Title: Brook Street: Fortune Hunter #2
Author: Ava March
Cover Artist: N/A
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: M/M historical
Length: Novella (44k words)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie S
Review summary: A smooth and accomplished addition to the Brook Street trilogy with likeable characters and a good dose of tension.
Impoverished Julian Parker returns to London with one goal: marry an heiress. He’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means denying his desire for men. After all, with a fortune comes happiness and social acceptance—which have eluded Julian his entire life.
The only things a vast fortune has brought Oscar Woodhaven are greedy relatives and loneliness. At twenty-one years of age, he has everything a man could possibly want—except someone to love him. When he meets devastatingly handsome Julian Parker, he believes his luck has turned.
Between Oscar’s lavish gifts and their searing-hot nights, Julian is caught between what he thinks he needs and what his heart truly desires. But when a betrayal threatens to tear them apart, Julian discovers he’ll do whatever it takes to convince Oscar the greatest fortune of all is love.
Fortune Hunter is the second book in the Brook Street trilogy. The stories are interlinked in setting and contain some overlapping characters, but essentially each book is a standalone.
Julian is cousin to Lord Benjamin (hero of the first book, Thief, reviewed here by Sirius) and has recently returned to England after several years living in America. His side of the family is the one with the shameful past and no money, and so Julian has decided to see if he can put his handsome looks to good use and land himself a rich wife. Shunned by Society in the past and forced to reinvent himself, Julian is prepared to go to almost any lengths to secure an heiress. Since marriage is rarely a matter of love, he’s willing to sacrifice his desire for men in pursuit of wealth.
He thinks Benjamin disapproves—certainly Benjamin doesn’t invite him to stay at his house, but he does introduce Julian to some of his friends, one of whom is Oscar, who is absolutely dazzled by Julian’s tall good looks and charming ways. Oscar is sweet and enthusiastic and seems almost naive. By the end of their first meeting, he invites Julian to stay with him in his huge mansion on Brook Street, and Julian realises that Oscar isn’t just rich—he’s insanely, massively wealthy.
Oscar isn’t just looking for a short-term lover, he wants a friend. Though he’s a sociable man and has lots of acquaintances, he longs for a real, close friend. He always seems to be the third wheel, or just as he begins to get close to someone, they leave him for a better offer. Oscar’s parents died when he was young and he was raised by his aunt and uncle, who were emotionally cold towards him and only interested in how much money they could get out of their young ward. Instead of becoming wary and mistrustful as an adult, Oscar goes out of his way to be friendly and nice to everyone—and he’s so attracted to Julian, so desperate to be liked, that as soon as it becomes clear that Julian is poor, Oscar starts buying him things.
But for all that Julian needs money, he doesn’t want to be a leech, and Oscar’s generosity is making him uncomfortable—especially when they become lovers. A few tokens of affection are fine, but Oscar is ready to shower expensive things on Julian. And Julian feels more and more guilty as he pursues heiresses through the balls and routs of the London Season. Soon enough he’ll have to tell Oscar the truth, even if his decision could break both of their hearts…
I don’t think Ava March can write a bad book. There’s an art to writing a novella and she always manages to nail it—there’s enough historical detail to please the discerning Regency fan; there’s enough background setting for the reader to visualise where the characters are and what they’re doing; the pacing moves along nicely; the plot is absorbing, and the love scenes are always smoking hot. With all of this being at such a high standard, each book’s appeal then rests on the likeability of the characters, and while I honestly liked both Julian and Oscar, I didn’t entirely *love* them as much as I wanted to… but to be fair this may have been because I really fell for Benjamin and Cavin in Thief, as I read the two books back to back!
Oscar is my favourite of the two heroes in Fortune Hunter. I liked that he was short—that was a nice change after reading about so many 6ft+ heroes! He’s not so much a beta male as an omega male, despite his great wealth. Oscar learned at a young age that money can’t buy happiness, though this doesn’t stop him from trying to do just that. He’s overly generous, confusing money with affection—and he’s aware of this fault, which makes him even more sympathetic as a character. His horrible relatives make an appearance in the first part of the story and we can really see how their attitude has shaped Oscar as a young man. Usually I’m a bit put off by what I consider ‘needy’ characters, but Oscar is actually quite strong-willed. He knows what he wants but he’s not entirely sure how he’s going to get it, and basically he needs to go through the pain of being hurt before he can take charge of his future.
Julian spends a lot of time in denial, which made me dislike him occasionally because he could really be a selfish pig! Sometimes I wanted to shake sense into him, especially when he was getting closer to his goal of attracting an heiress while at the same time he was trying to push aside his feelings for Oscar and thinking that no one would get hurt. It’s one of those books where you can see the Black Moment coming from miles away, and because I was anticipating it and wondering when disaster would strike, I got really tense when I was reading and it made me quite cross 😆 The power of authorial manipulation!
It’s a book about emotional growth and character development, so it’s a ‘quiet’ story in plot terms. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the ending, which may just be because I’m a horrible cynic. Now I’ve thought about the story some more, I can see how, historically, the situation would be completely believable. I’m still not fond of it though—perhaps it would’ve worked more for me if the story had been novel-length and things could have been explored in greater detail, but this is my only complaint, and it’s a minor one at that.
Overall this is another strong, absorbing read from Ava March, and I’m looking forwards to the final book in the series. Recommended.