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A Rare and Entertaining Gay Gothic
on March 25, 2007
Gothic mysteries have been around for years, but gay gothic mysteries are a rare breed. In the pantheon of queer literature these novels are few and far between. In fact, off the top of my head, I can think of only one other I've read, Vincent Virga's spellbinding GAYWYCK, originally published in 1980.
In THE MASTER OF SEACLIFF, Max Pierce delivers a classic piece of gothic fiction. All the prerequisites are in place. The large foreboding mansion overlooking the sea, the brooding darkly handsome lord of the manor who may or may not be a murderer, the newly hired fresh faced innocent, and the sinister servant determined to drive the newcomer from the premises.
The year is 1899 and twenty year old Andrew Wyndham travels 200 miles up the Atlantic coast, from his Manhattan home, to take up residence at Seacliff, the large estate of Duncan Stewart. Andrew has agreed to a position as tutor to Duncan's eight year old son, Tim, for the summer. The money he earns will be used to finance his dream of going to Paris to study art.
Duncan Stewart is a wealthy and powerful businessman with an infamous reputation. His father, Gordon, and his father's friend, Albert, were found shot to death at Seacliff eight years prior and prevailing gossip holds Duncan responsible. It's said that Duncan wanted control of the family business and murdered to have it. Officially the deaths are considered a murder-suicide between the two men, but most don't believe it.
This, however, is not the only mystery clouding the situation. Duncan's protégé and secret lover, pianist Steven Charles, disappeared a year before Andrew's arrival and his absence has, once again, brought suspicion upon Duncan.
As Andrew learns more of the rumors about Duncan, he is both fascinated and frightened. Duncan is a man who can be both charming and obnoxiously brash. Will the obvious attraction between the two men blossom into love, or will the mysteries surrounding Duncan doom their relationship to failure?
THE MASTER OF SEACLIFF is both a beautifully constructed mystery and a well told tale of forbidden love at the turn of the last century. The pace builds nicely and the conclusions are not easily guessed. This novel is gothic storytelling at its finest, and I highly recommend it.