Days like today are the ones when I wonder, "Where has this author been all my life?" The sad part is that she has been writing for years, and I am just now discovering her books. The best part is I have lots of books to devour over the coming weeks and months. This book put me through the emotional wringer, in the most joyous of ways. I was immediately captivated by the story, the characters, and the absolutely beautiful demonstrations of love and friendship. This story was full of steam and spice, but what makes this one of my favorite books of 2021 was how wonderfully it depicted the highs and lows of a love story. So many tropes to be had here - opposites attract, class difference, age gap - and at the heart of it all was two people whose souls recognized each other before their minds had time to register what was happening. I was literally starting to tear up as I read, which is the mark of a good story. When I outwardly show my emotions while reading, the author has done their job to the fullest extent possible. Thank you, Merry Farmer.
Septimus Bolton's home is the sea. He has lived it and breathed it for years, and now that he is forced back on land after the war has ended, he is left stranded in the last place he wants to be - the home of a nobleman. Accompanied by his seafaring friends, both of whom are also nobility, he feels the odd man out as the son of a fisherman with no wealth to speak of. So when he sees a vision in breeches coming down the stairs to greet them, the tutor of his friend's niece and nephew, things suddenly look a bit brighter...until it comes to light that the tutor is also a nobleman. Adam Seymour is the youngest son of a baron, hardly anything to talk about, but to Septimus, the gulf between them is as wide as the sea. Thus begins a game of sorts between them, with Adam working to convince Septimus that the spark between them should ignite into a flame, while Septimus constantly works to douse the flame as quickly as possible. Of course, with both trapped in close quarters together, passion is bound to ignite regardless of best efforts, but what of tomorrow? Septimus hopes to return to sea, and Adam must remain on land. It will take a miracle to keep them together...but only one misunderstanding to tear them apart.
Don't worry about that last line - this is a romance, so all ends well. But the journey to that ending is so full of emotions, mostly happy but some frustrating and others downright maddening. Septimus was such a big teddy bear. An alpha in the bedroom but a big softie outside of it. I loved that he had such vulnerabilities, which left Adam being the aggressor in their relationship. It was fun to see Septimus, the older of the two by a good ten years, be completely flustered by Adam, whose youth and vitality was evident in his jovial nature and utter lack of shame around Septimus. Since Adam was younger, there was a bit of vulnerability for him as well, having much fewer sexual experiences and also having been seen frequently as someone not worthy of serious consideration. Both had confidence issues at times, and it was particularly endearing to see them heal those emotional wounds as they grew closer. The author notes at the end of the book that this series takes some liberty with the openness of the gay community during that time period, but recent research has shown that more people were able to live freely as same sex couples than previously thought. While Adam and Septimus were often a little more free than may have been expected, it depicted the world with an idealistic light. Wouldn't it be lovely if they could have lived as they did? And maybe they did? Maybe over time we'll be able to have a better sense of what life was like for couples like them, show a bright spot in an often dark historical world.
I can't express how excited I was to begin this book, and it exceeded all of my expectations by a mile! I am so happy that this is the start of a new series. I can't wait to dive in to what's next for this group of friends.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**