Jim Sinnett spends his days on respectable portrait photography and his nights creating scandalous erotic pictures for men who hide their desires in locked cabinets and between the pages of books. When a new friendship leads to a secret opportunity, one more dangerous than ever before, Jim agrees to step in front of the camera but finds himself baring much more than his skin.
A twisting historical romance set in the fog of Victorian London, Captured Shadows follows the path of love, blackmail and obsession to a devastating climax.
*As of writing, this book is still free/ pay what you fancy here.
I’ve become a somewhat jaded reader of romance, especially queer romance, in the last year or so. The adherence to so many tropes, a lot of books written so quickly, and such in fighting have left a bit of a sour taste. So when I come across a book I really like I want to celebrate it!
This is my recommended read for a number of reasons, firstly it’s a beautiful lyrical book that sticks in the memory, it does not adhere to any obvious rules of romance except in the loosest way, it celebrates photography. Also it joins the ranks of books I want to read again.
“My wings get dusty in the street, sir, I keep them folded in a hat box at home while I am out in town.”
This sentence is in the opening chapter and I was captivated. Ordinary Victorian London is described in such a way as to make it seem magical and otherworldly. At the same time the horror of the Victorian underworld is not romantisised so the book does not read as a fantasy of Victoriana. In so many other Victorian queer romances where the main characters are both male, one or both of them are wealthy. In this way the author circumnavigates the illegality and danger that their characters would have faced. In Captured Shadows Jim is a photographer’s assistant, and Archie becomes an erotic photography model, and their affair is carried out in the shadows.
Jim is a wonderful narrator, he starts as an assistant to a photographer, then becomes involved with the illegal sideline of taking erotic photographs, and then Archie becomes the subject of the photographs. In this way their romance is back to front – they are photographed in intimate and erotic acts, while in the background delicately investigating their feeling for each other.
Archie’s motivation in modelling is purely financial at the start, but as the relationship develops between the two men, the tension begins to grow and lines are blurred. The pleasure at their physical intimacy becomes jealousy as one of their clients demands to be involved, just as their emotional intimacy becomes stronger. The writing here is so evocative at times that I really felt myself in the story and in Victorian London and I did not want it to end.
But books must end, and this one ties all the loose ends up beautifully, and here is my only complaint about this short but beautiful book, the epilogue seemed tacked on to satisfy the requirement for a full on HEA, and left me wanting more stories of Jim and Archie.
I cannot recommend this book enough.
You can buy a copy here.