“There comes a time, you have to stop running, stop pretending, and just be the man you were meant to be. It doesn’t matter what it costs, because to not be that man, that’ll cost you your soul. What am I going to do? I’m going to love him until the stars fall out of the sky.” — Sarah Black
Wow. It is hard to know where to start with this. Sarah Black is amazing. She is either one of the best educated authors around or she does a boatload of research. The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari (that will be the last time I type the entire title!) is a sequel to The General and the Horse-Lord. I fell madly in love with these characters. If you haven’t read the first book, you really need to! You will never hear Rick James sing “Super Freak” in the same way afterward. I waited and wished there would be a sequel and I was not disappointed. This book lived up to and surpassed every expectation I had. Sarah Black is in a class by herself.
Retired Army General John Mitchel and retired helicopter pilot Gabriel Sanchez are together in a loving, committed relationship, openly after twenty-five years of hiding their love for each other. They are getting used to living together and have a couple of young men who they “rescued” living with them and going to college. Life seems to be settling into a comfortable pattern for the two long-time lovers.
John & Gabriel are featured on the cover of Out Magazine along with one of the choppers that Gabriel used to pilot when he was active duty. The kind of chopper in which he often flew in to the middle of a messy situation and rescued John. Gabe had had John’s back as long as they have know each other. Now everyone knows the true nature of their relationship, as the article is about being gay in the Army.
After leaving the service, Gabriel went to law school and is in a small, starving practice. John already has a PhD and is a well-respected history authority. Much of his time is spent writing articles for journals, but John is bored. He feels something is missing. Enter Retired General David Painter. Painter is overseeing security for an American natural gas company in Tunisia. Two of his men, former Army Rangers, have been captured and imprisoned in Carthage, charged with blasphemy.
Painter wants John and Gabriel to go to Carthage and rescue his men without causing a major international incident. The man who arrested the Rangers is an old enemy of John’s. The city is a very dangerous place right now with a lot of civil unrest. Of course, John & Gabriel agree to take on the job for an astounding amount of money.
This begins an amazing adventure. There aren’t words for how immersed I felt in this story. The way Ms. Black writes, the words just surround you, making you forget anything else exists except the world she has created. Just ask my son how hard it was to get my attention while reading this! The history lessons, the way she tied the Starz television show Spartacus and Star Wars to those history lessons was brilliant. Sometimes hilariously brilliant.
The dialogue is quick and witty and smart. The mission, dangerous and exciting. The group of assembled rescuers seemed at first like a group of misfits who wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything together. But they did the impossible. Under John’s guidance, they came together as a team and learned the planning and logistics of a mission. He taught them how important it is to be able to count on one another.
No one writes romantic, loving words that will melt your heart out your eyes like Sarah Black. The words of love exchanged between John and Gabriel, oh my god. I just read them over and over again. It was like they couldn’t express their love for one another for twenty five years, and they used that time to compose the most beautiful, eloquent words to tell each other how truly and deeply they loved each other once they were able to verbalize their feelings.
That is one of my favorite things about reading gay romance novels. That the men, these strong warrior/philosophers (read the books, you’ll understand that) who are able to take on the world and walk away with hardly a scratch, are so vulnerable with one another. They lay themselves open and their hearts are there for all to see. Even the way Ms. Black describes the looks that pass between them when they see each other after being apart is hot and heartwarming. I can almost see their faces and the way each of their hearts and bodies just relax at the sight of the other. They are Home.
Very highly recommended.