Review: Blue Billy's Rogue Lexicon by David Lawrence

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome historical fiction author David Lawrence to Ruins & Reading, as I'm sharing my thoughts about his brilliant new novel, Blue Billy's Rogue Lexicon

It's currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club, so make sure to check out the other fabulous stops on the tour here!

Blue Billy’s Rogue Lexicon

David Lawrence

Ever since I signed up for this blog tour, I've been curious about this novel. The theme, the setting, the characters and language. And I was not to be disappointed.

Blue Billy's Rogue Lexicon takes you into early 18th-century London. Not the flashy side where the ton rules the days, but the seedier side of town, where men venture after dark in search of fulfilment of their wildest dreams.

In this dark setting we meet William Dempsey – Blue Billy amongst those ’in the know’. Fallen from grace, dumped by his benefactor, the Marquess of Argyll, Billy seeks shelter at Marathon Moll's, a bawdyhouse where his illustrious career began. Only Moll doesn't want to know. He's still smarting from Billy's departure, which coincided with Moll and Billy's client being robbed. 

Eventually, Moll allows Billy to stay briefly, to recover from a beating after an attempted theft had gone wrong. With the help of Chandler, the young men who has taken Billy's place as the star boy in Moll's establishment, he recovers. But he is now a young man without prospects. Unwilling to accept his fate, Billy tries to find a way out of his predicament. But his path is strewn with many obstacles, most of which he is responsible for himself.

His adventure takes him from Moll's to a brutal client to an unexpected revelation. Could he finally have fallen for someone? But refusing to acknowledge his feelings, and resigned to his fate, Billy tries to avoid the inevitable – until a plot that may have seen him hang if discovered eventually makes him see sense. But is it too late?

Blue Billy's Rogue Lexicon is one of those rare novels that keep you thinking about it, even after you finish reading. Billy's adventures are rough. This is no ’pretty life in the ton’ type novel. It's gritty, written in an omniscient narrative that beautifully fits the time. The language is coarse at times, where it fits into the narrative, so this novel will not be for those who don't like swearing. 

The subject matter – Billy's life as a petty thief and then a male prostitute in early 18th century London – is rough, but extremely well researched. The setting is detailed, and the racy plot draws you into Billy's rather dangerous life. 

In Blue Billy's Rogue Lexicon, we learn the lingo of the street. Of the boys, cast out like Billy was, who fought merely to survive. He was open to attack due to the very nature of his ’job’.

The novel portrays the dark side of life beautifully. It's a riveting adventure that makes you turn the pages. I was keen to know what happens next to Billy. 

The lad himself is not the most likeable character – he lies, cheats and steals when it suits him (even from his friends) – but he is endearing at the same time. I could vividly imagine him, with his pretty (pre-beating) features, luring others into a false sense of security. Billy is a survivor. He learnt the hard way, and he makes the most of his skills.

The language used is rough, yet never gratuitous. It's the language of street urchins and bawdyhouses. Events are realistic, tough, and at times harsh. But the novel also shows a caring side, as seen in some of the characters who are not as cynical as Billy is. There are those who want to help, and those who fall in love. 

Blue Billy's Rogue Lexicon is that rare type of novel that pulls you into its web until the very end. I thought it was exquisitely researched and cleverly narrated. The author has clearly delved deep into the archives that exist about that era, and uncovered some rare gems. This shines through in the intriguing plot, the colourful language, and the realistic setting. 

A highly recommended, utterly gripping read! 


“Uproarious… racy humor, rich atmosphere, and vivid characterization.”
– BookLife Reviews

“A gritty and emotional tale of a complex young protagonist… a satisfying and moving novel.”
– Kirkus Reviews

William Dempsey was a wonder among wonders.

By 18, he had risen from a gang of London street rogues to be the personal plaything of the Marquess of Argyll. Maintained in splendour, celebrated at masquerades – with everything he could wish for.

Now all has come crashing down. He is put out in the rain without patronage, his West End apartment, or a place among the ton.

So on a stormy night, he arrives at a house in Southwark. Marathon Moll’s in the Mint – the bawdyhouse he worked in during his ascent and where he earned the name Blue Billy.

But is Marathon Moll’s a place from which to rise again? For there is one in the crowd, who catches his eye. Who takes his hand and promises something better.

Or does Moll’s signify a return to his roots? For one day, a second and very different young man raps on the door. Takes his hand and asks him to return to his past.

To the cat language of vagabonds. The canting dialect of thieves.

To the schemes, and the dreams, of his youth.

People are loving Blue Billy:

“a beautifully written novel… a deep, poignant book with a moving storyline and complex characters. It was a wonderful read!”
– The Historical Fiction Company

Buy Links:

Universal Buy Link
Amazon US
Amazon AU

About the Author:

David Lawrence

David Lawrence is the author of two queer historical novels – ‘Hugh: A Hero without a Novel’ and ‘Blue Billy’s Rogue Lexicon’. As a writer, he loves taking a deep dive into the politics, social norms, and events of 18th century England while presenting humorous and unique coming-of-age tales.

A native of the American Southwest, David has spent much of his life in Great Britain, France, and Finland. He now lives in the American Northwest – Helena, Montana – with his Finnish partner.

By day he loves hiking under the Big Sky of his beautiful adopted state.

By night, however, he prefers wandering the byways of 18th century London…

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