Jeff and Will discuss some of their favorite reads for the Halloween season, including The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish, and This is not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer. They also recommend the Reformed Rakes podcast and their recent discussion of the gay gothic classic Gaywyck by Vincent Virga.
The guys revisit the Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode from October 2020 to talk about one of their favorite gay gothic tales, The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall by Gillian St. Kevern.
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, November 6.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish
- Episode 398 – All Review Spectacular! on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer
- Episode 342 – Big Gay Fiction Book Club October 2021: “This is Not a Horror Movie” by Sara Dobie Bauer on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Gaywyck by Vincent Virga
- Gaywyck on Reformed Rakes Podcast
- The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall by Gillian St. Kevern
- The Secretary and the Ghost by Gillian St. Kevern
- Episode 271 – A Gothic Christmas Party with Gillian St. Kevern on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Links
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up on this episode, we’re going to recommend some books to get you in the Halloween spirit.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 439 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. The show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff and with me as always is my co-host and husband, it’s Will.
Will: Hello, Rainbow Romance reader. You know, with Halloween coming up next week, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of our favorite reads for this time of year.
Books for Halloween Reading
The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish
Jeff: Absolutely. We love Roan Parrish’s “The Rivals of Casper Road” so much. And you know what? It’s a book that isn’t scary. But instead, we’ve got a wonderful story about neighbors who have an intense, and I really have to mean here intense, competition over who can win their street’s Halloween decorating contest. It is on between Bram and Zachary, and that includes them getting into an amazingly awesome prank war as well. Bram and Zachary got a lot to navigate in this book, all the while doing all sorts of Halloween and fall type things. At its core though, it’s sweet and kind and everything that makes Roan’s “Garnet Run” series so very excellent. You can catch our full review of “Rivals of Casper Road” back in episode 398.
This Is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer
There’s also “This Is Not a Horror Movie” by Sara Dobie Bauer. Now, no, this isn’t a horror movie, but there are definitely some horrific and scary things happening at an abandoned hotel in a Florida resort town. Something’s creepy going on and it’s up to some teens to get to the bottom of it before something even worse happens.
Emory and Connor have been friends for years and their families are neighbors over the summer when they’re both in Longboat Key. This summer’s a big one, though, because next year it’s off to college for them. Emory and Connor, such a very sweet friends to lovers story here, all the while trying to sort out what exactly is going on, using all kinds of classic horror movie tropes, because Emory and Connor, both huge horror movie fans.
Why are people disappearing in town? What exactly is happening? And how are they going to stop this demon before even more people are hurt? This is such a smart book, and Sara uses all of the horror movie tropes so, so well. You can take a deep dive with us on “This Is Not a Horror Movie” in episode 342 when we featured it on the Big Gay Fiction Book Club.
Gaywyck by Vincent Virga
Will: So, before we get into our discussion of “Brackenwell Hall,” I wanted to mention another gothic romance that is considered a classic of the genre. It’s “Gaywyck” by Vincent Virga. It was originally released back in 1980, and I have long considered taking an entire episode of this show to discuss this book’s impact, what it’s all about, and why it is considered the very first gay gothic romance. But guess what? I don’t have to do that because another podcast beat us to the punch.
Recently the hosts at the “Reformed Rakes” podcast did an entire episode focused on “Gaywyck.” It’s a really terrific in-depth discussion. In a round table format they discuss, you know, what the book is about and how it executes those classic gothic romance tropes. You know, young and somewhat naive Robbie comes to work at a remote Long Island mansion. He’s going to be cataloging the estates vast library. And, of course, while he’s there, he falls for the dark and enigmatic lord of the manor. As well as uncovering horrible, unmentionable family secrets.
So, the podcast episode deep dives into the plot and characters as well as contextually discussing how the author wrote the book for a queer audience in 1980, and what that means in terms of representation looking back at it now from a more modern lens.
I thought it was a really great, insightful discussion. And if you’re interested in learning more about this gay gothic classic, I recommend you check out the “Gaywyck” episode of “Reformed Rakes.” You can search for it on your favorite podcast app, or of course you can find the link in the show notes for this episode.
