Title: Across Your Dreams
Author: Jay Lewis Taylor
Publisher: Manifold Press
Release: 1st May 2016
Genre: M/M (historical)
“I hope we’ll meet again on the other side of fear, but should this damn war choose otherwise then all we can do is bear it …“
Lew and Russ, Grant and Alan have been caught up in the Great War, which governs their coming together and their moving apart; which has sucked them into the machine and seems reluctant to spit them out. When at last the Armistice comes, three out of the four survive; but how many will survive the peace?
Sally’s and Mark’s Review
Sally: Some months ago Mark and I read and reviewed an anthology of war stories from Manifold Press called Pride of Poppies and I was most impressed by new to me author Jay Lewis Taylors stories “Break of Day in the Trenches” and “At the Gate”. When I saw the blurb for Across your Dreams and recognised the protagonists names as being characters from the anthology stories I just had to read it and, moreover, challenged Mark to a buddy read to get his take on it too.
So Mark, I feel the novel can be read independently from the anthology shorts, but you may feel differently?
Mark: No Sally, I can most definitely concur and testify to the fact that this book can be read as a standalone with no knowledge of the short story in the Pride Of Poppies Anthology. Why? Well, first of all to my utter shame I must admit to the fact that I never read the short story - oooppps! Now the cat is out of the bag - lol! When I saw the book and read the blurb I was first fascinated by this book with no knowledge of there being a short story before. So with all that said and done when I started the first thing that struck me was the author’s narrative style. It is very distinct but fascinating and wonderful at the same time. Sat just right with me and enjoyed every word immensely. I’m sure we’ll get to the part later on how the book made us feel. It is a wonderfully intricate plot and to begin with I must admit to being a little challenged to keep all the different and separate scenarios with each character (Russ, Lew and Kershaw) in my mind as the story progressed. The thing I find most interesting about stories like this is how the author brings all the separate threads together or lives of each character by the end of the book. Reminds me of those films like Love Actually for example. Like starting with a blank canvas and bit by bit adding colour until you have a whole picture. What did you think to the story plot?
Sally: Perhaps a little challenging if you’re expecting the total focus you get in Romance novels, but I revelled in it. I was particularly affected by the romance between Alan Kershaw, naval surgeon, on a ship in Mesopotamia and his lover Grant Hamilton, an officer on the Invincible in the North Atlantic. Lovers long before the beginning of the war, they had willingly embraced fidelity, even though they knew their meetings would be few. I loved that very grown up attitude where they had found a balance between love and duty.
The romance between the two young infantry officers, posh Russ and more prosaic Lew, is newer and so more intense but they are also separated by duty. This type of thing is still a sadness for lovers in the services but at least now they can acknowledge their relationship. In those days it all had to be secret.
I really admired the way the 4 characters met and parted and how secondary characters brought them together. One in particular was enormously important. What did you think of Jack, Mark? I was so impressed at how he contributed to the story arc.
Mark: Yes, Jack! For me he was the rock or pivotal point for the flow and ebb of all the other characters. The common denominator for everything. I loved Jack myself, I feel he was so often misunderstood but on the other hand understandable as at times he was his own worst enemy too. I think it was important to have such a character to keep the reader focused on on everything. The thing that struck me most Sally was the destruction of war, absolutely heart breaking. Even after the war was over its aftermath is left in the broken men it left behind, physically and mentally for the rest of their lives. Young men that should have been in the prime of their lives but now much older than their years, broken and destroyed by an event that they will never fully recover from. This made me feel upset, angry and frustrated all in one. To even consider trying to have any form of relationship when you’re so messed up would normally be unadvisable, but on the other hand it can be said that love can be the healing power to many a situation. I felt so sorry for Kershaw, patient and understanding with Lew as Lew did not make things easy for him. But could so pity and almost cry for Lew with his loss, longing and sense of hopelessness. When he was on the streets I almost wondered whether he would ever find a way back. What did you think to what these guys went through, Sally?
Sally: The thing that hit me most was the parallel between Lew’s plight as a discarded and unwanted veteran and that of young men and women today, returning from service and finding themselves in much the same state. War is and always has been hell, not just in the immediate effects but in physical and psychological damage that continues. I wonder sometimes if my fascination with stories with a military setting stems from bedtime stories told by my grandfathers about the Western Front, Palestine, Gallipoli, and their service on the home front during the Blitz. I wonder if telling a child a heavily censored version of their experiences made them easier to bear? I’m convinced that well plotted and sensitively written fiction is a great asset to helping new generations of people understand and empathise with the situations their ancestors faced with trying to find happiness amidst incredible horrors.
Mark: Yes, you’re most definitely correct with your “parallel” there, Sally. War destroys everything! Apart from being a superbly written book and a heart wrenching M/M romance this book for me belongs to those historical novels that illustrate the complete destruction, futility, aftermath and utter senselessness of young men on active duty. Just like the classic All Quiet on The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, another classic that has to be read by any serious bookworm. So yes, this was a beautiful read although maybe a tragic one in many respects but through the face of all this adversity two of our guys do eventually manage to carve out a HEA niche for themselves by the end. I can’t recommend this book enough!
Meet Jay Lewis Taylor
Despite having spent most of my life in Surrey and Oxfordshire, I now live in Somerset, within an hour’s drive of the villages where two of my great-great-great-grandparents were born. I have worked in a wide range of libraries in my time, but am in fact a thwarted medievalist with a strong arts background.
I have been writing fiction for over thirty years, exploring the lives of people who are on the margins in one way or another, and how the power of love and language can break down the walls that we build round ourselves.
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