Desert Isle Keeper
Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes
Based on this review, you might be surprised to know I’ve never been a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, or the original Conan Doyle stories. I don’t even watch the BBC version – I know, I know, I’m a terrible person. But when a trusted friend recommended Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes, I was between books and thought the queer twist was intriguing. I also trust this friend and her book recommendations (a rare and valuable relationship), so I decided to give it a try. Much to my surprise and delight, this reimagining focuses more on the relationship between Holmes and Watson, and only tangentially on the cases they solve together. Oh, and the relationship? Well, in Ms. Gray’s version, Holmes can only keep hold of his sanity and keep drug cravings at bay by submitting to his dominant lover, John Watson. Romantic, tender and erotic, it’s a brilliant and expertly executed twist on the famous pair.
In alternating PoV chapters Ms. Gray reveals how consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and ex-army doctor John Watson meet, become intimate companions in a D/s relationship, and then build a life together as friends, lovers and working partners during the first twenty years of their acquaintance. The cases they solve together are significant only insofar as they serve as a timestamp against which the love affair unfolds, and as they relate to Holmes’ state of mind. Holmes struggles to quiet and calm the ‘whirlwind’ of his intellect, and Watson seems to know exactly what his lover needs in and out of bed in order to help him. Each chapter highlights a different aspect of the relationship, though tenderness and an abiding affection anchor the book as a whole. Ms. Gray capably frames these relationship ‘lessons’ against their sexual liaisons, and though the scenes are titillating, they’re also emotionally satisfying. Much as they solve mysteries in their working partnership, their D/s relationship provides the answer or ‘key’ to what each needs and desires sexually. The author spends just the right amount of time in each man’s PoV, though I wish the book as a whole had been a bit longer (I’m greedy. I am.).
Please don’t misunderstand me though; the sexual relationship between Holmes and Watson is the primary focus of each chapter and the sex is steamy, sexy and hot, hot, hot. Their encounters are graphic and erotic, though I think this is a fairly tame version of BDSM. I particularly loved how Ms. Gray switches the PoV between chapters, allowing readers to experience the D/s relationship from both perspectives, and to feel how deeply fulfilling both men find their roles. Though I very much enjoyed their surprising physical relationship, again, it is their deep and abiding love and affection for one another that transcends the page.
I particularly loved a chapter dealing with Sherlock’s inability to kick a drug dependency and Watson’s attempt to help him. John cajoles/convinces Sherlock to accompany him on a getaway from London to ween him off the drug and quit it for good. Made desperate and weak by his craving (and knowing he can easily get his hands on more), Sherlock makes John promise not to let him out of his sight. When Watson awakes alone in bed early the next morning, we witness him breathlessly approach his lover as he sits quietly near the ocean. Through Holmes PoV we see Watson arrive sweaty, disheveled and out of breath, and oh, so worried. The scene is tense and intense as it unfolds; the weekend getaway is profoundly moving for both men and reinforces their love and commitment to one another.
Told in a series of vignettes from the perspectives of both Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Compound a Felony is erotic BDSM at its best. Sexy, romantic and fascinating, this surprise reimagining of the pair as friends and lovers over several decades sucks you in and leaves you wanting more. Honestly, had this been published in 2016, it would have made its way into my top ten list, it’s that good. Everything about it – historical romance, m/m, the BDSM relationship – worked for me and I’m so glad I discovered this utterly original gem of a romance novel.