August Weatherby has found himself stuck in a problem partly of his own making. Too many debts have placed him in the sights of a cruel man and now the life of August’s beloved sister hangs in the balance. August sees no choice to fall in line in order to protect his sister, and that means finding blackmail material on national war hero, Benjamin Frakes. As Benjamin shares August’s interest in men, the path to getting close to him may very well be through the bedroom.
From the moment Benjamin meets August, he feels a bit off balance, something new for a man who is used to commanding respect and making decisions. But something about August leaves Benjamin feeling a little unsteady — something he finds he can’t help but like. Benjamin is still emotionally recovering from events of the recent past, including betrayal and the loss of a friend. On top of that, he is now the lone founder left managing the Society of Beasts, a gentlemen’s club for men who like other men. So when August approaches him and asks Benjamin to serve as a bodyguard for a party, his instinct is to say no, but something about August intrigues him enough to go ahead. The way August challenges him and pokes at him riles Benjamin up enough to engage his mind and his spirits for the first time in a while.
As the men get to know one another, the attraction and connection grows. But all the while, August knows he is trapped with little choice other than to ultimately betray Benjamin. It breaks his heart as he falls further for the man, but he doesn’t see a way out that doesn’t lead to either hurting Benjamin or risking his sister. Now that August and Benjamin are finding something between them neither one expected, August has to figure out how to protect his sister without losing what he has built with Benjamin.
The Soldier and the Spy is the second book in Annabelle Greene’s Society of Beasts series and I am really loving these books. This story features new MCs and doesn’t directly connect with The Vicar and the Rake, so you can start with this book. But there are some links between the stories, and some past events are referenced here, so reading both will likely be more enjoyable. But I can definitely say if you enjoy historicals, particularly with a bit of suspense thrown in, these books are well worth the read.
This is an interesting set up as we are facing the conflict from the start. August is in a position where his sister’s life is being threatened, so he sees no other choice but to attempt to find blackmail material on Benjamin as a means out of danger. We learn early on who is forcing August’s hand and why he is so interested in Benjamin, and this adds an interesting layer to the story, though I will leave that for you to discover on your own. At the start of the book, August doesn’t even know Benjamin and so his sister’s life is far more valuable to him. But over the course of the story, as the relationship builds, it is clear how caught August feels. He doesn’t see a way to protect Benjamin that doesn’t end up hurting his sister and he can’t figure a way out of the bind. So while I was of course frustrated at August’s plans for betrayal, I could also accept that he saw no other option. It really ramps up the tension because all the while we are seeing the men fall for each other, and August truly does fall for Benjamin, there is this ax waiting to drop on the relationship. It adds some nice tension and excitement and I liked how things come together in the end.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between the men and felt that added a lot to the story for me. Benjamin is a war hero who would just as soon no one ever paid attention to him. He has a lot on his plate running the Society of Beasts, as well as still dealing with the emotional upheaval from the events of the last book. He is kind of reserved and a bit uptight and August just throws his world upside down. August pokes at Benjamin and challenges him and isn’t afraid to push him where others back away. And this drives Benjamin crazy in all the best of ways. The interaction with August just lights him up and there is a great banter and sense of energy between August and Benjamin I really loved. There is such great chemistry with these two men and their dynamic was really the highlight of the book for me.
While you don’t have to have read the first story to enjoy this series, there is a nice sense of connection for those who have. We get to see Edward and Gabriel again, as well as Maurice and Caroline. There is also a little more insight into the inner workings of the Society that is kind of fun. This book also touches on Benjamin’s relationship with one of the other founders, and it sounds like his story is up next. I am being vague here because this story does spoil some of the reveal at the end of the first book, so do be aware of that if you start here.
I found that I really couldn’t put this book down and was totally caught up in August and Benjamin’s journey. The tension and conflict is built in from the start, but Greene does a great job of making me believe that even with these circumstances, these men are building something real between them. I could sympathize with August, even as I wanted to yell at him. But things work out in the end, and I really enjoyed the journey. I’m liking this series so much and definitely looking forward to the next book.