Set in post-WWII Philippines, Mayon exceeds expectations at all levels. It delivers solidly and tastefully on its packaging as LGBT romance, but Ashling’s flawless dialog and rich cultural settings make the novel much more.
John Buchanan, ex-U.S. Marine hero and aspiring volcanologist, takes a position as overseer on a vast plantation complex in the shadow of Mt. Mayon in Philippines’ Albay Province. His value to his wealthy employer lies primarily in his potential as a husband to one of several daughters, but John has struggled with his identity for years, and falls into a passionate and potentially dangerous pairing with his Filipino counterpart, Gregorio.
Historical LGBT fiction poses challenges, as changing societal norms resonate in voice and dialog, both internal and spoken. Ashling’s unique multicultural background strikes a soundly authentic note for the period. From cuisine to fashion to linguistic project, Ashling puts the reader in the story, and adds a captivating female perspective on the book’s male relationships. The conflict and secrecy central to gay expression in the postwar period plays out not only in the central characters, but in the women in their lives, most notably Victoria, Gregorio’s mother, and John’s potential marital suitors.
The book will appeal to a broad audience and leave them looking forward to more. Well done, and highly recommended.