Synopsis: After his middle-class father inherits wealth and squanders it away, Ezra Seton is left to care for his younger brother. Unable to compete with his lover’s memory of a previous beau who swept Francis off his feat as well as bullied him mercilessly, Ezra is devastated when his love leaves him behind. Desperate to support his brother, the young man seeks employment in the very house of this memorable bully, the wealthy Victorian gentleman Robert Deeme. Accepting a position as secretary to Deeme’s off-kilter cousin means Ezra will be spending a great deal of time with the man he despises. His position exposes him to continued interactions with the man who bullied his love, an erratic and eccentric cousin, the pitfalls of lunatic asylums in Victorian England, and, of course, a growing physical attraction to the pretentious gentlemen. When Francis returns and eyes the “rude” gentleman just as relatives released from the asylum arrive, the secretary’s world is laced with passion, jealousy, and potential lunacy.
Review: This is a sweet (if a tad brief and sometimes simplistic) historical male/male romance set in Victorian London. Robert, the wealthy man of society, and Ezra, the struggling but educated man of middle class origins trying to take care of his siblings, were a nice combination. There was a fair amount of disdain to accompany plenty of attraction and character growth as well as a little between the sheets sizzle.
I found some elements of the work to be strong and interesting, including a (sometimes abbreviated but) believable enemies-to-lovers plot and “cross-class” themes. There was also a particularly interesting glimpses at 19th century/Victorian Britain (including sanatoriums, upper class researcher scientists, a touch of upstairs / downstairs flavor, and a bit of “Society” mores).
As with other works by this author, the setting is a nice draw for fans of male lovers set in 19th century British society. The characters are sympathetic without being perfectly wonderful or awful, including the protagonists, the surrounding family/household, and the foils. The weakness is in the sometimes quick-moving and/or overly pat plot and relationship developments, conflicts, and/or resolutions. In other words, it’s great for a diverting, relatively quick, and entertaining read (rather than a deep or really angst/passion-filled or breathtaking/enveloping romance).
Recommended for fans of: Historical romance; Victorian England; sweet stories.