Review: The Phoenix by Ruth Sims

From the back cover:
At fourteen, Kit St. Denys brought down his abusive father with a knife. At twenty-one his theatrical genius brought down the house. At thirty, his past and his forbidden love — nearly brought down the curtain for good.

This is a compelling Victorian saga of two men whose love for each other transcends time and distance and the society that considers it an abomination. Set in the last twenty years of the 19th century, The Phoenix is a multi-layered historical novel that illuminates poverty and child abuse, theatre history in America and England, betrayal, a crisis of conscience, violence and vengeance, and the treatment of insanity at a time when such treatment was in its infant stage. Most of all it is a tale of love on many levels, from carnal to devoted friendship to sacrifice.

When I was arranging for Ruth Sims to be a guest at Romancing the Book, we were going to originally promote The Phoenix (that changed as our talks progressed; you can read her interview here). Part of the promo was for me to review The Phoenix. I jumped at the chance as I’d been hearing about the book for a couple years, was intrigued, but never found myself picking up a copy.

The Phoenix is a gay love story set in Victorian England and America. Before I get into my review, I want to say that this story is in no way erotica. I mean, if you’re wanting a graphic m/m “love story”, this isn’t the book you want. And now on to the review…

Kit is an actor who is the darling of London’s stage. Nick, a doctor, goes to one of Kit’s performances and is mesmerized by Kit and confused by the feelings that are aroused. They meet and begin a forbidden affair. Kit is comfortable in his sexuality, but Nick was raised in a religious home and taught that this relationship is sinful. Yet, he is drawn to Kit and can’t deny the love he feels for him.

The story spans years and follows the ups and downs of Kit’s and Nick’s lives. The characters are believable and you just want to root them on. And the story just sucks you in. You want to know what is going to happen next and if these two are going to make it through all the trials and tribulations and misunderstandings and just beat the odds. I’ll admit that the first couple chapters were a little slower than I would have preferred, but it was all setting up the history of these two men… and they make the story so much richer in the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I had to keep a box of tissue handy, and that is a good thing. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a gay romance with some meat to it.