Review: Christina Pilz – On The Isle Of Dogs (Oliver & Jack #5)

Author: Christina Pilz
Reviewer: Natalie
Publisher: Blue Rain Press
Genre: MM

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Summary: Cruelly rejected by their families, Oliver and Jack brave the dangers they left behind to return to London, and take residence at the Three Cripples. The bedsit they share is small and riddled with bed bugs, but what does that matter when there is always cool beer on tap and the diversions of London are spread out before them?
Jack returns to picking pockets while Oliver works in the tavern, struggling against the endless tide of dirt and the loss of everything he thought he stood for.
Amidst their happiness and plans for the future, Workmaster Chalenheim kidnaps them, sexually assaults Jack, and leaves them both for dead. Will Oliver and Jack’s love for each other prove stronger than hate?
On The Isle of Dogs is the fifth book in Christina E. Pilz’s Oliver Jack series, a gay historical romance. If you enjoy unlikely heroes and love overcoming dark times, then you’ll love Oliver & Jack: On The Isle Of Dogs.

Review: I’m utterly fascinated, still, with this series. In the last installment, Oliver and Jack faced struggles and disappointments, but also had periods that strengthened their love and dedication to each other. In this episode, they needed that to survive new challenges, as this story takes a dark turn. The first several chapters focus on a calm period, and life at the Three Cripples; Oliver working in the bar and Jack plying the only trade he knows. One theme that’s been emphasized in every book is even more prevalent, as Oliver copes with the never-ending struggle to be clean. I did feel it was too heavy-handed this time, too frequent mentions of the bed-bugs (shudder), endless grime and lack of clean clothing, surrounding nearly every scene. Maybe that was the point, to impress it on my modern sensibilities, because I couldn’t discern another reason for the weight given in the narrative.
My only other objection was some of the explicit description of Jack’s assault. Even knowing the scene was essential to the direction of the story, specific details were hard to stomach. However, none of that was enough to obscure the hopeful and positive developments that came out of the physical and mental turmoil and pain. It made me consider the contrasts to how trauma is treated today, with how someone was forced to cope in that era. Jack’s struggle was heartbreaking, as were Oliver’s attempts to care for him and navigate Jack’s volatile reactions.
I’m so anxious for what will be the final installment, as this story ends with a very hopeful note, although nothing is assured yet. I imagine Jack and Oliver will have more battles to face in finding security, especially with still divergent expectations for themselves and each other. I simply can’t recommend it highly enough, that readers of historical fiction try this series. It does require dedication and perseverance for the Dickensian style and lengthy narratives, but it’s so very worthwhile.

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