The General and The Horse Lord by Sarah Black is a rich and textured novel that offers the reader a complex foreground and an equally intricate background. Let's start with the background. John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez are two military men who have had a complicated, secret love affair for decades. They are products of the post-Vietnam War / Gulf War military. John is the General, having retired recently at a general's rank. Gabriel, his favorite pilot, is the Horse Lord. I'm not sure where that nickname comes from, but maybe he flew with the 1st Cavalry Air Division. The story opens with a prolog in which the two men pull off a dangerous combat mission in the Gulf War. It showcases their long-standing code of conduct: service comes first and personal needs remain unfulfilled.
You'll find that the novel is a strong indictment against an entire military culture of homophobia with its policies such as Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell that put men such as John and Gabriel in a terrible position. How can they not be warriors? It's what they are. How can they not be gay? It's what they are. And, in the case of Gabriel, how can they not be fathers and have children? This last question and the way that Gabriel chooses to have everything he wants regardless of who gets hurt may disturb some readers. Gabriel marries a woman solely to have kids with her while pretending for the entirety of their married life that he loves her. Meanwhile, he is cheating on her with John. This uncomfortable situation is downplayed but still essential to the plot.
The novel is told from the viewpoint of John, who is a very likable character. Chapter One opens with John and Gabriel around fifty years old, retired from the military, and settled (in separate households) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gabriel is an overworked and underpaid lawyer. John is a professor at the University of New Mexico. John has an amusing relationship with his nephew Kim, a flamboyant fine arts student at UNM who is trying to find his own identity as a gay man. It's a treat to see the two older gay men and the younger one interacting across the generational divide. But then Kim is assaulted by his professor, an evil man with powerful connections who has victimized young gay students in the past and gotten away with it. Not this time. John marshals his forces like a military campaign to mete out swift justice to the predator. However, Gabriel's marriage to his wife is just starting to break up and all of his and John's secrets may come to light with unforeseen consequences.
The General and the Horse Lord is a strong novel with a strong setting and it showcases many of this author's favorite themes such as older men, the military, the southwest, parent-child interactions, and the bonds of family. There are strong supporting characters such as Gabriel's two kids and the big-hearted father of one of Kim's gay friends Billy. This is an absorbing novel that many readers will enjoy.
Type of Romance: GLBT Gay Romance
Title: The General and the Horse Lord
Author: Sarah Black
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Subgenre: Contemporary Romance
Setting: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Level of sexual explicitness: Level 3 – Subtle to Level 4 – Medium (see Levels of Explicitness in Related Links below)
Length: 63,297 words
Note: I bought this novel with personal funds. I received no compensation for this review from author or publisher.
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