Title: Provoked (Enlightenment #1)
Author: Joanna Chambers
Length: 54,571 words
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Scotland, 1820s, Closeted, Homophobia, Rich/Poor, Lawyers, Secrets & Lies, Mystery, Aristocracy, HFN (this was just the first part of a longer romance arc)
Rating: Really Like It
When a man loses his heart, he has no choice but to follow…
Enlightenment, Book 1
Lowborn David Lauriston lacks the family connections needed to rise in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. Worse, his latest case—defending weavers accused of treason—has brought him under suspicion of harbouring radical sympathies.
Troubled by his sexuality, tormented by memories of a man he once platonically loved, David lives a largely celibate life—until a rare sexual encounter with a compelling stranger turns his world on its head.
Cynical and worldly, Lord Murdo Balfour is more at home in hedonistic London than dingy, repressed Edinburgh. Unlike David, he intends to eventually marry while continuing to enjoy the company of men whenever he pleases. Yet sex with David is different. It’s personal, intimate, and instead of extinguishing his desire, it only leaves him hungry for more.
As David’s search for the man who betrayed the weavers deepens, he begins to suspect that his mysterious lover has more sinister reasons for his presence in Edinburgh. The truth could leave his heart broken…and more necks stretching on the gallows.
Contains mystery and danger set in 1822 Scotland, and a forbidden love between two men that will leave you on the edge of your seat—until the next book.
I don’t know why exactly, but I was really, really excited to read this book. It makes no sense really, because I rarely read historical novels and Joanna Chambers is a new author to me. Perhaps it was a latent psychic power because once I started this book I never wanted to stop. I was forced to stop to get some other reviews done, but if I hadn’t been forced to I don’t think I would have. I was immediately drawn into the lush prose and the strange love/hate dynamic between David and Balfour.
David’s actions in the first chapter of Provoked introduce him to us so perfectly. Jostled in an excited crowd to see the death of two men charged with treason for their part in an uprising against the government, David watches on helplessly. He worked on their case as part of their legal defense, but he’s still a junior in his field and there wasn’t much he could do. But, what he could do was work tirelessly, and in the end it didn’t make a lot of difference. David throws himself into everything and this was no different. To put the families of the condemned at ease he shares with them his own childhood. He was raised by a farmer in a country village in Scotland but worked and did everything he could to further his education. Now, he’s gone up in the world and is working among the higher classes in Edinburgh. Still, he isn’t far from his roots. Being a witness to the deaths of these two men is something that he owes them.
Over a thoughtful and depressing meal later that evening another man sits to dine with him. He’s handsome and confident with an interesting face. He introduces himself as Mr. Balfour and after a considerable amount of shared whisky, David finds himself on his knees in a wet alley. He can’t stand that he always falls prey to his demons and tells himself that this time will be the last time. Or at least, that’s what he always says. Balfour seems surprised by his behavior after their tryst and has a rather more hedonistic outlook on life. Where David is bound tightly to his morality and refuses to move into a life of dishonesty by marrying a woman and starting a family, Balfour seems to have no problem with that. He’s looking for happiness, he says, and the only version for him is the one of his own making. Ideals have no place over them.
It is a surprise to David some months later when he again runs into Balfour while dining at the home of his boss. In the meantime, the case that brought about their first meeting, that of the weavers, barges back into David’s life. Euan, the younger brother of one of the men brought down in the case needs his help. His brother Peter wasn’t hanged but is en route on a ship in chains for his part in the conspiracy. Euan needs David’s help to find Lees, the government man who infiltrated their group, incited them from a small idealistic group into an active anti-government rebellion and then turned them in. David wants to help Euan but is afraid for him. He’s just a kid who, like him, has also worked himself up to a higher education and David doesn’t want him to throw all of that away by searching for vengeance, and he knows that his brother wouldn’t want him to either. But Euan won’t be swayed, so David agrees to help him find Lees, knowing that it will most likely be a lost cause.
When Balfour comes up as a possible identity for Lees, David doesn’t want to believe it. He also doesn’t want to continue forming an attachment to the man. It’s gone past the physical with them and David can’t allow himself to sin in such a way, nor allow his heart to be handled by a man often so callous, and so fundamentally different from him.
I want to have the sequel now! I say that, not just as someone who really liked this first book and wants more, but also as a reader who wants more of the story. There are two arcs — the romance and the quasi-mystery plot — the first of which definitely spans the series. I’m not sure about the second, though. Was the external plot just a part of this book and the next one will see these two guys in a different situation dealing with different issues? I don’t know. But, as far as the romance arc, this story was really just the setup for what is to come, which leaves me really wanting to see where their relationship will go. That, after all, is what really brought this story forward for me and what drew me in. David and Balfour are two such interesting characters and together they have such interesting conversations. The writing of these two guys and their evolving dynamic hit a sweet spot. The language is beautiful and I really felt like I was getting to know both of them well. David, of course, isn’t difficult to read. Balfour offers a delicious treat because what he says and obviously thinks/believes are often different and puzzling those things out (along with David) filled their interactions with meaning.
I definitely recommend this one to all readers of m/m romance, not just those that like historicals. And I’m definitely going to be looking out for more books by Joanna Chambers 🙂
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Historical, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: 1820s, Aristocracy, Closeted, HFN, Homophobia, Joanna Chambers, Lawyers, Mystery, Rich/Poor, Samhain Publishing, Scotland, Secrets & Lies, Series