Title: A Midwinter Prince
Author: Harper Fox
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, suspense
Length: 77K words – Novel Plus
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Summary Review: An emotional and moving story about two young lovers from different worlds who had to overcome tremendous obstacles in order to be together.
When Laurie, son of a wealthy London baronet, takes a homeless young man off the bitter winter streets, he only means to shelter him. But Sasha is beautiful and passionate, and he knows what he wants. Soon the two are entangled in a wild and illicit romance. Sasha, an illegal alien, has dangerous connections and a violent underworld past that won’t let him go. Privileged Laurie has problems of his own — a brutal father who holds the keys to Laurie’s golden cage and would rather kill him than accept his son and heir is gay, let alone in love with a street urchin. Laurie’s only hope is to run. In a Romani encampment with Sasha, he finds not only a safe haven but sexual fulfilment beyond his wildest dreams.
But their new happiness is fragile. Sasha’s secrets run too deep, and he vanishes, leaving Laurie desolate, as much an exile in his own city as Sasha has been. Now Laurie must grow up and find his own strength. Can he break free of his suffocating aristocratic world in time to save his lover and himself?
The first time 19 year old Laurie saw Sasha he was huddled in blankets in a doorway on a freezing cold night. He was so still Laurie thought he might be dead. When he touched him and he spoke, it was to quote poetry. Laurie was so taken with this homeless boy about his own age who was so far removed from his own privileged upbringing and circumstances that he felt compelled to try and help him by giving him some money to get off the streets that night.
Laurie was being groomed by his father for a life he did not want, a career in politics, and eventually when his father passed away he would inherit his title. He wanted to be a dramatic actor on stage but there was no way that his father would allow him to work in the theatre, therefore he devoted himself to his studies every day with a tutor that his father hired to bring his marks up so he could return to university. Sasha was one of the street people who had no home or money and did whatever he had to do in order to survive, as Laurie discovered when he eventually found him a few days later, giving oral sex to a businessman under a bridge to earn money for food. When Laurie realized what Sasha’s life was like on the streets he was determined to help him, even though Sasha didn’t want his help and told him not to contact him again. Several nights later he went looking for Sasha again because the temperature was frigid and he was afraid he would freeze to death. He found him almost frozen and hypothermia was a step away, so he took him home to care for him and prevent him from becoming another vagrant found dead on the streets of London.
Although Sasha refused to take any financial help Laurie fed him and gave him some clothes to wear since his rags had almost disintegrated, and as they got to know each other better Sasha told him a bit of his life story, although he was reticent about the details. He would only say that he was from Romania and had entered the country illegally in a frozen yogurt container on a ship, and several of the other men who had stowed away with him were found dead when the container was opened. He didn’t disclose much more about his background other than he was trying to find his mother who had left him as a baby to return to England. As they became closer they didn’t want to be apart and came up with a scheme where they saw each other openly by having Sasha come to Laurie’s home and pretend to be the son of someone important, joining him in his classes with his tutor. Obviously this deception could not last, and when Sir William found out he went berserk and beat Laurie almost to the point of death.
Sasha was on the run from family connections in his past and he couldn’t see how a relationship between a gypsy and a gajo, their word for someone who lived on the “topside,” could ever work. He called Laurie his visiting prince. To Laurie, Sasha’s world was totally foreign; it consisted of people who lived in caravans and scrounged for food and money. He tasted that lifestyle soon enough when his father beat and kicked him out after he discovered that Laurie was gay, and he became just another homeless person. He had no skills other than amateur acting, and no money, and his only hope to stay alive was to find Sasha before he froze to death. When Laurie reunited with the man he realized he loved with all his heart it was the beginning of his long journey to maturity and responsibility. Their relationship was not easy and danger lurked everywhere as Sasha could not live freely in England since he was not even a refugee, and he was on the run from the authorities as well as family members who wanted him dead.
This very complex story was engrossing and rife with double dealings by Sir William who was determined to “beat the gay out of Laurie.” He also had another agenda, more gross than being a drunk and a bully, and Laurie had to face his fears about what his father would do next to destroy the lives of those closest to him. Sasha had his own troubles when it seemed that the whole world was after him, including Interpol.
I liked this book a lot but there are so many secondary plots that I had to pay close attention. I can’t detail them obviously, because that would give away too much of the story, but at times I felt as if I were on a roller coaster and couldn’t get off. Harper Fox writes stories that are unusual and engrossing and each plot is so different I wonder how she dreams them up. In A Midwinter Prince our two heroes Laurie and Sasha are in constant danger and I could feel the adrenalin building as each peril they faced was greater than the previous one, and it was hard to tell if the danger was from Sasha’s drug connections or Laurie’s family.
And what of Laurie’s drug addicted mother? Lady Fitzroy lived through the entire book in a drug induced haze and she seemed as insubstantial as a ghost. She was terrified of her husband and avoided him whenever she could, as she hated confrontations, even to protect her children. Conversely, though she hardly seemed lucid, she was capable of cooking up a plot worthy of her husband, to save her daughter from what was a fate worse than death. Sir William was a brutal, bitter, duplicitous man who instilled fear in the hearts of members of his household, and would stop at nothing to achieve his own ends, even murder. Quite a family!
Harper Fox’s characterizations were, as always, three dimensional although I did feel that Sir William was over the top. I liked many of Sasha’s friends especially Mama Luna, the old gypsy healer and fortune teller. Clara, Laurie’s sister, was the typical privileged little girl of the British upper class although she was unspoiled and loved her brother. As for Sasha and Laurie, two more star-crossed lovers would be difficult to find.
A Midwinter Prince is definitely an adventure that you won’t easily forget and the characters will stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended.