What gay boy could resist buying Peter Dickinson's The Blue Hawk (1976): the cover displayed a gorgeous young man with olive skin and black curly hair, his muscles visible beneath his a blue robe.
He is Tron, a teenager of humble parentage in a nameless Egypt-like kingdom, who has been raised to become a priest. In the midst of a turgid plot involving palace intrigues and invasions from without, Tron meets the young King, who is quite obviously taken with him, inviting him to dinner and to go hawking, and asking “where will you sleep tonight?”
Neither the King nor Tron has ever been in a non-coercive relationship, so they grope their way toward love with many hesitations and missteps. Tron vows to “serve” the King, who obligingly sends him off on a secret mission. He gets lost, and everyone thinks that he is dead.
When he returns, the King comes “striding forth with outstretched arms, his whole being seeming to pulse with pleasure in the living instant,” but instead of telling Tron how much he loves him, he hides (barely) behind metaphor: he whispers that losing Tron was like “the emptiness when you lose a favorite hawk, but worse, far worse.” His master’s pet: close, but not close enough.
When they are back in the palace, the King insists that Tron not leave his side; their arms are linked or his hand is on Tron’s shoulder or he is stroking Tron’s hair even at the most important of council meetings. But if Tron is merely a favored pet, why does the King constantly seek his advice on complex matters of state? On a second secret assignment, Tron is wounded, and the King rushes to his side. But again, neither overtly declares his love:
The King came in. He looked very tired. . .but the air around around him seemed to tingle with excitement and happiness. He stretched his arm down in a gesture that would have become a hug of joy in their meeting if Tron had not been wounded; life and warmth seemed to flow from his fingertips.
One can admire and respect a subordinate, but one can only love an equal. At the end of the novel, he is on his way to ask the King if they can become – not master and servant or king and faithful subject, but something else that Dickinsen does not and perhaps cannot describe, not in 1976, a same-sex love that is exclusive and permanent.