Star-crossed lovers struggle to survive the German invasion of Poland at the opening of the Second World War.
Since childhood, twenty-four-year-old Owen Linet has been plagued by bad dreams, or rather the same bad dream, of a man called Hector, who claims to be dead. Hector possesses a strange black cloak on which is stitched a series of golden symbols—“Words” that Hector, their “bearer”, claims have miraculous powers when spoken. Hector gifts a Word to Owen—one that he claims can not only take life, but also restore it.
Twenty-two-year-old Polish partisan, Jacek Tarasek, is ordered to follow a suspicious foreigner, a British artist named Owen Linet, who closely resembles a man from Jacek’s past—someone Jacek would just as soon forget. Jacek’s worst fears are soon realized when he learns that Owen is not only his avowed enemy, but something infinitely worse—a devil in human form, with the power to take life with a mere word. When Jacek can’t bring himself to destroy the man with whom he is falling deeply in love, he is forced to confront his flawed understanding of good and evil.
Publisher’s Note: Beautiful to Behold is a male-male love story and contains homoerotic sex acts that may be offensive to some readers.
Cold Coffee Review: The author of ‘Beautiful to Behold’ writes under the nom de plume (pen name) M.D. Wiselka. This 728 page book takes place at the beginning of WWII, just as Poland is first invaded and is the first in a series.
Instead of a Table of Contents the author has chosen to use Sections (parts) with titles. Each section has title, location, with a date and occasionally the actual time and sometimes the season of the year. This book is actually a mixture of genres including fiction, historical reference, war, gay romance with some paranormal undertones.
Each section follows a well-defined narrative format with easy-to-follow conversations. There are many unique complex characters like British artist Owen Linet who has been tormented by bad dreams. The author’s extensive travel throughout Europe and research into descendants from Poland who later immigrated to the US in 1913 has greatly influenced the setting and story line.
This avid reader would not have typically picked up this book to read, but interestingly I found that the story line held my attention. Although this book comes with an adult content warning due to gay (male-male) romance and adult language I did not find it crude or offensive. The sex is intense, but not overly explicit and the romance is touching and realistic. The author tells a story and within this story weaves a romance.
Like with all my reviews I am careful not to spoil the read. However, I always quote one or two portions from the book that catches my attention in hopes to give the potential reader a sense of this author’s writing style. Early on in the book this line from a main character caught my attention. “Sooner or later, your past catches up with you. His was sitting three rows back from him in a darkened theater, sipping soda noisily through a paper straw.”
Descriptive excerpt quote from the book: “Owen turned to look out the rain streaked window. Mother was still standing alone beneath the metal awning, her shawl drawn tightly about her hunched shoulders, a brave, if false, smile on her face, which made Owen if not quite regret his decision to go with Dad, once more question the wisdom of it. But she would have Ned and Lily to keep her company, and he could come home any time it pleased him, if he found Warsaw didn’t suit him, if his mother needed him. He lifted a hand to wave to her as the aero plane began to slowly taxi down the runway. Her face was a smear of warm light in the dreary rain, soon gone as the aero plane sped away. Dad looked at him. Owen smiled sympathetically. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
A thought on war excerpt from the book: “Jacek had never considered their odds in the light of dry statistics. Had someone told him that the German army was five times the size of the Polish army, that it had twenty times the number of planes, tanks and guns, he would have said, without hesitation, “but we will still win.” He would have said it with conviction, because he believed wars were not won with planes or tanks or guns, but with spirit. Our cause is a noble one. We are in the right. God is on our side, and with God’s help, we will triumph against the Germans, just as we did against the Russians twenty years ago. The keystone of his faith—the justness of his cause. We can’t lose, because we’re the good guys, and the good guys never lose.”
A taste of supernatural excerpt from the book: “Most bearers went the whole of their long existence without once attempting to merge themselves with another, mortal or brethren—and for good reason. Only the most skillful of bearers could do it without leaving some taint of himself in the spirit with which he merged, and, in turn, taking some part of that spirit’s nature as his own. Owen wouldn’t have ventured to attempt it, if he hadn’t had a good deal of practice. It was one “trick of the trade” that Hector, for reasons of his own, had invested a great deal of time in teaching to Owen.
