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Sarah Black
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Brethren - W.A. Hoffman I'm rarely moved enough by a story to want to write a review but I really want to rave about this book. It moved me : P

I’ll admit right now that I have a soft spot for historical seafaring yarns. Perhaps brought on by the BBC Horatio Hornblower series from way back,when I donned slash goggles for the first time...Ioan Gruffudd and Jamie Bamber...yum. All the homoerotic possibilities of a bunch of men in tight pants and open shirts, cooped up together in the confined space of a tall ship pushes all my kink buttons.

However, this book is so much more than those cheap thrills. It’s about redemption, love, freedom and finding home...even if that happens to be a small corner on a deck of a ship. At 544 pages Brethren is long, but it rarely lagged. And with so many too-short gay romances out there it was a real pleasure, a luxury even, to sink myself into this story. The writing is wonderful. It’s rich in world building and the historical facts about piracy and the politics of the New World at the time are cleverly told without seeming to be too much of an info dump. I found the ways of pirates, their very strict code and their positions of hierarchy on the ship absolutely fascinating.

But it’s the characters themselves that make this such an intense read. Will and Gaston are killers and thieves. They are part of a group of buccaneers, essentially a gang, who cold-bloodedly seek out vulnerable ships and slash, hack and shoot their way to get the booty, if there is anything of value to be grabbed at all. That I could feel so much for these men is testament to some brilliant writing. Both are heavily scarred, physically and mentally and have fled the Old World and the tragedies of their aristocratic upbringing for the freedom of the New World. Together with a rag tag group of outcasts, former slaves and criminals they find a place for themselves and a degree of peace. I loved that for these pirates, bonding or finding a partner (or matelot) is so commonplace and for them, having a man as a lover makes total sense.
Two secondary characters, Pete and Striker are adorable;

“I cannot imagine a woman adoring me as Pete does, or caring for me the way he can, or fighting at my side, or watching my back, or any of the things he does for me. I don’t recall women being that strong. Pete is an extension of myself now. I think of us as two parts of a whole. I can rely on him as I do on myself. Women you leave in port, and they are generally frail, and they cannot fight or sail, though I am sure they can be taught. But they lack the strength. They are things one must care for, and here in the West Indies, I do not have time to care for another who is not my equal. A man needs a matelot and not a wife to survive.”

There is a large cast of very likeable characters, most are couples, but some have yet to find their matelot and will likely do so in the two books that follow. I'm hoping anyway.

There’s not much explicit sex but there is a slow, burning attraction and a connection that goes beyond the physical. Will and Gaston are soul mates.

‘The Devil with title and family; I now gazed upon a man I would live and die for and, perhaps more importantly, spend my days caring for. This was the love I had wondered at. This was the stuff of poetry, play and myth. It was equally transcendent and harrowing. There was no condition that could be placed upon it. It was enduring and conquering and I had never felt its like before.’

Their story is harrowing and thankfully, it’s not over. I fear Will and Gaston have a way to go before they can really find the peace they’re looking for.