Tuesday, March 13, 2018

PROVOKED, first in the Enlightenment series of historical novels featuring David Lauriston and Lord Murdo Balfour

(Enlightened #1)
Kindle original (non-affiliate Amazon link)
$4.99 available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Tormented by his forbidden desires for other men and the painful memories of the childhood friend he once loved, lawyer David Lauriston tries to maintain a celibate existence while he forges his reputation in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world.

But then, into his repressed and orderly life, bursts Lord Murdo Balfour.

Cynical, hedonistic and utterly unapologetic, Murdo could not be less like David. And as appalled as David is by Murdo’s unrepentant self-interest, he cannot resist the man’s sway. Murdo tempts and provokes David in equal measure, forcing him to acknowledge his physical desires.

But Murdo is not the only man distracting David from his work. Euan MacLennan, the brother of a convicted radical David once represented, approaches David to beg him for help. Euan is searching for the government agent who sent his brother to Australia on a convict ship, and other radicals to the gallows. Despite knowing it may damage his career, David cannot turn Euan away.

As their search progresses, it begins to look as though the trail may lead to none other than Lord Murdo Balfour, and David has to wonder whether it’s possible Murdo could be more than he seems. Is he really just a bored aristocrat, amusing himself at David’s expense, or could he be the agent provocateur responsible for the fate of Peter MacLennan and the other radicals?

My Review: I'd rate this lower if I hadn't been prepared for the modest sexual content. What there was the author did well and it wasn't gratuitous or inorganic. I was sure the story needed to be in that place at that moment; I was sure the characters were true to their established motivations; in the end, it wasn't about dissatisfaction that I've read from a few other reviewers. I suspect the issues arose from what I was inclined to see as "instaluuuv" between men of radically (!) different stations in Regency life.

That mattered a great deal more then than it does now. Not that it doesn't now, it definitely does, but then it was an issue front and center in every act of daily life. How Balfour comes on to David is completely believable. How David responds, and how he feels, is also completely believable.

That Murdo Balfour argues for the pragmatic accommodation of self to society is unremarkably in character; that David starchily stands for conformity to the harshest possible code of actions while suffering for it is also unremarkably in character for his Presbyterian upbringing. A sect that preached predestination...your soul's salvation was not earned or even earnable since God decided the identity of the 144,000 saved at the beginning of time....wasn't likely to produce anything but the most craven sorts of lickspittles.

What made the read pleasurable for me was the sense that the men were genuinely, if ineptly and obtusely, falling for the person wearing the pretty face that neither could quite unsee. David's red hair, Balfour's dark eyes, David's slightness and Balfour's height and heft...timelessly, opposites do indeed attract. But the characters, the bits that have to fit if a passion is to alter its bell curve towards love's more complex shapes, do match. The men are motivated by their respective and surprisingly similar sense of honor.

It's just a pity that David's sense of humor is so impaired at the expense of that sense of honor.

Not for the squeamishly heterosexual.

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