Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Eight years after completing their service in the French Foreign Legion, Jonathan Wolfe and Dr. Henry Young now live in England at Hawthorne Manor. The family home of their former commanding officer Jackie Valentine, Hawthorne Manor has now been turned into a refuge for boys kicked out of their homes for being gay. Along with Jackie and his partner Chance, and fellow squad mates Bobby and Alexander, Henry and Johnnie help care for and educate these broken and fragile young men. They have all become a family, and the men care for and protect one another along with the kids.
But there is definitely something more between Johnnie and Henry. Johnnie has been in love with the handsome, sweet doctor for years. But Johnnie knows he is too emotionally damaged for such a wonderful man as Henry. And even though Henry is in love with Johnnie as well, Johnnie keeps him at a distance, worried his emotional baggage from his own history of abuse means he will only end up hurting Henry. They dance around one another, and Johnnie even takes tentative steps toward a relationship with Henry. But he just can’t bring himself to fully commit, his love for Henry leading him to want to protect the man, even from Johnnie himself. But when past trauma comes back to haunt Johnnie, it may be that Henry is just the person who can help him through it.
This story follows the fabulous The Auspicious Troubles of Chance, a book that introduces us to Jackie and Chance, as well as the other men. That story takes place during the war and as it ends, they are all leaving their service and headed to Hawthorne Manor to start the home for boys. Here we see them eight years later, settled into their new life and the wonderful family they have all become. The six men are incredibly close and love each other dearly. Jackie and Chance are like the mother and father of the group, keeping everyone in line, but also nurturing and loving. Added to this they have brought seven kids and teens, all rescued from life on the streets after their families kicked them out or they were abandoned. They have created a safe haven for these boys, a place where they can be comfortable in their sexuality and recover from their horrific pasts.
I loved the scenes in the Manor and watching daily life for these guys. There is bickering and teasing and even some fighting, but underneath there is so much love between them. Most of these boys (and even some of the men) have major emotional damage. And it was wonderful to see how they care for one another and are there for each other all the time. My favorite scenes were those between Chance and Johnnie. The two had a rocky start in the first book and continue to love to tease and poke at one another. Their similar pasts mean that they really understand one another and the deep bond of love and friendship is clear. So Cochet has created just a fabulous world here in this series. I feel like there is so much potential here for future stories, both for Bobby and Alexander’s stories and eventually the “brats” as well.
Cochet also gives us great characters in Johnnie and Henry. Johnnie is our POV character and it is clear he has a lot of baggage in his past. He is prickly and often speaks before he thinks and is haunted by demons from his youth. He fled to the Legion to escape his life and was lucky enough to be taken under Jackie’s wing. Now he is the one who helps these boys when they first come to the Manor. By sharing his painful past, he helps them see that there is hope for them as well. If he can overcome the horrors he experienced, they just may find healing as well. Despite his often difficult demeanor, it is clear that Johnnie is a loving and caring man. And he loves nothing more than Henry.
Henry is just a total sweetheart. He is the official house doctor and takes care of all the boys, as well as many of those in the surrounding village. He often gives his services for free, taking care of those without resources. He offers counseling and support to the men and boys of the house. He is caring and sweet and just a lovely man. And he loves Johnnie so much, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t get the man to let go and give them a chance. But no matter what happens, Henry is patient and understanding, his psychology background helping him to understand Johnnie and the walls he puts up.
My only real negative here is that this is probably my least favorite romance novel conflict. I go a little crazy at the “I’m no good for you” thing. Johnnie loves Henry, and he knows Henry loves him. But he is so sure that he is bad for Henry that he decides for him that they can’t be together. It doesn’t matter what Henry wants, or that he is a grown man who can make decisions for himself. Johnnie is sure he is bad news and for Henry’s own good decides he must stay away. Again, this just makes me crazy, not just in this book, but every time it is used. I think part of the problem in this case is that for the most part, Johnnie doesn’t come across as that much of a mess. He is clearly a huge part of their little family. Everyone tells him how much he means to them, how much he helps and inspires him. We learn how all the boys love him, how much he helps them in their transition to their new life. And although he can get grouchy at times and may speak too rashly, he never really comes across as a bad guy. We also don’t learn his back story until well into the book. So for much of the story it is hard to understand just WHY he is so bad for Henry. Fortunately, the story pulls together really well, and it never really goes too far off the rails with this aspect of the plot. So while I was frustrated at times, it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story too much.
I really am just enthralled with this series. Cochet really is the master of historicals in this time period and she captures the details and setting just so well and so naturally. I love the way Cochet has transitioned us from wartime to this new family and life at Hawthorne Manor. The characters are all so fascinating, and the dynamic she has created between them is wonderful. I feel like there is so much potential here and I can’t wait for more in the series. Really great and definitely recommended.
P.S. I think you can read this one as a standalone, although you would miss some of the backstory about how the men all met. And I loved The Auspicious Troubles of Chance so I would definitely recommend starting with that one and then moving on to The Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe. It is a great story and really rewarding.
Cover Review: I really like this cover. I know it is nothing out of the ordinary, but the colors are lovely and I find it striking. It just fits the book so nicely.