Rating: 5 stars out of 5
On Christmas Eve, Dylan, the man of James Pell-Charnley’s dreams, is on the point of walking out. Then they hear the faint strains of a waltz in the library of the empty abbey. The music is said to be heard only by those truly in love, and it gives James the courage to tell Dylan the story.
In December 1841, Lord Hugo Pell-Charnley is in a terrible mess. The youngest son of the late Marquis, youngest brother of the incumbent, never felt to fit. When his life comes crashing down, and his life and his family are threatened, he is forced to face his elder brother and confess his deepest secret. When he arrives at Winsford Abbey he finds he must also confront the shame from his past in the form of Lyndon Cross. The boy he’d loved but betrayed in school.
As they clear the ghosts from the past, they dance in each other’s arms in the library to the soft strains of the waltz, but long buried secrets threaten to destroy their happiness.
Two hundred years later, can those dances long forgotten give James and Dylan the courage to hold on to love?
This is a story within a story. James, the current Marquis, must tell the story of Hugo and Lyndon to his own love, Dylan, in order for Dylan to understand how James feels about him. So we have the modern beginning and end sandwiching the historical story and that worked very well for me.
Hugo is the youngest of the Pell-Charnley family and he believes himself to be nothing spectacular. He had a terrible time at school, can’t do the one thing he really wants to with his life (own a bookstore) because it is beneath people of his class, and now is being blackmailed. Things just go from bad to worse when he shows up at his family estate for Christmas only to find three of the bullies from school present, as well as someone he used to like at school, someone who he didn’t treat well because of the bullies. Lyndon Cross.
It’s funny how people assume things. Winston, Hugo’s older brother, believes Hugo to have an unencumbered life in London. “You seemed perfectly happy as you were…” while never realizing “I hated every moment of school. I never fit in. I was bullied, beaten, terrified…” He was bullied to an extreme degree, as was Lyndon. Now they may have a chance to be together, if only short term. Of course nothing is that easy.
No secret that I am a huge fan of historical romance but I need it to be believable. This one hit all my switches. Sympathetic characters, plot that made sense and with twists that I completely didn’t see coming, and an ending I felt was plausible.
I was thinking four stars for this story until another plot twist showed up, one that I wasn’t expecting yet again, and I had to raise it up. My heart was breaking for Hugo at that point. “…had talked about him, speculated about him, made him queasy inside.” I so understood that feeling. I was angry at people for him – more than he was even! Hugo is a good person and handles things so much better than he believes he does.
“Every Christmas we should definitely waltz in the library.” “Until we are too old to move….I’ll hold your hand and we’ll sway in time.” That made me happy, as did the sweetness of the epilogue.
This was so interesting, so sweet and so wonderful. I especially appreciated a bisexual character in a historical, which may be the first time I’ve read of one in this genre.
The cover, showing Dylan and James dancing against the backdrop of Hugo, is perfect.
Kindle Edition, 145 pages
Published December 19th 2019