Lord Avery Wickersham wakes from a night’s debauchery at a Madame Renault’s club with two naked men lying in the bed with him and police officers pounding on the bedroom door. As everyone in the building is rounded up and arrested, Avery attempts to bribe the constable into letting his companions go for fear that their lack of funds would surely land them in prison for a lengthy time.
Connor Tate sympathizes with those being arrested in the vice raid. As a gay man, Connor has denied himself any opportunity to act on his desires as it would force him to break the vow he took when he became a police officer to uphold the law – including the law prohibiting homosexuality. Known as a by-the-book police officer, he’s as straight laced as they come and has called other officers out for their shady dealings – yet, he finds himself letting one of the men go.
When Avery is released from jail, he pays a call to Connor in order to compensate him for his troubles, except Connor will not take the bribe. Instead, Avery finds himself seeking out a charity – which happens to be in the part of town Connor patrols – to give the money to. What he wasn’t expecting was the woman who runs the charity to offer him a position where he can make a difference in the lives of those who use the mission. Thinking it would impress Connor, Avery finds himself volunteering.
Connor tries to rebuff Avery’s attempts to insinuate himself into Connor’s life, despite his attraction to the man. Yet, when Avery’s former lover is found in an alleyway left for dead and Avery insists on caring for him, Connor can no longer stay away, especially when he learns that there is someone who is torturing and killing young men in the city and that this man may be politically connected. The two decide to join forces to try and stop a killer. With Avery using his connections and Connor using his detective skills, they seek to hunt down the persons responsible, except that one of them gets a lot closer to the killer than they expected and the other must find them before time runs out.
I am going to start out this review by warning readers that this story features a lot of violence, including torture scenes, that may not be suitable for all readers. I, personally, don’t mind a bit of violence in a storyline, but I found myself thinking “wow,” it is pretty graphic. Think of it as being a gay version of Jack the Ripper.
This story is set in England in 1898. Homosexuality is against the law and could result in serious consequences, including being whipped, thrown in jail, or even put aboard a ship headed for Australia. For those in the aristocracy, one indiscretion could easily lead to one/one’s family being ruined – especially if the family was incapable of paying the high fees associated with keeping it under the rug. In this story, Avery has the means in which to keep his arrest secret, or as secret as things are within the aristocracy, except it means that he has to learn to live on a reduced allowance…meaning no more gambling or nights of debauchery.
Connor grew up poor, but with a strong sense of right and wrong. He believes that as a police officer he can make a difference and vows to uphold the laws, even if it means denying his own sexuality….which wasn’t a problem until he met Lord Avery.
Avery is used to getting what he wants, typically through purchasing it, until he meets Connor, who isn’t impressed with Avery’s lifestyle or social status. So Avery has to work to get Connor’s attention…literally. Personally, I loved this dichotomy between these two men and how as they spent more time together they helped each other change into someone better. For instance, Avery was self-centered, yet finds a new purpose in life while Connor was deeply closeted and denied himself any happiness only to find himself finally accepting who he was.
As a historical novel, the author did a good job of bringing to life London in the late 1890s: the poverty, the corruption, the aristocracy, and issues that all Londoners were facing during this time. My one complaint was that at times members of the police force were referred to as police officers, then constables – I know that these words were interchanged during the time period, but I would have preferred some consistency throughout the story.
As a suspense/mystery, I thought the author did a great job of keeping me, as a reader, sitting on the edge of my seat. As I noted above, it was a bit on the violent side.
Overall, I really liked this story. If you love a good historical with a bit of suspense, you might want to give this one a try!