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8 February 2014

As Meat Loves Salt
Maria McCann
Forth Estate (Kindle Edition)
Publication Date
28 April 2011
history, gay romance, erotica

This was Maria McCann's first published book, and I was introduced to it via a book club at my Uni at the time. Up to than, I had been quite a 'commercial book reader'. By that I mean that I would usually read the top 10 or books which were heavily publicised. I'm happy to report that that has now changes and I'm so glad that now I've been introduced to and enjoyed so many brilliant books / authors who are not so well known.

Back to McCann's debut novel. I would describe as a cross between historical fiction and gay romance/love story. The story is set during the time of the English Civil War (1642-1651), and Oliver Cromwell's Army. The main protagonist is Jacob Cullen, manservant and recently married, he joins the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell. Already within the first chapter, Jacob shows he is no stranger to violence (having killed someone when angry), he rapes his wife whom he drags with her, leaving her in the woods. He survives the battlefield and meets idealist 'thinker' Christopher Ferris in Cromwell's army. The two desert and flee to Ferris' London home, miles away from Jacob's poor upbringing and not just by distance. Passion starts to build up between the two so different man but Jacob is controlling and consumed with jealousy and when Ferris wants to set up a commune, Jacob is not happy and would rather continue their life in London. Ferris does not give in this time and will go through with building up the commune. A love-hate relationship in the turmoils of a very unstable and war-torn England. 

I think it is very rare for an author to create a violent and controlling character and we still feel for Jacob. Ferris, on the other hand, is very genteel. I think we would also need to keep in mind that this is the 17th Century and what was acceptable than may not be now in respect of violence. Also, homosexuality was a crime punishable with hanging. I wanted so much that  things turn out fine for them, though deep down I probably knew their love is doomed. The character studies of the two man were my favourite part of the book, also how McCann manages to describe the building passion tension between the two. If you are not normally reading gay romance, than this is not a problem. It is certainly one, but by no means the only element of this book, and the scenes are described beautifully - less is more here, the book doesn't need details descriptions of sex scenes. 

It is also clear that a huge amount of research must have gone into the book. Apart from the historical details, I could feel the pains of the battlefields and probably learned more about the English Civil War than any non-fiction history book could give me. This book stayed with me a long time after finishing the last page, and it's one to go on my 'will-re-read-one-day' list. 

Anything I didn't like about the book: the cover. I'm sorry, I didn't get the picture of the lady at all in connection with the book, intact, the only connection seems to be the clothes she wears which go with the time period? Maybe it is to signal historic fiction?