A single night of pleasure with a stranger. One night to banish first-time desires. One hot, perfect memory to cling to forever. But what about love?
Henry is an earl who swore his now deceased father to marry and produce an heir. But he desires to be with a man just once, so he arranges to have sex with a stranger, Richard, who is gentle, kind, and patient. Their lovemaking could relight dying stars.
Both men have distinct personality traits. Henry’s a shy man, preferring the countryside over busy London. He blushes a lot and has no gift for lying. Richard, on the other hand, is a rake, wicked and bursting with life, even a bit reckless at times. He begins to realize his life, filled with casual sex, holds little meaning, let alone true love. He sees Henry, and begins to think he can change his life for the better. But due to their social statuses, their relationship, while starting innocent and sensual, turns sour and bitter soon. The author, Gastrell, uses small physical cues to describe the characteristics of these men, that become realistic when they, brokenhearted, act poorly and even cruelly. Yet they remain sympathetic and relatable.
For a long novel of almost three hundred pages, this tale has far too few instances when Henry and Richard are actually alone together. In fact, they have very few interactions altogether after their one night of indulgence. I kept waiting for these meetings that would have the two men learn more about one another to justify the love they grow to feel. Because they were kept apart through most of the book, I was left disappointed.
This story has a lot of other characters, which is both good and bad. Good because no relationship happens in a social vacuum. Especially in Victorian high society where decorum is the key and marital alliances unite bloodlines—and coffers. Plus, all these characters have unique personalities of their own instead of being just flat names in the background. Bad because Henry and Richard spend most of their time in the book engaged with other people and their messes. When that continued on to the last fifty pages or so, I lost all hope of an actual deepening of Henry and Richard’s relationship. Their confessions of love no longer felt believable. The sensual fervor, however, still did, because the beginning of the book showed so well the change both men felt at their one night together.
The historical context, the settings, the dialogue, and even the personalities of the cast—they all rang true. Gastrell seems to have an intimate knowledge of this era with all its intricacies. To be honest, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. This tale brought out a whole host of emotions from me, from delight to frustration, from elation to sorrow, from anger to numbness. And that is how I judge a good book, one that draws me in, and doesn’t let go until the very last line.
Overall, this is very good historical romance, one that I have no doubt I’ll remember for a long time to come. The sensual scenes and the continuous emotional tension running throughout the tale was indeed very well told and shown. I was fully immersed into the tale, and I recommend this to all lovers of M/M and historical romances.
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