Buy Link: Kindred Hearts
Author: Rowan Speedwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 5 out of 5
I originally bought Kindred Hearts b/c I loved Speedwell’s Finding Zach so much, even though I don’t read a lot of m/m historicals. But I am happy to say I loved Kindred Hearts and would highly recommend it.
As much as this is a love story, the book is also really a story of Tristan and his personal growth towards happiness. When we first meet Tristan, he is deeply unhappy, acting out and misbehaving but feeling miserable about himself all the while. Tristan lost his mother as a child and he and his father have struggled in their relationship. His father doesn’t know how to relate to Tristan and show his love, and Tristan acts out to anger his father because he feels like he is always a disappointment to his dad. Finally, fed up with Tristan’s drinking, affairs, and wild antics, his father forces Tristan to marry or lose his allowance.
Tristan’s wife Charlotte (Lottie) views her marriage with the same sense of practicality as she does everything else. She has no interest in a romantic relationship with Tristan, nor a physical one. They become very fond of one another and quite close, but it is friendship and not love. Lottie is quite content with this, but Tristan longs for love and begins to fall deeper and deeper into despair as his life continues to spiral downward.
Tristan and Charles don’t meet until about 1/4 of the way through the book when Charles returns from his military duties to stay with the couple (he is Lottie’s brother). He is attracted to Tristan but has no idea if Tristan shares his interest in men. Lottie knows Charles is gay and encourages his affections toward Tristan, even as Tristan spirals more out of control. It is only when the two finally get together that Tristan is able to turn himself around and begin to grow into a better person (I skipped a lot there about how they get together to avoid the spoilers).
I really liked how finally finding love really changes Tristan. He still struggles with confidence and feelings of low self-worth, but Charles really helps him find himself and figure out what kind of person he wants to be. The two men are very committed to one another and both help the other find happiness.
The one niggle I had with the story is the adultery. Charlotte is very supportive of the relationship and is very accepting of the men. She feels no jealousy and doesn’t want Tristan for herself. However, I wish her explicit approval/acceptance of them had come before their first sexual encounter rather then after. I mean Charles is lusting after his twin sister’s husband and never seems to even think about it as wrong. Again, Lottie is an interesting character and really is so completely content with the situation it is hard to feel wrong about it, but it still bugged me a bit.
In the end however, I thought this was a wonderful story that has really stayed with me. I loved Tristan and Charles and was so happy to see how their relationship helped Tristan to really find himself. Lottie was a riot and a very unusual character and the glimpses into the war and battle of Waterloo were really interesting. Overall I would definitely recommend.