GENRE: Gay Historical Romance
LENGTH: 71,759 words
In 1910, the United Kingdom is in turmoil. King Edward dies after only nine years on the throne. The social class system that upheld British society for centuries is being chipped away by social, political, and economic unrest across the Empire. Amidst this backdrop, Reverend Leander Norris is accused of sodomy. After discovering his own self-worth and the meaning of unconditional love, Leander finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right and pleads "not guilty" to the charges.
Throughout the trial, Leander's past is revealed, including the temptations that bring the accusations against him. By the end of the trial, Leander is once again reunited with a romantic interest from the past. But it may be too late to rekindle any love that remains, given the circumstances of the era and Leander's likely sentence.
Love is greater than hope or faith, but can Leander convince a jury that the love he shares with another man is natural?
"I think we need to think about our relationship a bit and define it," Raphael said, staring down into a book. It was a rare occasion that they were studying alone together.
The hair prickled on Leander's neck; his chest and stomach tightened. He tried to remain calm. "What needs to be defined?"
"What I mean is, I guess we need to think about our future and what that might bring. I mean, we're at the end of our third year. After next, we'll be done and probably be assigned to opposite ends of the country."
"Or," Leander said, "we could ask Father John to help get us assigned closer together." He knew once again where the conversation was headed and took a deep breath. "Raphael, what is going on?"
"Well ... nothing really ... it's --"
"Ray, put the book down and look at me. It's what? Please, do tell."
Raphael laid his book in his lap and looked directly at him. "Lee, we're getting ready to take our exams and go on our way. We'll move on with our lives and put away these childish boyhood games we've played with each other. We'll get married, have kids of our own. Right now, with third year ending and the fourth about to begin, I don't need any distractions."
"So that's what I've been the last seven years? A distraction?"
"Don't get bent out of shape, chum. I suppose I meant to say --"
"And what exactly did you need a distraction from, Ray?"
"The whole situation. How would you feel if your parents dumped you on the parish rector's doorstep to prepare for university?" Raphael blurted out.
The evening had been going so well. Raphael was having as hard of a time with the conversation as he was. Raphael had never been this insensitive.
"Maybe I should go," Raphael said.
"Raphael, tell me what's going on here. Let's forget the years at Father John's. We were adolescents and didn't really consummate our relationship until we left. You're going to throw the last three years away?"
"It's not like we won't continue to be friends. But I think we should be friends like other men, Leander. I hang out with Narron and his lot, but we don't go around having sex with each other after a rugby match. You mean a lot to me, Leander. I couldn't have survived the situation without you. I've told you that before. Now, though, I think we need to set some boundaries between us."
Leander's silence and stare prompted him to continue. "I guess I've been thinking about the passages we've been learning lately. It started about six weeks ago, when we studied that passage from Romans. We both know Paul was speaking about men like us. And last week's rant about staying single. I think I need to be focused on finishing fourth year and not be encumbered by any distractions."
"Every time you bring it up," Leander said, "I want to tell you that Paul was like us and was trying to deal with some of the same things you're dealing with now."
"Lee, did you really think we would continue to be with each other this way? Don't you want a wife and family?" Raphael asked in a quiet voice.
"Ray, you're the only person who ever treated me like family." Leander tried to stop the tears from flowing down his cheeks. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"Do you know what would happen if we were discovered? Buggery's illegal, you know. You remember what happened a couple of years ago on Cleveland Street?"
"Of course I do, Raphael, but that argument is weak. The Cleveland Street situation was as much about little Eddy getting caught as it was about prostitution." He tried to calm his breathing and mask his hurt and desperation from Raphael. "Do you think what we do is criminal? Do you think after all this time we should be arrested for what I thought was love?"
"Well, no, but ..."
Raphael sat in silence and after a while started picking up his books.
"You know, Leander, I didn't mean for you to take things so rough. And I can't explain what's happening. I mean, two months ago I was utterly happy and content with what was going on between us, but now I'm not so sure. I'm not sure at all. I'm sorry you're caught in the middle of my quandary. I wish there was something I could say to help you feel better, but I can't tell you what you want to hear. I wish I could, but I can't."