Lord and Master, by Jules Jones

6 Jan

Lord and Master, by Jules Jones

Back in July, I read and enjoyed Ms Jones’ short story “Black Leather Rose” and ever since have had a hankering for more of her writing. Very kindly, she sent me review copies of both Lord and Master and its sequel, Lord and Master 2, and even though it’s been a few months (me, ssssllllloooooowwwwww) she’s been extremely patient with me. A few days ago I was finally able to sink into Lord and Master and oh man! what a treat it was!

Published by Loose Id as an erotic romance, it has the following publisher’s note: “Lord and Master is a homoerotic love story. As such it depicts sexual content that may be objectionable to some readers: male/male sexual practices.” It also has explicit language and is pure contemporary romance (which should delight the peeps at Smart Bitches and Dear Author *said innocently*).

Here’s the (yay, good!!!) blurb:

When Mark’s PhD supervisor sent him for a job interview with an old university friend, he didn’t mention that the friend was devastatingly handsome. He also neglected to mention to either that the other is gay.

Steven was just looking for a young scientist to train as a PA to help him run his technology company. No extra services required. But watching other people react to a young, pretty man playing secretary to an openly gay CEO amused them both. Watching people wonder if they were having an affair was an entertaining game.

But when the game became real and caught them both up, Mark was left wondering… how real? Because he’s the one PA in the building who can’t marry the boss.

Set in Britain, and told from Mark’s point of view, the plot itself is simple: the two of them meet, are attracted to each other, and eventually they start an office fling.

The writing is so naturally, easily engaging, that it smoothly draws you in until, when you look up, it’s 1:27AM and you just spent a couple of hours hunched over the laptop, when you were just going to take a peek at the story. (Yeah, right, good luck with that!)

The conflict between Mark and Steven is all internal, about their expectations of the circumstances and each other. Yes, the environment in which the relationship develops—one as employee, the other as employer—creates tension between them, but that tension is equal to that of the difference in their ages, experiences, and other circumstances. Whatever angst, fear, insecurity there is doesn’t stem from an external source—no killer, bombs, or asteroids hurling through space towards Earth—and that sharpens the focus on the characterization, which is truly excellent.

As the two men get to know each other better, their shallow physical affair starts to transform itself into something different, something meaningful and precious.

“But what he had here was real. This office and this view and the man who commanded it. It was his for eight hours a day and a little either side, in whatever corners of time he could snatch from the working day; but it was his and it was real. And on this dark early morning, for a few precious minutes there were no distractions, no reminders of the outside world. Just the view from the window and the two of them to share it.”

Mark’s feelings are absolutely, utterly, nakedly human—not other, not weird, not ‘queer’, just human. And that’s the brilliance of Ms Jones’ writing.

The fact that this is a homosexual romance adds a separate layer of depth to the conflict. It’s not so much the fact that, at the time the book was written, there was no legal marriage or civil union open to homosexuals in Britain—it is instead the way Mark himself approached the relationship. He expected a fling, an affair that wouldn’t affect his working relationship with Steven. He expected to like and respect Steven as boss and perhaps as a friend. He didn’t expect to grow to love him.

I’m probably (surely?) being sexist when I say that I believe most women, were they in Mark’s position, wouldn’t approach a sexual relationship from the same perspective or with the same expectations, and in that sense the narrative had a very masculine flavor for me.

There is also a little, brilliant, twist near the end that provides greater insight into Steven’s personality and helps both Mark and the reader appreciate him even more. The resolution is extremely satisfying and, from where I sit, both realistic and consistent with the situation and character development. Excellent, excellent writing.

Lord and Master gets 8.75 out of 10—and I’m reading the sequel as soon as I possibly can.

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