Barry Brennessel — Mystery, Romance, Suspense & Humo(u)r

The Celestial









Gold Medal, 2012 Foreword Book of the Year Awards

Finalist, 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

Finalist, 2013 Rainbow Awards

Finalist, Regional Fiction Category, 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Finalist, 2012 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest

Hardened beyond his nineteen years, Todd Webster Morgan is determined to find gold high in the Sierra Nevadas. But his dream is violently upended. Complicating matters even more, he meets a young Chinese immigrant named Lâo Jian, whose own dreams of finding gold have been quashed by violence.

But life back in Sacramento isn’t any easier. Todd’s mother struggles to make ends meet. His invalid uncle becomes increasingly angry. Todd seeks employment with little success. Meanwhile his friendship with Lâo Jian turns to love. But their relationship is strained as anti-Chinese sentiment grows.

Todd vows not to lose Lâo Jian. The couple must risk everything to make a life for themselves. A life that requires facing fear and prejudice head on. 


“Brennessel not only gives us a love story but also a look at this country during a trying period and the emergence of California. We also get a look at racism in the way the Chinese in this country are regarded. 

Brennessel has done his homework and research well. Without giving away any of the details of the plot, the ending of the story left me wiped out. The writer is not only a wonderful story teller but he has also provided us with two wonderfully drawn characters thus giving us a read that will not be soon forgotten.”

 –Reviews by Amos Lassen

“’The Celestial’” is a rather sweet story, with a very emphatically happily-ever-after ending. I’m giving it four stars.”

–Review by Michael Joseph for Speak Its Name

I loved reading this novel. It has a compelling story, believable characters, and artful writing. Todd, the narrator, says this about a young man he meets in the mountains (before he runs into Lao Jian): “It was like staring into a meadow in springtime, and your eyes just don’t want to work themselves free of the colors when the wildflowers dance in the breeze.”

Regarding both Chinese and Irish immigrants, Todd says, “The law sure took umbrage when the criminal was a foreigner, but looked the other way when the foreigner was a victim.”

The short last chapter is one of the finest epilogues I’ve read. The first line alone, a date, found me wiping my eyes so that I could read on.

— Review by Ron Fritsch for Rainbow Book Reviews

The Celestial is an impressive and remarkable story of a young man finding his way during life in California in the 1870s. Barry Brennessel skillfully brings to life an explosive period of time in American history through the characters of Todd Webster Morgan, his family, and his lover, Lao Jian. 

 Barry Brennessel packs a lot of life as well as history into this superlative story. Do not pass this book by. If you are not a fan of historical writing, this might make you one. If you are one already, this book will climb to the top of the pile. This book was a Finalist, 2012 Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Literary Contest. It deserves that recognition and so much more.”

–Melanie for Joyfully Jay Reviews

“This book is a serious, thought provoking historical romance which showcases the diversity of this author’s talents.

If you like historicals, especially those in an unusual setting such as this one, then I highly recommend The Celestial to you as a wonderful read. Grade: Excellent.”

–Jenre, Well Read Reviews

“A heart-warming story about love conquering prejudice, supported by a truly Dickensian cast.

The Celestial is a wonderful, heart-warming book told with considerable flair. There’s just enough historical detail to ground the reader in a time and place, and those details are woven through the story in a sparse yet evocative way, bringing the places to life yet never overshadowing the characters and the story.

…a very fine story with a lot of colour and interest, a strong and likeable voice and a host of memorable characters. Warmly recommended.

–Reviews by Jessewave

“Beautifully written with characters that live and breathe off of the written page, The Celestial is an epic adventure filled with romance, heartbreak, joy and of course hope. I loved every minute of this book and it’s earned a top spot on my keeper shelf where I know I’ll re-read it many times in the future. Highly Recommended!”

Top 2 Bottom Reviews

“It’s unanimous: Barry Brennessel’s novel The Celestial is a great story! Todd and Lâo Jian persevere primarily because of the strength and love they derive from one another, and this is the inspirational theme that underlies the whole story. Highly recommended.”

Gerry Burnie, Gerry B.’s Book Reviews

“Barry Brennessel’s The Celestial isn’t just a good read, it’s a wonderful experience. I felt as though I had traveled in time to the period of the gold rush and the westward movement across the North American continent.

This book is gently told and made me feel good just from reading it. This was my first book by Barry Brennessel but he immediately became a must read for me.”

Mrs. Condit & Friends Read Books

“The rich historical detail of early California life and the tender love story of our two gay pioneers in The Celestial make it an easy choice as a Lambda finalist for Gay Romance.”

Book Lovers, Lambda Literary Review

“Beautifully named, The Celestial is a wonderful read from start to finish. Todd Webster Morgan’s voice makes for an authentic, earthy, and realistic narrative throughout. I loved how interested he was in other cultures at a time when foreigners were more than frowned upon. Lao Jian is never short-changed by not having a POV. He is lovely, has such humour, dignity, and I thought he was written with much respect. Overall, the writing is empathetic, with an elegant ease, and economical use of words, yet so layered and full of meaning. The epilogue is something special. It is also an historical story that captures the essence of 1870′s California without a heavy hand. There’s a message about the harsh realities of the world, prejudices, and ignorance. But mostly, there are messages about acceptance, tolerance and seeing people for who they are; people – no matter where they come from, the colour of their skin, or who they love. Ever-timely messages. Highly recommended reading for anyone aged  fourteen to…one hundred and fourteen!”

Kazza K. for On Top Down Under Book Reviews

Hooray for Todd Webster Morgan and all his stubborn, adorable, loving ways! We see how he follows his heart in all he does.  We see the sweet interest between two young men gently sway to fondness, then attraction and then love.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Celestial and will happily read more of Brennessel’s work.

Xing, for Boys in Our Books

A Best of 2012 Pick in the Historical Category at Joyfully Jay

A Best of Month Pick at Joyfully Jay (October 2012)

A Top Pick for 2012, Guest Reviewers’ List at Jessewave

Favorite M/M Historical of 2012 at Well Read

3 responses

  1. Congratulations on winning Gold at the ForeWord Reviews Book-of-the-Year Awards! I am ordering your book this morning. The description sounds fascinating. Enjoy this well-earned success 😉

    June 30, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    • Thank you John! And congrats to you as well. Your book is beautiful.

      June 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm

  2. Pingback: A Pride of Poppies interview series – Barry Brennessel | Elin Gregory

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