The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle

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I’m afraid this one was not for me. I found Mr Lavelle far from intoxicating, but a rather irritating, crude, one-dimensional character. Had hoped for a plot enlightening me about the ins and outs of the celebrated Grand Tour movement, but it read like a school essay on philosophy mingling with homoerotic passages of conveyor belt gay literature. The allure of Mister Lavelle, even from the naive POV of a young man that had been sheltered from the real world, does not come across. On the other hand, the depiction of “society” is captivating and Benjamin’s return to England is portrayed with care. A mixed bag which could be enormously improved by cutting out the many pornographic scenes.
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Benjamin and his brother Edgar are to take part in the Grand Tour seeking out culture and the best kind of people in order to further their parent's ambitions for them. Benjamin is the rebel he has no interest in polite society and instead becomes infatuated with Mr Lavelle - a man who appears to know everything and everyone and treat if all with humourous disdain. Edgar fears for his brother but it is too late : Benjamin is completely in love. Yet how honest is Mr Lavelle? His scandal seeking sarcastic way of life will do more damage to the brothers than Benjamin realises. 

So problematically I really didn't like any of the characters in this novel. Edgar is a weak snob, Benjamin veers from one opinion to the next ruining his life and Mr Lavelle is a toxic fake. If you want to read an LGBT Grand Tour novel then try it but it wasn't for me.
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The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle was an unusual book for me, but one that I am very glad I chose to read and review.  Thank you to #NetGalley, the publishers and the author, Neil Blackmore. for the opportunity. 
the book is written in a very modern way although it was set in the eighteenth century, which I think really worked. (It was clear at the start that some of the language would not have been used at the time, such as the term Enlightenment as a description of the period - which I felt excused the lack of historical accuracy.) 
The novel is charming yet devastating in equal parts. The impact on the young men who were the main characters of different types of abuse and neglect in their childhoods was heartbreaking and very well portrayed. My heart went out to them, I really wanted them to find happiness despite the odds of the time and their own demons.
The descriptions of the places that Benjamin and Edgar visited on the Grand Tour, and of London which was expanding at the time, were exceptional. The minor characters were well written, and I didn't want to put the book down.
I understand what other reviewers are saying about the book not being for everyone, but personally I think everyone should read it.
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I enjoyed this peek into the social niceties (and social climbing) of the Grand Tour. I wasn't always sure what I thought about Lavelle himself, which I'm sure is the intention, but it meant I couldn't quite decide where my loyalties lay. Edgar's fate came rather abruptly out of the blue for me too. All in all though it was an enjoyable, thought-provoking read, with a nice light touch when it came to historical detail.
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Quite a story,about a young man's sexual awakening during the Grand Tour he undertakes with his brother.In the course of their travels,he meets Horace Lavelle,and his life is changed irrevocably as a result.Horace is a fascinating,contentious man who uses everyone he comes across to his advantage.Benjamin,the young man,is completely besotted by him and this has serious repercussions.
The book portrays the time very realistically and describes the snobbery and prejudice of the period in a way I haven't read before.It also has some quite graphic descriptions of sex between two men which might not be to everyone's taste.
I enjoyed it very much although it was spoiled a bit by the random use of capital letters in the ARC I received which I hope isn't kept in the final version.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for a review in which all opinions are my own.
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The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle harks back to classic topics of social mobility and ambition, keeping up appearances and impressing people you resent and idolise in equal measure.
It's the story of 2 brothers on tour to secure their place in society and how in trying to impress the 'right' people their relationship starts to fracture as they explore the version of the world they've been encouraged into.
The infuriating, charismatic and chaotic Mr Lavelle only deepens this fracture as one brother does everything expected of him whilst the other, with Lavelle at his side, is seduced into rejecting everything he has been taught to accept.
This is a vibrant romp through Europe of old, with a truly intoxicating guide - prepare to be entranced!
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At times a thrilling romp on the Tour through enlightenment era Europe, at times a devastating tale of family secrets and lies, undercut with a modern sensibility and  an (all too timely) undercurrent of homophobia. Anachronisms abound - some i was unaware of until after, others stood out more as being not of the time - but frankly what does it matter if it helps tell the tale?

It’s a moving, funny, heartbreaking story, probably not for all due to sexual content - justifiably explicit, giving a sense of the heightened emotions and desire. Well worth a read.
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I ewnjoyed the book for the most part, but was not expecting quite such graphic sexual scenes - the fact that they were homosexual wasn't really relevant, but I cvould see that it may be for others.
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I have to say that I have only read one book about the Great Tour and it was The Gentelman's Guide to Vice and Virtue and I really loved it, so I was really looking forward to read this one.