A snippet of romance excerpt from the book: Jacek let Owen guide him to the bed. He nestled against Owen’s chest, savoring the warmth of his naked body. His drooping eyelids sank shut, quite unwillingly, as he laid his head on Owen’s shoulder. This was something new, something unknown to him. His fantasy Owen, and all the other nameless lovers he’d taken in the darkness of his flat, had never wanted to be with him afterward. They had fled like evil spirits at the words of his prayer. Leave me, devils. I cast you out. I reject you and all your evil promises. “Feels so strange,” he murmured.”
I, Theodocia McLean, endorse Beautiful to Behold (The Dark Brethren Series Book 1) by M.D. Wiselka for the author’s ability to tell the story with detail and human reflection. This review posted on June 9, 2015.
One hundred and fifty years have passed since his crossing, but the bearer, a man once known as Owen Adler, has yet to find a way of restoring himself to the life he lost and the man he loved. When his great lord and master, Seker, offers him his freedom in exchange for his aid in punishing a disobedient servant, Owen, believing he has nothing to lose and everything to gain, seizes the opportunity.
An Elder bearer called Melek, exiled a century before for an act of treachery, will soon return to his exalted place in Master Seker’s court. Before he does, Master Seker wishes Melek to be humbled before his brethren lords for his sin. To this end, Owen, assuming Melek’s guise, appears before the lords of the Hour a humble penitent. In the ninety days remaining him before his return to court, Owen, in Melek’s guise, vows to prove himself worthy of his office or return voluntarily to exile for another century.
To secure his freedom, Owen must survive the ninety days in Melek’s guise without being exposed a fraud. No easy task, now he can count, among his many enemies, the offended Lord Melek, a ruthless and vindictive monster who’ll stop at nothing to punish Owen and the ones he loves.
But the greatest danger of all may be Owen himself. To outwit the devilish fiend that would take his life, he must become a devil himself. Even if he succeeds in at last wresting his freedom from his cunning master, will Owen ever again be the man he was when last he held his beloved Jacek in his arms?
Publisher’s Note: Darkness Falls is a male-male love story and contains homoerotic sex acts that may be offensive to some readers.
Genre: Paranormal Gay Romance
When fifty-eight-year-old Mark Etson learns he has an inoperable brain tumor, he struggles to find a way to tell his beloved wife of forty years that he must soon leave her. But before he can share the bad news, she tells him she is leaving him for another man. Mark selflessly gives her the divorce she demands. Wanting to reconnect with his siblings, from whom he has been long estranged, Mark travels to London for the Christmas holiday, but too much time has passed. After a few days, he realizes that his dream of reconciliation with his family is just that–a dream. Unwilling to return home to Toronto, Mark moves on to Paris, where he intends to spend the last few days of his life seeing a city he had once planned to visit with a dear friend.
Twenty-six-year-old Ashley Wilkes came to Paris eight years before with a friend, intent on making a life for himself far from the family who disowned him. He soon learned, however, the high cost of living in a foreign capital. With no friend except the one he came with, Ashley was forced to make a life for himself the only way he could. Knowing that he can’t go on this way forever, or even for much longer, Ashley plans his escape. When a chance encounter with a Canadian businessman offers him a means of making some quick cash, he jumps at the chance. It’s only when he starts to care about Mark that things get complicated.
Publisher’s Note: Something True is a male-male love story and contains homoerotic sex acts that may be offensive to some readers.
Genre: Paranormal Gay Romance
Cold Coffee Press Spotlight Interview With Author M.D. Wiselka
Writing under the nom de plume M.D. Wiselka, Melinda Wiselka is the oldest of four daughters and one of the numerous descendants of a Polish family who immigrated from Wisła, Poland in 1913 to farm in Big Horn, Wyoming.
