Title: Linhart’s Beautiful Beast
Author: Mel Bossa
Publisher: JMS Books
Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages
At a Glance: A beautiful and difficult story of a forbidden love that kept me reading to see how Joe and Christophe would survive.
Reviewed By: Sadonna
Blurb: The Great North, Quebec, 1934. Joe Vega, the Beast, has been locked up in Linhart Prison for three years. The brutish guards harass him because of his size, but Joe remains cool.
Until Christophe Dubois, the disowned son of an affluent politician, is led into Joe’s cell. From the moment Joe sees him, he suspects the ginger-head is trouble. Christophe is bold, curious, and feisty, and Joe can’t resist the temptation of climbing into the man’s bunk for long. However, the beautiful spoiled Christophe is a furnace to which both guards and convicts want to warm their hands, and Joe must fight to keep Christophe safe.
Linhart Prison may be a cruel place, but when the two men are released from its walls, they find an even tougher world out there.
Is the flame burning between Joe and Chris enough to keep them together?
Review: Linhart’s Beautiful Beast is beautifully written historical fiction that mostly takes place in a harsh men’s prison during the depression. This story is definitely intense! In a prison in the far north of Quebec, Joe Vega is doing hard time for a setup that happened when he was eighteen (he’s already done three years and has four to go). He’s a big broody hulk and has traditionally at least had a cell to himself. Until Christophe DuBois.
Christophe is a beautiful, delicate redhead who Joe recognizes from his days in Montreal as a bouncer at a club run by a local mobster. He knows that Christophe was Victor’s boy, and it’s obvious that Christophe cannot hide who or what he is. Joe is angry that his few moments of peace alone in his cell are going to be shattered by this intruder. An intruder that he can’t help but be captivated by, even though it’s the last thing he wants.
The prison conditions are harsh and Christophe is a target at first, but then there is a reprieve when the word goes out that he’s not to be touched because of Victor’s word. Of course, the warden is crooked, and he’s also smart in the way he tries to keep the men in line by manipulation. The guards are another story, though. For the most part they are sadistic and inhumane in the way they treat the inmates. There is also a pecking order, and the French are the lowest of the low—whether guard or inmate.
There is plenty of violence and fear in the prison, but Joe has his few friends, and as time goes by, he cannot help but feel protective of Christophe. Christophe’s health is compromised, and while he keeps telling Joe that Victor will get him out, he loses faith that will happen. As they get closer, Christophe tries to reach out to Joe, and terrified, Joe pushes him away. But at some point, he gives in and lets Christophe touch him. They embark on a clandestine love affair that has a lot of ramifications that aren’t completely predictable.
When Christophe is finally released, Joe admits his love for him. All hell breaks loose at the prison, though, with an attempted escape, and Joe’s better nature leads him to make a decision to save a life and, ultimately, maybe he saves himself. When a particularly horrific guard decides to take his revenge on Joe, his good deed has not been forgotten. Finally, he is released and meets Christophe in Montreal. However, it’s the 1930s, and the economy is in a shambles, and Joe has been in prison. Regardless of the fact that he was setup, he has trouble finding work. Christophe tries to keep them afloat, but he’s at the breaking point as well. Turns out life on the outside isn’t easy either and they have to make tough decisions if they are going to make it together.
This is a very powerful story with a lot of tough moments. The despair of Joe in prison is palpable. He’s really struggling to survive another four years in this hellhole he’s found himself in. Christophe is both a dangerous distraction and a salve for his soul. We see Joe’s sensitive side in the letters he writes and the books he reads. He’s truly a gentle giant, and Christophe recognizes this immediately. Their dance around each other and Joe’s acceptance of his desire for Christophe is handled well and believably. My heart broke for them when they were separated, and again when they were together outside of prison but in not much better conditions. Ultimately, Linhart’s Beautiful Beast is a beautiful story of a forbidden love that takes grit and perseverance to sustain in a harsh world. Recommended particularly for lovers of historical fiction.
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