REVIEW: Innocence and Carnality, by J. Alan Veerkamp

Title:Innocence and Carnality
Author:J. Alan Veerkamp
Genre:Steampunk
LGBTQ+ Category:Gay
Publisher:DSP Publications
Pages:350
Reviewer:Dan

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About The Book

Innocence is his only currency.

The gilded cage of propriety where Nathan grew up as a member of the Deilian aristocracy became a true prison when, at fifteen, his homosexuality came to light and created a terrible scandal. His parents see only one way to preserve their reputation amongst the other noble families: fit Nathan with a chastity belt to increase his value to a potential partner and marry him off as soon as possible.

The recipient of that prize is Lord Rother Marsh Delaga III. After a hasty wedding, Rother whisks Nathan away to the strange and seductive land of Marisol, where Nathan will begin a new life, free to explore the pleasures of the marriage bed, though his life is still not his own.

But Rother’s Delaga House is a place of secrets, dangers, and depravity Nathan can scarcely comprehend. Where friends are few and peril waits around every corner, Nathan must employ all the manipulation he learned from high society, along with his talent for clockwork. Most of all, Nathan must adapt, compromise to survive, and cast off the preconceptions of his homeland.

Because only he can orchestrate his freedom, and it’ll come at a cost.

The Review

When I first started reading, I thought this book was headed in one direction (one I didn’t particularly like) but took a turn for a better. That being said, I’m still not on board with the overall story or writing style, but at least the author subverted the beauty-and-the-beast element I thought he was going for between Rother (initial love interest) and Nathan (the main character). Instead, Rother turns out to be much more sinister than we’re lead to believe and Nathan has the wherewithal to recognize abuse for what it is.

Nathan is painstakingly virtuous and innocent and reads like a caricature of Victorian England. Because he’s our POV character, he rationalizes away the less-than-stellar things that he does throughout the course of the book. He’s right, to some degree, as his circumstances are dire and difficult; Nathan’s life and the lives of others are on the line multiple times. Despite saying that what he does bothers him, his later actions don’t really attest to that. He comes from a bad home life with an abusive father, which he uses to justify first beating then blackmailing his father. The way in which he does this is a little too free of nuance. Dad = bad, Nathan = good, therefore the dad deserves whatever he gets. This repeats with the other antagonists.

Honestly, all the antagonists are too flat for my liking. They’re simply there to antagonize. The supporting characters aren’t much better. They do have a hint more personality, which is nice. If the story focused more on interactions between Nathan and the other characters rather than copious sex scenes or Nathan’s levels of shock regarding everything from the most vanilla sex to hardcore BDSM and pedophilia, the plot might have achieved a higher level of intrigue. The story wraps up on a very convenient happy ending, which I can’t argue with because I prefer happy endings.

Overall, the story itself has a lot of potential, but I wanted more from the characters and conversations. Nathan shows a lot of agency at certain points but almost everything he does that shows self-reliance, cleverness, and determination happens off screen. This is done in an effort to build suspense, I think, but I think it would have been more interesting to know what was happening. I would recommend this book to people who want to read about sex, a lot, and prefer lengthy, graphic descriptions of the scenes. Also to people who like their bad guys clear cut and their good guys basically incorruptible – though Nathan does consider himself corrupted, sexually, at least, even when he finds a better lover than Rother.I really hope to see more from this author and see his style grow. I definitely think there is potential for something great.

The Reviewer

Dan Ackerman is a writer and educator who has lived in Connecticut for their entire life. They received their BSED from CCSU in 2013 and wrote their Master’s thesis on representations of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema. Currently, Dan is studying for a second MA in ABA and works in a center school for students with a variety of intellectual, developmental, or multiple disabilities. In their spare time, Dan continues to read and write, supplemented with a healthy amount of movie marathons and gaming.

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