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Masters of Cane

Gay retro with a twist

by Erin O'Quinn

Gay retro with a twist

There is something evil afoot in the growing city of Dun Linden, Ireland (1924) where private dicks Michael McCree and Simon Hart have a PI agency. No one has hired them this time, as they find their neighbors and their own tiny spy network in grave danger from a group of thieves who would rather slit a throat than pick an honest pocket; and an old nemesis who has a score to settle with both of them.

When the peril grows too grave for two men to handle, they call on a few trusted friends and some unusual weaponry to help in a case where they are outnumbered—but never outwitted.

The always-edgy partnership of the two investigators also undergoes some twists and turns …of fate and canes alike.

Even Simon is surprised to discover the true masters of cane in this novel of sex, crime, and punishment.

The fifth Gaslight Mystery novel

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From Chapter Three, "A Fantasia"

Towel tucked around his hips, Michael stood in front of his bureau absently pouring water from the ewer into a cracked Delft-china bowl, a coy hand-me-down from Mrs. McGregor. He dipped his brush into the water, then swirled it in his shaving mug, leaning over to inspect his chin. His hair grew too damn fast. But being a kind of amber-gold, his growing whiskers were not noticeable against his honey-colored skin until he ran a practiced few fingers through the overnight growth.

Declaring the damage minimal, he bent a little closer to the cloudy mirror.

He was still a little rattled over his last sight of Simon standing rigid on the opposite side of his large, crisply-made bed. The look in the man’s soul-filled aqua eyes had cried out louder than a moan.

I need you, Michael.

His right hand trembled slightly as he aimed the straight razor, still absorbed in thoughts of Simon.


Shit criminy. Michael had almost leapt onto the bed and strode across its surface to reach his partner, seize both shoulders, force the words from his mouth. And then, as usual, he’d stopped himself.

Anything he did, almost anything he said, might drive Simon back into the shadows. Best to give his sometime-lover a little room to maneuver. Let him think through what had happened in the last few days.

’Twas no use kicking his own arse over the way he’d damned near raped the man when they first came together a year ago. Somehow they’d both survived Michael’s exuberant dick and Simon’s desperate self-denials. He’d promised himself he would never go back to being a maddened bullock, horns out, ready to attack any red cape in front of his one-eyed charge.

And so for twelve months he’d danced the provocative tango, subtly leading, then allowing Simon to close the embrace and change the tempo for a few beats…back and forth, in and out. They dipped and swayed to music Michael was certain both of them could hear. Just that he heard a complete fantasia, while Simon was still responding to the opening bars.

An’ maybe I’m just a sodding madman. A dreamer. Maybe Simon will throw my ass out any day, back to the tram rails an’ cobblestones of Dun Linden. Back to the docks I used to call home.

Michael shook his head and tried again to accost his chin whiskers. A shimmer of scarlet arrested his eyes. Reflected in the small shaving mirror, he saw the silk-robed figure standing behind him.

He stood rock-still, waiting for Simon to speak.

“McCree. Do not turn around.”

Those words, whether studied or not, forced his cock to instant attention. They were the same ones Simon had uttered a year ago when he’d knelt behind him and stroked his ass, parted the cheeks and licked the honey-hole, then turned him around so he could bury his need inside this man’s hot, unskilled mouth.

And so Michael stood straight as a sentinel, heart slamming against his ribs, tongue thick with surprise.

Simon’s warm fingers slid over the skin of his hips and tugged on the towel. The voice in his right ear was husky, hesitant.

“Don’t make me strike you with my cane. Don’t talk unless I ask. Just listen.”

The towel, loosened, slid to the carpet.

“I want a fighting partner, not a craven straw dummy. Do you understand?”

Michael allowed his head to move a little, a nod of comprehension.

