Today, I’m hosting author Mel Gough and her latest release A Leap of Faith, a m/m historical romance. Don’t forget to check out my review of the novel.
Book Title: A Leap of Faith
Author: Mel Gough
Publisher: Red Dog Press
Cover Artist: Red Dog Press
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Genre: Historical MM romance
Trope: Forbidden love
Themes: Struggle with societal norms
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 77 500 words
An evocative tale of love, fear and duty, set against the backdrop of the nineteen fifties, with the emergence of apartheid in South Africa and the criminal nature of homosexuality in the UK.
Blurb:South Africa, 1953 – Father Daniel Blakemore is happy on his missionary secondment in a small, rural Providence Hospital on the Eastern Cape. Being away from England makes it easier for him to conceal his homosexuality – a secret that would destroy everything he’s ever worked for.
But when Doctor Eddie Raleigh takes up his new position at Providence, the two men are instantly drawn to one another. Their liaison represents both Daniel’s deepest desire and his worst nightmare. If the archdeacon in London learns of his true nature, Daniel’s life in the church will be over.
Broken-hearted, Daniel breaks things off with Eddie. And to get away from his sorrows, he leaves his beloved missionary work behind, and returns to Stepney.
Will time and distance alleviate Daniel’s pain, or will happiness be forever elusive? Or will love, finally, find a way?
Note: This is a standalone story.
Doctor Eddie Raleigh and I met for the first time on an unusually hot day in January. At the time, my head was inside the end of a VW bus, and my arms and shirt were covered in motor oil. The bus, which doubled as our ambulance, had sat uselessly in the hospital’s courtyard for weeks, and I was determined to do something about it.
“I can’t see what the problem is.” I wiped my brow with an oily sleeve. “That bolt’s tight, but this pipe is still dripping… Anton, hand me the other wrench?”
Without taking my eyes off the engine, I stretched out a hand in the direction of the half a dozen boys who were watching my futile attempt at vehicle repairs with great interest and many unhelpful comments. When the tool wasn’t forthcoming, I glanced up. All I could see of the boys were their narrow backs, clad in an array of cast-off shirts. They were looking at something I couldn’t see.
I straightened, narrowly missing cracking my head on the open engine hatch.
A stranger stood at the front of the bus, holding a small leather suitcase in one hand and a white trilby hat in the other. He was tall and slender, with a shock of reddish hair that brushed the collar of his tailored shirt. He was in shirtsleeves; a summer coat hung in limp folds over the suitcase. He gave an impression of the slightly rumpled elegance seen in the well-to-do traveller.
The boys remained still as salt pillars, so I took charge. “Hello there. Can we help?”
He approached, looking relieved about the friendly break of the stand-off. Close up, a fine spray of freckles dotting his nose and cheeks captured my attention. He had high cheekbones, and laughter lines around the eyes. His jade-green gaze gave me a sudden jolt, like I’d missed a step while hurrying down a flight of stairs. He smiled, his face lighting up with an openness that was rare and refreshing. The way his mouth quirked at one corner made my cheeks burn.
“Do you need assistance?” I attributed the uncharacteristic edge in my voice to the forward way his gaze still held mine fast. Instantly, anxiety washed over me. Did he think me rude? But his smile was unwavering.
“I’m Edward Raleigh.” His voice was low and pleasant. “The new doctor.” He extended his hand. At the last moment I remembered the engine grease on my fingers. I grimaced, holding my arm rigidly by my side.
“You don’t want to get grease all over you.” In lieu of a handshake I put all the warmth I had into the words. “How do you do. I’m Father Daniel Blakemore. Welcome to Providence Hospital, Doctor Raleigh. We’re very glad to have you on board.”
“It’s good to be here at last.” From his tone, it wasn’t difficult to deduce the relief of a journey finally completed. He smiled that bright smile again. “And to be so promptly appreciated.”
“You’ll want to see Mr Hogarth.” That was the hospital’s director and head surgeon. I sized up the boys. “Anton, take Doctor Raleigh to the administrative offices.”
“Thank you, Father.” Raleigh’s smile was just for me this time. Until he turned to Anton, at least. “Ready when you are.”
The boy looked proud to be entrusted with this important task. “This way.” He set off towards the hospital, his back straight, his eyes twinkling with curiosity. I tried to see the white, two-storey building with its gabled red roof through the eyes of the elegant doctor. Hopefully, Raleigh would be too busy digesting his unfamiliar surroundings to notice the cracks in the walls and the peeling paint.
“Clinic’s just finished for the day.” Anton’s voice carried from halfway across the deserted courtyard. He seemed to be responding to a question from Raleigh. “Don’t get used to the quiet. It doesn’t last.”
Something in the doctor’s response made Anton grin. He hurried to hold the door to the Casualty department and let Raleigh precede him. A smile stole onto my face. Despite his elegance, I had an inkling that Raleigh would fit right in.
“The new doctor is very tall.”
I turned my attention to the boys still crowding around the bus. The speaker, a small, wiry lad of about ten, grinned at me.
I chuckled. “So he is.” Turning back to the engine with its intractable tangle of wires and pipes, I gave a sigh. “Gentlemen, back to it. Someone hand me the flat-blade screwdriver, please.”
As soon as I saw the blurb, I was in for reading and reviewing. The 1950s? Check. South Africa? Check. A priest from the Church of England and a doctor? Check. I especially love the title because it not only nails the plot and ending, but also what the characters are facing.
First off, I really liked both main characters: Father Daniel and Dr. Eddie. They were two mature, kind, giving, and responsible men who chose careers specifically to help others. However, all is not perfect. Daniel suffers from PTSD after serving in the second world war, and Eddie has his hang-ups, too, but he’s more self-aware of what he desires than Daniel is. It takes Eddie to finally awaken Daniel to what his true needs and desires are. Well done.
Yes, there is insta-attract, but not insta-love. They simply know they want to be with each other. This was wonderfully executed.
The setting in each country is beautifully described. The author paints a lovely picture, and as a reader, I felt as if I was there. The dialogue is sharp and captured the 1950s brilliantly. Same with the mindset of the people. This is important to me. I want people to think the way they did during the proper time setting, and the author did a great job.
The book is heavy on narrative, but this doesn’t really slow the pacing. And it also alternates POV in first and third person. Daniel’s in first and Eddie’s in third. Eddie’s POV is less frequent, and Daniel takes more of the starring roll.
The look into Daniel’s PTSD was very believable. He’s suffering, and it comes through in his actions and behaviour. Well done.
The story is split into three parts. I did wish for the heroes to have more stage time together, because they are apart lots during part two, but this is needed for each to fully explore their goals and desires.
This is a lovely novel, one I recommend. The characters and setting make this a treasure of book to read.
Mel Gough has self-published eight contemporary and historical romance novels and novellas. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Selfies Award with her romantic suspense novel He is Mine. A Leap of Faith was longlisted for the Bridport Award 2019 and shortlisted for the First Novel Award in the same year. Mel lives in London.