Published by Cleis Press
Copy obtained from editor for review.
The country estate, masters and servants, mystery and intrigue, sex and money. All go hand in hand in these turn-of-the-century tales of what goes on behind the manor’s closed doors. Does the master lure the butler to the phonograph room for a romp behind the sofa, or does the stable boy have a tryst with the footman while the lord longingly watches on? Does the aristocrat drop his foppish manners when the butler helps him undress? And do the classes exchange more than pleasantries when the lamps are dimmed and the ladies retire for the evening?
Rob Rosen has gathered the hottest stories of romance and sex between wealthy aristocrats and the hard-working estate staff, all with a pre-World War I backdrop, including the fashion and art and the latest inventions of the day. War is years way, the estates are huge and sprawling, the fashionably elite have too much time on their hands, while the toiling underclass are always on the lookout for a means to a brighter future — no matter whose bed they end up in. Think Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, but with enough sex to make the town vicar blush.
This is my kind of book. Normally anthologies don’t hold my attention as well as a full-length novels, but Men of the Manor is definitely an exception. I love m/m historicals, and I’ve mentioned before that I find a lack of books in this genre. It seems Rob Rosen has taken it upon himself to try to remedy that; this collection features a little bit of everything that represents the best – and worst – of Regency England.
These stories offer a variety of scenarios and settings, but one thing remains constant: these Upstairs Lords need their Downstairs Lads in more ways than one. I’ve always been drawn in by tales of forbidden attraction between master and servant, but in most historical romances it’s between the Lord of the manor and some maid or other. We root for them to defy the social barriers while allowing true love to prevail. In a situation where two gentlemen are involved, it adds an extra edge to the liaison – not only because it’s socially unacceptable, but also because homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. How’s that for forbidden?
What can you expect from Men of the Manor? All the regal elegance you expect from the Ton without all the pretentious circumstance. These encounters have some of the tension and angst that’s understandable given the situation, but they feature guys who are letting go and indulging their most base desires. Ultimately this means great storytelling complete with plenty of hot, steamy moments and surprising twists.
RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!
The Maze by Dale Chase: Man of the hall! Just when Preston thinks he must sell the hall, he takes a walk into the garden and the maze he enjoyed as a child. The place where he dreamed of unicorns and other fantasies. This time his fantasy is erotic and in real form as the head gardener takes the yard boy right there, in the middle of the maze, by the statue! A voyeurs view allows Preston the release he desires but he is left wanting, craving what the yard boy was gifted. When Preston returns to the maze, he gets exactly what he’s craved and been left unfulfilled by his wife. Just like that, the hall is off the market!
Seducing the Footman by Brent Archer: Oh I love the twist at the end of this story! Trenton thinks he is doing the seducing of the footman, John. John appeases Trenton just enough to rock his world then turns the tables and takes his virgin ass… or does he? John is in good standing as Trenton’s footman and he’s set up for a nice comfortable position and the chance to tour the world. But, nothing is as it seems with this savory morsel!
Booting by Salome Wilde: Two men enter an inn asking for a room under the pretense of brothers traveling when one of their horses goes lame. Yeah right. Davie knows better. He’s a ‘boot boy’ and no one can hide the quality of boots at least one of the men is sporting. Those boots belong to a Lord and the other is probably the Lord’s footman. Davie decides a little blackmail is in order but what he gets instead of quick cash is buggered and a promotion. Not bad for an evening at the inn!
Brass Rags by J.L. Merrow: Historical BDSM! I love a good kink in a story but this one was a surprise! Robert is saved from jail and loss of a job by Lord Algy. The reason? He caught sight of Robert in the stables buggering a young lad quite steadily. Oh how he wanted that lad to be himself. Lord Algy is currently without a valet because his was his former lover and starting acting out and not keeping to his class. No matter what he and Algy were up to in the bedroom, he needed to know his place and keep it in the bedroom. Of course Algy is paying for his continued silence as to their bedroom affairs. Robert isn’t sure what his new Lord wants. They finally break the ice, Robert asks Lord Algy how he can accommodate his needs. The level of kink Lord Algy dabbles in was shocking! Piss play, spanking, domination, Lord Algy loves it all. Robert is new to it but plays along well and even begins thinking ahead to their next time–wink, wink!
Overall, there was a nice variety of stories in this anthology. The best thing about anthologies is that the stories are perfect length for an indulgence here and there. There is also something for everyone. I quite enjoyed the twist that all the stories embraced. The servants were definitely not taken advantage of!