“Virginia Bedfellows”–gay historical fiction

Morris, Gavin. “Virginia Bedfellows” The Haworth Press, 2006

Gay Historical Fiction

Amos Lassen

If you like historical fiction, “Virginia Bedfellows” is the book for you.

It is the story of two men who in 18th century America live as lovers and face the problems of hatred, fear, prejudice and perhaps, ultimately, death. Lance Morely and Adam Bradley had been banished from England and forced to come to America, working as indentured servants. They eventually end up in the colony of Virginia at the Ashley Landing plantation. As they build a life together, a life that is based on love and passion as well as deep friendship, they are simply blind to the fact that what they have does not fit in the moral code of colonial America. The society they live in considers them immoral, the law considers them illegal. The strength of their feelings for one another and the help of their friends in Williamsburg and Philadelphia allow them to face their fears and the prejudice which surrounds them. Their fear that their secret will come to light is an underlying theme of the novel.

We don’t often think of gay men who lived in colonial America and this makes this book a special treat. One reviewer stated that is this book that helped put the “HIS” in history. “Virginia Bedfellows” reinforces that prejudice against gays has always existed in America. The attitude of society toward love relationships between members of the same sex has always been here and little has changed since 18th century America. The rich historical detail which imbues this novel provides a lush background for the story of two men thrown together by fate and who love each other out of joy. Adam, a cool headed and cultured plantation manager, deeply loves the hot tempered Lance and they both yearn for a time when their servitude will be over and they can live life on their own terms.

The novel is romantic in its eroticism, beautiful in its structure and a wonderful story to be enjoyed. It is a story of love so strong and pathos so deep. It reminds us that there have always been gays and the problems have always been essentially the same. The fact that homosexual behavior was punishable by death lends an air of mystery and suspense to his beautifully written novel. Gavin Morris has a way with the English language—so much so that sentences jump off the page and pull you into the story. Pre-revolution America is an age not ordinarily associated with gay men and we have to thank the author for not only opening our eyes about the forefathers of our country but for doing so in such a poetic manner. This is the history we did not learn in school but obviously Morris was an excellent student of Americana. His forces on detail is amazing, especially in his lush descriptions and attention to detail. We must thank him for making us aware that WE played a part in the building of America. The novel is rich in history and the explanation of the entire matter of indentured servitude puts history in another perspective. Because our characters were servants, bought and sold like slaves, they had to adhere to the traditional morality of the day—unless of course they were very secretive about the way they lived. Since they were not full citizens, their lives were dictated to them. Our heroes managed to live their lives the way they chose but the constant threat of discovery was constantly with them. In relating the sexual lives of the heroes, Morris does not hold back and some of the sexual scenes are quite explicit but even more exciting because to be caught could mean death.

I, myself, am not a fan of historical fiction—probably because my undergraduate degree is in history, yet this book mesmerized me and I read until the wee hours. “Virginia Bedfellows” is an exciting read and one that should not be missed.

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