The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall Discussion
Jeff: And now let’s get into our discussion about one of the most perfect books there could be for this season. It’s the ghostly tale “The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall” by Gillian St. Kevern. And because we find this so perfect, we’re actually going to take you on a flashback to our October 2020 episode when we discussed this book for a Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode.
Will: I’m super excited to dive in and discuss this particular book, but first, there’s a caveat. Spoilers be ahead.
Jeff: And there are big time spoilers in this book, oh my god, you have no idea. Unless of course you read it and then you do have an idea, but still, oh my god.
Will: So, I know there are some people out there who don’t appreciate the way that I review books, thinking that I give away far too much. My view on that particular matter is that is if I’m talking about a romance, it’s a good idea for me to tell you whether they end up together or not. And I don’t believe that that’s a spoiler. But in this particular case, since the book actually has the word mystery in the title, I should warn you, we’re gonna be talking about everything.
And if you’d like to preserve some of the mystery in the “Mystery of Brackenwell Hall” we recommend that you pause this episode right now and go pick up this excellent title by Gillian St. Kevern. Once you’ve read it, come on back and we will discuss.
So as all good Gothic stories begin, we’ve got a young protagonist who’s being forced to make do with a mysterious and spooky situation. In this particular case, our main character is Stephen. And he first hears of the Roman baths beneath Brackenwell Hall from a discussion between his father, Dr. Mereweather, and the local Dr. Goodfellow. Late that night Stephen’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he searches the dark, forgotten passages and finds the bath, but discovers that he is not alone.
A handsome, jovial, and very naked young man is waiting for him in the warm, soothing waters. Stephen tries to ascertain who this intruder is, but the student refuses to leave. And since he’s unable to force him to do so, I mean, Stephen isn’t supposed to be there either, he turns to go back to his room.
Jeff: I love how these first couple of chapters play out, because you get all of this information about Brackenwell Hall, and it’s put out there in such a lovely, organic way.
Now, all of you know Will and I both hate the info dump, but here, the way that it’s done, because Stephen and his father are newcomers to Brackenwell Hall, we’re getting to learn stuff at the same moment that they are, and it really works out well. And then, of course, who doesn’t want to find a naked young man in a Roman bath?
Let’s just be serious. I mean, sure, why not?
Will: Exactly. It should be explained, some of that backstory that’s teased out in these first couple of chapters. It’s a little unusual to have a bath in your basement. Here’s the deal with Brackenwell Hall. The Roman bath is, of course, ancient, from Roman times, essentially. An abbey was built on top of that, and then later came the estate that would become Brackenwell Hall. So, while the main living area of the estate is relatively modern, the dark passageways that lead to the bath are, of course, dark, and spooky.
Jeff: I have no doubt there are bats in those corridors, just saying.
Will: The next day, Stephen’s father, Dr. Mereweather, instructs him to treat his grandfather as kindly as possible. After all, it’s his grandfather who is allowing Stephen to recover from his weak health in the country, while Dr. Mereweather heads off to Edinburgh to open a brand new practice. Stephen would prefer to follow his father and help him, but it’s essentially decided for him that he needs to stay behind. Mainly because Stephen’s mother passed away recently, and since Stephen himself is in such poor health, it’s feared that the appearance of a doctor who can’t take care of the health of his own family would reflect poorly on Dr. Mereweather ‘s doctoring skills.
Jeff: It’s not a good advertisement.
Will: No, so that’s the reason he’s setting out on his own and leaving Stephen with his grandfather.
That night, Stephen has dinner with his grandfather, Lord Highland. But instead of the grand dining room, the butler escorts Stephen to the Lord’s chambers, where they dine by Lord Highland’s bedside. His grandfather is also in poor health, and in conversation, Stephen casually tries to ascertain the identity of the stranger he encountered the evening before, but there aren’t very many youths nearby.
Dr. Goodfellow has a brother-in-law that seemingly fits the description of the handsome but impertinent student Stephen is so curious about.
Jeff: It was interesting to meet the grandfather, because the grandfather was built up as this kind of grumpy old guy and maybe a little standoffish, but I found him less so. I mean he engaged Stephen well. They wanted to talk, seemed to appreciate the company. It was one of many pleasant surprises in this book as it twists and turned. It kind of subverted my expectations. In the best way possible.
