Author Fyn Alexander offers up a historical romance from the late 1920s in her latest release, The Law of Love. Post World War I is the setting for the meeting of two titled men with very different legacies. Rafe Devonish is both a landowner and a barrister—carrying on in the law firm his father established several decades earlier. At the age of thirty-one, Rafe’s controlling mother is concerned that her oldest son has not yet married and produced an heir, securing the family estate. She also suspects that Rafe’s inclinations do not extend toward the feminine at all and is horrified when she discovers her worst fears are true.
Rafe is not eager to either marry or produce an heir and makes it quite clear that if the times permitted it, he would live openly with the man of his choosing. Little did he ever dream that in defending a younger man for lascivious conduct, he would end up finding the person who not only fulfilled all his dreams, but loved him in return.
Ivo Manning is the youngest of a flock of children who has no desire to pursue Cambridge or even work a full-time job. It’s not that Ivo is lazy, it’s that he is a novelist and he has had some moderate success selling a few of his stories already. But his parents were some of the aristocracy hit hard by the war and are basically penniless—now Ivo must get a job and help support them as he is the only sibling not married or fully employed. He is also gay—and rapidly falling in love with the barrister who has been assigned his case—a case that will ultimately bring great shame to his parents when it’s discovered his illicit assignation was with another man.
Rafe is able to save Ivo from both embarrassment and jail time and the two men begin a quiet affair that is destined to fail as both know they cannot possibly live their lives together without being discovered. The punishment would be two years hard labor and the scorn and shame of many that would ruin Rafe and Ivo both. But these two men are more than just a bit smitten with each other and despite the threat of blackmail and exposure, Rafe and Ivo continue to grow closer and take more risks to be together. However, between Rafe’s manipulative mother, a former lover bent on exposing Rafe’s proclivities, and Ivo’s penniless station in life, the cards are stacked against the pair. It will all come down to the vicar’s daughter who carries a secret that may actually save both Rafe and Ivo and allow them to be together.
As far as historical romances go, The Law of Love was fairly accurate in the portrayal of post-World War I England. It was a hard time for many of the gentry who found themselves no longer able to support the cost of old family holdings and who had become essentially penniless with a title. While Rafe was able to come through fairly unscathed due to his law practice, Ivo’s parents were not so fortunate—of course having so many children didn’t help. But it was poor Ivo who really bore the brunt of his parent’s misfortunes—he needed to work in order to help them financially. They had already put their home up for sale and apparently his father was either not able to work or simply didn’t choose to—whatever the reason poor Ivo had to abandon his own dreams in order to help them. When he takes the lowly position of law clerk he has to put his writing on hold, but the bonus of being near Rafe every day outweighs that concern.
Ivo may appear helpless in this story, but the author is quick to make us realize he is far from that. Yes, he is prone to being overly sensitive and emotional, but he’s also the embodiment of a young adult—which is the one thing that makes the coupling with Rafe both understandable and a bit far-fetched at the same time. Rafe is plagued by his frustrations at not being able to live openly as a gay man. However, he is strong, accomplished and decisive. To watch him with the less sure Ivo is actually fairly romantic until Rafe’s own swooning over how delicate Ivo seems begins to be a bit cloying. While that had its appeal when Rafe took command and stood up for their love, it also had less appeal when Ivo seemed so weak in his reactions.
I also understood that the thrust of this novel would be the idea of Rafe grappling with how to essentially have his cake and eat it too. He needed to appear to be happily married and produce an heir—but he wanted Ivo with him, constantly, living under the same roof. For all intents and purposes this should have never really worked out, yet the author managed to spin a story that played out exactly in Rafe’s favor. The choice of marriage partners had me raising my eyebrows a bit and the move would have never been acceptable prior to the war but this was a different England—an embattled gentry and so the resulting marriage partner that was chosen was believable, if not a tad strange.
The various pieces of this story worked well together, even though I felt the fear of discovery and the desire to live freely was overdone and labored at times. There was no denying the physical and emotional chemistry and connection between Rafe and Ivo. The affections they had for each other, the desire to watch over each other and care for one another was very sweet. However, in the end while The Law of Love by Fyn Alexander had some really nice moments, it fell just short of being the sweeping romance it set out to be.