Rebel: An Outlawed Story
Sally Malcolm’s Rebel is a novella/short story that acts as a prequel to the full-length novel King’s Man, out later this month. It’s short and sweet, but packs quite an emotional punch as it charts the development of the relationship between two young men from very different backgrounds whose lives will be forever changed by their association.
Handsome, charming and well-to-do Harvard graduate Nathaniel Tanner is sent to the sleepy Rhode Island town of Rosemont by his father, who disapproved of the people Nate chose to spend time with. Nate is to clerk for lawyer John Reed, and it’s at Reed’s modest offices that fellow clerk Samuel Hutchinson sets eyes on his new colleague for the first time. Sam is instantly smitten – against his will, against his judgment – and tries hard to quell the inappropriate thoughts and feelings that arise whenever Sam looks at Nate, or the shocks that rush across his skin with every accidental touch. For the first few weeks, Nate keeps himself to himself; he doesn’t talk about himself and doesn’t socialise, so Sam is surprised when he suggests they share a pre-Christmas drink. During the course of the evening, Nate starts to tell Sam a little of his circumstances, and soon they’re conversing on a variety of subjects – novels, poetry, philosophy, politics – and over the following weeks and months, a genuine friendship develops between them. Sam has been alone since the death of his parents from typhus a couple of years earlier and the meals and discussions he shares with Nate quickly become the high point of every week.
Nate hadn’t expected to find someone like Sam in provincial Rhode Island, a man willing to listen to and endlessly debate Nate’s free-thinking ideas. And he can’t help finding it somewhat ironic that his father banished him in part because of his bedroom preferences, only for Nate to end up sharing a small office with “an Adonis who spent his days shooting Nate confused and confusing looks.“ He’s fairly sure he’s reading Sam’s interest correctly, and also that Sam likely is struggling with his attraction to Nate.
Rebel is a little gem of a story which, in just thirty-six pages presents readers with two well-characterised leads and a passionate love story developed through a series of vignettes. Sally Malcolm is one of those writers who can create the most delicious, intense chemistry between characters with the merest look or touch, and the longing and soul-deep connection she forges between Sam and Nate simply leap off the page.
Rebel is completely absorbing and ends on a hopeful HFN. My appetite for King’s Man is well and truly whetted!
Note: Rebel was previously made available free to subscribers to the author’s mailing list.