Will: Stephen returns to the baths for a soak and is joined by the handsome stranger whose name is Charlie. Now, Stephen tries to handle the situation with decorum, but Charlie is just so flirtatious and incorrigible, and he even accuses Stephen of being a little too prissy for his own good. So, Stephen leaves.
Jeff: Stephen, he wants to know stuff, but he does not know what to do with this young man. And it is hysterical because he’ll try to stand his ground and speak his piece and find out what he wants to know. But then Charlie just keeps essentially messing with him and he ends up and runs away. It’s the cutest darn thing.
Will: He’s trying to be a gentleman around this devastatingly handsome and naked man, but he’s having a difficult time doing so.
Jeff: And I guess, really, who could blame him for that?
Will: I know, exactly. So, while lunching with the housekeeper, Mrs. Croft, Stephen is able to learn a little bit more about the young Dr. Goodfellow, his wife, and Charlie. It seems Mrs. Croft is in an exceptionally chatty mood. Stephen also learns that Lord Highland won’t speak of the baths because of the tragedy associated with it.
Several members of the staff believe that Brackenwell is haunted. The ghosts are somehow connected to the eerie location of the Roman hot spring on which the house sits.
Jeff: Yeah, because what place that would have a title of something like Brackenwell Hall would not be haunted? I mean, the name in itself makes it sound like it’s going to be a haunted place, and then you stick a Roman bath under it from ancient times, and you’ve got all the mixings of a ghost story.
Will: Stephen goes to the bath that night, and through the dense mist, he sees that Charlie is there, only he’s not moving. It looks as if he’s become overheated and collapsed. Stephen is able to drag him from the water and runs to find help, but the exertion has brought on an attack, and he collapses in his bedroom.
Jeff: This chapter could be titled, The Collapsing Boys. Everybody’s collapsed. Everybody’s having a problem. But this chapter is really where we start to learn even more of the mystery as people try to figure out who the hell Charlie actually is.
Will: After passing out, Stephen awakes a short time later. And fearing for Charlie’s safety, goes back and finds that he thankfully hasn’t died. He’s waiting by the pool, seemingly recovered from earlier. Still worried though and in need of help, Stephen sets off through the passages of Brackenwell and once again is overcome. He wakes in the company of Dr. Goodfellow, and insisting that he needs his help, Stephen, the doctor, and the butler go through the door leading to the bath. But everything looks so weird and different in the daylight, and there’s no sign of Charlie.
Jeff: Everything looks better under the glow of moonlight, and that is certainly the case with this bath.
Will: Yeah, poor Stephen doesn’t know what to think. And this is the point where the mystery becomes even more mysterious in Brackenwell Hall.
And after a few days of rest, Stephen goes back to the waters to find Charlie, who embraces him, thanking Stephen for saving his life. After spending just a little time in Charlie’s company, Stephen feels stronger and happier than he has in quite a long time. Even so, Dr. Goodfellow thinks that some company might be good for him.
So, it’s arranged that the doctor, his wife, and her brother Charlie will pay a formal visit that afternoon. Only when the trio arrives, the stranger from the moonlit waters of Stephen’s clandestine visit to the baths, isn’t Charlie like he assumed. The doctor’s brother-in-law is a total stranger. His name is Phillip Layton.
Jeff: There’s several things here that, as you mentioned, the mystery just ratchets up. I mean, Stephen is now starting to feel better, stronger, more like himself. And at the same time, he now discovers that he thinks he’s about to be visited in the daylight by the guy he sees in the bath, but Philip isn’t Charlie. And now it’s just, everything is more confusing now than it was before.
And it’s actually really cute. Stephen plays the role of confused really well. And he, cause he’s not. He’s not an unintelligent person. He’s, he’s got good education, but he’s really flummoxed by what’s going on here. And it’s his flummoxedness is really freaking adorable.
Will: Now, as a quick aside, I know I have a very bad habit of picking books in series for our book club discussions, and this month’s pick is no exception. It is book two in the “Read by Candlelight” series. But let me assure you, you do not need to have read book one in order to enjoy “The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall.”
