I have to say, I loved this richly written and immaculately detailed historical enemies-to-lovers romance. It was an absolute pleasure to review it for Friends & Enemies to Lovers Week, and I’d highly recommend it to any reader who loves a good slow burn and lush historical romance.
When Jonah Woolner arrives at the Grandborough Bank—soon to be Grandborough National Bank—on the first day after New Years, he does not find that he’s been promoted to Head Cashier, as he had envisioned. No, after twelve years of exemplary service, serving as Assistant Cashier for the past five years, Jonah is introduced to Reid Hylliard, the suave and infuriating man who has been hired—from the outside!—to fill the position. Now Jonah must swallow his pride and assist the very man who took his job—all the while objecting to the many ways Reid “improves” processes at the bank.
The year is 1888 and the U.S. is still recovering from the War Between the States. Jonah is a pariah of his family, cut off from them since his affection for men became known thirteen years ago. He rooms in a boarding house and has cultured a cadre of acquaintances there. They are just as dismayed as Jonah when he isn’t promoted. Meanwhile, working at the bank has become a game of cat-and-mouse. Jonah is certain all the changes Reid is making will destabilize the bank, which is already a bit strained in preparation for it’s “National” status upgrade, and the half-million dollar treasury deposit that is en route.
Jonah’s entire adult life has centered around serving the bank. He comes in early, he stays late, he works on Sundays when the bank isn’t even open. Was this why he wasn’t promoted? Too narrow-minded of focus? As he ponders his misfortune, he also ponders his replacement: Reid. Reid, who is flashy and cordial. Reid, who is presumptuous and solicitous. Reid, who is invading Jonah’s dark and lusty dreams.
Reid is determined to win Jonah’s favor, and not only regarding the bank. No, Reid knows what lies in Jonah’s heart: his unnatural attractions. Instead of being repulsed, Reid acknowledges and treasures them. Reid’s constant attention to detail, to charming the staff—including Jonah—becomes more than Jonah can bear. Unwilling though his heart may be, Jonah’s body wants Reid, and the feeling is very much mutual.
This slow burn is great, until I recognized that they got together and there were a whole lotta pages left.
What was going to happen to the conflict? Oh, the delicious breadcrumbs pointed at a double-cross that was sure to break Jonah’s heart. And wow. How the ending came about, with all the twists and turns, and danger and harrowing bits? My goodness! Could not turn the pages fast enough. Truly.
This book had me holding my breath, praying that Jonah was not a pawn in a giant con game. He’s wonderful, really. So dedicated and guileless. His heart breaks a lot in this book, but not conveniently, and not frivolously. He’s a true hero, and his dreams are fully realized by the end, which is a spectacular HEA. The enemies-to-lovers trope had sufficient room to breathe and grow, and build into an epic love for both Jonah and Reid, despite the incredible odds.
All the historical detail was fantastic. In a world where electronic commerce is the rule, seeing the old-fashioned way of tedious note-taking and constant balance checking by hand was charming in it’s own right. Getting a street level view of nineteenth century New York was also engaging. All the little social niceties and customs were well-drawn and made for three dimensional characters who felt more like close acquaintances as the book wound on. I was engaged throughout, and constantly hopeful for Jonah and Reid. And I was well-rewarded in the end.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.