Monday, January 2, 2012
Blue River by Theo Fenraven
Author: Theo Fenraven
Cover Artist: Deanna Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 14k words
Photography genius Ethan Mars unexpectedly travels back in time and meets Quinn, a sexually-innocent farmer just begging to be corrupted. Falling in love is the last thing Ethan expects, and when he abruptly finds the way back to his own time, he is faced with an impossible decision. Stay...or go?
That Ethan considers Quinn an innocent to be corrupted tells you a lot about Ethan. Very full of himself, Ethan's figures a little pleasure trip into another time via a handy fog-portal is a pleasant day's jaunt. If there's a cutie on the other side to mess with, so much the better. Quinn and his sister Hester have already had one fog-traveler drop in on them, so they aren't exactly taken by surprise when Ethan appears. They're willing to be hosts for as long as it takes the fog to return to take Ethan back to 2011.
Ethan's a crude young man, never using plain speech if a vulgarity will work, and not shy about revealing his gayness right off the bat before recalling the reality of frontier 1863. Quinn admits his own lack of enthusiasm for his upcoming marriage, and Ethan's ready to show Quinn everything he's been missing.
It takes Ethan a while to adjust to a previous time's way of doing things; he fluctuates between understanding that survival means a hell of a lot of work if you have to do everything yourself, and enjoying the vivid tastes and smells that come with this way of life. Some of the smells, at least. Unwashed bedding grossed him out but he wasn't offering to do the laundry either.
Quinn's pretty certain about what his life is going to be like: he sees his responsibility to marry and to be part of the community, no matter what his sexuality is. Never having been able to act on his desires before, he hesitates at first, but he quickly learns all that Ethan can teach him in bed and out. And while riding a horse backwards, too.
Somewhere in Ethan's desire to debauch Quinn—'corrupt' is Ethan's own word—his feelings turn to love, but the choices aren't really his anymore.
The necessary HEA happens, but at the cost of Quinn's turning his back on everything, including his honor, an idea that hovers in the background without being stated. Ethan, the POV character, possibly doesn't recognize the concept. For Quinn's sake, I was ready to sniffle for the star-crossed lovers until I didn't have to, and then I just hoped that Quinn was an adaptable sort and recalled where the fog was.
This probably should be considered a fairy tale with realistic elements and therefore I shouldn't be so picky about the sacrifices being made, but Quinn was a significant element of a small community, a responsibility he considered vital until he got laid. I couldn't help but think he'd given up the more important part of his manhood in exchange for sex with a not especially likeable guy, and was confusing love with Hobson's Choice. 3.25 marbles