Jeff: That is very true, I did not read book one, and I fell head over heels for this one.
Will: I have read book one, “The Secretary and the Ghost,” and it is the story of Dr. Goodfellow’s brother-in-law, Philip Layton. Recently Jeff and I were able to have a quick chat with the author Gillian St. Kevern, and here she is with a little more information about Philip, who goes by the nickname Pip, and his story, “The Secretary and the Ghost.”
Gillian: “The Secretary and the Ghost” is the story of Pip, who’s a nice young man of good family in Victorian England, who has to save his family from impending financial doom and preserve his sister’s chance of a good marriage by acting as unpaid secretary to Lord Cross, a man he’s never met but who has a fairly feum reputation.
And Pip discovers that Lord Cross lives up to his reputation. He’s very standoffish, very abrupt, treats him quite coldly. But Pip discovers that he can make him smile and he enjoys this. Does not know why he enjoys this but is determined to make him smile as much as possible.
Will: So, if spooky manor houses, duplicitous relatives, and ghosts are your thing, I recommend you give “The Secretary and the Ghost” a try.
Jeff: Yeah, I think I’m going to have to go backwards, because I know that you loved that book. And honestly, I want to go forwards in this series too, but we can talk about that part later.
Will: So back to our story. During his visit, Stephen and Philip stroll through the gardens of Brackenwell, and they get along well enough, though Stephen’s disappointment in him not being Charlie is apparent. When Stephen next sees Charlie, he asks him why no one in the village knows who he is. He explains that he lives by himself in a small cottage on the outskirts of town, on the edge of Brackenwell Estate.
He was living a charmed and happy life before tragedy befell his family, and he found himself here. Stephen himself, of course, is no stranger to tragedy. He was by his mother’s bedside when she died, and he feels responsible.
Jeff: If this was a full romance, this would have been a date. There’s so much wonderful conversation and truly learning about each other here. Stephen is finally a little more comfortable in the scenario that there’s this guy in the bath that nobody seems to know. And Charlie continues to mess with Stephen a little bit too. He’s routinely calling him squire, which is many levels below what Stephen’s actual station is. So that’s a cute little tweak and almost becomes a pet name over time.
And Charlie often calls Stephen out. There’s a great line early on in this interaction. And Charlie says, “In all seriousness, you’re grim enough without actively worrying what’s on your mind,” which is a wonderful way to say, spill it already.
Will: Yeah, I know.
Jeff: It’s nice to see somebody be able to break down Stephen’s demeanor, which of course comes from just what Stephen’s station in life is in the first place.
Will: Yeah, I think in my eagerness to kind of explain the plot intricacies, I haven’t quite gone into detail of the charming repartee these two characters have. There’s a lot of witty banter and a lot of genuine chemistry between Charlie and Stephen.
Jeff: Yeah, even in the early days of their relationship where they’re very much, who are you and why are you in this bath?” from Stephen and Charlie going, “Well, it’s just here, so I’m, I’m enjoying it.”
And the really truly messing with each other that they do. And it turns into a very sweet banter as these two genuinely start to care for each other.
Will: Jane Goodfellow and her brother Philip pay a visit, and Pip has an affinity for portraiture, something we learn more about in detail in “The Ghost and the Secretary,” and he asks if Brackenwell Hall has a portrait gallery. As the butler Harris gives them a guided tour, Philip suggests that one portrait in particular of a long ago relative might be Stephen’s mysterious friend Charlie. Is it a ghost? No, the suggestion is a little unsettling.
Jeff: Cause Charlie doesn’t have some of the hallmarks of traditional ghosts. Mostly that Stephen can hug him and, you know, try to give him aid when he collapses, and drink some brandy and stuff like that. And so, if it’s a ghost, it’s not your Patrick Swayze variety.
Will: I know. So, despite the mystery of the guy that he’s falling for, Stephen finds himself happier and healthier than he has been in a very long time. His days are spent learning about the estate and the surrounding areas and his nights are spent with Charlie.
