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How steamy is it? Sizzling

Publisher's Summary

During the Civil War, two young soldiers on opposite sides find themselves drawn together. One is a war-weary, scholarly Southerner who has seen too much bloodshed, especially the tortures inflicted upon the enemy by his vicious commanding officer, his uncle. The other is a Herculean Yankee captured by the rag-tag Confederate band and forced to become a martyr for all the sins of General Sheridan's fires.

When these two find themselves admiring more than each other's spirit and demeanor, when passions erupt between captor and captive, will this new romance survive the arduous trek to Purgatory Mountain?

©2012 Jeff Mann (P)2013 Jeff Mann

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Sins of War: Confession, Penance, & Expiation

Have you listened to any of Mikael Naramore’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No! Mikael Naramore is an audiobook narrator, voice actor, and songwriter musician. He does a credible southern accent although I did not buy his Pennsylvania accent of Drew (a main character). It was a bit too generic northern Yankee accent for my ear. He makes up for this by having a good sense of lyrical meter of the poetic interludes. He has a wide range of tonality and captured the whispered undertone required for some scenes. There is a marked shift in formal tone when Ian is speaking to Sarge then when he is speaking to his fellow soldiers. As his commander Ian owes Sarge respect, however, he is also kin so the formality is a bit over the top; more Gown-With-the-Wind formal then necessary to convey respect to my ear. One can see why he has 63 Audible books to his credit.

Any additional comments?

The time is March and early April 1865. The action runs down the Shenandoah Valley from Rockfish Gap to Purgatory Mountain, Virginia. This book is written on 78 short chapters. The approach is suited to the high action book that begins in the middle of a battle with a retreat through Rockfish Gap. The charter development occurs over a lot of little scenes like a movie does. In chapter two the author uses the literary device of letters from 1861 and 1862 to fill in necessary family background in the chief protagonist past. The protagonists are two closeted gays. The first protagonist is Ian Campbell. Ian is in a small southern force headed by his uncle Erastus nick-named Sarge. Sarge commands a group of Rouge Raiders now numbering 23 under General Jubal Early commanding the larger Army of the Valley District. They are light forces that do hit and run to harassing the larger Union forces. The main driver of the books action is the antagonist Sarge. He is a man who has lost his wife and property to the slash and burn tactics of the North and takes his gleeful pleasure in abusing a single prisoner until they give no more sport; then he kills them. It is almost as if he is using the prisoner as a scapegoat to vent his revenge and any guilt feelings over not being able to protect his wife and land. We learn that he has done this multiple times. He is the embodiment of a sadistic sociopath with his own moral code. His backstabbing tattletale henchman, George, spies of Ian and is driven by envy, viciousness, and Bible thumping hypocrisy. He too has lost everything to the burning Yanks and has that common bond of hatred with Sarge on that score.

The second protagonist is his latest victim prisoner, Drew Conrad. When not being treated savagely by Sarge or abused by the camp, he is left under guard with his nephew Ian. Sarge’s stated goal is to toughen Ian up; to make his as uncaringly and vicious as is he and George toward Yanks. Sarge regards Ian as soft. As a soldier in fighting Ian is top notch but he is also bookish, thoughtful, principled, and he has a secret. He longs to control and dominate men bigger than himself and explore his attraction to his ideal men mountain image. Drew has also had feelings for men he does not understand and finds his life depends completely on this gentle Rebel who feeds him, dresses his wounds, while keeping him firmly bound and awaiting the next sadistic beating by Sarge. One might label what develops between the two protagonists as a fine example of Stockholm syndrome. The bindings Ian places on Drew become symbols of Ian’s protection, affection, and his hope for salvation and redemption for his guilt feelings over waging scorched earth war against civilians before his capture. The pain inflicted by Sarge becomes his penance for his war sin. The two farm boy protagonists engage in a dramatic dance of layered revealing of inner feelings of guilt and attraction that glides along a honed knife edge leading toward rejection or salvation. The plot line developing of this theme is exquisite. It is rich, textured, layered, complex, and includes imagery suitable to the hardship, privations, colors, tastes, and smells of a Rebel unit on the move. It is not until the end that we know whether Drew is doing what he needs to do to survive or whether his stated feelings for Ian are a true expression of bonded secret love.

I mentioned above that Ian is bookish. One of the more endearing qualities of this book is its allusion to historic and literary figures; the Iliad’s lovers Achilles & Patroclus, the poetry of Walt Whitman, some Shakespeare, and some erotic Biblical passages are notable. Ian has a sense of ethics and fair play his uncle is totally lacking. At points in the book Drew’s suffering is compared to the suffering of Christ. It adds an ennobling Saintly quality to Drew’s character and provides a lens to view his helpless predicament.

