Gwen & Art are not in love by Lex Croucher

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Loosely, very loosely, using aspects of Arthurian legend, Croucher has written a rollicking gay love story with twists and turns that eventually plunges heard-first into a full-on knight's battle, the main characters emerging weary but wiser, to live happily-ever-after.

18-year-olds Art and Gwen have been betrothed since childhood but can hardly conceal their dislike for each other when they are forced to spend the summer tournament season at Camelot together, before their marriage that will join their two families.

Their relationship is further complicated by Gwen’s secret crush on feisty knight Bridget, and Arthur’s nocturnal transgressions and flirting with Gwen’s brother, the king-to-be, Gabriel. Bridget is a strong-willed young woman who has sacrificed much to achieve her dream of becoming a knight, while Gwen is less certain of her path in life. Gabriel fears he will always be miserable as he faithfully does what he thinks others expect of him, unlike Arthur who lives carefree and reckless.

For light-hearted relief we see Art and Gwen’s servants Sidney and Agnes fall head-over-heels in love, but even they have to court surreptitiously.

Croucher has created a group of endearing characters, young people seeking to understand and explore their feelings within a society with strict expectations, or so they believe. Gwen and Gabriel experience at times shame, obligation and uncertainty, and witness the effects on others, of their choices and desires as they navigate their romantic interests. As children of the king, they have to decide whether to accept and follow their feelings, or fulfil their responsibilities, or whether they can do both.

The characters’ teen-age banter and bad jokes make for easy and amusing reading, but Croucher also sensitively addresses issues of self-acceptance and coming-out.

These various love-interests are eclipsed in the final chapters as a full-on battle erupts, and treachery and treason are exposed. This section also sees a goodly number of battle casualties and injuries, described in considerable detail, somewhat at odds with the more upbeat earlier chapters.

Highly recommended for readers who like a gay romance and aren’t too concerned about historical accuracy.

Themes: Friendship, LGBTQI, Relationships, Medieval, Arthurian legend, Knights.

Margaret Crohn