When they finally kiss, it’s wonderful and it’s amazing, but Charlie demurs saying that they should practice some restraint. But when it comes to Charlie, restraint is the very last thing on Stephen’s mind, and he gives him a very thorough blowjob.
Jeff: It’s an interesting spin here on who looks for the restraint, because you would have assumed it would have been Stephen trying to restrain things, but no, no. He wants what he wants, and he’s going to take it.
Will: Yeah. Like you said, Stephen is essentially coming back to life. He’s blossoming, and he’s going after what he wants. And that something is Charlie.
Stephen’s father returns for a brief visit. And while he seems pleased to see that his son is in good health, he still coddles him like he’s a sickly child. And he even decides to stay in the adjoining room to take care of Stephen. Which leaves Stephen, of course, frustrated because that means he’s unable to visit Charlie late at night.
Jeff: Or at least you think that’s what would happen. Because, in fact, he makes a very bad choice in deciding to actually try to sneak out past his father. And that does not go well.
Will: Weakness overwhelms Stephen in the days during his father’s visit, and it takes several more before he’s able to roust himself out of bed. Goodfellow informs him that his grandfather is also doing poorly. So, Stephen sits by his grandfather’s bedside, and it seems Lord Highland is not long for this world.
Jeff: And since we do spoilers on this show, we have now just passed the 50 percent mark in this book. And I will tell you that when I started reading this, Will’s like, you’re not going to believe what happens after 50%. This was the warning I was given. And while this is not the big reveal that will be coming up on here shortly, as I read these chapters, I told Will the next morning, Stephen’s father is not a good person.
And we’ll see why as this plays out. But this really was a classic 50 percent turn of like, “hmm.” And the mystery continues from here.
Will: After several days away, Stephen goes down to the baths, and thankfully Charlie is there, but he’s been drinking. He explains that he’s understandably despondent, that he would never see Stephen again.
And strangely, he has several sheets of paper with him that contain info that doesn’t make any sense. It’s information about the Meriwether Memorial Hospital, a private mental health facility founded by his father after the death of his son. That son, of course, is Stephen. And none of this makes any sense.
Stephen is overwhelmed and has a mild attack, and weakness overtakes him. But Charlie continues to try and explain. He is a patient at that hospital, and after not seeing Stephen for several days, he did some investigation. There was no mention of Stephen in any of the patient records that he could find, which was disconcerting enough. But Charlie finally took a closer look at the photograph in the main hall of the hospital, a picture of Meriwether and son, a photo that is obviously Stephen and his father, who died 140 years earlier.
Jeff: And there, ladies and gentlemen, is your big twist. This isn’t a ghost book at all. There’s time travel here, all of a sudden, and Charlie is actually from the future. What a delightful thing to run into. I absolutely love this pivot in the story that Charlie is from the future, and he’s discovered all this stuff. And now the mystery pivots more around to how to perhaps save Stephen.
Will: Yeah, this chapter really blew me away. I wasn’t expecting this at all. I think the author really sort of subverts expectations. It certainly gave me something I wasn’t expecting.
Jeff: Yeah, I really loved it to pieces, this turn that it took, because it really put things in a different perspective. And, I mean, I always like a book that doesn’t go the way I think it will go, and this book from here just kept pivoting in all kinds of awesome ways.
Will: I want to make note of something Stephen notices at the beginning of this chapter. The entire story is, of course, told in his point of view. And when he goes down to the baths and has this interaction with Charlie, he notes that for the very first time, he sees Charlie dressed, which is unusual because all their interactions before have been completely nude, which certainly is not a bad thing.
But he notices that Charlie is wearing a loose gray garment and rough workman like trousers, which when I read that, I like, you know, I glanced over that and I didn’t pay any attention. But when I learned of this time travel twist, I realized that Stephen was saying in his own words, that Charlie was wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans. It’s like,
Jeff: I hadn’t figured that out either.
Will: It was like, wait, this all makes sense now.
Jeff: Yeah. Jillian just really did a brilliant job here at every turn.
Will: Now, understandably, this is all just too confusing and overwhelming for Stephen, but the hits just keep on a coming. His grandfather dies, and as the only family member in residence at Brackenwell, it’s up to Stephen to deal with things.
