REVIEW: Enlightened (Enlightenment, book 3) by Joanna Chambers
The cruelest duel may not spill a drop of blood…but it could break their hearts. Enlightenment, Book 3 Five months ago, David Lauriston was badly hurt helping his friend Elizabeth escape her violent husband. Since then, David has been living with his lover, Lord Murdo Balfour, while he recuperates. Despite the pain of his injuries, David’s time with Murdo has been the happiest of his life. The only things that trouble him are Murdo’s occasional bouts of preoccupation, and the fact that one day soon, David will have to return to his legal practice in Edinburgh. That day comes too soon when David’s friend and mentor takes to his deathbed, and David finds himself agreeing to take on a private mission in London. Murdo is at his side in the journey, but a shocking revelation by Murdo’s ruthless father leaves David questioning everything they’ve shared. As tensions mount and the stakes grow higher, David and Murdo are forced to ask themselves how far they’re prepared to go—and how much they’re prepared to give up—to stay together. And whether there’s any chance of lasting happiness for men like them. Warning: Men in love, men with secrets, and men armed with dueling pistols.
Dear Joanna Chambers,
We are back with David and Murdo when David is still recuperating at Murdo’s estate. David is growing restless – he knows that he needs to return to his law practice– but he is just so very happy being where he is. As the blurb tells you, external circumstances force David to go back sooner rather than later – his mentor is at his deathbed and he wants to see David. The conversation between David and his mentor leads David to go from Edinburg to London on a mission to help Elisabeth once more, because her psychopathic ex-husband keeps looking for her and David agrees to help transfer the trust in her name to another law office. Murdo has his own goals to pursue in London, and he is not sharing much about those goals with David, except that it may have something to do with getting back at his father, and David ends up going with him. Now that the trilogy is complete I want to talk a little bit about certain things which I saw in all three books.
I thought that the author kept zeroing in on our characters and made the focus narrower and narrower with every book. We start with David defending the weavers and the implications their actions have for society. Murdo was involved too, Euan would not let go of super radical views (-totally understanding but super radical views), and I really loved how the characters’ love story played out against settings and issues which were so much larger than these individuals. In the second book social issues are still there, but we can clearly IMO see how David tries to do what he does best – change the system from within. Meanwhile Euan, while working for a radical newspaper, uses his wit rather his gun which I thought was a huge improvement for him. Then the focus gets even more narrowed down, and rather than change society David puts everything at stakes to help a friend. I liked that shift, because how can we help society unless we keep in mind the needs of its individual members, and if there are people who are decent and want to help people who are more vulnerable than themselves then such society will hopefully survive.
And in the third book the focus is most entirely on David and Murdo – on them learning stuff about each other, on them revealing stuff to each other. Oh there is something else going on in the book, but it was also all very personal, very individual oriented so to speak – I thought it was very different from first two books and I thought it was done by design. This something else eventually helped lead David and Murdo into their happy ending. On one hand I liked it a lot. Both men are even more vulnerable in this book, but to me they never lost believability as two men from different classes, who had a lot in common, enough to fall in love with each other. I thought I finally got a good grasp of Murdo’s character and I liked what I saw a lot.
“I didn’t know I wasn’t happy before,” he murmured. “Before what?” Murdo gave a lopsided smile. “Before you. Not that I was actively unhappy. I had plans. Objectives. Things to acquire or achieve. But—“ He paused, then said simply, “You make me happy, David.” David stared at him, his throat clogged with emotion. “The feeling’s mutual,” he managed at last, his voice little more than a whisper. Then he pulled Murdo down, pressing their lips together in a fierce kiss”
I had a little bit of an issue with their happy ending. Not in the sense that it did not fit the story – it is surely not an easy feat to come up with a believable happy ending in a historical, more than any other romance setting, and I thought the author managed it admirably well. No, it is just that they both sacrificed a lot in order to achieve their happiness and obviously being with each other was more important for them than anything else, but David’s sacrifice kind of made me personally a little sad. Do not get me wrong – Murdo also sacrificed a lot, but he wanted to be rid of what he sacrificed if that makes sense. David on the other hand could have done so much good. I mean, it is not like he still cannot and more importantly he is blissfully happy at the end. I thought their happiness was shining from the pages. It really is a little issue, believe me. There was also a coincidence closer to the end of the story which was not believable to me – in order for David to close certain page from his past a person appeared in the situation David found himself in and I just wondered how likely was that. But this was a very good book overall and I eagerly await the next m/m book from this writer. Grade: B., B+ for the whole trilogy.
Because I haven’t read the first two books yet and I want to, I only read the last paragraph of your review. I actually appreciate a happy ending that requires sacrifices, so I think it will appeal to me. Good to know you enjoyed the book, too.
I differ from you concerning the ending. I’m usually very wary of reading historical m/m because of the difficulty there would have been for anyone to find a happy ending given the law in Georgian times. I was very pleased with how Joanna Chambers managed it.
I don’t feel that David gave up too much. Remember how he was at the beginning of the first book; unhappy with his own nature, believing that he was committing a mortal sin, relying on anonymous encounters in which he risked everything, including his career. He was deeply lonely. Would you want him to go back to that life? — because it would have been impossible for him to be with Murdo and also to continue as an advocate in Edinburgh. I doubt if he would have had the mental energy and motivation to “do good” if it was at the cost of his relation ship with Murdo.
Also, I think he and Murdo will actually be able to do a great deal of good in the way they manage the estate (remembering the appalling way most landowners were treating their tenants at that time), and invest in projects. I was concerned that the scandal might inhibit Murdo’s ability to make such investments, but I suspect that after a while the fuss will die down. It will probably winnow out some of the projects which rely too much on names and less on financial sense, so it should be OK.
So, I was very pleased with the way on which Joanna C managed to sort out so many issues so comprehensively while remaining true to the time period. Plus, of course, I very much enjoyed seeing how the core relationship between David and Murdo grew and developed!
@HJ: Of course I would not want for David to be lonely :). I love him and Murdo together, I just wanted him to have it all ;). But as I said, my issue with the ending is really not that big. I also agree that they would probably improve things on the estate a lot, definitely.
@Janine: Would be very interested to hear your thoughts.