Returning home from visiting a relative, Malcom happens upon a small town, tucked away in the woods. Though Malcom has made this trip many times, he has never noticed the town before. If it weren’t for the rain and his exhausted horse, he may well have pressed on. The tavern there provides shelter enough and the strikingly handsome young man he meets outside immediately sparks his interest. This young man is named Daniel and is a weaver of the finest of cloths. Malcom cannot understand the reluctance Daniel shows at going into the tavern; surely such a fine looking and well dressed man would be welcome anywhere. But when Daniel suggests they visit his own home instead, Malcom readily accepts the invitation.
The two men share a night of shattering passion and Malcom is eager to learn more and see more of the charming young Daniel. Except in the scant hours after their rendezvous, Daniel has turned ill and wretched. With staggering force of conviction, he forces Malcom to leave. Worried for his new friend, Malcom returns to the tavern to make inquiries after Daniel. There, he discovers a perplexing mystery. The only weaver the townsfolk know is an old man bent by age and feared for being touched with dark magic. The tales the townsfolk tell sound like complete nonsense, but when Malcom returns to Daniel’s cottage in the woods, he learns there is more than a little truth to the stories he heard at the tavern. The question now is what Malcom can do about it.
The Harvest Moon is a charming, short, fairytale-like story about a magical village and two people finding love there. I thought Ian built just enough of a world to evoke a bygone era of travel by horse and tailored clothes. Daniel’s backstory gives further clues about the general time period by referencing witch trials. There is also a strong sense of mystery built into the story. This is reflected in the heretofore unnoticed town where Malcom stops, Daniel’s insistence he would not be welcomed by the townsfolk, and the townfolks’ stories. But the main draw of the book is the sweet and powerful attraction that ignites between Malcom and David.
The two MCs meet and trade guarded words, but quickly come to understand they are mutually attracted to one another. Malcom, in particular, feels a strong pull towards Daniel. The townsfolk allude to Daniel’s connection to witchcraft. Nevertheless, Malcom refuses to take these stories at face value. He will accept nothing but the truth from Daniel himself. Malcom’s unwavering loyalty to his mysterious lover of one night is half of the reason why this story so sweet. Daniel, of course, is the other half. His backstory is a sad one and clearly meant to pluck the heartstrings. I felt a bit of distance from Daniel’s history, however, because it’s brought in so late. The combination of Daniel’s history and the insta-live type night of romance he shares with Malcom left me half expecting that Malcom would somehow tie into David’s history. At the same time, it left me feeling a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more exploration into why Malcom was so special.
Despite a bit of conflicting emotions regarding Daniel’s past, I really enjoyed this sweet and steamy get-together fairy tale. The combination of star crossed lovers and a dark secret set against a backdrop of a prejudiced town made the story more dimensional. Ian works well with the shorter format, developing the plot and the romance without it feeling rushed. The addition of specific townsfolk added depth to the story universe as well. For any readers who enjoy fairytales or pleasantly vague historical settings, or want a sweet kind of Halloween/autumn story, this is a great choice.