Title: A Gathering Storm
Author: Joanna Chambers
Series: Porthkennack #2
Genre: M/M Victorian Romance
When grief-stricken scientist Sir Edward Fitzwilliam provokes public scorn by defending a sham spiritualist, he’s forced to retreat to Porthkennack to lick his wounds. Ward’s reputation is in tatters, but he’s determined to continue the work he began after the death of his beloved brother.
In Porthkennack, Ward meets Nicholas Hearn, land steward to the Roscarrock family. Ward becomes convinced that Nick, whose Romany mother was reportedly clairvoyant, is the perfect man to assist with his work. But Nick—who has reason to distrust the whims of wealthy men—is loath to agree. Until Fate steps in to lend a hand.
Despite Nick’s misgivings, he discovers that Ward is not the high-handed aristocrat he first thought. And when passion ignites between them, Nick learns there’s much more to love than the rushed, clandestine encounters he’s used to. Nevertheless, Nick’s sure that wealthy, educated Ward will never see him as an equal.
A storm is gathering, but with Nick’s self-doubts and Ward’s growing obsession, the fragile bond between the two men may not be strong enough to withstand it.
Source: ARC from Riptide Publishing via NetGalley
Love and grief and loneliness and isolation, there can be no better setting for a stormy romance of this ilk than the cliffs of North Cornwall. These two characters are windswept and handsome and emotionally distant, much like the craggy, ocean-gnawed cliffs, with the potential for great passion beneath their slightly aloof exteriors. I was thoroughly swept away by it all and enjoyed it a lot.
Both Nick and Ward are outsiders – Nick because of his Romany mother and his bastard status, Ward because of his rough voice (a leftover from a childhood illness) and his wealth and title. Both are successful in their own right, but neither are content. Nick has never felt like he belongs anywhere and has a massive chip on his shoulder regarding social status (with reason), while Ward is largely oblivious to such things, but his recent obsession with mediums and the spirit world have definitely harmed his previously enviable standing in the scientific community. They have a lot in common, but a few rather important differences, which leads to friction and passion and lots and lots of tension between them.
I liked them both. Ward is not a people person, but his focus on and passion for the things that interest him make him rather endearing. His grief for his brother is teased out mostly through journal entries, but underlies everything he does. He’s a man who clearly feels deeply, even if he doesn’t always acknowledge it, and his fascination for electricity neatly feeds into his new interests.
Nick is more grounded than Ward. He’s highly observant and constantly assesses everyone around him. He sees things that most people miss, which doesn’t help with his sceptical views on pretty much everything. Yet, at the same time, he can be a little oversensitive and slightly oblivious when it comes to the people who really matter to him – Ward and his grandfather. He’s a man who has been hurt before, both as a child and as an adult, and his desire not to get hurt again sometimes leads to some pigheaded behaviour and a stubborn insistence that he doesn’t belong, when it’s clear that he obviously does.
I will admit, much as I enjoyed this – especially the slow build up to friendship between the men before anything more serious happens – and appreciated both the period scientific detail and ambiguous ghostly goings on, I wasn’t entirely convinced it was love between them, especially Ward. He is definitely attracted to Nick, but it’s hard to tell how well he really gets to know him between his obsession with the supernatural, his grief for his brother and his other scientific goals. Likewise, the way Nick feels about their different social status made it hard for me to believe he could ever overcome his bitterness, regardless of how things stand at the end. I did, however, like how certain things were resolved and definitely think a good balance was achieved, even if I wasn’t convinced about how long-lasting it might be. And then there’s Master Snowflake, who was quite simply wonderful.
So on the whole, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters were nuanced and interesting – including the wider secondary cast – the setting was gorgeous and the romance was tempestuous enough to fill the pages. If you like your M/M romance with a hint of history, a glorious backdrop and a couple of outcast characters finding solace in each other, then give this a go.
A Gathering Storm is Out Now.
Visit Joanna Chambers for more details.