Author: Dusk Peterson
Reviewed by: Aggie
Publisher: Love In Dark Settings Press
Genre: M/M Drama
Summary: “He could not recognize most of the items before him, which he instinctively knew was a bad sign.”
Michael is an ex-prostitute, which means that nobody in polite society wants anything to do with him. He believes that the only way to help other male prostitutes is to make their working conditions bearable. His friend Janus is an upper-class gentleman who believes that his duty to the gods requires him to fight against sexual immorality. Now Michael wants Janus to help him run a house of prostitution.
This novel is the first volume in Michael’s House, a historical fantasy series set in a Progressive Era slum. Male friendship and gay love intertwine in this multicultural series based on life in America during the Edwardian Era, a time when society seemed as stable as ever, though it was about to be turned topsy-turvy.
Review: Whipster is hard to classify. It isn’t really a romance or a love story and it definitely isn’t erotica. If I had to put it into a category I would label it historical drama that relies heavily on the characters portrayed to carry a somewhat slow-placed plot that doesn’t accumulate in any big surprises or climaxes at the end. Whipster didn’t wow me but it did leave me thinking by the end of this quiet tale about the plight of the lower classes in a heartless society, and especially about the welfare of prostituted boys and what god awful situations that they must learn to cope in.
The story revolves around Michael, an ex-child prostitute, who opens a brothel for boys, and his nobility born friend, Janus, who helps him finance and run the home. Michael is a pimp ( I hate the term “whoremaster”) who wants to provide a safe place for boy prostitutes to ply their trade. In this way, he can monitor the johns and the health of the boys. He wants to set standards that his own pimp, Outram didn’t have. Outram let his boys be beat, raped, and exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. And he also forced some of his boys, Michael among them, into his bed. Because of Outram’s mistreatment, Michael has become a numb, emotionless shell , a man who literary cracks a whip when needed.
Janus, his friend, hates the fact that boys have to be prostitutes. In fact, he hates the whole idea of prostitution, yet he helps his friend and takes part in the tutoring of the boys and their general care.
As characters go, I didn’t really care for either Michael or Janus. However, Michael is more understandable since he had gone through horrendous childhood trauma and abuse. Being a prostituted child with so many men using you for despicable means, would make any male victim grow up to be shut off from his feelings. Janus, born of wealth and use to being pampered, taken to temple and the theater by his stuffy, class-conscious parents, was too self-righteous and I felt at times, hypocritical. At one point he is going to leave Michael’s House For Boys, and I felt ‘Good. Go. You won’t whine any more about something immoral that you helped finance.’ I also found myself wondering what Janus’ feelings for Michael were, to keep him from straying, but the author didn’t explore this. Perhaps she wants us to make up our own minds.
That said, I really felt drawn to Hasan, a warm, caring, and tragic man, who was with Michael at Outram’s as children. Michael says to Janus that there is no real happy endings for ex-whores, or something to that effect, and I felt worried for Hasan at one point. I felt he was one of those tragedies in the making. Then there is Lann. Probably even more tragic than Hasan, for he is very young. He was working the streets at nine or ten years of age, and ends up suffering long term effects of a john’s unsafe and unhealthy attentions. Rounding up the boys are Pye, an addict, Wryll an inexperienced boy, but one who came to Michael of his own volition, and Evan, the love hungry little sex pot. With these characters , Whipster is an interesting, fascinating read.
There is no sex on the pages. It is all behind closed doors. There is little violence. But it isn’t a happy read either. It is a rather grim and sober account of male prostitution in an era (it had a Victorian-Edwardian feel tp it) that vilifies romantic love between grown men, but sees nothing wrong with selling boys to pedophiles in a controlled setting. So dear reader don’t expect your guts to bust with laughter, or be blown away by moony, mushy love scenes (although there are some poignant moments between Michael and Hasan). Be prepared for moralizing and heartfelt candor between characters about what is right and what is wrong.
What makes Whipster an ultimately satisfying read is Michael’s growth and change. He makes the effort to help himself and try to heal his soul and in the end the reader will be happy, or at least hopeful.