Author: Gordon Merrick
Publisher: Open Road Media
Pages/Word Count: 256 Pages
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: Charlie Mills always played the role of the good grandson, and his grandmother rewarded him for it handsomely in the form of all the gifts, money, and attention a boy could want. Entering college in the late 1930s, Charlie just has to keep doing what his grandmother expects of him in order to continue to receive her gifts. He has to find a nice girl, get married, and have a few kids. Then one summer, he meets Peter Martin.
Peter is everything that Charlie has ever wanted. Despite all the obstacles, Charlie immediately craves and pursues Peter, who happily obliges him. As they grow closer, Charlie is forced to choose between two options: complying with the expectations of society and family, or following the call of true love. In this, the first book of the Charlie & Peter Trilogy, Gordon Merrick creates an enduring portrait of two young men deeply in love, and the tribulations they endure to express themselves and maintain their relationship.
Review: Gordon Merrick’s The Lord Won’t Mind is a seminal piece of gay fiction. First published in 1970, Merrick’s novel is foundational in the post-Stonewall era, and while it’s dated in terms of both language and social correctness, I can only imagine it’s a book gay men needed very much at the time it was written.
Reading this book from a 21st Century perspective was both difficult and enlightening—difficult because the language is purple enough to make even Oscar Wilde do a double-take, enlightening because it shows how far we’ve come from the time not only the book was written but from when it was set, the early days of World War II (not the 1960s, as one version of the blurb erroneously suggests). The story’s lovers, Charlie and Peter, are portrayed in a way I feel is likely reflective of the author’s age, as well as of the decade in which the book was published. The Lord Won’t Mind is more than a bit melodramatic in a Peyton Place sort of way, and is quite un-PC in its attitude toward and portrayal of many of its black and female characters. While historically accurate and indicative of the era, not to mention a significant plot device, it’s possible this will make the book less accessible to the contemporary reader.
Charlie and Peter’s relationship is the fairy tale of its time—love at first sight and the dream of the happily-ever-after in spite of the social climate that would not only shun their connection but would have forbidden it. The story is a coming-of-age tale as well; for Peter, who’s discovering there’s a word that defines his sexual preferences, and for Charlie, who struggles with the fact he’s fallen in love with Peter—what that means for him in terms of his sexuality, his very maleness, his relationship with his grandmother, and his need to be “normal” in a marriage that goes terribly wrong from its outset. Charlie’s battle with self-acceptance is central to the plot, all of it hinging on the fact that he’s unable to settle into the life he wants, while Peter learns to embrace himself and his desires. Merrick was speaking to an audience that needed to see himself reflected in a romance novel’s pages, and in this, The Lord Won’t Mind succeeds, and accounts for its relevance in and significance to the genre.
Stylistically speaking, the author’s language—in both the narrative and dialogue—reflects the book’s aim to be both innocent and erotic, as well as providing a romance that inspires conflict while employing flowery endearments that might have made it easy to dismiss were it not for the fact that heterosexual romance was offering the same style and was this book’s mirror image in the 70s. While I can’t say the delivery of this influential novel has earned itself a place among my favorites, I would absolutely recommend it as a classic piece of literature, a must-read in order to experience the history and gain a better understanding of the evolution of gay fiction.
You can buy The Lord Won’t Mind here: