Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Don’t you just love it when a sequel is even better than the original? Provoked may have been a good book, but Beguiled just blew me away. I can’t wait to read the last installment, so forgive me if this review seems a little rushed!
Those of you who read my reviews know that I am a huge fan of characterization, and falling in love with the characters is what makes me fall in love with a book. I am so deeply invested in David and Murdo now, that I am already grieving leaving them behind when I finish book three. Both men were introduced to the reader and to each other in the first book, and there was a subdued type of adventure going on that introduced the city of Edinburg, as well as all of the secondary characters who reappear in Beguiled. What makes this second book so appealing to me is the deeper delving into the backgrounds and motivations of both men, the beginnings of their awareness of something new and different, and a slow sea change in attitude. So, the rest of this review will barely touch on plot!
In Provoked, Murdo was presented as a typical aristocrat, blissfully ignoring the plight of the common man, devoted to pursuing pleasure without the sticky moral trappings of 19th century societal expectations. He didn’t exactly toy with David, but he made it clear in the very beginning that what he and David had was purely physical attraction. Although he had been able to dally with men in a bit freer fashion than David because of his wealth and status, emotional attachment was not something he wanted or even considered the first few times they met. Murdo did not feel that same sex activity was immoral, and also found nothing wrong with marrying a woman while continuing to have sex with men. David had a much more conventional set of principles, so he not only felt sinful by “indulging” in sex with men, but felt there was something perverted about him that he wanted it. He viewed marriage as a sacred bond before God, so he would not even consider marrying a woman, much less being unfaithful to her with a man. Although their motives were different, the result they expected was the same: sex without emotional involvement.
Beguiled occurs two years after the events of Provoked. In those two years, both David and Murdo found themselves thinking back on their brief time together in ways that surprised them – with a great deal of yearning, and a sense of something important irretrievably lost. Meeting again was therefore much more emotional on both sides, and the two years apart broke down barriers in both men. In this book, David’s inner conscience was much less vehement about declaring him a pervert for wanting men, and he was able to see that there was more between them than just lust and physical release. Murdo was willing to accept that he wanted more from David, and found himself sharing secrets he never intended to as he opened himself.
Against this impassioned background, the historical events and adventure played out with a great deal more meaning than that of Provoked. I liked how once again ideas such as universal suffrage and rights of women were presented as incredibly radical (it is so good to live in 2017!), and our heroes – who by nature of their homosexuality were already outside the norm – were willing to embrace those notions as well.
The only thing I really didn’t like about the plot was at the end when David did not tell Murdo his plans for the rescue, which didn’t really make sense when in all other ways they had become so trusting of and necessary for each other. Painting that decision as another of David’s self-sacrificing moments just didn’t sit quite right with me. Of course, it created a perfect set up for the next book, but I wish the author could have found a way to achieve those ends without David keeping Murdo in the dark.
On to the final book!
Cover art is again superb. The model’s intense expression and partially shadowed face are perfect for Murdo. Even the font of the title is ideal for the picture and the story.
Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Published April 23rd 2017 by Joanna Chambers Books (first published December 24th 2013)