Will Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.
Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.
As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?
The theme for this month’s TBR challenge is “family ties” and this book has a lot of those – it’s the third book in a series about one family – reading the others recommended (they are awesome!!) but not required to enjoy this one – and heroes with complicated families, in a variety of ways. It’s also a meditation on a frequently-used Regency romance trope: the couple that is mismatched, in terms of family background, one wealthy, one poor, and the accommodations they must make for each other, and their families. Here, because both halves of the couple are male, there’s another trope maybe not inverted but flipped sideways, and that is, the man who must marry in order to maintain himself in the style to which he has become accustomed. Also readers who are into hurt/comfort, and love a good sick!fic, this is a book for YOU. So much mopping of a sweaty brow, and making of soup, and reading to a cross feverish patient!
Martin Easterbrook is the wealthy and sickly son of a profligate rake, whose father mistreated pretty much everyone Martin knew, including Martin himself, and members of the Sedgewick family. He’s prickly, irritable, highly educated, and due to chronic illness (consumption) wholly unfit for regular work. During the course of the book Easterbrook learns to communicate better about his fears and desires, and to think in new ways about what is important to him, and how, despite his physical limitations, he can work and support himself, and make a contribution to society.
Will Sedgewick, formerly of the British Navy, survivor of a brutally unhappy ship, and also former drug addict, truly loves Easterbrook, prickly snobby useless posh brat that he is, but he is unwilling to be a third wheel in a marriage of convenience. What Will learns, in the course of the book, is to stand up for himself, in his romantic life, and to accept the gratitude of his shipmates for previous sacrifices.
I liked that they really had to push themselves to find new ways to think, and to live, to get to the happy ever after. I liked that Sebastian really dug into Easterbrook’s experiences with chronic illness, his feelings of anger and fear at loss of control over his life, his resistance to other people making choices for him just because he was ill, even if those choices were good choices, in the end. I also liked that Sedgewick stuck to his principles and called Easterbrook’s bluff, and refused to be a third wheel. Another thing I liked, which Sebastian excels at generally, is that all the characters have multiple dimensions and are fully formed people, not just cardboard cutouts wandering through the narrative.
I can’t think of anything that I really strongly disliked, or that threw me out of the story. At times the “but I can only survive if I get married!” thing Easterbrook had going was tedious, and more so because he really just did not grasp why Sedgewick would find it distressing that his lover would be married, and Sedgewick would be intruding on that relationship. But really I think all of that underscored how hard the couple had to work for their Happy Ever After, and that they really pushed themselves and each other to get to the best place they could be, emotionally and physically, for the relationship to thrive.
I will absolutely read the author again, Cat Sebastian is on my “auto-buy” list because everything she writes is fantastic. I recommend this one, and the whole series.
You can buy a copy here.