While reading more of the papers provided by Charlie, which, now that we understand this is a time travel situation, these are pages printed out from a Wikipedia page.
Will: He comes across a citation of the exact date of Lord Highland’s death, and this is information Charlie couldn’t possibly have known. The papers, of course, also mention Stephen’s future demise. Could the man that Stephen loves be unhinged or a possible murderer? Lord Cross, who we learned more about in “The Secretary and the Ghost,” is going to be serving as the local justice, and when he arrives at Brackenwell, Stephen proposes that something might be a little unusual.
It seems the bottle of medicine that his father had prescribed to him is now completely empty. But Stephen had only taken a single dose. Also, a telegraph sent to his father in Edinburgh goes unanswered. It appears that Dr. Merriweather is not and never has been where he says he’s been.
Jeff: Like I said, Dr. Mereweather is not a good person.
Will: Stephen also has in his possession a letter from his mother’s doctor who remarks that her death was very sudden and more than a little mysterious. So, Lord Cross is going to stay at Brackenwell as funeral arrangements are made for Lord Highland.
Stephen goes to Charlie. They have got a lot to discuss.
Jeff: Mm hmm.
Will: Now, Stephen doesn’t want to die. He wants to live with Charlie. That much he is certain. And as they talk through some of the time travel complications taking place here in the Roman bath, they come to realize that being together isn’t going to be so easy. Charlie is unable to pass through the door that Stephen uses to the bath, and Stephen is unable to use Charlie’s door.
According to the original printout, Stephen’s death isn’t for a few months, so they’ve got a little bit of time. But when they look again at the pages, it states that he died of arsenic poisoning, and the date is now far sooner.
Jeff: It’s obvious that something has changed history. Most likely, Charlie being present in the first place to help start to piece all this stuff together, and their clock has now sped up considerably.
Will: Yep, time is in flux. It’s like the classic “Star Trek” conundrum.
Will: It’s like, yeah.
Jeff: Oops. We did that. Now this is happening.
Will: Yeah. Don’t step on the butterfly. It’s going to screw things up.
Okay. So, Stephen’s father, Dr. Mereweather is the one obvious connection between his death and the death of his mother. Stephen admits his suspicions to Cross and Goodfellow. And that single admission sets a series of events in motion, leading to the knowledge of his father’s guilt in Charlie’s time, which is the future. Cross has ordered an autopsy. They all suspect Stephen’s father, but don’t say it outright.
When Dr. Mereweather arrives at Brackenwell saying he just received the news, everyone is walking on eggshells and does a really good job of making sure that Stephen isn’t left alone with his father.
Jeff: And even goes to some extraordinary lengths to keep him safe. I mean, Pip does what Mereweather must look at as outlandish things to keep Stephen safe, like not letting Stephen have brandy that his father’s brought in from, you know, some where we can’t see how it’s poured. It’s all really quite brilliant, the steps everybody’s taking.
Will: In trying to solve the riddle of escaping to Charlie’s time, Stephen figures out that it might be a matter of exchanging places. He can go with Charlie as long as someone takes his place in his own time.
And here is where shit goes down. Okay, so, the result of the autopsy confirmed poisoning. With his worst suspicions about his father true, Stephen and Charlie make plans to escape. But they’ll need money. So, Stephen burgles his own house for items to use in the future, to finance their new lives together.
And once the house is quiet, he attempts to sneak to the baths, but is interrupted by Philip Layton, who’s been keeping an eye on him for Cross. But someone attacks Philip, knocking him out and chasing Stephen through the dark corridors of Brackenwell. It is his father. He knows he’s been found out. Stephen is able to escape to the baths and into Charlie’s arm, but Dr. Meriwether followed him and drugs Charlie. Stephen is now helpless.
Jeff: Bad man, very bad man. It was unbelievable to me the lengths to which Mayweather actually continues to just be a despicable person. Keep going because there’s more shit to go down.
Will: So, in true villain fashion, Stephen’s father explains that his plan has been years in the making and has used murder to further his plans of gaining possession of Brackenwell in order to open the charity hospital. To his reasoning, the death of a few would save thousands.
