By the Currawong’s Call by Welton B. Marsland
- Publisher: Escape Publishing (November 1, 2017)
- Publication Date: November 20, 2017
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
Bisexual, Victorian Romance
I was just coming off reading Holding the Man and missing the Australian setting when Marsland’s debut novel, By the Currawong’s Call came across my desk. Anglican priest, Matthew Ottenshaw, finds himself posted to the small town of Dinbratten, where he forms a deep friendship with Jonah Parks, the police sergeant in residence. This novel does something I love – it gives a chance for the relationship between the MCs to grow slowly before they give in to their romantic feelings, made doubly complicated by Matthew’s vocation and the historic period. It’s excellently written, just skirting the lyrical as the relationship between Matthew and Jonah escalates into something irrevocable.
In addition, each character, even the minor characters, are distinctly drawn. The author takes advantage of the differences in dialect and vocabulary to mark each character. This is particularly effective between Matthew and Jonah, because Matthew is more formally educated than Jonah. Even without dialogue tags, there is no question who is speaking.
This novel commits only one forgivable misstep – it sometimes uses Jonah as a vehicle for promoting the modern attitudes towards what were then illegal, same-sex relationships. There is nothing wrong with this, but if I, as a reader, am consuming this genre, it had better be because I’ve sorted my feelings about queerness. On the strength of this assumption, it’s a bit like preaching to the choir. Oh, and that epilogue can go for the same reason.
Everything else in this novel is divine.
“You’d better decide quick-smart whether ya reckon I’m worth it, as well. Or else we should stop it all, right here.”
“The match flame illuminated the angles of his face. He was a god of myth, inhaling fire and sighing out incense.”
‘We are a wonder together,’ Matthew thought. ‘An absolute wonder.’
4.5/5 Stars. Great debut!
Note to writers:
- Excellent example of using vocabulary and dialogue to sharpen characterization
- Sex scenes escalate intimacy and are tied to the story and characters. Integral to the emotional arc.
- Illustrates the pitfalls of using epilogues that do not enhance the story.
- Powerful sense of place.
And the rating (drumroll)… A solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Great debut novel!