Melinda has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia over the last decade, visiting, among other places, Warsaw, Poland, the setting of her debut novel, a gay historical romance titled Beautiful to Behold, the first book in the Dark Brethren Series, released in November 2013.
Her second book, a gay paranormal romance titled Darkness Falls, the second book in the Dark Brethren Series, will be released in 2014.
What makes you proud to be a writer from Wheeling, West Virginia? I spent the first eighteen years of my life in my hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Growing up in a once vibrant city (Wheeling was once the capital of the State of West Virginia), which had since fallen on hard times, gave me a great desire to learn my city’s own history. From there, I became a history buff in general.
What or who inspired you to become a writer? From the time I was ten, I was writing stories. Naturally, my first attempts at fiction were laughable. I had a wild imagination. This was a practical means of putting it to use.
When did you begin writing with the intention of becoming published? Around 2010, I decided to get serious about the novel I’d been working on for more than ten years. Because I was having no luck with getting an editor/publisher to even look at a sample chapter of my book, I decided to self-publish on Amazon. It was the best thing I ever did. It’s been an incredible experience for me, not only because of the wonderful reviews I’ve received, but also because of the effect it had on me as a writer. Before, I treated writing as a hobby. Now, I treat it as a job.
Did your environment or upbringing play a major role in your writing and did you use it to your advantage? I was raised a Roman Catholic and feel my religion has had a big impact on my writing, which may seem odd to those who’ve read my novels, because none of the three I’ve published would be in any way, shape or form considered Christian fiction.
Do you come up with your title before or after you write the manuscript? The original title of my first novel was Stranded on Another Shore. Shortly before I self-published, I changed the name to one I thought would better reflect the tone of the story: Beautiful to Behold. The love the main characters share for each other is what is beautiful to behold.
Please introduce your genre and why you prefer to write in that genre? All three of my self-published novels are gay romances. Two are paranormal romances; the third is a contemporary romance. I didn’t choose this genre. Strange as it sounds, it chose me. When I reviewed my first draft of Beautiful to Behold, it became clear to me that my two male leads loved each other. In the numerous drafts that followed, I more fully developed a relationship that was there from the start.
What was your inspiration, spark or light bulb moment that inspired you to write the book that you are seeking promotion for? I wrote an unpublished novel titled Olympic Voyage, a historical romance in which the main characters, Trent Linet and Violette Carvell, met and fell in love. The thought naturally followed: where would they and their family be in 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War. Beautiful to Behold was initially meant to be a family saga. After much consideration—and review and revision of drafts—I decided to strip the story down to a romance between the son of Trent Linet and Violette Carvell and a Polish partisan he met while in Warsaw at the beginning of the Second World War.
What has been your most rewarding experience with your writing process? It’s such a high to watch what was only a daydream in your head take on a life of its own in print. In the past, it was enough for me to enjoy my own writing. But to share it with others has been such a fantastic experience. On Christmas Eve, I received a review from a reader that made my day, week, month, year and lifetime. “I picked this book up looking for a light read to pass a few hours’ time. Wow, big mistake. The next thing I know, it’s 6 a.m. in the morning and I’m actually in physical pain from having stayed up to finish.” What writer doesn’t want to read a review like this?
What has been your most rewarding experience in your publishing journey? Self-publication has not only allowed me to get my book out there, but it has also enabled me to write the story that I wanted to tell, without having to compromise for the sake of making a buck.
What one positive piece of advice would you give to other authors? Read, read, and read was the best advice I ever got or can ever give.
Who is your favorite author and why? Frances Milton Trollope. She was a contemporary of Charles Dickens. A dry wit, with a great capacity for understanding character. Though every one of her books but one is out of print, I spent more than a decade hunting up copies through various sources—used bookshops, Google, etc. She was my mentor.
Why did you decide to give the story a supernatural element? As originally written, my novel had no supernatural angle. My dissatisfaction with the unhappy ending for my two lead characters made me rethink the story. After all, if I didn’t like it, my readers probably weren’t going to. Often, you must travel down many roads before finding the one that leads you where you want to go.
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