St. Sebastian has spent his life as a loner living on the outside. The kids in school thought his grades were too high and his skin was too dark and he never found his place. He had something special for a moment though, one summer as a child when he was included in the events at Thornchapel, the estate owned by Auden’s parents, where a childhood wedding had him forever longing for Auden and Poe, the girl who also stole his heart. He didn’t see Poe again after that summer and would only see Auden when his family came to the estate from time to time. St. Sebastian didn’t think he could possibly mean anything to Auden, but Auden always saw him. The boys grew closer again during another summer as teens and their bond sizzled the air around them. They knew they belonged together, but an act of violence had them separated and young love turned into distance, which turned into retribution and then into hate.
When Poe returns to England, the spark is still there between the three of them and St. Sebastian and Poe long to submit to Auden. Auden and St. Sebastian can barely stand to be in the same room together, but it’s all bluster as the craving for each other is as strong as ever. Poe wants them all to be together, but the men have a lot to reconcile between them first.
St. Sebastian, Auden, and Poe, along with their small group of friends, are determined to unravel the mysteries of Thornchapel and when bones are unearthed behind the altar, it uncovers more secrets and many more questions than answers. Beneath the carnal pleasures of the chapel altar, the trio finally have a chance at a life together, but some secrets when uncovered will send everything up in smoke.
This series has so many things in it and I am so glad I found it. St. Sebastian was an intriguing character when he was introduced in the A Lesson in Thorns. He is easily one of my favorite characters of the series and here we get more of his story.
St. Sebastian is so incredibly lonely and he’s convinced he’s unlikable and unlovable. His mother died not too long ago and she was his only family in England. He has recently reconnected with his childhood friends, Rebecca, Delphine, and Becket, and now that Poe is back as well, he sees Auden more and he can barely take the sight of him. We know something happened between the two of them years ago and here we get the full story.
Auden and St. Sebastian were destined to be together, they belong together, and the chemistry and tension is that of soulmates. St. Sebastian thought that Auden was magic and when he was with him, he felt like he could be magic as well and they have been longing for each other for years. On the outside, you could say that one conversation could have cleared it up, but it’s really not like that as there is guilt to overcome and deep emotions that have taken on a life of their own and these guys needed to find a way back to each other and Poe is the catalyst for that. There is something unique when the three of them are together and their destinies will be forever intwined.
The book opens with pages of carnal intimacy and the character development and on page emotion is intense. There are characters that are more paired off, but there are also group scenes as well, and the intimate scenes among the group of friends adds to the overall intimacy between the variety of characters here, including Becket, the priest.
The story also continues with the group unraveling the secrets of Thornchapel; these are the same secrets their parents knew and would never tell. There are several discussions around rituals based in magic and religion and these were confined to specific longer scenes that didn’t always flow as well into the narrative. While it was interesting and we needed to understand what the group was doing, at times it became more textbook-like reading than feeling naturally added to the conversation. And that was my only issue with this installment of the series: the history of the rituals overtook the storyline of the group for long stretches.
The ending hits hard and is designed to send the characters into anguish once again and, although there are clues added in along the way and even though I knew what was going to happen, watching it play out was an emotional rush. The ensemble cast really works for me as well, as does the intense connection they all share. Opening these books is like stepping into Thornchapel itself and the atmospheric writing is incredibly well done. There are two books left in the series and there is still a long way for any of these characters to find peace on the grounds of Thornchapel.