Thursday, September 8, 2011

Muffled Drum by Erastes

Muffled Drum by Erastes
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Historical, GLBT
Length: 187 pages

Summary: Bohemia, 1866
They met in a port-side tavern, their lust-filled moments stolen from days of marching and madness. After eighteen months, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First Lieutenant Mathias Hofmann have decided to run away from everything they hold dear. Resigning their commissions is social suicide, but there's no other choice. Someone will eventually see Rudolph's partiality toward Mathias.

Now their plans have gone horribly awry... When Mathias goes to Rudolph's tent after their last battle, his lover looks at him without a hint of recognition. Mathias can hardly believe the man he knew is gone. He wants to fill in so many of Rudolph's missing memories, but the doctor says a shock could result in permanent damage. The pain of seeing Rudolph on a daily basis, when Rudolph doesn't remember their love, is excruciating. Now Mathias must decide whether he wants to fight for the man he loves or forget him completely...

Erastes throws the readers deep into the nineteenth century, immersing us in both battles and society. She has us living, smelling, and lurching through this time, and suffering right along with Mathias and Rudolph. On the eve of abandoning their previous lives and much else in order to be together, a battle injury steals Rudolph's memories and Mathias' hope. Muffled Drum plays with every emotion possible in rebuilding their lives.

Everyone has their own opinion of what is best for Rudolph—where he should go, what he should be told, what he should be allowed to see, in the expectation that being kept in the dark will improve his memory. Mathias doesn't know enough of Rudolph's life outside the army to keep him from making terrible gaffes, and when finally someone came along (bless you, Fritz) who will fill in some blanks in spite of prevailing wisdom, I wanted to shout with relief. Nineteenth century medicine – it's a wonder anyone survived contact with it, and Rudolph only slowly finds what he needs. I bled for him on nearly every page.

Mathias, however, needs a good hard shake. Young and thoughtless, he ignores important information and fails to think things through. His deep love and genuine concern aren't enough to make up for not thinking about what Rudolph might consider to be "current events," which predate their relationship. Still, he does what he perceives as best for Rudolph, acting without consulting, because he's been advised that way by experts and because of the demands of his own considerable sense of honor.

The well-drawn world and the very engaging characters should have kept me totally engrossed and very nearly did, but an issue of names kept intruding. Having to sort out references between a horse and a location was a minor irritant, but being repeatedly tossed into a camp movie by another horse's name kept me from settling as fully into the story as it deserved. Still, the golden moment where loss turns to hope brought tears to my eyes. 4 marbles

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