Guy. Of all people. Him, here. The scion of an eminent family in the city of Metz, with lands and riches far beyond anything William had ever achieved, even at the height of his fame and fortune. Guy. His shame, his sin, his guilt. Bearded, sunburned, in his simple pilgrims’ clothes, it was hard to recognize the fashionable young nobleman he had been, what, only six years ago?
Guy turned on his heel and followed the other pilgrims, but his face betrayed anger. The man held the key to destroy him.
The thought sobered William as if a loaded crossbow was pointed at his heart. He had to force himself to turn away, but it was hard to breathe the hot air. Terror had set into his soul, and fear and longing, because he remembered Guy now. Remembered his own flight from what had begun during that saint’s festival in Metz, when the nobles jousted and celebrated. He’d run away, sought solace and redemption, until, finally, the Templars had welcomed him. They knew not his sin, but they told him that all his past misdeeds would be forgiven if he fought the heathens rather than his Christian brothers. That he would go to heaven if he fell in service of the Lord. This had been the most generous offer that he could have hoped for. Unable to escape his shame, he’d finally found peace in subservience to God.
In his quarters, he cleaned the dust away and shed the armor, but hardly managed to grasp one clear thought for the memory of Guy. When he lay on his bed that night after prayers in the chapel, his soul had not received solace from the holy words. He was unworthy of those blessings. He still remembered a strong neck bent underneath his, and Guy’s breath hitching as William drove into him, again and again, taking his fill of the young noble’s strong body in unspeakable, sinful ways.
The memory made him hard, made him ache for the other man. If he’d hoped to escape his sinful attraction, this now completed his shame.
According to the order’s rule, he shared the chamber with another knight, a German by the name of Conrad, and he was guiltily thankful that night for Conrad’s deep sleep. Nothing short of an earthquake woke the German. Certainly not the small sounds William made as he touched himself, eyes tightly shut, willing his hand to be Guy’s hand, Guy’s lips, even. An enthusiastic student of sin, Guy knew no shame. He demanded William give up control of his body, and his soul with it; compared to that, this was a pale shadow of a memory. Still, he had no choice.
William pressed his teeth together and forced himself to breathe levelly as his own calloused hand forced his desire. His body responded too readily to both memory and touch. Closer. Like that rushed, near painful encounter in the narrow, dark alley of Metz. Or the stolen, illicit pleasure in a bath house, where Guy had laughed at the prostitute servants and sent them away with a mocking, “Nothing I can’t handle.” Guy’s wet, glistening body, bruised where he’d been hit, the most beautiful thing in the world to William when they kissed, wrestled, and fucked vigorously enough to nearly topple the tub and cover the floor in soapy water.
Grunting, Conrad turned on his bed. William froze, heart beating painfully in his throat. Don’t wake. He peered at Conrad, who faced him now, face slack in sleep, lips open. Oh . . . the risk. All Conrad had to do was open his eyes and he’d know exactly what William was doing. But William was too close to stop.
As silent as he could manage, William spit in his hand and slid it back under the light cover. His palm closed around the tip, squeezing the most sensitive part until his mind clouded and all he could think was Guy. A few more powerful movements with his tight fist brought him to completion with a choked, miserable sound. The madness, the passion that had possessed him with Guy sunk its hooks back into his skin. He lay there, despairing, as the sweat on his skin cooled in the night that was as unforgivingly cold as the day was hot.
He hoped that Guy would be gone the next morning, but the Master dashed those hopes when he told the assembled knights that Guy de Metz, who had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem with his entourage, would join their fight against the heathens.
William was the only Templar who felt those words like a blow. Many knights on pilgrimage joined a fighting order for a short time. The Church encouraged it; the defenders of the Holy Land were always desperately short of men. The fighting orders were already stretched thin to protect what they held and they couldn’t dream of expanding that protection. But why now, why here, and why not the Hospitallers? Or, William thought with the blackest of emotions, the leprosy-riddled Lazarites?
After the assembly, Guy came toward him. William turned away. Guy touched his shoulder, which made William face him again and grip the bastard by the front of his shirt.
“You dare touch me,” he hissed into Guy’s face. Anger filled him, as if the ignominy of the night had been Guy’s doing. He raised his free hand and balled it into a fist.
The peace he’d found in the order seemed precarious all of the sudden and he hungered to retain it. Until now, it had been his only peace in this constant war with the Saracens.
Guy’s hands closed around William’s fist, but his stare never wavered. Those light blue eyes showed no fear, only anger, but behind the hostility he saw an unspoken question.
“William!” the Templar Master shouted. “Unhand him at once!”
William bared his teeth in a feral sneer, still staring at Guy. Disobeying a direct order was unthinkable, and William knew well the punishment for fighting against fellow Christians. He had seen men stripped of their white cappa or flogged to the blood for infractions.
