Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander
AAR doesn’t usually review Vanity press books; we have too many books from mainstream publishers and too few reviewers to review them to do so. But every once in a while, something completely different will come along and pique someone’s interest. So it was with Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, subtitled A Bisexual Regency Romance. While the premise of Phyllida and the characters were interesting, it ultimately failed for me because the story lacked what most self-published books do: a professional editor.
Andrew Carrington is a member of a secret club specifically for gay men, or sodomites, as they refer to themselves, called The Brotherhood of Philander. It is similar in character to White’s, but is a place where they may be themselves in the club setting, with rooms abovestairs providing a discreet place for liaisons. Andrew, the heir to an earldom, has decided that he must marry and produce an heir, but where to find a woman who will accept his preferences and not interfere in his life? A friend, and fellow club member, suggests a sensible young woman from his country neighborhood.
Phyllida Lewis is sensible and practical, though she is also the secret author of gothic romances. Andrew’s proposition intrigues her and, longing to get away from the increasingly desperate matchmaking attempts by her mother, Phyllida agrees to the marriage.
They are quickly married and equally quickly established in London where Andrew and Phyllida begin to explore the mysteries of male/female sex. Andrew is a novice at this sort of thing, and has to seek counsel from his younger rakish brother, who advises him on how to find “the little man in the boat,” after which things improve rapidly for Phyllida. Phyllida and Andrew begin to fall a bit in love with each other, though Andrew still continues to indulge in his primary inclinations, with Phyllida’s blessing. But when Andrew falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Matthew Thornby, can the duo become a happy trio?
If the story were simply as outlined above, it would have been an interesting and different romance. The scenes at The Brotherhood are fun and campy and instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever hung out with gay men. Phyllida and Andrew are unique characters, both trying to feel their way through new situations, though they often take two steps forward and one step back.
But, unfortunately, there is much more to Phyllida – much more. The longer the book went on – and at 540 pages, it went on and on – the more repetitive it became. For example, when Andrew and Phyllida return to London after the marriage, every single one of Andrew’s relations pay a visit to inspect Phyllida. And every single member of The Brotherhood does as well. And we get to read each one of these scenes. One scene representative of the family and one of the club members would have been plenty to get the point across. There are lots of extraneous characters and scenes and plotlines that go nowhere. Even though I liked several of these secondary characters, I found myself skimming the last hundred or so pages. When I did stop to read what was there, it was a scene similar to one I’d already read.
I would be interested in reading a book about another member of The Brotherhood, but only if Herendeen becomes a bit less enamored of her own writing and learned to self-edit. If she had had an editor who could have prevailed upon her to cut her word count almost in half, it would have been a much better book. She has a good 300 page book here. Unfortunately, Phyllida has 540 pages.