Title: The First Act
Author: Vanessa Mulberry
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 17th oct, 2016
Genre(s): Historical, espionage, Romance
Page Count: 215
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
April 1594. William Moodie thinks he’s in love with celebrated actor, Richard Brasyer. When Brasyer’s playing company, Goldfox’s Men, comes to town, William is only too willing to leave his country life for the opportunities of the theater and a life in London. Determined to become Richard’s apprentice, William seeks to impress his mentor with his acting—and please him in bed.
Meanwhile, Richard struggles to escape his past as a spy and disentangle himself from the manipulations of his former master and ex-lover, Bennett Goldfox. Swearing off a relationship with his new apprentice proves difficult for Richard, as William uses all his youthful charms to seduce him. When Bennett’s life is threatened, Richard is lured back into the game for one final mission, and he and William travel to Cambridge to hunt down a list of traitors to the Crown.
In the midst of danger and deception, Richard and William come to truly see each other, faults and all, and realize their feelings run deeper than either expected.
“The First Act” is a historical m/m romance with a little bit of action and danger thrown in. I loved the writing and the depiction of the Shakespearean time but the romance lacked the passion or focus which I was kind of looking forward to. The MCs kind of get an HEA at the end but it happens quite late without any actual development of feelings. I found the romance as too immature without any solid/profound feelings to base on.
William Moodie is besotted with Richard Brayser, a handsome and charming actor in the playing company, Goldfox’s men. William persuades his cousin, a co-share holder of the company to hire him as Richard’s apprentice. Richard has a reputation of corrupting his apprentices and William is all in to getting himself thoroughly debauched. But Richard is not the man William has thought him to be. Richard has secrets, which can get William killed. Also Richard is not free to give off his heart to his naïve apprentice when his old lover is still tormenting him by taking advantage of his feelings. William gets entangled into Richard’s one last mission and he has to do his absolute best to keep his man/master alive at all costs.
The romance between Richard and William is a lot stunted as Richard is shown hung up on his previous lover, Bennett Goldfox. That man has always used Richard and even after he knows it, Richard can’t help but go back to him again and again. William’s feelings for Richard at the start is mostly lust which he thinks as love and the conversion from lust to love takes place within a matter of two day and I was not convinced at all.
The plot of the story is nice and intriguing. It features sixteenth century espionage and the entire espionage part was very interesting and fast paced. Bennett Goldfox was at the center of it all. He is a very complicated character shrouded in mystery and deceit. Even at the end I could not determine if he had any real feelings for Richard at all. He manipulates Richard to carry out a task for him one last time. The mission was well detailed and nicely executed and was exciting to read.
The romance is not developed enough in this story with the espionage taking up the entire focus. A more detailed relationship development for William and Richard would have been great. The conclusion/HEA felt rushed. I would not have minded if there were a few extra chapters to conclude the romance more smoothly. I felt that the dynamics of Richard and Bennett’s relationship was given more priority than the relationship between the actual MCs.
The romance part is not that satisfying but I liked the sixteenth century setting and the detailed depiction of espionage at those times. I am not a very satisfied reader but I would look forward to this author’s future works.