The whole of London Society has long assumed Lord William Hartwell will marry his childhood best friend, Lady Rebecca Warrington. After two Seasons, Hartwell remains quite content with bachelorhood–his parents do not. When Hartwell learns they intend to cut his purse strings unless he makes a match this Season, he resigns himself to a marriage of convenience with Becca, and yet he can’t help but be drawn to her younger brother, Warry.
He must marry, or risk his sister’s ruin.
The Viscount “Warry” Warrington is used to being viewed as the tagalong little brother. Now a grown man about to enter his second Season, Warry is desperate to be seen. When Lord Balfour, a handsome older peer, takes Warry under his wing, Warry thinks his dream is finally coming true. Until Balfour reveals his true intent–to make public a letter that will destroy Becca’s reputation, unless Warry agrees to marry him.
Time is running out for both of them.
When an injury forces Warry to recover at Hartwell House, the two succumb to a secret flirtation. But Warry’s sudden announcement of his engagement to Balfour drives Hartwell near mad with jealousy–and right into Becca’s arms. With the clock ticking for Warry to save his sister, will Hartwell discover the truth of Warry’s feelings before it’s too late?
Hyde Park was lovely. It being March, the ride was cool, and Warry wished he’d worn a scarf. The winter had not been a bad one, although the tail end of it was proving to linger, the pattern of generally bright and sunlit days marred occasionally by chilly, drizzly ones such as this. It had been several years since Town had seen what Warry’s father called a ‘real’ winter; winters these days seemed damper and more miserable rather than sharp and cold. Warry could remember visiting the frost fair several years ago, amazed at the story of an elephant being led over the frozen Thames, even if he hadn’t witnessed it himself. He’d bought hot chocolate and he and Becca had gone skating. Their parents had declared the other children too young, which had led to Charlotte wailing all the way home, but not even that had ruined Warry’s good spirits. He’d promised to take Charlotte to the next frost fair, but every winter since then had been too mild for the river to freeze over.
There wasn’t much traffic on Rotten Row when Balfour drove the curricle over to that end of the Park so that they might watch the riders. A pair of gentlemen raced half-heartedly, though neither they nor their horses seemed much inclined to break a sweat. Warry feigned more interest than he felt, mostly to avoid looking at Balfour. Balfour had been polite and chivalrous from the moment Warry had climbed up into the curricle beside him, which seemed like nothing more than a cruel trick now that Warry had glimpsed the man’s true nature. A part of him would have preferred that Balfour acted like the monster he was.
Instead, Balfour chatted about the weather, the latest news from the Continent, and the slow start to the Season that year. Although people had been coming to Town since just after Christmas, the Season had yet to really warm up. Why, there hadn’t even been any scandals as yet. Warry’s skin prickled when Balfour said that with a sly smile, because they both knew Balfour held the power to uncover one.
“I do believe our match will be widely talked about,” Balfour remarked.
“I suppose so,” Warry said carefully, uncertain of the man’s meaning.
“Marriage can either be a very beautiful thing or a very ugly one.”
Warry’s throat tightened with the implications of that statement.
Balfour went on. “My father was courted by a Lord Bainbridge, many years ago. To hear him speak of it, Bainbridge was his one great love. He cares not at all for my mother. She destroyed his happiness, you see. She did it bit by bit, day by day. I had no siblings. There was no other option available to me but to endure that household in all its misery. Such terrible things she would say to him. To me.”
Warry gazed out at the people promenading. He did not want to feel anything for Balfour—the pain of the man’s betrayal was still too raw—but in spite of himself, he spared a moment’s pity for a small boy in a loveless household. His own upbringing had been full of kindness and indulgence, and he supposed it was unjust that some were granted such blessings and some were not—in the way he’d often thought it unjust that his mother adored him but seemed to find Becca wanting in everything but looks.
“For years, it made me hard and bitter.” Balfour rapped on the curricle’s side as though to jerk himself from his reverie. He turned his gaze toward Warry, his grin false and strange. “But I have come to enjoy a rich social life and the symbols of status that come from being my own man rather than my father’s puppet or my mother’s target practice. I have even begun to believe once more in love. I’m no romantic, you understand, but I should very much like to have what my father had with Bainbridge. And Joseph—” he paused. “I have known since that first afternoon we spent together that you are capable of both feeling and giving this love.”
Warry chewed his lip, wishing that Balfour’s flattery had no power over him. Wishing he did not sit there wondering if it was true. Did he have a rare and admirable capacity for love, and would there be others, if he could only get free of Balfour, who would see it?
Perhaps I would have given it freely to you had you not trapped me, he wanted to say.
People were broken in all sorts of ways. They sometimes use disagreeable methods to achieve their ends, but didn’t they all want essentially the same thing? To be loved? Could that brief flash of pity he’d felt for Balfour grow into forgiveness, and might they have a marriage that was at least civil? “My parents sometimes seem strangers to each other.” He didn’t know what else to say. “That is certainly not what I want for myself.”
“Then I’m glad we’ve made this promise to one another.” Balfour smiled with sincere warmth as though that promise they had made to one another was not born of sickness on Balfour’s part and terror on Warry’s.
I love historical romances. When I started reading back in my teen years…oh so many years ago…that was where I started…Victorian era regency romances. And now reading m/m romance, I do still like a good historical regency, and this gave me a very good taste. There is a little part at the beginning that helps to set up the book, which I hadn’t heard of, so I am guessing it was helpful for the book timeline. And it was helpful for me to stay in the story. 🙂
There was a lot going on in this book, which is what made it such a fun read. Hartwell knew he had to marry a woman, to have heirs, since he was the only son. His best friend was a woman, and a lesbian as it happened, so that seemed to be his obvious choice. Meanwhile, her brother, Warry, was trying to save her reputation from some unpleasant folks, after he found a letter that was a bit naughty. Let the secrets begin!
The book definitely had a lot of the schoolyard bully being mean to the object of his affections feel to it. Which honestly disturbed me a little in the beginning and the middle. I had a hard time connecting how Warry could want to be with someone who was kind of a jerk to him, a lot. As the book went on, though, I could see a bit more the issue was Hartwell really in denial. If he hadn’t redeemed himself about that, I would have been most disappointed.
It was still a fun read, with lots of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about historical romances…lack of communication, people trying to protect people by giving up their virtue/agreeing to marriage, etc. And the final scene with the bad guy was *chefs kiss*, and made me ready for book 2, which must be…well, you’ll have to see. (Or you can check out the preorder that is up now here).
*Side note: These covers are so awesome!!!*
4 pieces of eye candy
About JA Rock:
J.A. Rock is the author of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A.’s books have received Lambda Literary, INDIEFAB, and EPIC Award nominations, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Novel Award. 24/7 was named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Lisa has been published since 2012, and was a LAMBDA finalist for her quirky, awkward coming-of-age romance Adulting 101, and a Rainbow Awards finalist for 2019’s Anhaga.
To connect with Lisa on social media, you can find her here:
She also has a Facebook group where you’ll be kept in the loop with updates on releases, have a chance to win prizes, and probably see lots of lots of pictures of her dog and cats. You can find it here: Lisa Henry’s Hangout.a Rafflecopter giveaway