Lord James Warren, Viscount Sudbury, lives a quiet, safe, and predictable life alone on his estate in Suffolk, only traveling to London once a year to visit family and satisfy his more forbidden needs. But this year, his routine is shattered when his niece and nephew ask him to help a beautiful young man they’ve only just met.
Kyle Allen, alone and running from his abusive lover, stirs feelings in James he has long denied for fear of tarnishing his reputation and losing his family’s love. Though undeniably drawn to Kyle, James’s honor demands he keep that part of himself completely secret, even if Kyle is feeling the attraction as well, despite the pain and betrayal he’s recently suffered.
Assistance and a future for Kyle might be secured, but then they would face a choice: stay apart and continue leading half-lives… or risk everything for love.
I really like this cover–it’s not a fabulous piece of art, but it really gives a flavour of what gay historical fiction is all about. You really get a sense that these men have taken pains to hide what’s going on between them, and that’s pretty rare on gay historical covers.
The book itself was a pleasant surprise; it’s a “proper” Regency in many ways–enobled head of the family doesn’t want to do what his family expect of him. For family, read “his sister”, who threatens that if he doesn’t come to London at least once a year and gets his head out of the country, she will invade his estate with a house party. So he bows to the inevitable, dances and puts up with the danger of marriagable women trying to snag him for a month just to keep the peace. It also means that he can visit the ubiquitous male brothel while he’s there, so he at least gets one shag a year–and it’s a way of life he’s learned to live with, and thinks that it’s the way he can manage to do. This–to the reader–is obviously wrong as the poor man is beset by male figures on the street as soon as he gets out of the carriage, so you know he’s very deeply in denial.
The interplay between the main character James and the rather sensitive Kyle is nicely done, James fancies Kyle, Kyle fancies James but neither wants to act on it. James because he knows Kyle has had a bad experience and it would look as if he was taking advantage, and Kyle because James is a Viscount, and Kyle is a lowly disowned son of a curate, and he doesn’t know if the man shares his proclivities–and so they dance around each other in a rather pretty way.
Kyle is a bit wet. Yes–I have a cheek to say that, having written a weepy hero myself. But Kyle is not the worst I’ve seen, he’s not a total chick with a dick, and he’s not a real whiner like some other characters in other books I could mention. I didn’t mind the hugging impulses and tears springing to eyes at regular intervals, but I need to point this out in case that’s not your bag. I wouldn’t call Kyle girly, but he’s not really in control of his emotions, so let’s leave it at that. Sadly, it’s at these wet moments that the prose slips into cringeworthy purplish such as:
Kyle‟s tear-filled eyes met his, and for an eternity, he got lost in liquid emerald and gold.
But these aren’t terribly frequent, thank goodness.
The characters were all a bit black or white – the baddies terribly dastardly, the goodies were all a bit too goody goody for my personal taste; the niece sweet, the nephew loyal and open-minded, and James is dependable and reliable; a good dutiful head of the family, the uncle to whom the twins can turn to–no matter how scandalous the subject–the man who will never let you down in a crisis. Other than his worry about his sexual preferences, I would have liked to have seen a little more three dimensionalism in the man. Perhaps a crack or two in his NICENESS. I’m not saying I wanted a rake, there are enough of them to go around and to spare, but no-one’s that nice. Even the prostitute that James frequents is a tart with a heart.
Some of the nomenclature of the nobility was a little off but that only niggles other writers, probably!
The main sex scene between the protagonists has a section which made my eyebrows raise, and caught me entirely off-guard. After all the sweetness and light, I wasn’t expecting the BDSM element, and wonder if it had been pasted on because of all the other BDSM Regencies. I found it mildly eye-rolling that James kept a vial of oil in his cabinet, when it had been explicity explained that he only had sex once a year, when he went to London. Perhaps he was a boy scout as a child.
But despite my niggles, I’m sure that if you liked authors such as Ava March, you’ll love this story. It didn’t set my world on fire, but it was a very enjoyable, decently written read. I know nothing about the author, but if she’s not English, then my hat is off to her, because it’s solidly researched and has a good English feel to it. If it is not amazingly inventive, then there’s nothing at all wrong with that–The Regency is a well worn path in romance fiction and it’s about time that gay Regencies started making a few traditions and tropes of their very own. Recommended.