Noah Tenbey remembers a time when he was whole and felt more alive than most. Then war took the man he loved and left Noah crippled and in perpetual pain. Now Noah drifts around his family estate like a ghost, neither living nor dead, and wondering what his purpose is. And then his parents hire Dr. James Byrd from London, in the hopes he might offer Noah some relief. But Noah has seen dozens of doctors, all useless, and sees no reason to expect any different from Byrd.
James doesn’t like leaving his sister in London, but the money offered by Lord Ramsbury will provide both James and his sister with a comfortable future. He finds Noah to be caustic and hurting, but eventually he convinces the man to let him help. And for the first time, Noah can start to look past his pain and at all that life still has to offer. He and James find they share a connection, but James has a life in London, far from Noah’s family estate. Noah isn’t sure what kind of future they might have, but he won’t let James go without a fight.
Hothouse Bloom is the second in the Ramsbury Estate series, but these can be read as standalones, as they are only loosely connected. This was a sweet, though occasionally poorly paced, story about two men making their way in an unkind world.
Noah is suffering; his injury at Waterloo was a grievous one, but beyond his leg, he lost his lover. He expected once the war was over, he and Fenton would travel the world and now all of those dreams have been shattered. He struggles with the fact that while the family mourns the loss of his sister-in-law, he must hide the life he shared with Fenton and minimize his own grief. As he and James begin to consider something more than friendship, Noah has a realistic struggle with his love for Fenton and his desire for James. The author does a good job of making the romance between James and Noah a poignant one as they find ways the balance each other’s needs.
The pacing in Hothouse Bloom has some mild issues. There were times that the overall story seemed to slow to the point of feeling stagnant. These periods didn’t tend to last long, but as a reader, I found them somewhat frustrating, especially given how smoothly things flowed the rest of the time.
I enjoyed Hothouse Bloom for the most part and appreciated the sweet relationship between James and Noah. Additionally, Noah’s grief read as believable and tragic without becoming suffocatingly sappy. There were some pacing issues, but these didn’t cripple the book and I think fans of historicals will enjoy this one.