Review: Honor Bound by Wheeler Scott

 

from the blurb: Christian has just come home to England, leaving his commission in the Army, so he can do his duty by the family now that his brother, the heir, is dead. Prodded by his crusty dowager of a grandmother, he sets out to find a wife and produce heirs. He thinks he’s done well for himself when he meets a wonderful young lady, someone he feels might help him forget Jamie, his fellow soldier and wartime love affair. Then Jamie turns up right under his nose, and Christian is faced with some hard choices as he has to decide how honor is best served. This traditional gay Regency proves that sometimes the ties that bind go beyond blood, and that even a man bound by honor might give up everything for love.

Review by Erastes

“Traditional Gay Regency” this ain’t. It couldn’t be further from one, and what is one of those, anyway? There’s only about ten or so in existence, to my knowledge.

I have to say that I came away feeling severely conflicted about this book. It seemed to want to conspire to make me dislike it and yet I finished with a feeling that I didn’t, overall. 

Firstly it’s in a very tight third person present tense, and I really don’t like the present tense for novels. It can work well in sections, and it can work brilliantly for short stories, but I find it very wearing for long pieces and there are some things that, when expressed in present tense, become clumsy and lose their impact.

Secondly it doesn’t have a depth of the time it portrays, and that’s partly due to the style of the writing (which I’ll come to later).  I found that with a little experimentation, I could switch “Peninsular war” for “Gulf War” and I wouldn’t have noticed the join much.  This is shored up by the modern feel of the writing and by the informality the characters show with each other.  The heroine “Danielle” (and I baulked right here, seeing as how she’d have been born in an age where the French were seen as murderous rabble – and would any parent give their daughter a French name?) insists that Christian calls her – wait for it – Dani. And yes, with that spelling. I was waiting for her sisters Brandi, Buffy and Britney at one point.  Now, while I’m happy to consider that Christian may have given into a strong willed girl who insisted on such informality in private (and they are in private far far too often) she would be and should be Miss Fields in public right up until the time their engagement is announced.

There are other infuriating anachronisms too, such as the time when Dani and family arrive at Christian’s mansion for a weekend and Dani’s maid has to lug “several trunks” up the same stairs that Dani is climbing with Christian. This is silly enough as 1. one trunk is heavy enough let alone several, 2. guests luggage and their servants would be round the BACK of the house, not being seen but then Dani and Christian go to assist the maid which had me beating my head on the desk.

However.

The writing borders on wonderful at points, and while it didn’t really suit the time and the subject, it was so impressive at times that I could almost forgive the errors.  It very much reads like a man suffering from PTSD, which I could very much believe he was, and that’s a neat twist on a Peninsular War soldier.

Here’s an example:

The first thing he does is look around, frantically searching, eyes tearing from the smoke that still hangs thick and heavy over what is left of the field they fought on. Nothing. He’s looking again, alarm thumping in his chest, when he realizes his shoulder hurts, a sharp stabbing pain.

His fingers come away stained damp and dark but when he presses into the wound again, harder, he feels its edges and realizes it’s nothing but a sharp gash, not even down to the bone. He starts walking, ignoring the sounds his feet make as they travel across the ground. There was a period, in the beginning, when he cared where he walked and rode, thought about what might be underneath him. He doesn’t anymore.

Death has passed from wrenching into the familiar, and he feels more of a jolt when they pass through towns where children still play, stunned by the sight of someone who feels free and safe out in the open.

The story runs with two seperate narratives, the present – where Christian goes home to try and do what his family want – and the recent past which explains his relationship with Jamie. Perhaps using two different tenses would have worked better in each seperate narrative, but they are both in present tense which is a little wearing and confusing.  It is muddied yet further by a further-back flashback which does slide into past tense.

Christian is suitably conflicted, if a little too angsty for my taste and towards the end I was a little fed up with his internal whining. The decision that he finally makes actually pleased me because although shocking to his family no doubt, was probably something that did happen, even in the best families.

It’s not an erotic love-story, for those of you who seek out this kind of thing, sex is inferred and full of imagery rather than description.

So, I would say, read it and make up your own mind.  I hadn’t heard of this author before, but I would (particularly if it was a modern story) try another of their works.  I can’t mark it higher than I have for the reasons that jarred me, but without the wonderful passages it would have got two stars.

Buy from Fictionwise

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