For those not versed in BD/SM nomenclature the characters offer illustrated examples of the differences in the respective roles of the dominator and the submissive. It also alludes to some underlying principals and duties that the dominator and submissive have for one another in order to indulge their bondage interests safely. Sarge and George represent sadism distilled to its essence in its unprincipled and unlimited form. Both Ian and Drew suffer, Drew physically but Ian suffers mentally over his inability to protect the object of his desire.

The book ends with the two protagonists triumph over the situation the antagonists place them in. No spoiler here; you will have to read/listen to the book to find out how this happens. However, it leaves the future of the two protagonists open which lead to the author’s second book “Salvation” published in 2014 and not currently available on Audible books.

Reviewer note: I love historical novels that have a ring of authenticity to them. The best of this genre are the novels of Mary Renault set in pre-Christian Greece. The richness and detail of author Mann’s book, “Purgatory” come very close to her mark of excellence; although the adult material is far more graphic then Ms. Renault’s time period would have allow. I give kudos to Mann’s scholarly mastery of the geographical area and the historical time period. Additional Historical Note: After the Battle of Waynesboro on March 2, 1865, and retreat through Rockfish Gap, General Robert E Lee removed General Early of his command of the Valley Army soon after the battle. The Valley Army itself were destroyed, captured, or scattered during the Battle of Waynesboro. This left Sarge a free agent without color of Confederate authority although he appears to have been ignorant of Early’s removal. General Lee surrendered to General US Grant on April 9, 1865, six days later, April 15, 1865 President Lincoln was dead by assassination. Author Mann is careful not to run afoul of this timeline. The book mentions early April green but is not specific as to the exact date.

Sympathetic exploration BD/SM imagery is not going to appeal to everyone’s taste. Placing the exploration 150 years in the past make it a bit safer to explore. The book is not for the faint-of-heart, or those who have pre-judged the topic, and it helps if one is at least bi-curious. The imagery is down and dirty interspersed with moments of the sweet, tender, and gentle exchange. If you are a consumer with the aforementioned qualities, I recommend this audiobook to you. If not, go to the less graphically explicit Mary Renault books.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Best first person narration I've ever heard

What did you love best about Purgatory?

I can't add anything to previous reviews about the quality of the story itself, so I won't even try. Suffice it to say I agree with it all. I'll keep my review to the quality of the narrator. Not only does he get the accents dead right, but I could hear a distinct difference between the voices of the southern characters. There are parts where Naramore is voicing Drew, who has a gag in his mouth, and I swear he can express more emotion through muffled grunts than most people can with their clear voices. (I can't help but wonder if Naramore actually put a gag in his own mouth in the recording studio.) An especially memorable scene is where Ian is tending to Drew after a particularly cruel session of torture, and Drew has lost his short-term memory as a result. I closed my eyes listening to it and could imagine myself in Ian's place, Drew's head in my lap as he described how he felt, his voice slurred and scared.

Part of the quality of the narration is the quality of the writing. This is a book I downloaded without reading it first, and although physical books can easily move me emotionally and drag me bodily into the story through print, it is rare that a narrator can do so without my having read the book first. Mann is definitely an excellent writer, but without an equally excellent narrator the story would definitely lose something just being listened to.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • SteveK
  • The Woodlands, Texas
  • 10-06-13

Historic Gay Fiction- Must Read!

Would you listen to Purgatory again? Why?

I'd waited until the last minute to select a few books for a long trip and would probably have passed this by if I'd had more time (not really into pain). The book is so much more than just a story about two guys into BDSM.The story is hauntingly beautiful, intense, provocative, often disturbing, and impossible to put down.

What did you like best about this story?

The historical setting & insight we're given into the thoughts and actions of the characters. The unexpected plot twists showing our capacity for hope & kindness even in the face of adversity.

What does Mikael Naramore bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator is incredible! One of my initial concerns after beginning the story was if the deep south, Virginian accent would get annoying after a while. No worries. Mr. Naramore has quite a range of voices for the characters. I'll just come clean and say he has one of the hottest voices I've ever heard.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This book is all about extremes but ends with love and hope.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Well written, well narrated

If you could sum up Purgatory in three words, what would they be?

Beautiful, brutal prose

What was one of the most memorable moments of Purgatory?

When it was down to Ian and Drew face to face with Sarge and rat-faced George

Which scene was your favorite?

Ian and Drew's discussions on why Ian needs to see his Goliath controlled, and why Goliath Drew is "just a scared little boy inside".

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I only laughed when Drew asked if he was "doing it" right, bless his heart. Otherwise I found myself emotionally invested in both Ian and Drew.

