Unnatural by Joanna Chambers #Review

Unnatural by Joanna Chambers #ReviewUnnatural by Joanna Chambers

Series: #4 Enlightenment
Genres: Historical Romance, M/M Romance
Published by Samhain Publishing on November 24, 2015
Pages: 230
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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four-stars      four-flames

Hadn’t tried the author before and was curious after reading the story line.  This was an emotional best friends to lovers historical romance that was overall enjoyable.

It was the latest installment in a series, but I had no trouble since it’s more of a separate story of a minor character from the earlier three stories that are all needed to be read in order.

The story is a ‘now’ and ‘then’ that flips between present and past and both heroes so the reader has to pay attention and keep up.  I do wish the ending hadn’t been somewhat framed by the beginning because it left me with knowing exactly where things are headed.  However, on the flip side, I can see that going linearly would have left a series of past scenes with gaps and then the present.

The story in the present is of Ian Sinclair who has left the army and now plans to take up espionage work for the Crown in India.  He will be gone for years and maybe never return.  The decision has left him unsettled and he knows why.  He has unfinished business.  His best friend from when they were young boys and on through into manhood, James Hart.  Ian needs James’ forgiveness for the way his actions and words severed their deep friendship two years before.  He hurt James deeply and he can’t have that on his conscience.  He wants their friendship restored so he is going to James’ sister’s houseparty to make the effort before he leaves.

James Hurt, a serious naturalist and gentle soul, has loved Ian Sinclair his whole life, but too many times Ian accepted and then quickly rejected what James gave honestly and freely.  Now, he is done.  Ian wants his forgiveness; he can have it.  His friendship?  No; he can’t simply be friends like Ian wants.  James is done letting Ian crush his heart.  But to go all the way to India…James feels his last hopes are over.

The story is very emotional because, after the first meet up, these young men go through several bouts of acceptance and rejection as the history of their relationship is told between present day scenes.  It never actually feels angsty to me because of the way it was broken up present to past and alternates.  It was also not a hot passionate piece, but more a slow burner.  It wasn’t a long story so I never felt that it stalled out, but it was steady without any huge amounts of excitement.  There are a few blips when it seems that others will figure out the truth about these guys, but for the most part, it was James and Ian.  Okay and an important cameo-type scene with Ian and the two characters who were the protagonists for the three previous books.

They are an interesting pair with James a naturalist and Ian a soldier.  They always saw each other’s strengths and the real person behind the polite society mask which was why this friends to lovers plot had me liking the story and the characters.

James is younger and is innocently open.  He knows the dangers of being with Ian during that era, but he is just so eager for Ian to accept him and his love.  James is more interested in nature, specifically his butterflies, than people so he can be oblivious to subtle and less than subtle things going on around him.

Ian is always that little bit ahead of James in experience and feels protective of him, but never quite gets what is happening under his nose until suddenly the attraction is obvious and mutual.  Blinders are off and he realizes James is a man grown and wanting to share something with him that terrifies Ian on both their parts.

Ian is more complex of the two though the hints at what makes him tick are not stated obviously until late in the story.  Most readers will see that Ian’s hot and cold and issues are not because he is a self-absorbed jerk.  This is where James’ innocence and youth don’t help because he can’t see that Ian is messed up after growing up with an abusive alcoholic father who was already disappointed that Ian survived and the favored son died and pokes at him because he knows Ian’s secret.  And Ian was like many abused children in that he still craved his parent’s respect and tried to please him never realizing that it was impossible.

All in all, I was pleased with the story and am interested to go back for the earlier books about the other pair.  The history backdrop was treated well and I liked the way the author built her characters and their story.  Those who enjoy slightly spicy m/m Historical Romance should take a closer look at the series.

I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #189 LGBT
Literary Pickers #98 ‘India’
Blogger Shame #22
Mt. TBR #80
New to Me #77 author/series

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Very challenging to write a story of this genre during that era. I’m glad the author did an impressive job at making the story enjoyable and believable.

    • Yes, I think so, too, Lekeisha. You have to get the period stuff right and make the romance feel romantic even though the cultural norms were different back them.

  • I like reading a story that makes you pay attention and flips back and forth between now and then in times. Sounds like an interesting read.

    • Yes, it was fun to see the guys as young boys and then teens and then adults. They sure made it hard on themselves, but then that’s romance. 😉

  • You got the best of two worlds with this it seems. And there’s a lot of substance to the story too

    • Yes, indeed! I loved that they were boyish best friends and then fell in love, but the historical aspects and their careers were great elements, too.

  • This sounds really interesting. I love the time period and the time jumping would keep things interesting. I am glad that you enjoyed this one, Sophia! Great review!

    • Yes, the time jumping kept me on my toes, but the time period was described so well. I loved that one was a naturalist and the other was a soldier and that there were multiple settings to immerse myself in.

  • Oh the whole knowing the ending at the start can be so tricky. I read one like that last year that didn’t quite pull it off. I so would have liked seeing it play out in time but gah yeah the time flip. I get the need too.

    • Some stories, like a WWII Concentration Camp story I read earlier this year, are good to have the end so I know there is a silver lining. This one jumps in at an ominous heartwrenching point and then goes back into the past to show how it got there between segments that advance from that first starting point. I understand why she did it this way, but in this one, I wish it would have just gone along from beginning to end so I wasn’t distracted by the flipping back and forth. Oh well, it was still good. 🙂