A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Having two appealing main characters, wonderful female characters, and great research, this Napoleonic era historical romance has it all and satisfied me on so many levels.
Charming rascal Tristan Northwood seems to have it all: an ancient name, a noble inheritance, a lovely wife, and a son he adores. Women love him, men admire him, and it seems there is nothing he can’t do, whether it’s seducing a society wife or winning a carriage race. Little does Society suspect that the name means nothing to him, the fortune is in his father’s controlling hands, and he has no interest in his wife except a very distant friendship. Society bores him, and he takes dares because he only feels alive when he’s dancing on the edge… until his wife’s brother comes home from the wars.
Decorated war hero Major Charles Mountjoy jerks Tris out of his despair by inspiring feelings of passion Tris had never suspected himself capable of. Almost as terrifying as those feelings for Charles are the signs Charles might return his affection—or, even worse, that Charles sees the man Tristan has been trying so valiantly to hide from the world.
I liked Finding Zach by this author, but I loved this book and enjoyed every word of it. It is a very well-researched historical as far as I can tell, and has two heroes who are likeable and wonderfully flawed. Moreover both Charles and Tristan — especially Tristan — have real character arcs; they grow and change for the better over the course of the story. (I know it should be a given, but I do not see it in this genre often enough for my taste, so when I do see it I always praise it.)
I also liked that the author made sure that Tristan and Charles found a real passion, something wonderful to do with their time besides being with each other. I do not see that too often in historicals, either, if the protags are representatives of upper classes. We often find gentlemen spending time on their properties, and if they figure out how to take better care of people who serve them, then that is a bonus. Although this may be understandable and historically true, I absolutely loved how the author found something here for them to do, which allowed for them to engage in and be passionate about it as well as bringing them even closer.
Tristan’s wife, Lottie, is the most delightful character. I have seen authors go the marriage of convenience route to make sure that a man looks good in the eyes of society, but this author gave this trope a fresh twist and Lottie truly shines in my opinion. I cannot talk a lot about her character without rather significant spoilers, but I want to quote a paragraph from the only quarrel she and Tristan have on pages of the book, one which I thought was quite amusing:
“You began it,” she said dryly. “Now it’s your turn to say, ‘No, you started it.’ That’s how quarrels go, you know. They quickly devolve into meaningless posturing.”
“Listening to you speak one might think you were educated,” Tristan said.
“Too bad spelling wasn’t part of your education.”
“Oh very good,” she said approvingly. “We’re exchanging personal insults. One would think you had done this before.”
Despite his anger, this struck him as immensely funny, and he broke into unwilling laughter.
There were aspects of our heroes and their emotions that I really liked as well as how they helped each other, such as when Tristan was struggling with his outlook on life and Charles helped him to stand on both feet and realize what he wanted from his own life, and then when Charles needed assistance toward the end, Tristan was there for him. I also liked how whatever Tristan was feeling before Charles came along was not described in modern medical terms.
I also loved how the book successfully avoided what I call the break up for the sake of creating a conflict out of nowhere. I prefer when the characters spend time apart because what is happening around them truly demands it, and here Charles would not have been Charles if he refused to do his duty no matter how much he is tired and dislikes it. And the protags actually did not engage in idiotic quarrel before they needed to spend time apart — oh, this was such a refreshingly delightful story on so many levels!
Additionally, I enjoyed how while Tristan and Charles constantly are aware that discovery of their relationship could endanger their lives, they found a couple of people close to them who accept them and willing to help them. It does make sense to and heartens me that no matter how homophobic the majority of the population would have been in a past era in one country or another, sometimes close family members or very close friends managed to still accept them.
I should note that there is one tiny sex scene between Tristan and Lottie on their wedding night, but that is it, and by the time Tristan and Charles are together, Tristan is no longer sleeping with Lottie. Their marriage to me was both a usual and an unusual arrangement; unusual because of what Lottie wanted out of it, something I have not seen that often. Also note that while there is some sex in the story between Charlie and Tristan, in comparison to the length of the book, it is not much (three? four scenes? not even sure) and it definitely does not overwhelm the story, which worked for me.
The only little niggle I had with the story was Tristan’s father. I had no problem with him being clueless about how to raise his son and how he finally owned up to it, but I absolutely had a problem with him not realizing how his cruel words affected Tristan. I could not understand how he could not figure out that kindness could have been helpful in raising a child. But this is a small complaint of an otherwise wonderful novel.