Published by: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: historical romance/suspense
Reviewed by: Anya
What to Expect: Never-been-kissed MC meets a rogue with a heart of gold. Gorgeous historical romance with a side dish of family secrets…
Plot: In Victorian London, during a prolonged and pernicious fog, fantasy and reality are about to collide—at least in one man’s troubled mind.
A childhood fever left Arthur Middleton, Viscount Campden, seeing and hearing things no one else does, afraid of the world outside, and unable to function as a true peer of the realm. To protect him from himself—and to protect others from him—he spends his days heavily medicated and locked in his rooms, and his nights in darkness and solitude, tormented by visions, until a stranger appears.
This apparition is different. Fox says he’s a thief and not an entirely good sort of man, yet he returns night after night to ease Arthur’s loneliness without asking for anything in return. Fox might be the key that sets Arthur free, or he might deliver the final blow to Arthur’s tenuous grasp on sanity. Either way, real or imaginary, Arthur needs him too much to care.
Fox is only one of the many secrets and specters haunting Campden House, and Arthur will have to face them all in order to live the life of his dreams.
Review: This is the first book I have read by Rowan McAllister but definitely will not be the last. The plot is so different from anything I have read before and I can’t recommend enough this brilliantly crafted tale set in Victorian era. I will try not to spoil too many plot points because this story has quite a few surprises.
I absolutely ADORE Arthur Middleton. He has suffered greatly for over ten years, which he spent locked away in his rooms, and there are a deep honesty and innocence in his personality that wormed its way straight into my heart. I can only imagine the horror a man with his mental illness would feel knowing there is no cure, not to mention the ever present fear of being locked up in an insane asylum. The portrayal of Arthur’s anxiety and panic attacks is very vivid and that made even the smallest steps towards recovery appear monumental. I found myself cheering for his every triumph and biting my nails in frustration each time he had a setback. It’s impossible not to love him. His loneliness is one of the most heartbreaking parts of this book for me. He does all in his power not to inconvenience his uncle or his servants and as a result he is almost always alone with his thoughts and nightmares. I wish I could just reach through time and space and give him a hug.
Unlike Arthur, Fox is hardly innocuous and he has no qualms about occasionally breaking the law. He has been through rough patches in his life; he is worldly and almost cynical. Fox seems to know from the start, almost instinctively, how to make Arthur feel less uncomfortable about his condition and in turn Arthur grows to trust him more and more. I love how supportive, encouraging and gentle Fox is with Arthur throughout the story. Arthur lived most of his life being judged by others for his character, his hallucinations and moods, and for his sexuality. Fox offers him a chance of being a lover and a man who can fight to reclaim his life and his sanity. He never thinks of Arthur as “weak” even when his lover can’t do things any other person would take for granted, like going to the kitchen on his own or having extra wood for fire. Fox is willing to risk his freedom and later his life to protect Arthur and the feeling is clearly mutual.
The romance between the two of them takes time to develop but I felt the pace was perfect and fit really well with Arthur’s character. The magic of that first, long-awaited kiss between Fox and Arthur will melt your heart. There are so many little affectionate moments between them that make their relationship soar over the major obstacles that they face: the condemnation of society, Arthur’s health, Fox’s past, just to name a few. The sex scenes were more on the sweet rather than steamy side but I doubt anything else would have worked in this story.
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: I think that the plot twist towards the end of the story wasn’t completely resolved and that made the ending feel rushed as a result. There are in-depth descriptions of anxiety and panic attacks that might be triggering for some readers.
What you will love: You will fall in love with Arthur and his cunning Fox who will risk anything to protect him. You will love the suspense, the dark secrets and the very well-written atmosphere of an old Victorian house.
When not reading for pleasure, Anya is proofreading so it’s ALL THE BOOKS ALL THE TIME for her. She absolutely loves introducing people to new books and share the moment of “SQUEEE that book is amazing!” with them. Read all of her reviews here.
Connect with her: @shiny_luv