Eighteen years ago, Henry Asquith, Duke of Avesbury, was married with young children. He also kept a lover, with the knowledge of his wife. Henry cared for Kit Redford, far more than he thought he was allowed. But when Henry’s wife took ill, Henry let the needs of his family take priority over his feelings for Kit. He did his best to leave Kit well provided for and hoped they could one day reconnect, only to never hear from Kit again. Now, Henry’s wife is gone and his children are grown and he is finally at a point in life where he can start thinking about himself again. And even all these years later, Henry has never forgotten Kit.
Kit was a naive, young man when he fell for Henry. Caring for your protector when you are a kept man is a mistake, and Kit should have known better. When Henry left without a word, Kit was emotionally and financially devastated. Being left without a penny put him in a precarious position he just barely managed to survive. Now Kit owns an exclusive club in London, one catering to men who enjoy other men, and he has long put any feelings for Henry aside. So when Henry reappears in Kit’s life, all he feels is anger that Henry dares to show up after leaving Kit so suddenly and in such dire straits.
The men are both shocked to learn that things are not as they appeared, however. The note Henry wrote and the support he promised never made it to Kit. But while Henry will do anything to make amends, all Kit can feel is anger. He doesn’t want Henry’s money; it can’t make up now for what he went through then. In his hurt, Kit suggests Henry should make things up to him as Kit had to survive himself: on his back. And to Kit’s shock… Henry agrees.
Henry has never gotten over Kit and when he learns the truth, he will do anything to make it up to the man. But deep inside, Henry knows giving himself up to Kit is no hardship. There is a part of Henry that loves the idea of being the more submissive partner. As the men spend more time together, they begin to reconnect, not just as lovers, but also as friends. Both Henry and Kit begin to realize that their old feelings are still there, and they are building new ones. But the men are older and a lot has changed in eighteen years. Now Kit and Henry must decide if too much time has passed, or if there is still a chance for them to find happiness together.
Restored is the fifth book in the wonderful Enlightenment series by Joanna Chambers. I first read the original trilogy way back in 2013, and revisited it again in audio in 2017. While the trilogy features the same couple throughout in David and Murdo, books 4 and 5 are standalones set in the same world.* While there is a blink and you’ll miss it cameo here, everything else about this book feels totally separate from the series and you will have no problem starting here. However, if you are looking for an amazing historical series, I would definitely recommend started back with Provoked.
Restored is such a lovely lovers reunited story that is both romantic and sexy, but that also tackles some deeper issues as well. The main conflict focuses on that situation 18 years ago that left Kit penniless and thinking Henry didn’t care about him at all. The story clearly reveals what did, in fact, happen during that time and that Henry very much intended for Kit to be left well cared for. Henry is also completely devastated when he learns the truth and full of remorse. While the full story does come out fairly early on, Chambers really takes things to another level by showing all the layers here. It is not just exposing the truth of what happened to both men. It is also recognizing the impact that situation has had on them. We see how Kit was broken hearted, but also forced to become hardened, and he is a very different man today than he was then. He doesn’t need Henry’s money anymore and he doesn’t want it. He isn’t looking for Henry’s apology or remorse, because it is far too late for that. Kit also rightly points out that while Henry’s intended support never made it to Kit, that doesn’t ignore the fact that Henry didn’t even take the time to speak to him directly. So there are some hard truths here that Henry must face, and realize that just throwing his considerable resources at the problem aren’t going to solve everything. I also appreciated how we see Henry have to confront that just because he was taking care of Kit financially, and truly cared for him, that he also never really recognized how his own wealth, power, and privilege left him blind to a lot about Kit’s life and circumstances.
While Kit throws out a challenge to Henry in anger, suggesting Henry give himself to Kit as a payment in kind for what Kit himself went through, it is important to note that nothing happens here in any sort of coercive way. Kit makes it very clear that he is not truly looking for Henry to feel that he owes sex as some sort of penance, nor does he want Henry to be with him in any way Henry does not truly want. So while the blurb does seem to suggest that Henry is forced to make up for his mistakes sexually, that is not how it plays out here. Henry is incredibly clear that the wants every interaction, and that he truly wants to give himself up to Kit. There are some nice moments here where Henry reflects on his own desires and realizes how much of his sexual history was just going along with what was expected of him. That he never took the time to consider his desires, but merely went along with the presumption of the more dominant role that his position, size, and wealth seemed to require. Kit’s challenge doesn’t force Henry into anything he doesn’t want, but it spurs him on to realize that he in fact very much desires everything Kit is suggesting. So there are some nice moments here where Henry really takes the time to think about the way he let himself be led by expectations, and now, at almost 50, he is finally taking the time to think about what he really wants.
Speaking of age, I like how this story features two men in their 40s, particularly the way that both men do some reflecting on how they have changed over the years. Both are very different people than they were as young men and they are both entering a new phase in their lives. These issues are nicely explored, particularly as Henry considers embarking on a time in his life when his family does not have to be his primary focus.
There are a few side conflicts that come up here with regard to some of Henry’s kids, as well as with Kit’s friend. I will say that things get a bit complicated at times as these stories begin to overlap a little, which is my only quibble here in this book. But we get lots of nice happy endings, plus meet some intriguing characters who I would love to see in future stories (and yes, I immediately messaged Chambers asking about them!).
Overall, this was a wonderful addition to a fabulous series. The Enlightenment series has always been a favorite of mine and I am happy to see such a great installment in Restored. It is definitely highly recommended.
*Note: If you are curious about some of the cameos, here is some information from the author: Kit appears in a scene in Seasons Pass (a freebie short set between books 1 and 2) and Unnatural (book 4). Henry has a brief Henry cameo in The Bequest.