He deeply understood what was happening. The man who ducked his attentions, bolted his door against any possible intrusion, felt the same unquenchable thirst as Michael. But some men downed their whiskey raw, while others sipped it slow. There were times a man would strike in broad daylight, and other times he unsheathed his weapon in the dark of the moon. Michael was a fighter and a trained agent. He knew to his core what was happening.

God, I love ye, Simon. Do it any way ye want. Ye’ll find a worthy mate.

“Are you ready for it? Tell me.” The voice was breathless, almost strangled with lust. Michael felt a sudden hard thud against his crack. Was it Simon’s cock, or his cane? It mattered not.

“Aye, love.”

What happened next was so quick Michael reacted with pure instinct. A sharp rap along his right calf, and the path of a long, hard object up his torso and chest, then almost simultaneously a choke on his carotid.

That bastard Simon had caught him in a state of shock and had taken full advantage of his love-struck weakness.

Reviews:"Bo" on Amazon wrote:

Good lord, what a tale Ms. Quinn spins about her two most conflicted lovers, Michael McCree and Simon Hart--part martial arts, part Oliver Twist, part Sam Spade, and a great deal of Henry Fielding-like sexual fantasies. Until, of course, the end.

And oh what a splendid ending it is. Those of us who have wallowed in the almost unrequited love that Michael has for his more taciturn, war-hardened, self-conscious and totally closeted business and occasional bed partner are in for a bit of a surprise in this one. This is Simon's story for the most part, his inner story, one in which he comes to a stunning conclusion rather early on but does not get the chance to convey it to Michael until the very last line in the book.

In between, these men organize their ripe network of street urchins headed by 13-year-old Copper and 11-year-old Squeak (and eventually two-dozen more), and come to depend upon a totally fictionalized (but totally convincing otherwise) Dashiell Hammett to put the kibosh on a cadre of extortionists who are terrorizing merchants in their beloved town of Dun Linden. Woven throughout are their mutual desire to master the other in a battle of canes, which is detailed deliciously throughout and not quite subliminally meant to parallel their imagined sexual exploits.

Ms. Quinn has created some superb male couples in a variety of series which she just keeps turning out to delight and surprise us. Michael McCree and Simon Hart, however, have sort of played footsie because of Simon's past and personality, and Michael's unabashed devotion.

If this is the end, so be it. But there could be more because you never, ever, know what side of the bed Ms. Quinn will get up from each morning, and I would be willing to bet that on alternate Tuesdays, lightning strikes her imagination and she decides that there's still life in these boys yet--no matter which boys pop into her head as a result of that lightning strike. What an author, what a tale, what a series!

padme35 on Amazon wrote:

Masters of Cane begins less than 24 hours after Thin as Smoke ended and once again Simon wakes before Michael with his ongoing internal debate over their relationship still percolating, he does seem to come to his wants and needs faster than usual. But nothing comes easy for this lovely duo and this time they find their little friend Squeak the one possibly in danger.

Michael McCree has always seemed a bit on the me-first side, at least on the surface, but he truly cares for those in his life and that includes Squeak and Copper as well as Simon and Sam. Yes, Dashiell "Sam" Hammett returns and this time Simon may still hold some elements of jealousy for the history Sam shares with Michael but he also comes to see Sam as his friend too.

There may not be a paying client this time but they do have friends and neighbors to protect and they do it as only Simon and Michael can, with a little ingenuity, spontaneity, and passion. Another great entry in the Gaslight Mysteries.

Pinkerbelle Rex on Amazon wrote:

Marvelous! This latest adventures-in-sleuthing mystery romance finds the Gaslight detective team of Michael McCree and Simon Hart up against a ring of extortionists bent on stealing from the local shopkeepers of the city of Dun Linden. A boisterous, be-still-my–heart, fast-paced, and thrilling addition to a scorching hot, highly entertaining series! Go, Michael! Go, Simon! Go, Michael! Go, Simon! Woot!

