Rating: 5 stars
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“On the fateful night he set foot on the road to destiny, the notes formed on the strings fluently spoke the language of heartbreak.”
So begins the lovely saga called Duet by Eden Winters. A stunning love story that spans not just decades but centuries as true love, a selfless and sacrificial love cannot be denied or buried but, instead, left waiting for its moment of rebirth. Duet is a lyrical love story that sings to the reader, calling into play the mysteries of highland magic along with an against all odds coupling of two men born before their time and a love that carried with it a death sentence for each if caught and found. Step back in time with me to the beginning of this beautifully lush and smartly written love story.
Malcolm Byerly knows two things well, one is how to play—no make love to—the violin and produce music that flows with passion and is thrilling to the soul. And the other? He is also a lover of men and must hide it from everyone or bring shame to himself and his wealthy family, as well as lose his job as music teacher in a private school. So he hides his passion well, until Thomas Kinnerly comes on staff. Thomas is also a lover of men but much bolder, more obvious, more dangerous in his openness. And Thomas likes Malcolm—way too much and way too publicly.
Before long, Thomas is dismissed after a sound thrashing (read gay bashing in modern language) by his fellow teachers and Thomas heads off to the coast of Scotland to take a private tutoring job. Little did he know that the heir and oldest son of the Laird was also a lover of men and a harbored a fierce hatred of the plundering Sassenach (English). The two men meet, passion flairs and, over time, they fall deeply in love. But the story takes a decided twist when the plague strikes the coast of Scotland and takes with it scores of villagers and spares none in its path…be they English or Scottish they fall and death carries the day.
I am going to stop there—but know this, that the story has actually just begun. How the plague impacts Malcolm, Aillil, and his family is devastating but all is not lost and hope prevails. Now time must work its magic and bring together two lovers who vow to be together despite the passing of the years and distance.
The sweep of this novel was absolutely breathtaking. How Eden Winters managed to pull us across centuries and weave into this tale a happy ever after when no such result was even within sight was stunning. She is a master storyteller, her imaginative storylines interwoven to create characters that are both compelling and fully integrated into the novel. Each one binds itself to the other until even the most minor of players has some impact on the eventual happiness of Malcolm and Aillil.
Her historical references were true and she maintained them consistently throughout the novel, making them not the focal point but almost a secondary character from the language, to the costuming, to the larger than life historical figures. Never once was I pulled from this story because of a glaring misstep or historical faux pas. It was seamless—lovely, just lovely.
I highly recommend Duet by Eden Winter to you dear reader. This is a story unlike any I have read in m/m historical fiction. The tenderness of the love that grows between these men like the haunting melodies that are produced by their hands upon the violin will resonate well after the final notes are played—the final words are read. Duet by Eden Winter deserves every one of its five stars and more!