Review: The Broken by Stella Notecor

James guards his secrets.

Uncertain as to whom he can trust with his family’s secrets, James Bradford has lived a lonely life since becoming Baron of Riverside. When he meets an equally enigmatic violinist named Sheamus, he begins to wonder if he’s found someone with whom he can share everything.

Sheamus guards his body.

No one has ever shown Sheamus Flynn affection except his mother. That changes when he meets James, but Sheamus cannot trust him. Sheamus has been used by his master, Cade Edward, and he knows better than to believe James could ever love a mere servant.

They both guard their hearts.

Over the course of the 1876 Social Season they cautiously fall in love, only to be violently ripped apart by Edward. Defeating Edward’s deceptions will require both of them to share long guarded secrets.

Can they trust each other?

Review by Erastes

I’m not sure if you can entirely trust that blurb, to be honest. It might be what the author thought she was writing, but it’s not how it came out for me.

I didn’t see the blurb  until preparing this review, so it took me a long while to work out exactly when this story was set. Whilst I’m not a big fan of “London, XXXX” date at the top of the chapter, I do like a few grounding facts to help me. The date would sufficed in this case as I was about half way through before the era was clear.

It starts off at a party and there’s a waltz being played, so I’m thinking it couldn’t be pure Regency, because the waltz didn’t really take off until a bit later–but then they have a quadrille which confused me. It wasn’t until a good way into the book when I could hang a date on it, 1876, 20 years after the Indian Rebellion.

The thing is I wasn’t particularly enamoured of James. His idea of “cautiously falling in love” is to march up to Sheamus’s master (a man to whom Sheamus owes money and oddly cannot leave, like it’s some kind of slavery) and demand that he hand him over for the season, with nefarious purposes entirely in mind. It just so happens that Sheamus is being raped and abused (and these scenes are shown graphically in the book, so if that’s not your bag watch out) by his “master” and doesn’t really want to roll over for another man. However–of course he does, with hardly more than a “I’d rather not” and in no time at all they are weeping and wailing and declaring love to each other like the best of girlie men.

The whole scenario seemed weird. Why didn’t Sheamus just bugger off somewhere else and get a job and send Edward the money if he was so honourable? Or just bugger off. One could argue that he was “broken” but he doesn’t really come over that way to me.

I was disappointed, because for a moment it did seem like it might be a break from what is becoming the norm.

Being self-published it runs true to the expectation that I am now having with self-pubbed books that the editing is shoddy. Not the worst I’ve seen (that comes in my next review) but pretty dire. When will anyone bother to look up the difference between rain/reign/rein? It sometimes strikes me that perhaps these people have decided to self-publish because the book has been rejected. Perhaps they should stop and think why it’s been rejected. There’s nothing wrong with self publication, but I wish people would have more pride and put out the best product they possibly can.

OK, rant over.

There’s a lot of sex in this book, and as I mentioned above the rapes are pretty graphic. The author’s website tagline is “Love Knows No Boundaries and Neither Do I so that’s probably what she means. ” I would actually say there’s a bit too much sex, and there’s also some annoying secondary characters who seem to have no place in the story other than to SUFFER ALSO under the evil Snidely Whiplash.

James annoyed me to the last, as despite him declaring undying love for Sheamus promptly forgets all about him for weeks and Sheamus is in dire trouble when he does take the trouble to remember – oh yes- where’s that guy I love??

Not recommended–although some of the writing isn’t bad. It’s not a bad price, so you might want to try it.

Author’s website

Buy at Smashwords

Review: An Improper Holiday by K A Mitchell

As second son to an earl, Ian Stanton has always done the proper thing. Obeyed his elders, studied diligently, and dutifully accepted the commission his father purchased for him in the Fifty-Second Infantry Division. The one glaring, shameful, marvelous exception: Nicholas Chatham, heir to the Marquess of Carleigh.

Before Ian took his position in His Majesty’s army, he and Nicky consummated two years of physical and emotional discovery. Their inexperience created painful consequences that led Ian to the conviction that their unnatural desires were never meant to be indulged.

Five years later, wounded in body and plagued by memories of what happened between them, Ian is sent to carry out his older brother’s plans for a political alliance with Nicky’s father. Their sister Charlotte is the bargaining piece.

Nicky never believed that what he and Ian felt for each other was wrong and he has a plan to make things right. Getting Ian to Carleigh is but the first step. Now Nicky has only twelve nights to convince Ian that happiness is not the price of honor and duty, but its reward.

