Rating: 4.5 stars
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David Lauriston is a legal advocate who recently defended two young men found guilty of protesting against the government. He now finds himself in Stirling, there to pay last respects as he witnesses their public hanging. Later that night, David has a chance meeting at his inn with a handsome fellow traveler, Murdo Balfour, who captures his attention. Though he is usually more circumspect, David finds himself unable to resist an encounter with the attractive man, giving in to what he sees as his own unnatural urges for other men. But David will likely never see Balfour again, and although brief, David finds himself stirred by their encounter.
Upon returning to Edinburgh, David tries to put the case behind him and focus on his other work. David is still just at the start of his legal career, and as the son of a tenant farmer, he must work hard to establish himself. But the old case is not so easily put aside as Euan MacLellan, brother of one of the other arrested men, comes to David for help. It seems that the protestors had a double agent in their midst, sent to stir up trouble and incite the men into action and expose them to authorities. Euan wants David’s help tracking this man down and believes he has some connection to David’s legal circles.
David agrees to get involved against his better judgment and help Euan. And when he does, he is surprised to once again encounter Balfour who is in town and knows the advocate for whom David is working. Balfour is clearly interested in being with David again, and David finds he can not resist the man, despite his own shame about his needs. Balfour manages to bring out feelings of passion in David he never expected and challenges many of the views David has about himself. But it looks like Balfour may be more tied up in the investigation into the double agent than David expected. And with the men having two such different lives and different outlooks, it may be impossible for anything more to happen between them.
Provoked is a really well written and interesting historical, full of wonderful details about life in Edinburgh and of a young advocate trying to make his way. Having been to the city last year, I can say Chambers really captures the feel of Edinburgh, the geography, and the architecture. It is clear she is very knowledgable about the city and the time period and I could feel myself transported as I read.
Chambers also created a really fascinating character in David. He is dedicated and hard working, idealistic and a bit naive. He values being true to himself above all else, and at the same time he can’t accept his feelings for men without shame. I enjoyed seeing how Balfour challenges David, forces him to think about things in a different light. But at the same time David remains true to his beliefs and his own integrity.
The pacing is fairly slow here, though not boring. I was totally engrossed in the story and, in fact, read it in one sitting. There is a bit of a suspense element as David and Euan track down the double agent, but mostly it is a quiet story focused on David and his developing career and his feelings about Balfour and his own homosexuality. The book is the first in the trilogy and ends without a romantic resolution for David and Balfour at this point (no HEA nor even a HFN really). However, the story did feel nicely ended to me despite that and I am really looking forward to continuing the trilogy and seeing where things go for these men.
So overall a really enjoyable story and one that I would definitely recommend.