Rating: 4.5 stars
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It has been two years since David Lauriston last saw Lord Murdo Balfour. Moving emotionally past his experiences with Murdo was difficult, but since then David’s legal practice has grown and he is busier than ever. But when King George IV makes his historic visit to Scotland, David’s job requires him to attend some of the events. And when visiting his tailor to get proper attire, David is shocked to run into Murdo again. It turns out Murdo is representing his family for the official visit and is in Edinburgh for the festivities.
Since the men have been apart, David’s feelings have changed somewhat. He doesn’t have quite the same sense of self doubt about his interest in men. And his attraction to Murdo is still strong. Not to mention that Murdo clearly wants David just as badly as ever. But giving the man up wasn’t easy the first time, and David knows that separating from Murdo again will be even harder the more emotionally involved they get. But staying away from the man is impossible, and David and Murdo continue their passionate encounters and developing relationship.
Also during the King’s visit, David reconnects with Elizabeth Chalmers, the daughter of his professional mentor. Elizabeth has married, and it is clear right away that her husband is a terrible, abusive man. Her father is very ill and asks David to look out for her. But getting involved puts David at great danger, risking his safety just as he is accepting the importance of Murdo in his life.
I am really enjoying this Enlightenment trilogy by Joanna Chambers. The first book, Provoked, introduces us to Murdo and David, two men from different stations who meet by chance and are quickly drawn to one another. Murdo is a lord who is used to doing what he wants and is determined to live life with no regrets. He is comfortable with himself and his interest in men, and works to convince David to be equally accepting. But David has far more doubts and is plagued by his guilt and fears over his sexual interests, despite his passion for Murdo. Here we see that David has come far over the past two years. He is more accepting of himself, and gives in to his passion much more readily. He is still a man ruled by his principles, but he has also come to accept that maybe his desires aren’t quite as sinful, or at least worth indulging nonetheless.
Where David struggles most here in this story is with the emotional end. It took him a long time to get over Murdo the first time around, and he knows the more he opens his heart the harder it will be now. But there can be no real hope for a future for these men. Although it is not discussed in depth in this story, we know from the first book that Murdo plans to marry at some point and continue dalliances with men on the side. And this is something David refuses to do, determined to be a bachelor rather than break his marriage vows. So David knows his affair with Murdo can be only temporary. He struggles with keeping his distance while at the same time wanting to indulge in the passion he and Murdo share.
I really enjoy these guys together. They are such an interesting mix of two very different personalities and outlooks on life. But there is a connection between them, an emotional bond as well as an incredibly strong attraction that just brings them together. Murdo wants to embrace it, and David is wary of it. But neither man can give it up. They are super hot together, but also really warm and caring as well.
One of the best parts about this series, and this book in particular, is the wonderful way Chambers immerses us in the setting and the events of the time. The story takes place in Edinburgh during a critical period in Scottish history. The King’s visit led to significant changes in the relationship between Scotland and England. It also had a huge impact on the Scottish culture and identity and the adopting of the Highland “traditions” (as most were at least in part fabricated for this event). Chambers really immerses us in the history of the time and the events without ever bogging the story down in too much information overload. The details she provides about the visit and the city make it all come alive. I have been to Edinburg and I could picture the places throughout the city so clearly. It is wonderfully done and really takes this book out of the everyday historical and makes it shine.
There is a bit of a suspense element to this story as David works to help Elizabeth deal with her terrible husband. It adds some conflict and builds the story to a climax, though it is not a particularly intense thriller. I think in addition to adding some excitement to the end, this subplot illustrates just what kind of person David is, caring and responsible with a strong sense of duty. It also again highlights the historical side of things and the role of women during this time period. Elizabeth is technically her husband’s property, so even though he is abusing her, he owns her and she has no right to leave. The idea of women’s rights and the changing political views are woven in to the story, with Elizabeth’s ordeal, a case David works on, and his encounters with an old friend who is now a political journalist. So again, Chambers gives is a great sense of the time and the issues of the day.
I am really enjoying the progression of this trilogy. In the first book (Provoked), we see how his relationship with Murdo is challenging David to reconsider his long held views on his own sexuality and his determination to uphold some predetermined ideals he has set up for himself. That is the first step in him opening his mind up, and it is clear that over the past two years he has changed. In Beguiled he becomes more tempted, more open to a relationship, taking those next steps to self acceptance. And finally the last book in the trilogy will be Enlightened, and I assume there we will see the completion of David’s journey. This story doesn’t give us a HEA or even really an HFN, but it seems clear that things are moving that direction.
So another fabulous installment here in what is turning out to be a wonderful trilogy. You really need to read these in order as the first book sets up plot elements and characters that continue here. Beguiled has great characters, a fabulous sense of time and place, and a really wonderful story. Definitely recommended.
P.S. Because I couldn’t resist, below are some pictures we took in Edinburgh. They are of places that are featured in the story. So I thought some of you might get a kick out of seeing what they look like in real life.