Pierce, Max, “The Master of Seacliff”. Harrington Park Press, 2007.
A Male Gothic Novel
Who could ask for more in a book than passion, suspense, murder and suspicion? All of these are in Max Pierce’s “The Master of Seacliff”, a new release from Harrington Park Press. Here is a passionate murder mystery that will keep you reading until the last page and then hating that you finished the book.
It is 1899 and Andrew Wyndham is no longer a kid—he is now 20 years old. However, he is till not quite a man—especially not the one he wants to be. He has always dreamed of being an artist but his cheap relatives that raised him never allowed him to follow his dream even though he has talent. A friend of his arranges for him to become a tutor to the son of a rich patron of the arts who lives on an estate known as Seacliff. It is here that Andrew finally envisions a way for his dream to come into fruition. Little does he knows that there is danger on the horizon and what seems to be is not that at all—especially the master of the house, the mysterious and handsome, Duncan Stewart.
What we have is a gay gothic novel—a thriller which is contemporary and romantic at the same time—a great satire which is original and a pleasure to read. It is one of those rare books that allow you to escape into it. As he pays homage to the 19th century novel, he also manages to give it a modern touch as he infuses modern sexuality into the plot. Gothic novels were not geared to men but “The Master of Seacliff” is all man.
Reading about Seacliff, I was reminded of the first time I read Daphne DuMaurier’s great novel “Rebecca”. One will undoubtedly make comparisons between the estate and Manderlay. Both mansions are dark and brooding, cliff-tops and surrounded with an aura of mystery.
The mater of Seacliff, Duncan, is fearful and admirable at the same time. His home is filled with secrets, the kind with the power to destroy and Andrew walks into this situation with no advance warning.
The details in the novel are absolutely amazing and as the novel progresses we learn of murders and suicides, gay trysts, and the place of the servants in the overall scheme of things. The beautiful language and characterization keep all the sensuousness of the novel alive and cause everything to fall into place. The “forbidden” love that takes place behind the walls of Seacliff will not soon be forgotten and, like me, you will be waiting for Pierce’s next gothic novel.