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