Now, it was an overgrown lane, littered with fallen branches and roots, preparing to trip him at every opportunity. Malevolent eyes watched from the shadows, waiting for him to stumble and fall. When he did, he knew they would offer him no assistance; rather they would mock him and tell him that he had chosen his own downfall.
He was rapidly approaching a fork in the road, and both options looked equally appealing.
They also looked equally repellent.
I must publicly confess. These days, I don’t actually read that much fanfic. I have so little time, and reading other author’s wonderful work makes me second guess my own. We all have our own writing process, and mine is going into a cone of silence so that the only words buzzing around in my head are my own.
But Southern Comfort is something I break my cone of silence to read and I would even if my beta bookbag wasn’t involved. And by the way, please forgive all spelling/punctuation mistakes I will no doubt make, as I don’t have her eagle eye proofreading this for me! As you all know, The Blessing and the Curse would not be what it is without her invaluable input and this is why I am so happy to see her branching out to become an author in her own right.
Southern Comfort has been a collaboration between bookbag and Loveinthelies. The two writers have parted ways as of the latest chapter due to the difficulties of cross-continental collaboration (please keep an eye out for Loveinthelies upcoming AU project, due to commence around mid-March). However, I have every confidence that Southern Comfort will continue to unfurl beautifully under bookbag’s artful hand.
It’s a slash fic, yes, but I almost hate to have to box it into a category. There is none of the common hallmarks of many slash fics--no instant, staggering attraction, nightclubs or instant lemons. It doesn’t feel like an elaborate set-up for the lemon of the century. It’s just two men in a house on a tobacco plantation, and the story of their burgeoning friendship. It’s soulful, and it’s beautiful. It’s slash for people who didn’t think they’d ever read slash.
Edward is the man of wealth and privilege, sent like a minion by his tyrannical father to supervise the restoration of an old Southern manor house. This house, once the jewel in the crown of the Cullen family tobacco dynasty, has languished in neglect for years. It will be Edward’s wedding gift when he marries Bella, a strategic marriage and one based on a polite love borne of obligation. Edward plans on writing a family history of the Cullens, but he finds another kind of inspiration instead.
Enter Jasper the restorer, who, whilst openly and unapologetically gay, is more interested in eyeing Edward’s architraves and damaged plasterwork rather than Edward himself. Whereas Edward has lived an automated life of doing what was expected of him, Jasper has scorned society’s norms and protected his sensitive nature with a veneer of hardened cynicism. There are hints of a painful past that are yet to be revealed.
One man has lived too little. The other has clearly lived too much.
The realistic, prickling awareness of each other elegantly builds a delicious UST, which to me is more satisfying than full lemons any day, and it eases you into their uneasy friendship. Edward, suitably mystified by his fascination with this strange man, exists in a mounting state of confusion and denial. Jasper relies on defensiveness and sardonic retaliatory flirtation.
This story contains the things that bring a story alive for me and readers of my story will also enjoy; colours and smells and sounds, the heat of the South and the tobacco wilting. I can almost smell the new plaster on the walls. The isolation and silence resonates, time becomes more elastic until it is merely punctuated by blazing sun or the light of fireflies. It is in third person, which adds power to the atmospheric prose.
Edward and Jasper, uneasily thrown together in isolation, have no choice but to try to get along with each other, and unwilling confessions are made and masks slip on the front porch in the dark. Edward's marriage looms on the horizon, and hard choices will need to be made.
This is angst at its best; the piercing beauty of moments in time that you know cannot last. Southern Comfort is a careful exploration of issues such as identity, sexuality, societal expectations and family pressures. I'm privileged to be asked to preread, and it's a real treat to be in the position of knowing how the story will unfold.
We are early in the tale, and I invite you to join the journey.
The Black Arrow is the Australian author of The Blessing and the Curse. She enjoys spoiling her pug Delia, procrastinating, swordfighting with her foe Writer's Block, colouring in and anything miniature. When she is not a droid in a grey sterile office, she can be found in pyjamas typing words into thesaurus.com.