Review by Erastes

At last–a Regency that reads like a Regency!  K A Mitchell was not an author known to me, so I was pleasantly surprised to be drawn in immediately with dialogue that was perfectly formal and with a real sense of time and place.

It’s quite nicely researched, and I wish I had that to say more often.  Usage of the word “marquisate” for example which is entirely correct, a journey by carriage to Derbyshire over vile, rutted roads which took days–and extended further because of the inconvenience of Ian’s sister–rather than hours.  It’s touches like this which really bring a book to life. (See my recent rant on horses!!)

It’s good too, to see an disabled hero.  So many books have entirely whole officers returning from the war, and dealing with an amputee is realistic and refreshing in this genre.  In fact Ian is quite a delight, having:

gone from reading classics in his purple robes to the buff and scarlet of a second lieutenant, with no time at all to learn how to converse with a lady. What did one say in such a case?

I love the way he fills in the backstory between himself and Nicholas in deft, episodic touches which pull the reader along like Scheredzhade did with her murderous husband, so we never feel we are being dumped with the backstory, or pulled out of the present narrative with a break in the action, as if often the case with “Parted Lover” stories.

The language is perfectly apt for the period, not so olde -worlde as to be inaccessible, but a great balance of formal narrative and speech and some really lush description, so well painted that you can really see exactly what’s being described, like this section which makes me feel very sorry for the poor servants.

Lacy clumps of snow still fell, yet slowly enough that the cobblestone path was well-cleared by servants wielding stable brooms. Hundreds of candles in the chapel threw enough light to gild the small drifts with a gold luster. Such a view coupled with the light scent of horses from the brooms made Ian fancy the sight and smells recaptured the Nativity.

He’s emo, yes, but it works very well, and that surprised me, as so many times I find an emo protag to be annoying as hell. But Ian is not whining; he’s realistic and fatalistic.  He thinks he’s seeing it clearly. Nicholas has responsibilities now he’s the Marquess, and their youthful love affair, however torrid, cannot possibility resume, however much Ian would want it to.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and there’s much more to the plot, and more character involved–all beautifully fleshed out, and none of them just wallpaper, than the blurb or my clumsy review shows. But I’m not going to spoil it for you, and if you enjoy a regency with a strong flavour of the time, well-researched history that layers itself onto the page without you even noticing it’s there and a protagonists that you will be crossing your fingers for–hoping that they will get their well-deserved happiness, then you are going to love this.

The cover is quite silly, of course, but you can’t have everything.

Author’s website

Buy from Samhain

Review: Insubordination by Alex Beecroft

A nice bonus for you today as Insubordination is a free-read and can be found here at Linden Bay

For the sake of their lives and careers, Josh and Peter agreed to put their need for one another behind them. But then a luxurious and sensual dinner together becomes foreplay, leading Josh to an act of insubordination that Captain Peter Kenyon will never forget

Review by Erastes

The characters have – for reasons that hardly need explaining to any reader of gay historical fiction – decided to cease their affair,  but Josh – beautifully in character – is finding this hard to deal with. So is Peter, but being the more controlled of the two would rather snap in half than admit it as readily as Josh does.  Josh pushes the matter in this wonderful speech

“Despatches from London. Butcher’s bill from the
Seahorse. Sightings of the Avenger and the Cruel Bones.
Papers containing news of the war, and incidentally, Sir, I
still love you. Why not take an evening off from being
respectable? I’m owed a chance to bugger you for a
change, don’t you think?”

If you love UST, or if you don’t quite know what it is, or if you need help writing it – I can do no better for you than to point at Alex’s writing, especially here as the tension she writes is exquisite, almost painful and you find yourself screaming at the page for them to stop bloody fooling themselves and get on with it because you know they want to.

And that’s the point, really. They do want to, but Peter’s infuriating good sense and understandable fear gets in the way.  He feels that he’s dallying with Josh, that he’s risking Josh’s life over something that he can control, can stop, and after all there’s no future in it, he thinks – and it’s Josh who is the key to this, Josh who is the one who needs take the control away from Peter, to show Peter how much it all means and that it’s all worth the risk.

The writing is exquisitely crisp, perfectly in tone and the details of the period, the food, the crystal, the uniforms are all done with the deftness and expertise that you’d expect from Alex if you’ve read her work before. The sex is perfect, never overdone, just enough to leave a warm smile on your face.

If you haven’t read Captain’s Surrender, then I recommend this little freebie because it will convince you that you need to, and if you have, this will not help you, because it will leave you wanting more.

Linden Bay

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