Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review Club: The Coffee Trader

by David Liss,
Ballantine 2004

Amsterdam, 1659: On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in the city’s close-knit community of Portuguese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city’s most envied merchants, Miguel has suddenly lost everything. Now, impoverished and humiliated, living in his younger brother’s canal-flooded basement, Miguel must find a way to restore his wealth and reputation.

Miguel enters into a partnership with a seductive Dutchwoman who offers him one last chance at success—a daring plot to corner the market of an astonishing new commodity called “coffee.” To succeed, Miguel must risk everything he values and face a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to see him ruined. Miguel will learn that among Amsterdam’s ruthless businessmen, betrayal lurks everywhere, and even friends hide secret agendas.

Since I love coffee and history, the subject of this book intrigued me, and I found more intrigue inside than I anticipated. Late 17th c. Amsterdam is a tolerant city that offers sanctuary to oppressed Jews from other countries. The main character, Miguel Lienzo, is a Portuguese Jew from a family of conversos. A commodities trader at The Exchange, he was once prosperous, but is deeply in debt as the book opens. A Dutchwoman, Gertruid Damhuis, suggests that he invest in a new commodity: coffee. Miguel hatches a scheme to corner the market, unaware that he is being manipulated by others, including two fellow Jews who despise each other.

I liked Miguel, even though he's not the most honest guy. Apparently, lying is a business tool in commodities trading, at least as it existed then. He does have a core of integrity and a streak of chivalry where women are concerned, esp. his brother's wife, Hannah, who secretly longs for him. And for his coffee beans. She finds both irresistibly stimulating.

But what a nest of thieves and liars! Everyone seems to have an agenda and multiple secrets. Who should Miguel trust, if anyone?

I found the historical setting detailed and fascinating. The Coffee Trader is well-written, with complex characters and more twiests and turns than I could keep track of. Recommended for fans of historical fiction.

Read on my Kindle 3.


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@Barrie Summy

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DECEPTION by Lyndi Lamont

Deception was released on August 21 from Amber Allure, the GLBT imprint for Amber Quill Press.

Genres: Gay / Historical / The Arts / Series
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (20k words)
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-163-1 (Electronic)

London 1895, where men who love other men flaunt convention and risk imprisonment for "the love that dare not speak its name." Until Oscar Wilde goes on trial for gross indecency...

An anonymous and intriguing invitation leads struggling artist, Leander Frampton, into a private world of sensuality with a stranger in an elaborate black and gold costume. When the masks come off, Leander rediscovers the lover he's dreamed of for the last two months. The man who abruptly left him in the middle of the night. Now Rupert Austin has returned, inspiring Leander's art and filling him with desire. Thinking he has found both muse and patron, Leander gives all he has: his heart, his body, his talent. But Rupert is as elusive and evasive as ever, appearing and disappearing in Leander's life, with little explanation.

Forbidden passions lure Rupert Austin, an outwardly staid art importer, into a secret life where he is free to pursue his love of handsome young men. Past loss makes him shy away from involvement, but he is unable to resist Leander's talent, youthful beauty and enthusiasm. Rupert arranges for a private showing of Leander's work, but that doesn't mean he trusts Leander with all of his secrets, especially after risky public sex that could have landed them in jail.

Two very different men—one, a businessman with a great deal to lose and a taste for secret liaisons with beautiful men, and the other a young, gifted artist who will give his all to the right man. Will deception destroy any possibility for a once-in-a-lifetime passion for these passionate lovers?

Deception has been reviewed already, by Lena Grey at Queer Magazine Online and I couldn't be more thrilled with her review:

"'Deception' by Lyndi Lamont is aptly named, since deception is a huge part of this touching, angst filled love story. Leander and Rupert must hide behind a mask of deception, unable to express their true natures for fear of reprisal. However, the two men take a completely different approach to their situation. Leander believes that love is worth taking the risk and Rupert can't let go of the fear long enough to give love a chance. Knowing the success of their relationship depends upon compromise, how much is each man willing to sacrifice to make it happen?

I admire Leander, not just for his youth and beauty, and artistic soul, but for his determination, desire for independence, and his adaptability. He learns a harsh life lesson concerning his proclivities, which slows him down, but doesn't stop him. Regardless of what it takes, Leander is going to see his dreams become reality. Leander gives Rupert so much respect and trust that when he learns of Rupert's deception, he's devastated. There's no way he deserves being treated in such a manner.

Rupert is more complex as are my feelings about him. He's romantic and generous with things, but holds on to his heart and trusts no one. He straddles two worlds and, until he meets Leander, he manages to fairly well keep them separate. He feels guilty about deceiving Leander, knowing he's earned his trust and deserves to be taken into his complete confidence, but weighing the risks, he's still not able to do so. One thing which made it so frustrating for me was that he and Leander were compatible in so many ways, i.e., physically, artistically, and socially, that I didn't understand why Rupert couldn't let go and take the next step bringing them together permanently. Unfortunately, for him, his status is more important than being happy. I had little sympathy for him when he tortured himself obsessing about Leander.

The lyrical language in 'Deception' is perfect for a romantic, historical story. The flowery phrases and expressions add to the ambiance in a very important way. They help to create a contrast between the world of Leander and Rupert and life as it was in the prim and proper 1890s , which makes their plight even more poignant. If you love historical romance with strong characters, angst, drama, passion, forgiveness and a happy ending, then you'll love 'Deception'."
- Lena Grey, Queer Magazine Online

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Also available from All Romance eBooks

Linda / Lyndi