First things first. 
This book broke my heart. When I read about Benjamin's home life, when I could see things he couldn't - that hurt so much. That's why I was cheering for him. That's why I wanted him to rebel,  to reject, reject, reject!

And he did. He paid a great price, but he got a life that was his. 

Benjamin and Horace's relationship was very difficult. Because they were both broken, just in different ways. Because they wanted different things. Or maybe they wanted the same things but were too afraid to admit it.
They hurt each other deeply, and that started things that ended really badly.

I really liked how other characters were written. They were hard to like, but they were well written. I felt really sorry for Edgar.

There was one thing that really annoyed me, and it was the was the book was written and how the captial letters were used randomly.  It was slowing down my reading pace sometimes.
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Secrets, lies, half-truths, danger, love, lust…and a life of longing and regret. Does this epitomise the experiences of many gay men, not just in the eighteenth century in which this novel is rather lightly set? Every gay man has had, or should have had, a Mr Lavelle in his life. Preferably early on, and preferably, in my view, not for keeps:Benjamin, the hero of the tale, most emphatically, would not agree with the latter part of that statement. 

This interesting story will, at turns, infuriate and disgust or entrance and delight  the majority of readers. I found myself curiously uninvolved. There was no depth of historical feeling, no great empathy with the characters. Occasional spectator, occasionally a voyeur, I was largely unmoved. 

All ends predictably badly, and I do not think that is a “spoiler”.

Recommendable,  however, as there is a lot of good writing, and there is much to amuse, and to provoke thought and despair.

As for my own “Mr Lavelle”, therein is another plot, but with two happy endings!

Thank you to NetGalley and Hutchinson (Penguin Random House) for the digital review copy.
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This is a beautifully drawn picture of all the passion and disaster of first love and freedom. The story is set in the eighteenth century when two brothers set off on the Grand Tour to make connections and improve their social standing.

But one brother falls in love with a wonderfully 'unsuitable' suitor, while the other sticks to their parents' plan - and their trip unravels as they move through European cities in search of 'quality' connections. 

What follows in terms of family and relationships, love and despair is a moving story that has painful moments and sight of redemption at the end. The story could be set at any time, the relationships are the essential core of the book, and what happens between family, friends and acquaintances is a bittersweet examination of what society and family expects versus the desire for freedom.
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Edgar and Benjamin had their lives planned by their Mother. Sheltered from the world they were thought philosophy and the work of the great thinkers. Then going on a Grand Tour they would meet Quality people and be "known" amongst the gentry.
But then it came Mr Lavelle and everything was turned upside down. Mr Lavelle - sarcastic, subversive and carefree.
I like a lot of elements of this book and the plot, Mr Lavelle is a such character and without him the book would have been fairly boring.
I just didn't think they were a lot of research into the 1700s or any atmospheric descriptions as this novel could have been set in century or decade to be honest, I often had to reminder myself that it was supposed to be 1700s.
Also I thought the sex scenes were very vulgar, cheesy and cheap.
Thank you NetGaleey and Random House UK for the advanced copy.
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I really enjoyed this. It was quirky and interesting and I engaged with the characters whose journey I followed closely. A great holiday read. I'll certainly be buying it when it comes out, and that beautiful cover is a lovely bonus!
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NO SPOILERS

“Social conformity is a fever that men are only too eager to catch, no matter if it kills them.”

Blimey! Where do I begin? What a beautifully written book, Blackmore’s use of language is exquisite and very fitting for the era in which this novel is set. It is not florid (I dislike florid), but effortlessly crafted.

About a third of the way in, I had to put this book aside for a few weeks; not because I disliked it or struggled with it but life intervened. Yet I have to confess I thought of it frequently; like Benjamin, the intoxicating Mr Lavelle was ever on my mind.

I was drawn in instantly; within a few pages I knew all I needed to know about the brothers without a clunky, incongruous back story. All the characters are presented in only as much detail as is necessary, so some more than others; this keeps the pace moving and the interest piqued.

This is not historical fiction, this is social observation; it could be set in any time and still be relevant. Historic fact is included only when needed for enhancement or ridicule. Readers expecting a journal of a Grand Tour will be disappointed; readers hoping for a well crafted, wordy, at times poetic novel will not be.

Some readers will find this book offensive…and there’s the irony. It is prejudice, bigotry and intolerance which are the protagonists (antagonists, really) of this tale. That is where all fault lies; not with Lavelle, not Benjamin, not with his mother but with those who will not accept people as they are. Sadly, little changes in this world.

