A guest review by Jenre
Not as good as their previous historicals, but still an engaging tale of subterfuge and murder.
They once faced each other on a battlefield. Now soldier-turned-spy Jonathan Reese must keep watch over the man he’s never forgotten. A close encounter reveals Karl von Binder, the count’s son, also recalls the day he spared Jonathan’s life.
Sparks fly between the former enemies and Jonathan begins to lose perspective on his mission. He knows he must maintain distance because the heat he encounters in Karl’s touch stirs him far too deeply for his own good. He can’t keep away — especially when he suspects someone is trying to kill the nobleman.
The spy becomes a protector as Jonathan guards the man he’s begun to care for. Together the men try to puzzle out who would benefit from Karl’s death — and how much they’re willing to trust each other when a torrid sexual fling threatens to become an affair of the heart.
I’ve really been enjoying these historical novels from Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon and this one was no exception. Having said that, the way that the strong start gave way a little to a weaker ending, coupled with a nondescript hero in Reese, made this my least favourite of their books so far.
Reese is a government spy, working on various assignments since the Crimean War. He’s charged with following a German nobleman, who may or may not be in danger. Reese knows the charismatic Karl, who once spared Reese’s life on the battlefield, and he can’t help but be drawn to Karl, making it very difficult for Reese to retain his professional distance.
The book begins well as we are first introduced to the shady dealings of Reese. The murky atmosphere of the public house where he is given his assignment perfectly matches the mood of the story which involves Reese skulking around in shadows in an attempt to spy on Karl. At first I liked Reese, and thought his guarded personality fit well the job he had to do. Unfortunately, Reese doesn’t really change very much as the story progresses, and whilst he tells the reader how his feelings for Karl are developing, he still has a very closed in personality to the extent that he never reveals his thoughts to Karl. This made him a little dull at times and I found that as the book progressed I lost interest in him as a character. The opposite of this is Karl whose naturally gregarious nature, willingness to be open and his charisma, more than compensated for Reese’s mousey personality. I liked Karl a great deal. He’s a man of action, unafraid and yet also sensible with it. He inspires loyalty in his men, and particularly Reese, who is bowled over by the force that is Karl. I also liked that he’s a sensual man too, and not afraid to demand what he wants from Reese. One of the most interesting hints to their relationship was in the way that Reese responded to Karl’s demands in bed, with Reese almost showing a submissive nature. Sadly this was only ever hinted at and I would have liked to have seen more development perhaps in that part of their relationship.
As I said, the story began well with the two men quickly forming a bond of friendship and lust – the scene in the cupboard being particularly thrilling. Once the story moves into the suspense plot involving threats on Karl’s life I felt that the plotting lost a little cohesion. There’s a sudden incident followed by a slow moving section followed then by another attack which made the plot seem disjointed with too many shifts in place and pacing. When the culprit is revealed I found it a little puzzling, as the personality of the villain did not fit with the ways that Karl’s life is put in danger. I know I’m being a bit vague, but I don’t want to give away spoilers!
Despite some of the problems I had with the story and the character of Reese, this book is still well written and engaging. The historical setting, especially in relation to the Crimea War and the aftermath, was unusual and the character of Karl more than made up for a few deficiencies in Reese. Overall, if you like historicals then I think you’ll enjoy this book.