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Guardians of the Poor

by Jackson Marsh

The greatest gift one man may give another is his trust.”
Barbary Fleet, 1890.
Standing stones, messages written in symbols, and the language of the deaf. It falls to Lord Clearwater to unlock the mystery of Dalston Blaze and his deaf friend, Joe Tanner, two young men arrested for committing ‘unnatural offences’ at the Hackney workhouse.

Dalston hopes for a prison sentence. It’s the only way to save his life. Instead, he is bailed to the Larkspur Academy on Lord Clearwater’s Cornish estate, where there is only one rule: honesty above all else. For Dalston, this means confronting his past, learning to trust, and admitting his secrets. Joe is the key, but Joe is missing, and his location is locked deep inside a memory seen in sign language, and clouded by eighteen years of workhouse life.

If Dalston remains silent, the immoral workhouse master and his sadistic schoolteacher will continue to inflict pain and suffering on all inmates of the Hackney workhouse. If he tells the truth, he and Joe will die.

The Guardians of the Poor is a combination of mystery, adventure and male romance, set in 1890. It draws on first-hand accounts of workhouse life at the time and is the first of a new series of mysteries set in the Clearwater world.
The Larkspur Mysteries
Beginning in 1890, The Larkspur Mysteries follow on from The Clearwater Mysteries series of 11 novels. It’s not necessary to have read the Clearwater books before you embark on the Larkspur series. However, if you enjoy mystery, romance, adventure and a mix of historical fact and fiction, then begin the journey with ‘Deviant Desire.’ (Or the non-mystery prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’)

Lord Clearwater has created a unique academy for disadvantaged young men. The Larkspur Academy is, ‘A non-academic institution with the aim to provide deserving men the opportunity to expand talent, horizons and knowledge for the betterment of the underprivileged and general society.’ It’s not a school. There are no lessons, no teachers, no schoolboys and no rules. The series exists in the established Clearwater world of the late 1800’s where homosexuality is a crime everywhere but on Clearwater’s country estate in Cornwall.

The series is ongoing. Each story involves male bonding, bromance, friendship and love. Mystery, adventure and a little comedy play their parts, and every story is inspired by true events from the past.

This book is on:
  • 4 To Be Read lists
  • 1 Read list
Cover Artists:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 3 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Forbidden Love, Rescue
Word Count: 104000
Setting: London and Cornwall, UK
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Reviews:Mak on Amazon wrote:

Lord Clearwater, Archer, has an invested interest in the court trial of Dalston Blaze and Joseph “Joe” Tanner. The case involves unnatural symbols draw by the accused. The case, also opens the ugly realization of the Hackney Workhouse. Archer relies on several of his crew of the Clearwater Detective Agency to investigate. James Wright, organizer and master detective. Silas Hawkins, master of voices and disguises. The Scotsman, Duncan Fairbairn, researcher and historian of the archives.

The crew also has the aid of barrister, Sir Easterby Creswell. Creswell brings his expertise and a new point of view that comes to light and creates a postponement in the hearing.

Dalston finds himself overwhelmed as he’s taken on a journey to a new and wonderful place Larkspur Academy. Dalston still fears for Joe being alone in a world that can be very harsh and cruel. Archer knows he has his work cut out for him as he tries to earn Dalston’s trust. The importance of the symbols and the situation of the workhouse has Archer revealing the truth and significance of the ‘crew’ to Dalston.

“Guardians of the Poor” is a magnificent start to the “Larkspur Academy” series. I am totally amazed with Jackson Marsh, as he just finished book ten of the “Clearwater Mysteries” plus a prequel. When I think it can’t get any better it does and I savored every word! Marsh never fails at bringing interesting subject matter to the readers. From, theater, music, new inventions and now, with “Larkspur Academy” art, symbology, homophones, a little twist in some classic phrases and educating others. He keeps me curious enough that I always find myself researching and learning more about the era. Marsh’s writing is excellent and it makes the distinction of each characters background, from the proper English to Scottish and the street language.

Marsh’s story of Dalston Blaze, Joseph “Joe” Tanner and the Hackney Workhouse is very heartbreaking but shows the endurance and intelligence of two young men trying to communicate and survive. Archer is still amazing, he continues his fight for his charities and to help the unfortunate. His truth and honesty and his curiosity always brings something new to the table. It’s also an interesting mystery with on the edge suspense, romance, humor and colorful descriptions as Dalston takes in the beauty of Larkspur.

It was not only a delight to have: Archer, Silas, James, and Andrej returning along with so many other characters from the “Clearwater Mysteries”. I like how Marsh has shown the strength and power of the women of that time: Mrs. Norwood and Mrs. Kevern. Dr. Markland, Sir Easterby Creswell, and Professor Barbary Fleet (who knows something about everything), bring their own expertise to the novel, along with their eccentricities that add just the right amount of humor. Dalston also makes friends with Clem and Frank. As always there’s those evil characters: Edward Capps, Avery and Skaggot.

For those that may not follow Jackson Marsh’s blog, please read the “Author Notes”.
Marsh shares more about his research of the: workhouses, British Sign Language, and the Colvannick stone that provide ideas for his amazing novels.

I highly recommend “Guardians of the Poor”! I loved it and can only say, I’m excited to see what Jackson Marsh brings us next. Once again, the cover design by Andjela K is stunning!

Charles on Amazon wrote:

This first novel in the spinoff from the Clearwater mysteries is a great introduction to what will become the Larkspur series where new characters from this series are introduced and brought into the mix by characters in the Clearwater series..
It's an amazing love story with a classic Jackson Marsh mystery that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat.
I am looking forward to the rest of the books in the series. Highly highly recommended.

About the Author

Hi. Jackson was born in 2017 as the penname for me (James) so that I could publish my new gay fiction independently from my other writing work. I was born on the south coast of England during a blizzard, but now like to warm thing up with MM romance novels, gay mysteries and some occasional erotica. In 2007 I was awarded and EGPA award for my erotic short stories, and in 2018 I won a Best Screenplay award for one of my films. I am a diverse writer with thrillers, comedies and horror stories under my James belt, and now romance and mystery under my Jackson belt.

At the moment I am concentrating on two genres: older/younger MM romance, and youth mysteries with early 20s main characters and a love story included.

I now live on a Greek island with my husband.