Growing up as the youngest of seven boys, Sir Christian Brandon has long ago learned how to take care of himself. His brothers treated him roughly and quite violently, and so despite his soft and beautiful appearance, Christian is strong, clever, and able to look out for himself. His intelligence, wit, and agility earned him the nickname the Crow.
Sir William Corbett has come to the Brandon keep, hoping Christian’s father will help him rescue his sister who is stuck in an abusive relationship. Although his father refuses, Christian offers to accompany William instead. He is thrilled to have any opportunity to get away from his awful brothers. The fact that William is a handsome and well respected knight (the Lion) doesn’t hurt things either. For his part, William isn’t so thrilled to have Christian along. He assumes that his beauty is what Christian uses to get by and doesn’t believe Christian will be able to handle the journey or responsibility.
As the two men travel to rescue Elaine, William soon realizes that there is far more to Christian than meets the eye, and he can certainly hold his own. Traveling with Christian also tests William’s resolve, as he finds himself attracted to the young man. These feelings are not new, but William has never allowed himself to act on them. Homosexuality is a sin and, as a knight, upholding his honor is very important to him. But Christian has no use for allegiance to a god he believes has abandoned him, and is clear how much he wants William in return.
When the men finally act on their feelings, they experience joy and pleasure neither has ever known. But they know this relationship is likely fleeting. William faces a nearly impossible task in rescuing his sister. Even if they survive, there is no way the men can ever be together, especially as Christian is required to marry when they return home. William also finds himself frustrated with the risks Christian takes to help him in his quest, and fears for the man’s safety. And to top it off, it appears that someone has figured out their secret. Even with all of those obstacles, Christian is still determined to be with William, but William must reconcile his feelings of honor and duty with the love that has grown between him and Christian.
This is such a great time period for historicals, and one we don’t see very often. Easton does a fabulous job here in intertwining this story in the time period and showing how it really affects both of these men. To start with, homosexuality is not tolerated and both these men have spent years hiding. It is not just disapproval they face, but their very lives if they are found out. Easton also does such a great job showing the role of the knights, their code of honor, the oaths they swear, and the way this impacts both men as they struggle with their feelings for each other. From the details about the keeps, to the way women are treated as property, to what traveling across the county is like, there are so many great details and I felt totally immersed in this world.
Even with all this wonderful detail, what ties this story all together is William and Christian. I just loved these guys together. Easton does a great job letting the sexual tension build, and once they finally get together they are so sexy and romantic. You can feel the love they have for one another and they are so sweetly doting. At the same time, these men are such incredibly fascinating individuals. Christian’s back story in particular is so engrossing. As the son of a wealthy lord, his life should be so secure. But instead he has had to work and scrap for his very life, forced to deal with the harsh treatment by his brothers and the apathetic feelings of his father. He is so clever and always thinking steps ahead of everyone else. Not to mention agile and brave and so much more than meets the eye. William is a little more old school, a well respected warrior who struggles more with his honor and duty. It plays out in some interesting ways. Not just in the his reservations about his relationship with Christian, but also in his need for vengeance for his sister and the resulting conflicts with Christian. Easton does a wonderful job with both these men, and they are such well developed and fascinating characters.
I will admit that the story ended on a bit of a bittersweet note for me, although many readers will probably find it perfectly romantic. There is one epilogue with a series of installments covering a wide ranging time period. I think personally it would have worked better for me to see all these events from one point in the future rather than jumping in and out of the time periods, mostly because I kept having to reorient myself (how old are they now? etc). But this is a small thing and I still feel like overall the ending works well and gives us a romantic resolution to their very loving relationship.
So yes, I really liked this one. I am a fan of this time period and am so pleased at how wonderfully this book comes together. It has a bit of a road trip feel, combined with a really romantic story and some nice elements of excitement as these guys battle to save Elaine. So a great story and definitely recommended.
P.S. I kind of love this cover. I am not sure exactly who it is supposed to be, as it doesn’t really look like either man (maybe Christian but he is described as almost femininely beautiful), but I still think it is gorgeous.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.