What is the line that separates man from beast?
The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.
John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.
With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.
Man & Beast, which The Advocate calls “equal parts romance novel and history lesson, heaped with sex and violence,” is the first book in the Savage Lands, a series that celebrates the untold gay history of the American frontier. Man & Beast is for fans of Harper Fox, Jerry Cole, K.J. Charles, and Mary Renault, as well as anyone who enjoys pulse-pounding suspense and romance.
Man & Beast was previously published under the title Frontiers.
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After reading this book I’m left feeling like I’m not the intended audience for this story despite thinking I would be. When I read the blurb I really wanted to read this book and couldn’t wait to go on the adventure with John. I was eager to see how well Mr. Jensen researched frontier living, how John’s homosexuality factored into life back then, and the overall plot of the story. Plus I wanted to see if a happy ending was possible.
The book wound up being interesting. It was amazingly researched and very true to life for what frontier living was like. The emotions from all of the characters were really well written in many of the scenes. The scenery was vivid and detailed so that you feel like you’re there in the fields and valleys. The terminology used and way the characters talked and acted were all indicative of the time the story is set. It was wonderful how immersive the story was.
Story wise, U only had a few issues with the book. John came off a little flat and someone I wouldn’t have expected to survive. He was a little too inept at times for someone that had to create everything himself whether by planting, sewing, building or hunting. He was extremely tenderhearted. The happy ending seemed a bit rushed at the end. You could tell Palmer and John were headed there. I also had faith they would make it somehow despite all the obstacles. But after the suspense was over we didn’t get to see any of that and then have the happy ending given to us, the end, birds twitter and rainbows shine. We don’t get to see any of what happens and none of the questions are answered.
If frontier historical fiction is your favorite genre, you need to pick up this book. You’ll enjoy it for sure.
The Allegheny Plateau, November 1797
I glanced backward one last time at that hellish region of central Pennsylvania known as the Allegheny Plateau. For the past month, I’d battled across the plateau’s stony, windswept heights, surviving only by some miracle. Thank God, I’d finally started to descend down from it.
Peering ahead through the sputtering snow, I tried to make out the yawning valley stretching ahead of me, but it was quickly lost in the swelling gloom of the approaching storm. My only hint at the best way down appeared to be the faint scoring of some animal’s hooves upon the steep rocks descending beneath me. Even that trail would soon be lost in the falling snow, leaving me to find my way down the precipitous route by feel. It was far too easy to imagine the fatal slip that would send me careening onto the rocks far below.
My name was John Chapman. Three months had passed since I’d watched the Major die. Once again fingering the now-tattered flyer upon which I’d foolishly pinned so many hopes, I smiled grimly at my appalling circumstances. I understood I was likely to follow in the Major’s steps before morning.
At least I would go down fighting.
For hours I clambered downward over icy snarls of shattered stone, razorbushes that rent my clothes, and twisted, tangled roots that snagged my feet. I was more than exhausted by the damnable wilderness; I was being overwhelmed, crushed like a snail under the iron heel of a marching soldier. By the time I reached the bottom, I literally counted it another miracle I hadn’t broken my neck.
At some point as I pushed along the valley floor in a haze of delirium, the storm passed on and night fell. Without even realizing the snow had stopped, I found myself in a clearing staring upward at the unexpectedly cloudless sky. Above me arched a panoply of brilliant, sparkling stars that would’ve taken my breath away if the cold hadn’t already done so. And in front of me, not more than fifty paces away, stood a cabin surrounded by the ancient forest that ruled the frontier.
Michael Jensen is an author and editor. His books of gay historical fiction include two series, The Drowning World, which is set in 5500 B.C., and The Savage Land, which takes place on the American frontier. Man & Monster, the second book in The Savage Land series, was a Lambda Award Finalist (under the titleFirelands).
Michael is also the co-founder of AfterElton.com, which covered pop culture for gay and bisexual men, and eventually become one of the largest and most influential LGBT websites on the internet. In 2006, AfterElton.com was sold to MTV/Viacom in a multimillion dollar deal. As editor, Michael interviewed hundreds of writers, directors, and actors, breaking numerous stories and advancing the issue of LGBT visibility in Hollywood.
Michael lives in Seattle, WA with his husband, writer Brent Hartinger.