Friday, December 08, 2017

Review: Men of The Cross (Battle Scars #1) by Charlene Newcomb

men_largeTitle: Men of The Cross

Author: Charlene Newcomb

Publisher: Blue X Entertainment

Release: 28th April 2014

Genre: M/M (historical)



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War, political intrigue and passion… heroes… friends and lovers… and the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend await you…

Two young knights’ journey to war at Richard the Lionheart’s side sweeps them from England to the Holy Land in this historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade.

Henry de Grey leaves Southampton in high spirits, strong in his faith and passionate about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s army. Stephan l’Aigle’s prowess on the battlefield is well known, as are his exploits in the arms of other men. He prizes duty, honour and loyalty to his king above all else. But God and the Church? Stephan has little use for either.

Henry’s convictions are challenged by loss and the harsh realities of bloody battles, unforgiving marches, and the politics of the day. Man against man. Man against the elements. Man against his own heart. Survival will depend on more than a strong sword arm.


Mark’s Review

It’s a rare thing indeed to find a wide-sweeping historical novel, full of vivid detail, action and an intricate plot combined with an M/M romance with all the emotional tug-o-war needed. For me personally authors very often fall into two categories, the romance authors who can pull at the old heart strings and leave you an emotional wreck but elated by the end of the story. Then there’s the historical novel writers who weave intricate plots and sumptuous settings which leave you breathless for more, firing my imagination and taking me back to days a yore. I will no doubt be harangued for that statement from quarters but I find sometimes romance authors will shy away from bloody battle scenes, blood and guts, giving a realistic account of what it was like and historical authors who write in such times often are a little thin on the emotions. As I said a sweeping statement I guess but I was so delighted when I found this book. I can’t believe that it has been out since 2014 and I’ve only now picked it up.

Charlene Newcomb has combined both of these factors marvellously into one book, historical action and intrigue together with romance. With such books the balance is sometimes very hard to get, is the book more romance orientated or more historical orientated? A quandary no doubt many authors face. For my own personal tastes Charlene has got the balance absolutely perfect. I’m not an easy guy to please when it comes to historical novels (I’ve read many from the greats like Bernard Cornwell and Amanda Scott) but Charlene gave me an enthralling read set in one of my favourite times of The Crusades.

Henry meets Stephan in Southampton as the crusaders are gathering to set sale for the Holy Land. Henry is a young knight, full of beans and ready for action, chomping at the bit to serve King and country but as of yet hasn’t seen battle. Stephan is a little older, a seasoned crusader and has seen more than his fair share of battles. He is returning for the second time. An unlikely pair at first but Henry finds a mentor in Stephan or is it more than just that? Maybe another kind of attraction? Stephan doesn’t hide is liking for men but Henry is fighting the age old internal struggle. Society, customs and traditions expects one thing of him but his emotions say different. We’re living in quite puritanical and religious times so how can Stephan be so blasé about his liking for men? This I felt was a bit of a conundrum for the time but Charlene writes about a time where most turned a blind eye to such things and just accepted it for what it was. The release of pent up sexual tension, at least that that’s the way Stephan sees it, men are just for stress relieving sex and the thought of falling in love or having any kind of emotional connection with another man isn’t possible. Henry however is more inhibited with his internal fight of doing his duty and what society expects and what he is feeling inside. Two characters from opposite sides of the spectrum. As they set sail for the Holy Land and during the Crusade a bond develops between them that goes above and beyond what either of them were expecting.

The crusades however affect Henry deeply. His rose tinted glasses soon come off once faced with the reality and becomes quickly disillusioned and despondent with the whole situation. In one horror situation he is affected so tragically he starts to question everything about war, the crusades and why they are even fighting. The politics involved and the decisions made. There’s nothing worse than having your dreams shattered but Henry soon realises that there is no real glory to be had in the slaughter of battle. Through this Stephan remains a pillar of strength for him, Stephan is a realist where Henry a bit of an idealist until he is confronted with the horrendous reality of it all. This was so beautiful to read, I could feel Henry’s internal fight, his constant questioning, his change from enthusiastic and young to broken and despondent. This alone as heart-breaking to read. But he pulls through and no thanks to Stephan. Stephan is in love but has a hard time excepting that there is a bigger emotional attachment then he wishes to admit. Henry is not a one night kind of guy, he is struggling with his emotions and Stephan has to fight hard to win him over. The relationship is as long and intricate as the historical plot itself. A slow burn romance that goes through many transformations before both find common ground on where they can maybe build something lasting

As for the historical part, oh my what a treat. A wide-sweeping story spanning several years, from sailing to Messina and then on to the Holy Land. Being hounded and harried by Saladin and his Saracens. A very worthy and clever enemy not to be underestimated. The goal of the Crusaders obviously to free Jerusalem for Saladin’s occupation. Lots of battle scenes full of action and Charlene spares no one the gory details of such battles, love it! Also the political intrigue with King Richard having to constantly pussy foot around the French as his allies, without them their efforts would be doomed. He needs their numbers and strength in order to take Jerusalem. All the politics of court, here the women provide for a delicate balance between weaving intricate pairings aligned with power. It’s obvious to see that the women of the day also had their part to play in the politics, if not in another were wily and could manipulate the men without them knowing it. Now that takes real talent and clever handling like only women can do best. Then the journey back is fraught with danger as they fight they were back through Germany to find passage to England.

This is one of those books I could talk forever, a year and a day about. So multi-faceted, intricate and full of detail it’s almost impossible to fit everything that I liked about it into a review. Highly recommended!

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Meet Charlene Newcomb

me1sCharlene Newcomb. Char. That’s me.

Navy vet.
Mom to 3 grown, amazing children.
I live in Kansas. Yes, Toto. Kansas.

Born & raised in South Carolina, I wanted a life of adventure and travel. I realized that dreams of hitting the big time with my all-girl rock band Liberation were just that – dreams. And becoming an astronaut wasn’t in the cards. So I joined the Navy to see the world and spent six years as a communications technician/voice language analyst. I fit college into my life (BA in History, and many years later an MA in Library Science). That desire to travel in space translated into writing science fiction: I published 10 short stories in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, many featuring a Rebel underground freedom fighter named Alex Winger. I have published 3 novels, one a contemporary drama, Keeping the Family Peace; the others, Men of the Cross and For King and Country (Books I & II of Battle Scars), allow me to share my love of history with readers. Book III of the series will be published in late 2018.



1 comment:

  1. I've had my eye on this since it first came out, and glad to see you liked it. I would agree with your assessment of the two types. Granted, broad generalizations where there are exceptions, but more follow the rule. Which is fine if you like what you're getting. In this case, I love it when the two have a happy marriage. - Purple Reader,
    TheWrote [at] aol [dot] com