Sebastian Farrah is at a crossroads. He’s failed at school, has no interest in the church, and generally seems to be a disappointment at everything. But his brother has promised him a commission in the army if Sebastian can spend a month away from drinking and gambling his way across London. He’s sent to the estate of Charles Hawkins, a war veteran and friend of Sebastian’s brother. It is hoped that Charles’ own experiences on the front will dissuade Sebastian from wanting to join up.
While Sebastian doesn’t make a particularly good first impression, Charles realizes his new house guest is clever and hardworking and has an excellent mind for business. Which makes his past failures all the more difficult to understand. Admiration turns to lust and lust to love and before the month is past, Charles and Sebastian are bound to one another. But Charles carries the weight of the dead upon his shoulders and Sebastian seems to believe war remains the only way he might prove himself a man. Love may not be enough to save either man from themselves.
What a wonderful read Promises was! Sometimes books set around the Napoleonic Wars tend to lack the necessary foundation building and characterizations for my tastes. They either abandon the concept of war completely or tip so heavily towards it that the rest of the plot disappears. But Promises provided a lovely balance of plot, characterization, and emotional depth. There’s nothing particularly earth shattering here, but that isn’t a criticism. Moone has taken a simple, straightforward plot and imbibed it with emotion and warmth to give it life and breadth. There is just a smattering of historical flair here and there, nothing to drag the story down, but rather it helps to anchor the plot and provide it with a firm base.
Charles and Sebastian are the heart of this story. Sebastian has spent his life feeling stupid and outcast from his own family. He thinks he has no value and only after spending time with Charles does he discover his worth, both has a man and as a partner. Charles suffered a brutal war and bears a terrible guilt for the crime of surviving when so many others perished. But when when he’s with Sebastian, he’s finally able to find a measure of peace. These two fit one another perfectly and when they’re together, it’s easy to believe in their love and devotion to one another. I did feel the ending to Promises was a bit rushed and the resolution lacked the proper time to evolve. This is the only point where I felt the pacing could have used a bit more work and the story needed time to flesh itself out.
There isn’t anything grand breaking in Promises, but it’s well written and the characters possess an honest sweetness that struck a chord with me. There’s nothing overwrought or excessive here. Instead, we’re given the story of two men who fall in love and begin to heal. And that kind of romance tends to speak more loudly to me than so many others. Consider this one highly recommended.