Author: Anne Hawley
Publisher: Altar House Books
Release Date: November 21, 2017
Page Count: 462 pages
Reviewed by: LenaLena
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
An unacceptable love… Clergyman’s son John Waterfield is handsome, modest, and oblivious to the gossip swirling around him when he suddenly finds himself Regency London’s most celebrated new portrait artist. His success is assured so long as he can hide his forbidden desires from society–and from himself.
Tristan Hay, Viscount Penrith, is under no illusions. His privileged position depends upon his father’s tolerance, his brother’s legacy, and society’s willingness to forget his wild history. His predilection for the intimate companionship of other men is a closely-guarded secret, and he plans to keep it that way.
But when Tristan commissions a portrait from John, society notices the spark between them even before they do. Against John’s religious upbringing and Tristan’s deeply held belief in his own corrupt nature, their love grows, and they dare to imagine a life together…until rumour, jealousy, and blackmail force John and Tristan to face a painful choice.
Will society tear them apart, or will their deep bond defy a world where their very love is deemed a crime? Dramatic, heartbreaking, and rich in emotion, Restraint is the story of an impossible love that endures sacrifice and tragedy to change two lives forever.
This is the reworked, abridged and published version of one of my favorite fanfics. It was never very fandom specific, as even in the fanfic the names were changed, so there is really no trace of those beginnings in this book. The original fic was very Austen-esque in writing style and really, really long, which was off putting to most of the people I recommended it to at the time. I am certain it’s a good thing that the author made this version shorter and more modern in language, as it’s more accessible now and this really deserves to be read far and wide. Even though we’ve since welcomed some good new writers, like KJ Charles, to the historical m/m scene, this one is something special. It was easily the best historical m/m ever written in 2011, fanfic or published, and it is still up there in this reworked format.
John and Tristan’s story keeps going where most romance novels tie a big red bow around the happy ending and call it a day. There may be a moment where you wonder what the rest of the book is going to be about. But then you realize this book isn’t going to do the hand-wavey thing where society is going to turn a benevolent blind eye to this illicit love affair and allow the guys some kind of happily ever after that may or may not have been realistic. But more likely wasn’t. That doesn’t mean that this book isn’t happy. It is happy. And sad. And infuriating. And very, very romantic.
And the epilogue almost made me cry.
Not that the ending is unhappy or tragic, it is just sad in the way that all things that must end are sad.
So, 4.5 stars instead of 5, because the fanfic tore out my guts just that little bit more. Maybe because it had several hundred more pages to shred me with, maybe because I knew how it would end this time around. Still. This book is really, really good and if you like historicals, you need to read this!
P.S. In case you don’t think almost 500 pages are enough for you and you want the long, long, long version, you can find the fanfic here.