Fresh off their run-in with the bootlegging mafia of the last book, McCree and Hart have barely secured the lucrative funds from that job when they take on the pro bono investigation and discover corruption deeply embedded in the local police force. The dirty operation is bigger than expected, so Dashiell “Sam” Hammett delays his trip back to America to help the romantic twosome. Clues reveal that the head of the criminal crew might be a high-ranking officer. Outnumbered and facing both street thugs and armed cops, the detectives look to Copper and his crew of orphans for new recruits. Simon and Michael must use their brains, their brawn, and their canes to outfox their bad apple opponents before sleazy schemes suck the life from the quaint Irish homestead.

Wow! I want to say hands-down the best Gaslight Mystery yet, but all of the books in this series are simply smashing and the pleasure derived from reading each mounts with each tale read. This is largely due to the brilliant handling of the stormy romance between Simon Hart and Michael McCree, which grows and thickens with lust, pride, and love over the course of the now five-book series. Simon and Michael are über-masculine men with very different personalities, and the lifeblood of the series comes from their riveting courtship and effervescent lovemaking, which is hot, tender and gritty with the rawness of masculine passion.

In this book, I especially love that Simon confronts his emotional paralysis and begins to initiate erotic acts that reveal both his lust for Michael and his mastery with a cane. I daresay Michael loved this as well, but the detectives have a town to save from greedy coppers, so their need is expressed in exquisite teases of foreplay while in the company of others. Well, they do have a torrid session in their tiny flat… with a houseguest in residence, no less. But with Hammett and Copper’s urchin crew about, a lot of this book’s charm comes from Simon and Michael’s playful dares and the pure thrill they express while crafting and acting on their scheme to oust the extorting criminals.

The story has a wealth of twists and turns and the adventure travels to a number of destinations. From the detective’s headquarters and the police stations to pubs and backroom betting parlors, the excitement just builds and builds. And boy did my eyes pop at the identity of the accomplice who sat at the side of the criminal kingpin… a lovely extra treat for all who are following this series. My pleasure increased at exquisite turns of phrase from an author who I swear has a golden tongue. Plus I was introduced to “Polari”—an 18th century underground language used by homosexuals, street gangs, and those who didn’t want eavesdroppers understanding their conversations. I learned some new words!

I also loved seeing Copper and the urchin gang taking a larger role in this adventure. Having grown a bit with each book, suddenly I’m envisioning the lads more “Peaky Blinders” than “Oliver Twist.” Love it! All in all an exceptional read from an exceptional author! Missing BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, especially that initial episode when we thought they might play Watson as gay? Pick up the Gaslight Mysteries and put an end to your jones.

Thank you, Erin O’Quinn, for another fantastic adventure with your manly heartthrobs… thumpity-thump, thumpity-thump… twenty-four hours later and my heart is still racing.

“A Must-Read!”

About the Author

Erin O'Quinn was born almost literally on the side of a mountain in Nevada and was hauled kicking and screaming into the nearest town, fifty miles away, to attend first grade. To this day, she claims to be kindergarten-deprived.

O'Quinn earned a few degrees from the University of So. California, but her real education began on the back docks of the Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal newspaper; on the good-old-boy car lots in Abilene, TX where she sold new Chryslers and used cars; and in a big-box store in Austin, TX where she alternately hauled pallets and ran a garden center.

You'll find a lot of action-adventure, and a character-centered, plot-centered group of seven series and a few stand-alones

Of 46 published works for adults, 33 (I think) are in the gay lit (M/M) genre. From the Noble Dimensions series (small town/contemporary) to Old World Ireland, Jacobite-era  and modern Scotland; and back to the retro world of Ireland in the Roaring 20s, she says, "My men, and my settings, are no-frills, no hearts and flowers. But I think a certain nobility and even spiritual element often creep in among the honest sexual feelings."

Any reviews you see are unsolicited, and are always welcome.

Settle back, enjoy what Erin O'Quinn calls "literotica with a flare for the unusual...thoughtful and with passions too big for their britches."