JOANNA CHAMBERS (Enlightenment #2)
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Rating: 4* of five
The Publisher Says: Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.
King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.
David and Murdo’s last parting was painful—and on Murdo’s part, bitter—but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital.
Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms.
But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.
My Review: One quote to rule the book:
A man will fight for hate for a long time, but he will fight for love to the death.
Every single moment of this entry into the series is about Murdo's hate for the way his world wants him to behave, and his love for David, which is (he very much fears) unreciprocated.
It is also about how deeply David detests his weakness of character that forbids him to turn his face to his true love and say, simply and directly, "I love you, Murdo."
These men fight like wounded Spartans at Thermopylae for the victory of love...for others, straight others at that...and end up with a situation neither could've planned, predicted, laid a course for, and that perfectly suits their almost desperate hunger for space and time to revel in the love they share but can't quite figure out how to make manifest.
And can't admit they share because Rules and Reasons. Well, as you'd expect in a romantic novel, the Rules go right out the door and the Reasons fly out the window behind them. The plot device for this to happen is quite bittersweet, involving loss and pain for starchy little prig David, whose quite fragile heart is at odds with his armor-clad and spike-encrusted Sense of Honour. Murdo is, as always, staunch in his defense of David's well-being even when it hurts him quite deeply to privilege the twerp's sense of ma'at over his own desperate needs. They are, after all, of different classes and from radically (!) different kinds of families. Dynastic and political pressures apply to Murdo that simply pass lower-class David's ken. But one thing we all know: In books, Love Conquers All.
The historical aspects of the series please me, the characters are limned economically if, at times, a bit repetitively...one more of Murdo's "fractional relaxation"s and Imma cut a bitch....and the timelessness of men's cowardliness in the face of vulnerability makes volume 3 a must-read. Goodreads reviewer Heather_k described the series as one long novel. I concur. Start at the beginning, read to the end; it's also got a short fiction entry, Seasons Pass, which is best read for free before reading this book. It explains in detail the way Murdo ends up in Edinburgh at the Royal Tour.
It also sets up the fourth book of the trilogy, much like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five books, which I hope you'll get hooked enough to want to read.