When his latest lover up and leaves him, Randall Blair feels the loss keenly—not just for the coldness he’ll now find in his bed, but for the real sense of companionship he will no longer enjoy. Thus, Randall resigns himself to deny his true nature as a lover of men and take a wife—one Lady Prudence Wedgewood.
Unbeknownst to Blair, however, is that Lady Wedgewood’s brother, First Lieutenant David Wedgewood, knows exactly the kind of man Blair is and intimately so. The news of his dear sister’s upcoming nuptials troubles David so much that he quits the royal navy and rushes home to put an end to the sham of a romance Blair is inflicting upon his sister. Little did he expect to discover his sister apparently smitten with the man. Even less did he expect to be so thoroughly reminded of a week-long tryst he shared with Blair five years back.
Powerful and bittersweet, the memories come crashing down over both Randall and David. Yet with the wedding looming and reputations on the line, there is little hope for a remedy that will satisfy everyone.
I found this book to be a charmingly angst-filled romp of a book. Although I’d go so far as to say this book includes an “enemies to lovers” theme, it really is about how Randall and David can possibly mend their broken relationship and forge ahead. Their initial week-long affair happens entirely off page—David assumed a commoner’s identity and left Randall in the dead of the night. Much sighing over missed chances ensued over the next five years. Of course, when David finds out Randall is going to marry his sister, David is livid—how can a man who beds other men possibly THINK to marry a woman? I liked the idea that David knew exactly this aspect of Randall’s character, but Randall had no idea the man from his torrid affair was the long-absent brother of his fiancee.
Apart from the out-and-out angst of two lovers reunited, there was the complication of a publicly announced wedding between two high-class families. Breaking an engagement such as the one struck between Randall and Prudence is sure to permanently besmirch reputations. I definitely enjoyed reading how this affected the courses of action open to our characters. Unlike some period pieces made today with their morals and opinions altered in some degree to better appeal to 21st century sensibilities, that isn’t quite the case here.
Despite being such a short work, I found the characters fairly compelling as well. On the whole, I’d say David is the star even though he sort of comes across as being just a touch secondary to Randall. As a child, David’s older siblings inflicted on him a horrible accident that he’s never quite gotten over. As a naval officer, he’s further tormented by his attraction to other men and knowing the consequences of getting caught—especially when a man he took for his own lover ends up swinging for the crime. I found him a delightfully complex character. Randall feels a bit less well developed, but I have to give him props because his desire to have a family of his own is clear from the beginning, not some schmaltzy line he feeds David as a way to try to regain his affections. Prudence turns out to be something of a firebrand, as well, given her proposal to solve the wedding problem. There’s also Randall’s cousin and close friend Liz who we see providing emotional support to Randall, yet its clear that both Liz and her husband have lives apart from whatever goes on in Randall’s life.
My only two real complaints are that I didn’t feel the time period was concretely set. Yes, there are dates in some chapter headings and there is at least one reference to one of the men’s suits being a pastel color—but my first reaction to the color of the suit was “Why would anyone in that time period wear….OH, RIGHT! We’re in the late 1700s where there was probably a lot more frills and color than the late 1800s or early 1900s.” The other was that sometimes the interactions between David and Prudence felt almost too modern—mostly because of the use of the nickname “Pru.” That just didn’t strike me as something likely to happen in 1780-something, even between siblings.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a quick, fun read in a historical setting, this would be a great read. There’s a bit of enemies to lovers, on-page sex (yay!), and a happily ever after (all things considered).