“Don’t you touch me,” he repeated, and let the other man go.
Aleksandr Voinov's “Deliverance” is by far the most developed of the stories in terms of both plot and characterization. It is also the best researched and written. I found this story and its characters most compelling and it is my favorite in this anthology. The historical events are accurate and the beliefs, customs, dress and manner of speak of the Knights Templar are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the story to the point that the transfer of historical information is accomplished almost through nuance, never breaking the story’s rhythm or flow. For those who are familiar with Voinov’s previous works (he also writes under the pen name of Vashtan) you will recognize this penchant for historical accuracy sans “information dump” as a personal standard of this author, regardless of the nature or length of the story, its setting, characters or time period in which it takes place. Another staple of Voinov’s style is his ability to write characters that are so multidimensional and complex that they blur the lines between fiction and reality. The author achieves this mainly through the writing of personal introspection that is so intimate the reader often feels that they have crawled inside the character’s head and dialogue in which one word or phrase carries with it volumes in meaning. Voinov achieves all of this in his writing of the story of William and Guy, who are fierce characters that live and love very hard. In this sense, “Deliverance” screams of the possibility of a future epic novel and love story. I hope Voinov will write about these two compelling characters again as their full story is just begging to be told. 4.5 of 5 stars
Deliverance by Aleksandr Voinov: the last tale is setting during the Crusades and William is a medieval knight who wants to do penance for his sins, the sin to have loved a man. In the Templar order William suppressed all his secret desires, not only for men but for anything that is mundane. He thinks to be at peace, to have finally found his path. But William is in denyal, he is not repentant, he is only far from any temptation. As soon as he is faced with it, in the form of Guy, his past lover, all William's hidden desires are freed. I like Guy's approach to the problem: he didn't near William with a broken heart or recriminations, he didn't try to convince William that what he is doing is wrong, he simply states that William was not free to take a decision regarding both of them, he had obligations that prevented him to join the Templar. It's a very logic and effective way to face the problem.
The Knights Templar are a well-known group of men both in fact and fiction, and in DELIVERANCE, author Aleksandr Voinov writes a wonderful tale of love given up in the name of the king and duty to God and country when one knight must decide where his heart truly lies.
Speak its Name:
William Raven of Kent joined the Knights Templar to do penance for his sins. Formerly a professional tournament fighter and mercenary, William is brought face-to-face with a past he’d thought he had escaped.
Quite the most historical of the three stories that I read. There’s a good feel of time and place, deft mentions of the organisation of the Templars and other factions without being too info-dumping and the characters, particularly William, are real-life men of their time, not 21st century insertions. He’s a man riddled with guilt for his homosexual activity, and it’s realistic angst in that time and place. Not only is he in danger of being punished by the Templars (being expelled from the Order would be the mildest of punishments) but it’s impossible to separate law and faith in the 13th century, and Voinov, sensibly doesn’t try. Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but to take out either part of the equation would unbalance the story. This is a time when the seven deadly sins were as real to these people as the ten commandments.
Another touch I liked was the mention that it was less monstrous for William to have sex with servants or prostitutes – there’s the whole “the penetrated is a lesser man” stigma which was very real, and by being the top to Guy–a nobleman, a knight– William feels he dishonours him.
The sex when it comes is very nicely done, hard, muscled knights wrestling with each other, I was reminded forcibly of the nude wrestling scene in Men In Love, although with men who matched my memory of that scene, not the rather flabby and pale actors that really acted it out. A good ending too, in my opinion, taking into consideration the time and place–although other readers might feel short changed. Four Stars
And by Bryl Tyne on Goodreads:
Deliverance by Aleksandr Voinov takes the reader along on a compelling quest with William Raven of Kent. I will start off by admitting, this was my favorite in the anthology. Mr. Voinov's Deliverance is one story I will read again and again. Joining the Knights Templar to do penance for his sins, William never imagined he'd make a journey, full-circle, to find himself once again in the arms of the love of his life, Guy de Metz, a man William had done all he could to forget. Mr. Voinov's world-building and character development made this story real to me; and his sexually-charged encounters between the two men were written to my fancy. Direct and often fraught with the heat of the fight, William and Guy inevitably come to the only plausible conclusion...their undeniable love is their fortress.
I agreed to review this book because I enjoy reading M/M romances. Though Historicals are not my typical flavor, I was pleasantly surprised with this anthology. The world-building was complimentary, which was nice, since I usually find the typical Historical to be over-whelming with such magnificent worlds the romance is often overshadowed. And though each story was wrought with love and longing, I was pleased with most of the author's abilities to maintain the male perspective--virile and head-strong. Readers fond of both, Historical M/M and Erotic Romances, will thoroughly enjoy Forbidden Love."
Buy it here.