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The Phoenix by [Sims, Ruth]
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The Phoenix Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Length: 372 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


The Phoenix is a magnificent tour de force, a novel of searing power and grace and constant surprises as it winds its way through London and New York, the slums, high society, fancy theaters, castles, madness, and the agony of one wounded heart seeking comfort and love in the arms of another man despite being without the sanction of society, church, God, or his own good sense. --Midwest Book Review

From the Publisher

Like Tess of the d'Urbervilles or Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, this Victorian novel is replete with plot twists, years-long detours, providential meetings, villainy, and a great deal of drama. It differs from most other Victorian novels in that the main characters who meet and fall in love are both men, one an adopted son with a dark secret and Dickensian background who has taken on a new identity, and the other an uptight doctor with a strong religious background.

Kit St. Denys, who began life as Jack Rourke, is an up-and-coming actor in London. He has gone from poverty and abuse at fourteen when he fatally stabs his abusive father, to riches when he is adopted by a man who introduces him to the world of the wealthy and the theatre.

Nick Stuart is a troubled man who becomes estranged from his strict, unforgiving father when he goes off to medical school. Although his father is also a doctor, he is unwilling to allow his son to step beyond the small village and turns his back on Nick when he leaves home.

Kit and Nick meet after one of Kit's critically acclaimed performances and, from there, they begin a troubled but madly-in-love relationship that takes many years to resolve. Nick's religious beliefs cause him the deepest pain in loving Kit: "He loved Kit in the way God meant him to love a woman. It was as simple and as soul-damning as that."

While this problem should have been enough to doom their relationship, Kit has demons of his own, never able to shake the nightmares of his father's abuse, nor of the night he left him for dead. And yet Kit and Nick persevere through numerous reversals of fortune, years of estrangement, entanglements, and madness in a snake pit even Joan Crawford would find disheartening.

The author fulfills the implied promise to bring all the subplots together in a logical and satisfying resolution at the end of the novel. The main characters and supporting cast are fully developed and believable, and like any good Victorian novel, the villain is one who can be booed and hissed off stage, without being melodramatic. This is Sims's debut novel, but her imagination and delight in creative wordplay will take her satisfied readers everywhere they want to go.

Product Details

  • File Size: 949 KB
  • Print Length: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Lethe Press (January 16, 2009)
  • Publication Date: January 16, 2009
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001PTG3PQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,407 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Jack Rourke and his twin brother Michael are raised by an unloving prostitute mother and an abusive sailor father in the squalor of the late nineteenth century London slums. When Jack's brother dies at age thirteen, Jack violently escapes his old man's clutches and runs away.

Nick Stuart grows up on a farm with a religious fundamentalist father and helpless mother. Raised to follow in his father's footsteps and become the country doctor/vet, Nick rebels, flees his repressive father, and enrolls at university in London to receive an education.

Both young men try hard to escape the limitations of their youth. With the help of a theater owner, Lizbet Porter, and an adoptive father, Xavier St. Denys, Jack tries to shed the horror and grief of his frightful past. He reinvents himself as Kit St. Denys and becomes an actor and owner of a repertory company. Meanwhile, Nick starts his own medical practice and is committed to helping the downtrodden and poor receive medical care.

These two men might never have met one another, except that Nick and some friends attend a performance of "Hamlet," and Nick is spellbound by the starring actor, Kit St. Denys. He goes back to see the play repeatedly. Eventually, by chance, the two men meet, and it's love and lust and compelling attraction all at first sight.

But the story is hardly begun before complications develop in the most delicious ways. Kit has hidden so much of his past, even from himself, and Nick has trouble reconciling religion, family expectations, and the overwhelming compulsion he feels for Kit. There are plot twists and unexpected turns, and just when you think you understand what will happen next, Sims upends expectations with a deft and gleeful hand.
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Format: Paperback
I have to admit, I wasn't prepared to love this book as much as I did. Rarely does a book make me cry, but this one did. It's difficult to believe this is a first novel, because Ruth Sim's highly competent and polished storytelling seems to be honed from years of hard-won experience. Her decades- and continents-spanning story of two people in love (and no, it doesn't really matter that they are the same gender; love is love as Sims' story more than competently proves) is an intriguing (and often mesmerizing) blend of historical fact, pathos, comedy, and heart. Sims creates characters that are not just stock protagonists for her sweeping romantic story, but real individuals we come to know and love. This is the kind of book that you're sorry to see come to an end. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Phoenix easily gives Romeo and Juliet a run for it's money! I am a huge fan of Shakespeare, as is the author if her (Kit's!) enthusiasm within the story is any indication. Yet, Sims' forbidden love between two men is more poignant. It resonates through our society, where such love is attacked as strongly now as it was when this story was set.

I will not rehash the plot, as other reviewers have already done so. But, I will say Ruth Sims is an exceptional writer whose work should not be missed. If you are looking for erotica, or M/M romance, this may not be for you. There is sex, but it's not explicit. And, Phoenix does not have the contrived "happily ever after" ending that many romances have (which I also enjoy, and am not knocking here). If you ARE looking for a deeply felt, well-written novel of true love, then buy this book now. Nico and Kit love each other, but their lives, society, and their own insecurities get in the way time and again. Until, finally, they realize that one simply cannot live without the other. While our two heroes do end up together, it is only after much loss and pain, just as in real life. A bittersweet ending, but still sweet.

This novel should be enjoyed by historical fiction fans, as well as M/M fiction fans. Even those who do not agree with the M/M lifestyle can appreciate the magic in the story and Sims' prose. The reviewer who quoted Kit, forgot one line (or it has changed in this revised edition):

Without the sanction of Sociey
Without the sanction of the Church
Without the sanction of God,
Without the sanction even of yourself
I love you.

Obviously, these words have touched a lot of people (me included). How else to explain so many reviewers quoting them here? And, the cover art is beautiful.
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Format: Paperback

By Ruth Sims

Paperback: 343 pages

Publisher: Writers' Collective (September 1, 2004)

ISBN: 1932133402

$16.95 US

$22.95 Canada

Available at B&N

Giovanni's Room Philadelphia


Lambda Rising



A Different Light Bookstore


Ruth Sims has written a book. I read a sample of Ruth's work elsewhere. That's why I drove into Philadelphia to buy it; $18.14, tax included. I put the book by my reading chair. I eyed the book for several days. I looked at the rich cover and admired the details featured on each beginning chapter page. I studied Ruth's photograph on the back. Her confident smile teased me.

"You know something I don't," I murmured to her.

Fifty pages into THE PHOENIX, I found out what. Ruth Sims is a consummate artist.

Now I know traditional reviews are replete with paragraphs full of character descriptions and plot analysis. I'm not a traditional reviewer. I'm not a reviewer at all. I'm a writer and so there will be none of that here.

What I want to tell you about is a talent. A talent that takes you, the reader, by the hand and says, "Come, walk, run, eat, sleep, bathe, laugh, cry, be brave and fearful, succeed, fail, mature and make love in a time and place you've only glimpsed in grainy films and stiff photographs. The story opens in the London of 1882 and closes as Le Belle Epoch tumbles into the age of automation.

The remarkable thing, for me at least, is the economy of words Sims uses.

I will offer only one example. Kit, the hero of the story, is in the home of a New York judge. "...
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