Book Reviews

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog by Jess Faraday at Bold Strokes Books

Genre Gay / Historical / 19th Century / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by Ron Fritsch on 19-September-2012

Book Blurb

London 1889.

For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard's blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone's after it, including Ira's bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.

As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard's present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.

In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.

Book Review

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, Jess Faraday’s auspicious debut novel, is set in London in 1889—Oscar Wilde’s world.


Dr. Cain Goddard is a night lecturer at King’s College, hoping to become a professor. He sponsors and takes part in an athletic group known as the “Fighting Arts Society.” He’s also, secretly, a powerful crime lord known as the Duke of Dorset Street who owns brothels, gambling houses, and opium dens. A blackmailer who suddenly surfaces has evidence hidden in a porcelain dog that could send Goddard, despite his connections to the police and courts, to prison for sodomy.


Ira Adler is the twenty-five-year-old former rent boy Goddard rescued from the streets and took into his magnificent house as his kept boy two years previously.This is the way Goddard explains the situation: “It may be easier to love a poor man than a rich one, but life is much more comfortable with a rich one.” In his former existence as a petty thief as well as a rent boy, Adler became an expert at picking locks. Goddard, having discovered the location of the porcelain dog, sends Adler to steal it. Goddard’s enemy, Andrew St. Andrews, a detective, also wants the dog. A scandal some years ago got both Goddard and St. Andrews expelled from Cambridge.

A reader might expect Goddard and Adler to be entirely cold and calculating. Theirs is a world where ill-gotten money pays for sex. I discovered, to my delight, that they, as well as the other major characters in the novel, are many-layered, complicated human beings. Goddard is obviously in love with Adler. He educates him in order to pass him off as his personal secretary, but he also does it as an act of kindness. Adler isn’t certain that what he feels for Goddard is love, but he genuinely admires the intellectual and physically fit crime lord and returns his affection.


The main conflict arises when Adler, in his frantic attempt to thwart the blackmailer, discovers Goddard’s connection to a criminal activity far darker than prostitution, gambling, and selling opium. Adler questions whether he can remain the lavishly kept boy of the Duke of Dorset Street even if he does love him. But what kind of a life can Adler have if he leaves Goddard?


I greatly enjoyed reading The Affair of the Porcelain Dog. Every sentence made me believe I was in late Victorian London. The writing often took my breath away: “Truth be told, I [Adler] should rather have liked for someone to take a peek at the rash on my bollocks. An itch might have only been an itch in Goddard’s world, but where I came from it was often a harbinger of something worse. I’d not strayed from Goddard’s bed since he took me in. Of course, many a pestilence could sleep for years before thrusting its head through the floor of a perfectly serviceable domestic arrangement.” (It turns out there’s a reason other than a sexually transmitted disease for Adler’s itchy “bollocks.”)


Again: “Nurse Brand didn’t take kindly to interlopers upsetting the apple cart. When Goddard had upset mine, Lazarus’s had tipped clean over, in turn causing the nurse’s own steady cart to throw a wheel.” And again: “But I was not in any shape to ask questions, or even to listen to that quiet voice of better judgment reminding me the worst things happen to whores foolish enough to accompany gentlemen home.”


A most pleasing surprise in Faraday’s epilogue was the icing on the cake for me. The novel is a mystery, LGBTQ fiction, historical fiction—and a great deal more.




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 288 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 14-June-2011
Price $4.99 ebook, $16.95 paperback
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