Any additional comments?

There are no more flattering comments that I could possibly add to the other 4- and 5-star (book) reviews of Mr. Mann's superb writing and his admirable talents with similes; he'd turn one every so often that had me think, "Wow, that was perfect." But I really want to recognize Mikael Naramore's superb narration. He puts you into Ian's mind. His pacing is perfect - slower during Ian's pensive, plotting moments; faster of course during sex scenes; and peaking during life-and-death situations. His drawled pronunciation of "Vuh-GIN-ya" is spot on. His voice characterizations are excellent and stopped short of being over the top: Ian's brusque war-weary tones; Drew's deep baritone; Sarge's downplayed arrogance and haughtiness; sweet but naive Rufus; and rat-faced George... If you didn't already despise George as a character, Naramore's interpretation as a grating, loud-mouthed, abrasive hypocrite should seal the deal.In the end, we're left with some unresolved items on the checklist, most notably Drew's promised reward to Ian, and a long trek offering potential encounters with both "Yanks" and "Rebs"; one only hopes those are part of a sequel.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ryan
  • MURFREESBORO, TN, United States
  • 01-12-14

intresting tale, wierd at times, thick accents

Would you listen to Purgatory again? Why?

probably not, the accents are too thick at times.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Don't really have one

What aspect of Mikael Naramore’s performance would you have changed?

i appreciated what he was attempting to do but reading it in such a thick accent makes it very hard to follow what is being said.

If you could take any character from Purgatory out to dinner, who would it be and why?

none, they all would be far to crass for me.....lol

Any additional comments?

none

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible...gay literature at its best!

Jeff, Thank you for bringing us 2 books of writing that raise a bar in gay fiction. (This one and the second one Salvation).
What amazing pieces of work you have created! Is this for the weak of heart, squeamish and shy? No. Is it for someone who wants a vanilla existence when they read about sex? No. Instead, you give folks who want to delve into a real piece of literature - something to bite into - something to hold your breath then gasp over - something to shudder over - something to cry over - something to lust over. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Mikael, first, marry me? You can talk to me any time you desire. You are an amazing narrator. What life you bring to this story! The accents are perfect. The reading was superb! I am so glad I got hear you read the first book because it made the second one that much better! I hear your voice all the way thru my reading of Salavation. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Seriously, consider marrying me.

Reader..."listen" to Mikael's reading of the first book. Then go to the 2nd book. The 2nd one doesn't have an audible, but once you "hear" Mikael read it, the second book will be as alive as the first! And get ready. You are on a ride thru the Civil War South and it wasn't pretty and this fictional piece could have been reality. Yes, there's S&M in here, and if you have never desired a little S&M in your life or don't understand it, then it may turn you away. Please don't let it. You will miss out on a fine piece of literature if you do. I'm not one for torture scenes, and was prepared for more than was there, it was enough and it was vivid at times, but it was done in such a way that you will be able to get thru it and want more!

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Don't waste your money or time.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I expected more Civil War information, Too little history, too much s&m. If the book is porn, you ought to say it's porn.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Robichaeux, by James Lee Burke

Would you be willing to try another one of Mikael Naramore’s performances?

As narrator's go, he was fine.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Hmmm....

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Whole New Experience

I've read dozens of m/m pieces, the vast majority written by women. This story has a distinctively masculine flair. Jeff Mann's work is both beautifully lyrical and gritty in its realism. If forced to find fault, I'd say that it's a very long tale. Even so, the length does nothing to dampen my desire to tackle the sequel! It's fine work and an overall joy to read.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

I wanted to like this

Would you try another book from Jeff Mann and/or Mikael Naramore?

I think the premise was potentially appealing but the overall story - as executed - left a bad taste in my mouth. I listened to the whole thing and it was no better at the end than it was 1 hour into it.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The reading was the best part - good use of voice and inflection.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

It felt a little S/M to me - not quite sure what that brought to the party.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Purgatory Is Purgatory

Listening to this twisted yarn is like being made to suffer torture. If your big on sodomy and sadomasochism, then your perverseness will go on well rewarded in the filth of war.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • T.J.Peabody
  • 01-06-16

More for the S&M scene people

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

If the story had led itself forward instead of everything seemingly focused on a camp where a prisoner is, after a wee while, the center of an S&M scenario that grows like any penny dreadful novel.

Has Purgatory put you off other books in this genre?

It has not put me off. It should have been a bit more obvious in the blurb how we were to expect the extreme descriptive narrative.

Any additional comments?

If you are liking the S&M scene with humiliation dressed as war, then go for it. I want to give it back, but that is not possible. No depth or substance for me.