“The antagonism between life and conscience may be removed in two ways: by a change of life or by a change of conscience.” ― Leo Tolstoy
Author: Jess Faraday
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Pages/Word Count: 288 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?
Review: There comes a point, after reading so many hundreds of books each year, that we each have honed the ability to understand, sometimes within the space of just a few pages, that something potentially epiphanous is about to happen in a reading experience. When I stumbled upon Jess Faraday’s debut novel The Affair of the Porcelain Dog back in May of 2012, I knew within the first chapter that I’d just discovered an author who was destined to become a personal favorite. With its brilliant and stunning sequel, Turnbull House, the continuing story if former rentboy, Ira Adler, and his ex-lover Cain Goddard, the infamous Duke of Dorset, Jess Faraday has done nothing more than secured her place on my must-read-authors list, and did it in little more than the opening paragraphs of this book.
With characters who are layered with charm and complexity, settings that play out visually like a full color series of daguerreotypes on the mind, a mystery that reveals how far apart Ira and Goddard have grown since Ira walked out two years before, and a fluid prose that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time of the story, Turnbull House is as flawless a historical novel as I’ve ever read.
This is a book of evolution for Ira, who’s moved on from the man he once was, the man who was able to turn a guarded, if not entirely blind eye, to Goddard’s criminal activities, until Goddard turned a blind eye himself to a crime that Ira couldn’t assign any sort of moral ambiguity to. It was the final and fatal sin in a long list of other offenses that ultimately pushed Ira from Cain’s house, his bed, and his life. But two years later, as Ira and his friends, Tim and Bess Lazarus, face the very real threat of eviction from Turnbull House, the refuge they’ve founded to rescue children from the streets and a life of prostitution, Ira finds himself reluctantly but desperately turning to Goddard for financial assistance, and as need has demanded it, being drawn back into the Duke of Dorset’s web of seduction.
Turnbull House is Ira Adler’s renaissance, as he asserts his independence even as Goddard makes every effort to regain control of the man he loves in the only way he knows how. Jess Faraday has, simply put, written not a romance but a story of an almost tragic love, one I’m eagerly awaiting the continuation of if for nothing more than to see if love itself is enough to bring about an evolution for Cain Goddard. Though that, I will admit, may be little more than my glass half full, rose colored glasses need to see these two dynamically contradicting and complex men find their way to a happy ending.
Peopling the landscape with the likes of Bram Stoker and Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, hinting at the less reputable side of Oscar Wilde’s, and his particular friend Alfred “Bosie” Douglas’, characters, drawing vivid descriptions that transport the reader back to the latter years of the 19th century, and welcoming a diverse pallet of role players from the sinister to the sinfully delicious, Turnbull House earns every single one of its five stars from me, and then some.