Dear Ms. Dee and Ms. Devon:
This was a December Recommended Read for me. I enjoyed the characters, I liked the plot, I liked the historical feel. Just in general this was a good solid historical romance.
The year is 1866. Jonathan Reese is a spy, a former soldier who didn’t know how to re-enter civilian life after the Crimean War so he just stayed in the shadows, occasionally acting as assassin, more often just as spy. He is given a new assignment to follow Karl von Binder, Erb-Pfalzgraf von und zu Neuschlosswold-Binder. He is the son and heir of a count of one of the Germanic territories. Jonathan is vaguely troubled by his assignment, in that Karl spared his life during a moment out of time during the battle at Sevastapol during the Crimean War, but as he has worked hard at being forgettably ordinary, he figures he can avoid Karl’s notice enough to follow him.
He is wrong, of course. Karl not only works out he’s being followed, but immediately recognizes Jonathan from their encounter in the Crimea. He invites Jonathan to tea, they talk, and Karl makes a pass at Jonathan, which infuriates Jonathan, but turns, nonetheless, into a torrid encounter, from which Jonathan runs when it’s over, only to rescue Karl from a runaway carriage that could have killed them. They then band together to figure out who is trying to kill Karl, giving them opportunities to explore their attraction for each other.
The mystery and the relationship are nicely balanced. I didn’t figure out who was trying to kill Karl until just before he did, but I’m not very good at mysteries, so I’m not sure how much that’s worth. The relationship is well-done, though. These men have a connection forged in war and another forged through the danger they’re in. They have to trust each other and trust their own instincts, which brings them together quickly.
I enjoyed both characters. They were strongly drawn. Jonathan is lost in his anonymity, desperate for the comforts of love, but convinced he doesn’t deserve them and they’re unattainable anyway. Karl is larger than life, convinced that life is to be enjoyed, but haunted by his horrendous family and his time at war. They come together and teach each other how to love, how to have a relationship, how to be at peace. That’s what I liked most about this book was how these two men were so obviously so much better together than they were apart. And I very much enjoyed that they both acted like adults with brains at the denouement, rather than running on pure emotion and stupidity.
There’s a very weak point in the plot where Karl and Jonathan go away to Karl’s uncle’s country estate, then are quickly brought back to London. This seems the weakest point in the plot, reacting without thought, rather than acting with deliberation. This might be appropriate to the situation, but doesn’t seem appropriate to the characters.
Otherwise, I really enjoyed the voice of this story, loved the characters, enjoyed the historical setting, and the unusual German nationality of one of the characters. It’s not a brilliant read, but it’s very enjoyable. While I enjoyed your previous two historical collaborations, this one was by far and away the best of them.