Lord Perry Cavendish found his world tilted upside down when he saw his best friend, Lysander, kissing another man. It helped Perry come to terms with his own attraction to men, but he still hasn’t been ready to actually act on his desires with anyone. It has left him out of sorts and spending way too much time drinking, so Perry realizes it is time for a change and takes Lysander up on his long-standing invitation to visit him and Adam at their home in Edgeley Park.
When Perry meets Adam’s friend, Jonny Mainwaring, he is struck by the lovely artist. Jonny is witty and full of life and, unless Perry is mistaken, flirting with him as well. Perry is a little overwhelmed, but also definitely intrigued by Jonny. Jonny’s friendly enthusiasm is enough to help Perry get past some of his self doubts and even to agree to pose for a painting. And when Jonny learns that Perry has never been with a man before, he is more than willing to share some new sexual experiences with Perry.
The men seem to have hit it off and both really enjoy each other’s company. But both men also have some major insecurities that are getting in the way. Perry thinks himself not good or smart enough for someone as shiny and bright as Jonny. And Jonny has had enough people make clear that he is too needy and too difficult, and can’t imagine how a sweet, quiet man like Perry would stand him for long. The men have fallen for one another and found something special. But they each need to learn to believe in their connection and trust in the other’s affection if they have hope of finding their future together.
The Labours of Lord Perry Cavendish is the fourth story in Joanna Chambers’ delightful Winterbourne series. The first two books, Introducing Mr. Winterbourne and Mr. Winterbourne’s Christmas, feature Adam and Lysander — Jonny and Perry’s best friends, respectively. (The first story was originally published as part of the fabulous Another Place in Time anthology, but is now also for sale individually.) Adam and Lysander appear pretty regularly throughout this story, and the book actually opens by repeating the final scene from Christmas, this time from Perry’s POV. There is also a short prequel story, The First Snow of Winter, that features some side characters who are friends of Jonny’s. All that said, I think this book stands alone just fine in terms of the plot and the romance, as long as you don’t mind appearances from supporting characters you haven’t met.
I will admit that I am a sucker for the set up here. Perry is a big guy, used to people thinking of him as kind of oafish. He is sweet and sensitive and thinks himself not particularly smart. When he learned about Lysander and Adam being a couple, it threw him for a loop. He was not only surprised to find Lysander interested in men, but also that he found a passionate and loving relationship with another man. It opened Perry’s eyes to what could be, but also made him recognize what he is missing. Perry is a big, teddy bear of a character, a “cinnamon roll” (or a Chelsea Bun as Chambers coins him) who is too sweet and lovely for this world. Jonny is small and lithe, lively and seemingly confident, and bold in ways that Perry isn’t sure he can ever be. I loved the way Jonny brings out that confidence in Perry, as well as how he introduces Perry to what could be between two men. There is such a great spark between the pair of them and they each lift each other up so much. There is almost this unconditional adoration they have for each other, and both men seem to find all the best parts of the other.
Despite this connection, both Perry and Jonny have some major self doubt issues to work through that get in the way of accepting the other’s feelings and almost derail things between them. I did wish for a little more development as to why these guys had such strong issues. We get the basic framework, but not a lot of detail to really help flesh things out, particularly since, in Jonny’s case, his insecurities almost ruin everything between them. The story also doesn’t really resolve Perry’s insecurities about his intelligence and, for something that looms so large for him, I’d have liked to see it addressed more directly.
These are small issues, however, and overall, this is just a really delightful story. Perry and Jonny are so charming and quite endearing together. It was fun to revisit some of the Winterbourne characters, as well as to see these men find their happiness together.