Jeff: This is the classic that the villain is the hero of his own story, and not doing anything wrong despite killing his wife, his father-in-law, and trying to kill his son.
Will: With Charlie’s life on the line, Meriwether is going to force Stephen to admit to his father’s misdeeds so that the evil doctor can move forward with his plan. Cross and Harris the butler enter, and with a syringe at Stephen ‘s neck, Meriwether pretends to subdue his son while forcing the confession we just mentioned.
They don’t believe him, and a fight ensues. And in the ruckus, Meriwether leaps through the door into Charlie’s time. Lord Cross, acting as judge in the matter, questions Stephen about the events of the evening. How exactly do you explain that your murderous father escaped through a vanishing doorway in time?
Jeff: As if that had an easy answer.
Will: I know. That is when Harris the butler enters the library with Charlie, who is now dressed in period appropriate attire. To explain Charlie’s presence, Harris introduces his grandson, Charlie. With Dr. Meriwether escaped to the present day, the exchange means that Charlie is able to live in Stephen’s world.
Jeff: I was really impressed with Harris. I mean, in a very short amount of time, he built the story that Charlie is his grandson. I mean, he had a backstory. And it was just brilliant that the butler stepped up in such a brilliant way and they figured all this out. I would have loved to have seen the conversation that went on there, how to get that story worked out, just because it would have been so interesting.
Will: With the crisis now averted, Charlie and Stephen make plans for the future together. Like going to medical school and turning Brackenwell into a hospital.
Jeff: Dr. Meriwether had a good idea. He just went about it all wrong. And it’s really nice to see Stephen and Charlie intend to carry out the idea, but in the proper way.
Will: And with that, our two heroes have achieved their happily ever after. And the author gives us a charming little epilogue involving Cross and Philip as they ride in their carriage back home. It’s a really funny conversation because Philip knew what was up with Stephen and Charlie all along. Plus, it’s a nice moment between Cross and Philip giving the reader a chance to fully understand their romantic relationship if you haven’t read the previous book.
Jeff: Yeah, it was really good to see that epilogue and to get that moment with them since I had not read the previous book. And also just to see how Philip tries to explain but not explain what went on with Charlie.
It was such a good pick. I mean, you’ve picked such good books for book club, but this was really a special kind of delight because I would have never thought to pick up a gothic romance and then to have it turn out as kind of, I’ll just say swoony as it was.
It had undertones of “Somewhere in Time,” which is one of my favorite movies, and it had some tones of “Outlander,” especially passing through the door like that. I really, really liked it.
Will: Yeah, I am so glad that I came across this gothic romance. I enjoyed the hell out of it. It exceeded my expectations.
Jeff: Mine too. And I like how it tweaked my expectations as well. I mean, Gillian really… we talked about this a little bit before, but Gillian… you could tell she understands the genres that she’s working in here and knows exactly where to tweak some of the expectations.
Will: Exactly. She’s taking classic gothic tropes and giving them a very modern and gay spin.
Jeff: Yes. In the best, best way possible.
Will: Alright everyone, I think that’ll do it. The mystery of Brackenwell Hall has been solved. We hope that you have enjoyed this deep dive discussion of this terrific gothic romance. And if you haven’t read it already, we hope that our discussion has intrigued you enough to give this series a try.
Jeff: And for those of you who like series, this is a really long one. So, you have many, many books to pick up in this series.
Will: Yeah, Gillian St. Kevern has created a really wonderful gothic universe for her characters to inhabit. And for those of you who are series completists, you’re gonna have a lot of fun reading some really wonderful books.
Jeff: This episode’s transcript is brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read our conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. The show notes page also has links to everything we talked about in this episode.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Monday, November 6th, the 2023 season of Christmas books kicks off with one of our favorite authors, LaQuette.
Jeff: LaQuette is continuing her Harlequin Desires “Devereaux Inc.” series with “Secret Heir for Christmas.” Oh, I love this story so much. It’s one of the first Christmas books I read this year and it just kicked things off so beautifully for me and we have a great conversation about this wonderful queer romance.
Will: Thank you so much for listening. We hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then, keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.