Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Rafe Devonish is a member of the gentry, and though not titled, he has a manor house, lands, tenants, and a position to uphold in society. He is also a successful barrister, with a clear sense of right and wrong, and he is a homosexual. He hasn’t really figured out how to reconcile his orientation with the rest of his life, and has been delaying what he feels is going to be inevitable – getting married and having children. Despite the time, there are a surprising number of people who are aware that he is gay, including his mother and the senior clerk at his law firm, and they both hound him to get married before people start suspecting his truth.
Ivo Manning (and really, what kind of name is that for a British noble? To me the author overdid it with the names. Rafe and Ivo? Really? But I digress…) is a young man from a titled family that has unfortunately fallen on hard financial times since The Great War. He is the 10th son, and the family regards him as a waste of space, but he doesn’t want to embarrass them and so he sought legal counsel after being arrested for gross indecency, aka suspicion of homosexual behavior. Rafe is the barrister he ended up coming to, and it was insta-love for both of them.
So begins a dance where Ivo consistently pursues Rafe, and Rafe alternately pursues and runs away from Ivo. It got really old, really fast. One of my pet peeves is too much inner monologue, especially when it is repetitive, and that is about all we hear from Rafe. There was very little angst about actually being a homosexual, but he did certainly angst about how to avoid being found out. He waffled, and yet every time he saw Ivo, he couldn’t help himself but did things that would absolutely cause scandal. Including having sex in public. Twice. Both times witnessed. Ivo being caught coming out of his room in the manor house after clearly spending the night. Rafe was supposedly a very intelligent man, but his actions were more often that not in the “too stupid to live” category.
Ivo is a caricature. He is younger, smaller, poorer, less experienced, less educated, and much less confident that Rafe. He looks to Rafe to solve his every problem, always bottoms, and almost every time he is described, the word “lovely” is used. This felt to me to be feminizing him in the worst way, a way that also degrades women. Ivo does nothing to help either of them avoid detection. He does discover compelling reasons why a woman whom Rafe is defending should be declared innocent of murder, but those reasons are so obvious that there is no way Rafe should have missed them in the first place.
Normally I love historicals, and early 20th century is probably my favorite time period. But to be authentic, the characters have to act like they actually live in that era. To have modern views of homosexuality – that it is an inborn trait rather than a sign of mental illness, that it is natural, and should be accepted by any reasonable person, and homosexual relationships are just a matter of two consenting adults – in a setting where homosexual acts were unnatural at best and criminal at worst, just makes no sense. Rafe and Ivo never felt that it was wrong to be gay, they just felt it was unfair that they couldn’t have an openly gay relationship. I don’t think any gay man from this era would be so casually accepting of his orientation.
Well. I have other complaints about the book, but I think I need to stop here. If you like your romances to be heroic man and blushing damsel in distress, you may like this book, but for me it was a total fail. I give it an extra half a point for good grammar and proofreading though.
Cover art by April Martinez is actually very good, probably the only thing I truly liked about the book.
Kindle Edition, 225 pages
Published December 26th 2017 by Loose Id LLC