Title: The Lion of Kent
Author: Aleksandr Voinov & Kate Cotoner
Publisher: Carina Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M historical romance
Length: 115 pdf pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
An evocative historical romance with an engaging hero which excels in the historical detail.
Squire William Raven has only one goal—to finally receive his spurs and become a knight. When his lord, Sir Robert de Cantilou, returns from a five-year crusade in the Holy Land, William wants nothing more than to impress him.
After Sir Robert’s return, noble guests arrive from France, bringing intrigue to the castle. William is oblivious to the politics, as he’s distracted by nightly visits from a faceless lover—a man who pleasures him in the dark and then leaves—a man he soon discovers is none other than his master, Sir Robert.
But William can’t ignore the scheming around him when he overhears a plot to murder Robert. He becomes intent on saving his lord and lover from those who would see him killed…
Back in the days when I read m/f historical romance I was never really that keen on the Medieval romances. They always seemed to gloss over all the really interesting stuff, like day to day living, the feudal system and the social and political machinations of the day, focusing instead on dresses, running wild on the hills and improbably feisty heroines who would probably have been tied up in a chastity belt and locked in the cellar for the sort of behaviour they displayed in these books. So you can imagine that I felt a certain amount of trepidation at reading an m/m book set in Medieval England. Thankfully, The Lion of Kent was a real treat: A historical romance with the best bits of history left in, and also room for a gruff, but tender, romance.
The story is set in 1176, during the first crusade to the Holy Land. As the story starts, Sir Robert de Cantilou returns to his manor from the Holy Lands, after an absence of 5 years. William, our third person narrator, is a squire in his early twenties who has been waiting for his lord’s return so that he may prove himself and earn his spurs as a knight. William is hot-headed, impetuous and generally quite outspoken. It takes a lesson in patience, and the attention of Sir Robert, for William to learn to control himself.
There was much to recommend about this book, mostly in the evocative setting of the manor, and the people who lived under the protection of Sir Robert. There was enough detail in terms of the lives of people living in Medieval times, the way they ate, slept, worked and lived to satisfy my curiosity about the time period as well as make the setting solid and real in my imagination. I loved many of the incidental details, such as the food, or how the manor was set out, as well as many of the larger issues, such as the impact of Christianity on their lives, the formal way the lives of the knights and squires were arranged, and the underhand politics which affect the life of Sir Robert, no matter how much he wishes to avoid it. Coupled with this were two large ‘set pieces’ involving a boar hunt and a ceremony later in the book, both bursting with detail in different ways. The boar hunt was thrilling, chock full of adrenaline and danger as the riders chase down the dangerous animal. In contrast the ceremony was full of formal pageantry, fealty and tradition – and I’d love to know whether the words used during the ceremony were historically accurate or not, they certainly seemed so! All these details, both big and small, immersed me in the time period, and meant that I learned new things as a read – something which always pleases me about historical fiction.
As William is our narrator, we learn most about his character. He’s an engaging character, full of fire and frustration at being denied his opportunity to become a knight for so long, and determined to prove himself. He’s a great mix of intelligence tempered by an impetuous nature and if I have any complaints it’s that he seemed much younger than a man in his twenties in the way he behaved at times. The relationship between William and Robert was understated and yet also romantic. I liked the way that the relationship shifted as the book progressed and also that the age difference between them was never an issue. I did wonder about how they would be able to continue their relationship in the long term, especially as manor life has little privacy for anyone, but that was just a minor niggle in what was an engaging romance.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this historical romance. There was a good balance in the historical detail – enough the set the scene and add authenticity without having a history lesson; the relationship was realistic and intense with lots of longing admiring looks across the banqueting hall as well as a satisfying conclusion to the sexual tension; and there was a nice contrast with the romance in the political suspense sub-plot where William attempts to discover the identity of a would-be murderer. If you like historical romances then The Lion of Kent should be a definite must. I liked it a great deal and hope to see more from this writing duo.