There are terrors worse than stage fright. Like falling in love.
Violinist Stephen Ashbrook is passionate about three things—his music, the excitement of life in London, and his lover, Evander Cade. It’s too bad that Evander only loves himself. A house party at their patron’s beautiful country estate seems like a chance for Stephen to remember who he is, when he’s not trying to live up to someone else’s harsh expectations.
Joshua Beaufort, a painter whose works are very much in demand among the right sort of people, has no expectations about this party at all. Until, that is, he finds out who else is on the guest list. Joshua swore off love long ago, but has been infatuated with Stephen since seeing his brilliant performance at Vauxhall. Now he has the chance to meet the object of his lust face to face—and more.
But changing an open relationship to a triad is a lot more complicated than it seems, and while Evander’s trying to climb the social ladder, Stephen’s trying to climb Joshua. When the dust settles, only two will remain standing…when they’re not flat on their backs.
Warning: Contents under pressure. Contains three men, two beds, one erotic piercing, and the hottest six weeks of summer the nineteenth century has ever seen. (m/m/m – m/m).
Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley
This is a sumptuous historical romance that’s equally rich in detail and man-on-man action. Featuring three male artists (painter, musician, composer) eking out their own existences at the start of the 19th century it’s full of emotional angst and tribulations, the rush of new love, the pain of old friends, the fear of homophobic laws and the strain of patronage. In essence my thoughts on this book are pretty simple: Oh, Stephen. Oh, Joshua! Urgh, Cade.
In a way that’s both the pain and the pleasure of this book for me. I never had a chance to like Evander Cade. Right from the start he treats Stephen as less than him, a child to be chastised or a pet to be indulged. He’s beautiful, yes, but also smug and arrogant and petty. Normally I have no problems reading M/M/M triads, but I have to admit to an uncomfortable trepidation during the scenes where all three were together. Thankfully there’s only really one truly in-depth three-way scene, but at the same time it made me sad. I love reading a well balanced trio and it might have been nice if there’d been at least a glimmer of a chance for them to all be together, even for a little while.
But that would be a different book. Instead this one is strung tight with subtle (and occasionally overt) tensions, between the three men, between the rest of the house party, over the larger issues of arrests and trials and hangings. The emotional tugs-of-war going on around Stephen are both compelling and exhausting, while the undercurrents swirling around the entire houseparty are fascinating. Yet right in the middle of all of this is Joshua, a sweet artist with a gentle heart and a passion for one very confused violinist.
It’s a beautiful story of heightened emotions and difficult relationships, set amidst the troublesome 19th century, when bawdy Georgian manners were being slowly tightened towards Regency restraint. The details are lovely, the characters are compelling and the romance at the heart of it all is by turns tormented, sweet and satisfying. There is a lot of sex in it, though, or rather the sex that’s in it tends to take over everything for a while. If you like your Historicals as equally rich in steam as detail, then you should enjoy this. If you prefer a gentler exploration of manners, then you have been warned. Personally, I enjoyed it all and I look forward to more from the series.
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