I LOVE historical romance. My very first experience with romance was reading Elizabeth Lowell novels as a teenager. Later my full on dive into romance reading as a full on addiction (thank you kindle!) was with the Outlander Series which is initially set in Scotland, same place where Joanna Chambers has set her wonderful Enlightenment Trilogy (kilts!). I picked up the first two books last week, and read them fast and furiously, one after the other. I love a historical that actually focuses on the HISTORY, and gives me a story that not only appeals to my love of romance, but that enriches my knowledge of the time and place I’m reading about. Ms. Chambers did that incredibly well in her novels. I was fascinated with her retelling of King George’s visit to Scotland. Moreover, I truly loved getting to read about the different sides, and perceptions of what the visit was like… But I digress. The stars of these books are David Lauriston advocate of the law, and Lord Murdo Balfour. The man who from the moment they meet changed David forever. These two were something. I loved the accuracy with which Joanna delved into the troubling nature of this type of relationship during that time. Her accuracy writing that part of their story, did a lot for me in terms of relating and caring for both these men.
For this book I decided a French red was my safest option to stay close to what these boys would have been drinking those days. I found a delightful French Pinot Noir from Tussock Jumper Wines…This is a great brand. These guys travel all over the world to find wines in the regions that produce each variety best , bottle them and sell them under their label at VERY reasonable prices. What’s not to love?? The Tussock Jumper 2010 French Pinot Noir is incredibly delicious. It is spicy without being to overwhelming, and goes well with pretty much anything. For about $8.99 a bottle it is a STEAL.
These books are nice to read together, mostly because the first one has a hell of a nail bitter for an ending (the second one does too for that matter!). There is much to love here guys, the writing itself was excellent. The character development was believable and coherent. Mostly though I enjoyed the fact that the author took her time with getting these boys warmed up to their love story. This book is set in 1820s Scotland, homosexuality is not only illegal, but it is considered HIGHLY immoral, damnig, an abomination. Gay men had to deal with this perception of their nature not just from society, but from themselves. That is something you DO NOT get over easily or quickly. David struggled with his inclinations. Being homosexual had cost him a dear friend, and in some ways he felt it had taken some of his father’s regard. Those are hard things to deal with, specially when you love and respect your family.
Something else I enjoyed was the political intrigue in the book. This book is set during a critical time in the history of Scotland. General Suffrage is a heated issue, and people sit strongly on both sides of the fence. David being the son of a farmer stands with the people…Murdo he’s an aristocrat, and even though he is definitely a man of intelligence and decency, it’s hard to separate him from the opulence in which he lives. Murdo, unlike David has no issues with his own nature, he is also very pragmatic about who he is, and the time he lives in. So, despite the fact that he completely accepts who he is, and is not bothered by his attraction to other men, he still considers marriage as a woman to be a possibility for him. David on the other hand, he cannot fathom being duplicitous in any way, with anyone. All these things are surrounding them as they get closer, and more intimate. It’s complicated.
In the first novel of the trilogy, Provoked, Murdo and David meet for the first time as travelers stopping for the night at an inn. They are heading in opposite directions, there is an immediate attraction between them. They have a quick and passionate encounter, which they both assume is a one time thing. Not long after their paths cross again. One of David’s mentors is an acquaintance of Murdo’s, once they see each other it’s hard to stay away. They meet again and again, the more the see of each other, the harder it is for David to keep himself from succumbing to his desires. Murdo is all for the trysts, and instigates as much as possible, but the further things go with David the clearer it is to him that this is a lot more than just a physical thing.
At the same time, a friend of David’s. Euan, the brother of one of a group of radicals he defended has come to him asking for help locating a government spy. The man, apparently was who gave up his brother and friends, and ultimately resulted in two being executed and the rest transported to Australia. Euan wants revenge and David feels obligated to at least help him find out the truth about the supposed spy. Things begin to add up, and they are looking a lot like Murdo may have something to do with it…What to do? Clearly the honorable thing. For David, there is never another choice.
This book has a morose feel to it. The opening scene is pretty grim, and in a lot of ways it sets the tone. There is much happening in David’s life that is troubling. He is still young, finding his footing in his profession and life. He is also desperately hoping that his sinful nature won’t cause to relapse…He knows it will. It’s who he is. He’s given up hope that he can ever be normal in that way. It make’s him feel hopeless. As for Murdo things for him are also confusing, he clearly is strongly drawn to David, but the man frustrating. Yet he can’t stay away.
In the second book, Beguiled. We meet up with David after a long hiatus. Things were very tense at the end of the last book, and that whole situation is now under the bridge. King George is about to visit Scotland, and all of Edinburgh is in a frenzy. He runs in to Lord Murdo (who he has been out of touch with for awhile), who is in town as part of the entourage to host the king. Instantly they are drawn to each other just as powerfully as the last time. In the time since he last saw Murdo, David has changed how he sees himself and what he wants, WHO he wants. He is a lot more accepting of himself, and this leads them to rekindle their affair.
All is not well though, his good friend Elizabeth, daughter of his friend and mentor, seems to be in trouble in her marriage. David feels responsible for the situation. So, when his old friend Euan shows up back in town and offers to help Elizabeth escape her abusive husband, David’s sense of honor once again pushes him to put his life at risk in order to help his friend. Murdo is all over the situation of course, since he seems helpless in his attachment to David.
The tone for this second book is not as dark and the romance is certainly up a level or TEN from the first installment. David is all in with Murdo and that leads the Lord to seek out more and more of the man he can’t seem stop wanting. Once again things get pretty intense in the final chapters. I ended at the edge of my seat, and DESPERATE for the next one. These books are certainly the right kind of historical romance. They are beautifully set, consistent in the ways characters behave and evolve, and most of all, full of dramatic and romantic gestures.
The Enlightenment Series book 1 and 2 are available for sale at Samhain Publishing and the third book, to be released on May of this year will be available for pre-order soon.
I hope you pick up this series, it is FABULOUS even for those who don’t go for historicals. The wine is also pretty awesome if you find it!
Cheers and Happy Reading!