After escaping a terrible situation, Will Marsden was forced to start over. He has remade himself and is committed to eventually owning a piece of land to call his own. He works happily as a steward for a small manor and, in doing so, he begins to save for the future. But then comes the news that rakish wastrel who owns the place, Captain Maximilian Dearne, has gambled it away, leaving Will and the other servants without a job. Angry and bitter, Will is dumbfounded when a severely injured Dearne is dumped on his doorstep for care.
Maxim Dearne returned from Waterloo only to be beaten and left for dead by unknown assailants. Only his sister’s devotion helps him into safe hiding. Now a man who hates him is in charge of his care and Maxim is left struggling to remember exactly what happened to him. Will wants to stay angry, but it’s impossible in light of Maxim’s charm and fragility. As they begin to piece together Maxim’s fractured memories, they have to confront a thief and their feelings for one another.
So Memories ticks all my happy reader boxes: a wounded hero, a reluctant caregiver, a mystery, and a slow burning romance. The writing is strong and the story fairly engaging. Will is a relatable and empathetic character. He was essentially tortured for being gay and after escaping he had no choice but to rebuild his life. But he does so alone and without help and when his cherished position is suddenly ripped away, his anger is believable. As readers we can’t help but empathize with him. Maxim is rakish in his own way, but his swagger and arrogance hide a man scarred by war and terrified of his lost memories. They fit quite well as a couple and their romance feels natural in its progression. Given the harshness of Will’s past, his reluctance to involve himself with Maxim is more than understandable, but the author does a good job of creating an authentic pull between these two — they could no more be apart than they could stop breathing. Maxim’s sister, Minty, also plays an important part and she’s got just enough definition to feel like a vital addition without stealing the show.
The biggest issue with Memories is one of pacing. At times it moves quite smoothly, but when dealing with the mystery, things start to drag. It seems that certain points (Maxim’s memory loss for example) are brought up over and over without adding to or furthering the plot. As a result, I feel like maybe an eighth of the book could have been trimmed without affecting the overall course of the story. Also, the resolution to the mystery felt a little too neat and pat. I love a happy ending, but this one came without the gravitas the rest of Memories seems to carry.
Overall this was a highly enjoyable historical novel. The characters are relatable and engaging and their romance was sweetly satisfying. The mystery aspect is somewhat repetitive, but this doesn’t overly detract from the novel as a whole. Consider this one recommended to anyone who enjoys a bit of angst and a decent plot with their historical.