I really enjoyed the first book in this series so I was eager to pick up the sequel. I got a little surprise when it took place chronologically at the same time as the other story, but with different main characters. It was refreshing to have the heroes being from the working class poor and the story set in the poorer east end of London. The plot was slow to develop, but it was engaging as this ‘friends to lovers’ romance grew slowly with a few bumps along the way. Both characters seemed to be going two different directions in life so that acted as the main barrier with a few misunderstandings and a bit of danger from the criminal element to make it interesting.
The story opens when Jack Morgan, a duke’s coachman, arrives in London on an errand for his employer so he seeks out his best friend, Will Drake, to help him. Jack and Will grew up as orphans together in a workhouse and then escaped the certain hard life with an early death in the coal mines to live on the streets of London to make a better life. Jack was the brawn that kept them both safe while Will was the brains that kept them fed and sheltered. Will had to do things for them to survive that worried Jack and pricked at his conscience. He ended up leaving Will behind when he found honest employment with a coaching inn stable and then with the duke. He saw him infrequently over the years when he needed to come to him for help. Time with Will was precious, but it was hard to see that Will was still making his way by less than honest or honorable means.
Will is glad to see Jack the night his high win at the gaming table nearly earned him a knife in the side and he is happier that Jack has an assignment from his precious duke that sends him into Will’s world. It hurts that Jack only comes when he needs something and that Jack looks down on him for the way he earns his living, but Will has dreams and this existence isn’t forever. He almost has the money he needs to move into the country and buy his farm. A few more good nights at the tables should do it, but he’s willing to postpone it to have time with Jack even if it’s just accompanying him on the job.
Both men want something more, but don’t want to ruin a friendship that is closer than brotherhood to have it. But slowly resistance wears thin and with a few stops and starts they give into their attraction. There is still the fact that it can only be temporary because Jack will leave for Hampshire when his task for the duke is complete and Will will be left behind.
The story was a good one though its pacing was slow and dragged a little at times. I think part of it was that it had to match up with the parallel story of the duke and his lover going on in the background. I almost wish that Jack and Will’s story could have had its own fluid time frame so that it wasn’t at the mercy of the other. There’s a bit of a hurry up and wait quality to it and yet, with this particular set of friends who want more, it had to take its time to really work so I can’t get too disappointed about pacing.
They take turns telling the story so it really helps when getting to know them better. Will is the sharper, quick thinking and experienced of the two. He gets impatient and spouts off stuff to keep Jack at arms length and Jack is sometimes confused, hurt or oblivious and needs things explained. Jack is a gentle giant and a plodder. He doesn’t process things quickly or get nuances, but he is good and loyal. He works out that Will is angry and frustrated with him, but it takes him a while before he gets where his friend is coming from. Their past of being rejected or neglected by the adults in their lives with just the two of them as all they had in the cold, harsh world makes them doubly vulnerable when its time to take the next step or back away for good. As they feel their way, they start really seeing each other and how their lives and personalities have matured them into men. Will is the leader both in the bedroom and out and he has to relearn how to be with a guy like Jack romantically because Jack has little experience and what he had was all bad. They do end up there, but it takes time.
I liked where the story left things with this couple. It’s always one of the best parts of this author’s work that she makes a strong effort to be true to the historical setting even while telling a romance story.
All in all, it was another fantastic read from this author and I can recommend it to those that enjoy m/m historical romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.