Star-crossed lovers struggle to survive the German invasion of Poland at the opening of the Second World War.
Since childhood, twenty-four-year-old Owen Linet has been plagued by bad dreams, or rather the same bad dream, of a man called Hector, who claims to be dead. Hector possesses a strange black cloak on which is stitched a series of golden symbols—“Words” that Hector, their “bearer”, claims have miraculous powers when spoken. Hector gifts a Word to Owen—one that he claims can not only take life, but also restore it.
Twenty-two-year-old Polish partisan, Jacek Tarasek, is ordered to follow a suspicious foreigner, a British artist named Owen Linet, who closely resembles a man from Jacek’s past—someone Jacek would just as soon forget. Jacek’s worst fears are soon realized when he learns that Owen is not only his avowed enemy, but something infinitely worse—a devil in human form, with the power to take life with a mere word. When Jacek can’t bring himself to destroy the man with whom he is falling deeply in love, he is forced to confront his flawed understanding of good and evil.
Publisher’s Note: Beautiful to Behold is a male-male love story and contains homoerotic sex acts that may be offensive to some readers.
The author of ‘Beautiful to Behold’ writes under the nom de plume (pen name) M.D. Wiselka. This 728 page book takes place at the beginning of WWII, just as Poland is first invaded and is the first in a series.
Instead of a Table of Contents the author has chosen to use Sections (parts) with titles. Each section has title, location, with a date and occasionally the actual time and sometimes the season of the year. This book is actually a mixture of genres including fiction, historical reference, war, gay romance with some paranormal undertones.
Each section follows a well-defined narrative format with easy-to-follow conversations. There are many unique complex characters like British artist Owen Linet who has been tormented by bad dreams. The author’s extensive travel throughout Europe and research into descendants from Poland who later immigrated to the US in 1913 has greatly influenced the setting and story line.
This avid reader would not have typically picked up this book to read, but interestingly I found that the story line held my attention. Although this book comes with an adult content warning due to gay (male-male) romance and adult language I did not find it crude or offensive. The sex is intense, but not overly explicit and the romance is touching and realistic. The author tells a story and within this story weaves a romance.
Like with all my reviews I am careful not to spoil the read. However, I always quote one or two portions from the book that catches my attention in hopes to give the potential reader a sense of this author’s writing style. Early on in the book this line from a main character caught my attention. “Sooner or later, your past catches up with you. His was sitting three rows back from him in a darkened theater, sipping soda noisily through a paper-straw.”
Descriptive excerpt quote from the book: “Owen turned to look out the rain streaked window. Mother was still standing alone beneath the metal awning, her shawl drawn tightly about her hunched shoulders, a brave, if false, smile on her face, which made Owen if not quite regret his decision to go with Dad, once more question the wisdom of it. But she would have Ned and Lily to keep her company, and he could come home any time it pleased him, if he found Warsaw didn’t suit him, if his mother needed him. He lifted a hand to wave to her as the aero plane began to slowly taxi down the runway. Her face was a smear of warm light in the dreary rain, soon gone as the aero plane sped away. Dad looked at him. Owen smiled sympathetically. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
A thought on war excerpt from the book: “Jacek had never considered their odds in the light of dry statistics. Had someone told him that the German army was five times the size of the Polish army, that it had twenty times the number of planes, tanks and guns, he would have said, without hesitation, “but we will still win.” He would have said it with conviction, because he believed wars were not won with planes or tanks or guns, but with spirit. Our cause is a noble one. We are in the right. God is on our side, and with God’s help, we will triumph against the Germans, just as we did against the Russians twenty years ago. The keystone of his faith—the justness of his cause. We can’t lose, because we’re the good guys, and the good guys never lose.”
A taste of supernatural excerpt from the book: “Most bearers went the whole of their long existence without once attempting to merge themselves with another, mortal or brethren—and for good reason. Only the most skillful of bearers could do it without leaving some taint of himself in the spirit with which he merged, and, in turn, taking some part of that spirit’s nature as his own. Owen wouldn’t have ventured to attempt it, if he hadn’t had a good deal of practice. It was one “trick of the trade” that Hector, for reasons of his own, had invested a great deal of time in teaching to Owen.”
A snippet of romance excerpt from the book: Jacek let Owen guide him to the bed. He nestled against Owen’s chest, savoring the warmth of his naked body. His drooping eyelids sank shut, quite unwillingly, as he laid his head on Owen’s shoulder. This was something new, something unknown to him. His fantasy Owen, and all the other nameless lovers he’d taken in the darkness of his flat, had never wanted to be with him afterward. They had fled like evil spirits at the words of his prayer. Leave me, devils. I cast you out. I reject you and all your evil promises. “Feels so strange,” he murmured.”
Theodocia McLean endorses ‘Beautiful to Behold’ (The Dark Brethren Series Book 1) by M.D. Wiselka for the author’s ability to tell the story with detail and human reflection. I purchased and reviewed this book from a Kindle format. This review was completed on June 9, 2015.
Genre: Paranormal Gay Romance/Historical/Gay & Lesbian