This is not a spoiler but if a little more was left to the imagination then this beautifully written book and its important message could reach a wider audience. That this may cause some to not read it is my only criticism.

“What possessed you?” I asked him eventually.
“I despise hypocrites more than any other…”
“I thought you despised everyone equally…”

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.
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Gorgeous cover but I found myself getting bogged down in this one. The writing flows on the sentence level but there's no real historical sense as everyone talks like a C21st person. It's quite an art to have characters debate intellectual points and make it feel natural, as if it's a genuine discussion - here it simply feels show offy as they talk about Voltaire, Descartes and so on - and did people at the time actually talk about their own age as the 'Enlightenment'? I don't know but I suspect not. 

I also felt that there's too much that's predictable: the skewering of the aristocracy, the anger at closeted relationships (in reality, gender and 'sexuality' were far more fluid in the eighteenth century than this book assumes). and places where the plot seems to get away from Blackmore. 

Lots of potential but this feels like an unfinished project: a firmer editorial line, a ruthless and critical re-reading and re-writing would have delivered something more polished and satisfying.
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This is a dark tale of two brothers who discover family secrets and forbidden love on a grand tour of Europe. Set in the past, the young men are trying to break into good society and make acquaintances to further themselves. However, Benjamin knows he has feelings for men and when he meets Lavelle he falls deeply in love. 
Beautifully written, this is a joy to read.
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I enjoyed ‘The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle’ by Neil Blackmore. Although it had a examined the life of a gay man in the 18th century and has a serious message it was also very entertaining and was quite funny in parts. The antics of Lavelle were in part hilarious but also showed how very deeply disturbed he was.
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Whilst I quite enjoyed this, it is one of those books that has several strong factors that are negatively impacted throughout by unavoidable irritations. When two brothers go on a Grand Tour across Europe in the 1700's, you would expect to be given a lot of historical detail about architecture and socialising, after all that is what they are supposedly travelling for. In reality you get very little of this and instead much of the waffle is dedicated to philosophy of one degree of another, some of it having a direct link to events at that moment in time, but much of it just serves to show off. Once Benjamin finds Horace Lavelle, all interest in the culture of the day is gone and instead it's all about them with Horace's sarcastic and wilfully subversive attitude to the world.

I found many of the characters and relationships to be lacking, as though the only two characters that matters are Benjamin and Horace. Even his brother Edgar seems to fade into the background. Part of this can be put down to the effect that this unpredictable man seems to have on Benjamin; he has eyes only for Mr Lavelle. But in that case, more could have been made of the characters before that chance encounter, to at least flesh out the important characters in the brothers backgrounds. The same can be said when it comes to some sensitive topics; they are touched on and then moved past without taking the time to really expand on them; Horace's background is a good example of this.

It is however an interesting premise and I followed the build up of the relationship between Benjamin and his new found love with interest, which is unusual for me as romance is not my cup of tea on a usual basis. I suspect my interest was piqued by the fact that the relationship was so one sided and Horace was such a fundamentally damaged yet entertaining character. So, enjoyable but could be improved with more historical references and more depth for characters that aren't our two central lovers. I did find the depiction of homosexuality in the 1700's interesting and felt that the author portrayed it starkly and realistically, with all the dangers associated with being a 'sodomite', but this was really the only social aspect that really link and tie you to the time period in question.

I would also point out that the inconsistent use of capital letters did my bloody nut in and very nearly caused me to remove an additional star just for the sheer annoyance of it. I assume it has to be a literary device... it didn't work. It looks messy and unprofessional and I can't see any reason for it; after all, both brothers are meant to be educated so why the hell are the capitalisations all over the place? And it's so inconsistent! Sometimes sentences start with a capital, sometimes they don't. Sometimes names have a capital letter, sometimes they don't. And on we go. It's a ridiculous device and the only reason I can think for it is to stand out from the crowd; I suppose it does, but not in a good way.

Many thanks to NetGalley for my free copy of this ARC.
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I was intrigued to read this book as it sounded very different from anything I had read previously.  I found it interesting and unusual, but not really compelling, and ultimately it wasn't really my thing.  I suspect that it will be popular because of its themes, but I wouldn't really recommend it.
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I enjoyed this book enormously. It was quirky and set in a less frequently explored historical time. I was engaged throughout and there were a couple of excellent twists that I didn’t see coming at all. I’ll definitely seek out more by this author.
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