Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Unnatural (Enlightenment #4) [Iain & James] by Joanna Chambers

Outstanding. This is another one of those I'm reluctant to write a review because I KNOW I won't be able to express just HOW amazing it was! So if I wasn't clear before - I LOVED this book to pieces. It broke my heart and patched it back together. I found myself holding a hand over my chest the last third of the book and I literally shed tears (which is very uncommon!) at a few breaking points. My oh my oh my, Iain and James, what a ride they had until they found their HEA. 

We've met Iain in the Enlightenment series, first in the very short novella "Season's End" (between the 1st and 2nd installment) if you're read it you might remember Iain having a scene in this "high society brothel" in which he yells at a young guy that he shouldn't be there and he shouldn't have gotten an invitation / recommendation and so on.. the scene continues on to Murdo without an explanation to what actually went on there. This is the last time Iain and James meet but it's not where the story starts. 

James and Iain known each other for years, since they were kids. It was summer, James was almost 10, when he first met the 13 years old Iain when their family starts spending summers together (from their sisters' and mothers' mutual acquaintance). Though there's quite an age difference they are drawn to one another. James is fascinated by the older kid, he truly idolizes him, and Iain is intrigued by this young kid who knows so much about nature and keeps exploring his surrounding promising he would grow up to be a scientist. For years they spent their summers together and sent letters during the time they weren't able to meet. They were best friends in every sense of the word. The book describes their beautiful connecting, we start with the first time they spend the summer together and move back and forth from the past to the present. The past getting closer and closer to the current time in which James and Iain aren't speaking due to the outburst at the brothel 2 years before the current time.  

James had loved Iain for years. He even knew Iain was gay because he "caught" him once.. staying in the shadows he was amazed and aroused by the experience and yet he choose to keep quiet. When he finally acted on his desire Iain accepted the kiss and then rejected him. He tried to explain to James it was a BAD idea for them to act upon their mutual desire with how society perceive it. As the years went by it kept happening again and again, James acting upon his love and attraction to his best friend only to be rejected every time. Every time Iain backs away for a time yet he keeps returning, hoping he could still keep his precious friendship with James. He never admitted to how much  James means to him, not to James and not to himself and yet it's always there, the need to be in touch with his best friend even if he cannot have what he wants most. 

I was heart broken the whole story. James had SUCH a hard time with how Iain behaved but I couldn't take sides.. I couldn't blame Iain because he did what he thought was the only option that would keep them safe. His upbringing, his inner beliefs and what life taught him was basically - put your best side for everyone to see otherwise hide in the shadows and try not to have any enemies. In the end he was just so miserable, not only because he and James weren't speaking for two years, because his life didn't mean anything to him anymore which is why he makes this "drastic" decision to leave his military service and travel to India to become a sort of a spy. Yet before he leaves he wants to reconcile with James especially because they would probably never see each other again. 

This is where we're at in the current time. But before he meets James he has a short meeting with his friend Murdo and his lover David (the MC in Enlightenment). What he sees there doesn't only make him jealous it also sow the seeds to a realization he might have been wrong all these years.

I could write more, but frankly I feel as though I've already wrote too much. I can't recommend this book enough. IMO it's a MUST read. I don't think you HAVE to read "Enlightenment" series before but be advised that the one scene Iain meets with Murdo and David there's a HEAVY spoiler (!) to the second installment and what basically enabled them to be together. Though I wonder what you would get out of it if you haven't meet any of the characters before.. Naturally I recommend you start with the first one because I every book by Joanna is a JOY and shouldn't be missed :)

I kindly received this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Additional Details: Kindle Ebook, 230 pages, 29-30 November 2015 / On GoodReads
Enlightenment by Joanna Chambers is a MM Historical Romance. It's my first attempt at Historical Romance and I have fallen in love with the genre through Murdo and David's story. The story of these two spans over 3 books (and 2 novels) than continues to new couples. I hope it never ends!

We begin the romance between the junior advocate David Lauriston who came from a small insignificant village and Lord Murdo Balfour who always had his desires in his reach in an insignificant sexual encounter not thinking much of it, and not expecting to either see each other again or the sparks that would still fly when they do. 

David and Murdo seems VERY different in their views of the world around them and not only because they came from a different background. It mostly has to do with the ideals each lives by. While Murdo confesses he expects to get married and fake a family life (while having men on the side) David doesn't plan on getting married or having a family since he couldn't possibly consider betraying his marriage vows. He also tries his best NOT to have sexual encounters with men but sometimes his desires gets the best of him, which is exactly what happened with Murdo. 

The series contains 3 rather short novels (round 200 paged) and one very short novella in between. It's not meant to be read separately - you only get the HEA in the very end. In the first installment it's mostly about convenient sexual encounters yet it slowly progresses into friendship in the second installment and on the third special circumstance temporarily allows them to actually become true lovers. Yet it feels that it could only be temporary. How can them manage a relationship in a world that doesn't accept gay people. Some things have a higher price than others, and some prices are totally worth the outcome.

It was beautifully written, the romance was touching and realistic. I loved both David and Murdo, yet Murdo is my favorite of the two. As I'm not a romantic person per se, I really appreciated Murdo ACTED on his feeling with true loving intentions, he didn't seem overly romantic when you think about it, which is exactly what I enjoyed so much. He was true to his heart and wasn't ashamed of wanting and claiming, no matter the price, what he truly craved - David. 

Joanna has gifted us the perfect epilogue of the two in The Bequest. You can read it for free through sighing up to her newsletter.

Unnatural is a spin off novel of Iain Sinclair whom we've met in the previous installment finally finding his HEA with James Hart his childhood friend. It can be read as a stand alone but I don't advice is if you plan on reading Murdo and David's story later on (there's quite a spoiler in the one scene Iain meets Murdo and David).
Restored continues the series with a new couple - The Duke of Avesbury - Henry Asquith and Kit Redford. We've me Kit before as he is the owner of the "Redford" (a club for men of a certain persuasion). Kit used to be Henry's "kept boy" but when Henry's life takes a turn he leaves everything and everyone who isn't his immediate family to a remote estate only to return 18 years later and realize what he had promised Kit all those years ago was broken leaving Kit, a man he has come to love even if was forced to leave behind, to fend for himself. It took Kit time and much pain to find his footing again and make something of himself. Now so many years later when Kit finds out what truly happened from Henry's perspective he is understanding but it doesn't change the past and what happened to him due to Henry's carelessness in trusting the wrong man. They both have changed so much, yet they are still the same  - they might want something different from what they had before but they never stopped loving each other. This TRULY can be read as a standalone and I don't have enough words to compliment how absolutely amazing it was. A MUST READ.
1. Provoked (Published 23 July 2013) ★★★★½
1.5. Season's Pass (Free Download here) (Published 24 October 2014) ★★★★★ 
2. Beguiled (Published 24 December 2013)  ★★★★★
3. Enlightened (Published 6 May 2014)  ★★★★★
3.5  The Bequest - Murdo and David's Epilogue (Published 14 June 2020)  ★★★★★ 
4. Unnatural [Iain Sinclair & James Hart] (Published 24 November 2015) ★★★★★ 
5. Restored [Henry Asquith & Kit Redford] (Published 28 October 2020) ★★★★★ 

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