giant marshmallow. In this case, we do see Seward opening up and showing his feelings, and connecting with Michael, but he is also a surly bastard most of the time, and that’s so much fun to read. Their banter was great.I am not a fan of the “big misunderstanding”, like what you’d see in a romantic comedy or “Three’s Company.” You know what I mean- the kind of thing where someone hears something out of context and misunderstands, or something happens and the character reacts before the other person can really explain. In this book, we don’t get that and I was so damn thankful for that. I feel like the big misunderstanding that sends Michael back to New York came out of his actions and his lack of clear communication with Seward, which made sense. Michael’s reactions to Seward’s words and anger, as well as Seward’s reaction to the two city men showing up on his doorstep came out of who they were as people and out of what the story had already presented, from page one.I loved the end, thought that it was just wonderful and sweet, but with the realities of the world they live in still hanging over their heads. It felt like the most real happily ever after that these guys could hope for and I was satisfied with that.HistoryI am so, so grateful that the author did not try to explain the world or the history. Chevalier put it out there, as it would have been for Michael and Seward. The discussion of the alienist is one of the best examples I can find- we didn’t get any weird explanation that felt like authorial intrusion, nor did we get any historically inaccurate verbiage in order to make it easier to understand for those not as familiar with the time period. As a reader, I was treated as an intelligent adult and I loved it.The flashback type moments that Michael had were excellently done. Not too long and with just the right details to make it vivid and powerful, but not overwhelming. The memory of the Casualty Clearing Station, with the dead handing seeming to wave good-bye at him was one of those moments that just stuck with me as I read the rest of the novel. It just felt real, and it was affecting without being manipulative, which I also appreciated.The amount of research that went into this book quite frankly is astounding but what is even more astounding is the fact that it doesn’t feel like the author is saying “look at all this research I did! Appreciate it!” The level of historical detail is amazing and yet it’s really subtle, running through everything. I always knew when and where I was, but it wasn’t distracting. I never had to stop and say “now, wait a minute, that didn’t happen until 19XX” like I have with other books I have read. The time period and the world this book is set in is SO IMPORTANT to the plot, the characters, and the love story that it couldn’t have been written any other way and worked.SexSex runs through the whole book, although it is only really explicit in a few places. The bath house scene at the beginning, Michael taking care of himself when he moves in to the house in Hudson, flash backs, and his visit to New York- there was a lot there that wasn’t directly tied to the main romance, and I liked that. I liked seeing Michael as a sexual creature, and it made sense based on his character, his history, and his personality. There are two sex scenes between Michael and Seward, both hot and fun. Their first time was just jaw droppingly sexy. It was explicit and detailed, while weaving the emotional connection needed to make the reader understand that this isn’t just a fuck, that there is much more going on here and there is more than just a physical connection being created.The last scene in the book is a sex scene, and it’s there, I THINK, to show us that the boys are going to be just fine. The back and forth between them, the intensity of the emotion and the arousal, it was just HOT. I said that before but, honestly, it just was. And it was different than the first scene, in that these guys know each other now, they have admitted to loving each other and the way that they relate to each other physically reflects that. I think that’s why this scene was the very last one. Guys don’t say a lot, and honestly, it’s hard to trust anything that someone says. We look at what they do, in fiction and in real life, and it’s easy to see based on this scene that they do love each other and are willing to put in the hard work and make the sacrifices and take the risks in order to do so, because they believe the other is worth in.Little Things I Didn’t LikeThere were only a few things that I didn’t care for. The confrontation at the Labor Day event, with the father of the boy who died, felt very… contrived is too harsh a word, but it felt very staged where the rest of the book just felt so natural. I think that’s why it stood out to me, if only because everything else just had this flow. There were a few little moments like this, including the scene where Castleton arrives in Hudson with the art gallery owner. It just felt like Castleton was a plot device designed to get a certain reaction out of Seward and Michael. I think that this could have been done a bit differently, with the same reaction from Seward, without the over the top dramatics. Honestly, beyond those moments, I didn’t have a whole lot to critique here. I could discuss this books for hours, I loved it so much. I will stop here and hope that anyone who reads this will decide to pick it up and give it a try. This is an excellent romance and an excellent novel. I highly recommend this one.