From the bestselling author of Husband Material comes a lush, sweeping queer historical romance where sparks fly between childhood friends after a life-changing separation—perfect for fans of Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Lisa Kleypas! When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
A fairytale. Period.
So well written and had my attention from the first page. I blushed during several moments of the book because the scenes were so intimate and I found myself smiling at the precious way these two friends cared for one another.
Absolutely worth the read.
Who’s to say what a man is made of?
In a subversive best friends to lovers story, Hall makes you feel for the characters. All of them are drawn in detail with heartfelt lines.
So, SO good
Alexis Hall is a wonderful writer, and I’ve enjoyed many of his previous books. But this one … this one blew me away. I think it’s probably his best to date, and it kept me reading *well* past when I should have been asleep. (Always the mark of a superb book. :) )
Hall’s books have a skillful way of making me feel seen when I read them. He’s very good at creating moments of deep resonance when a particular scenario comes along and I have to just pause to feel some tension I didn’t even know I was holding fall away from myself.
This book had so, so many of those moments. Both Viola and Greenwood are deeply relatable characters. I haven’t experienced gender dysphoria, but I am genderqueer; I also deal with chronic pain and some of the other issues Greenwood faces. (Sadly, vast wealth and being a Duke aren’t among them.)
There are a *small* handful of other romances I’ve read that address these themes, but seeing a writer of Hall’s skill take up these threads is so, so rewarding. He doesn’t belabor the ‘how’ of a trans woman’s wardrobe and grooming in high society Britain in the early 1800s, but he doesn’t hand-wave it away as a non-issue, either. His handling of their intimacy is also great.
(Though in an ideal world, I do wish that he’d addressed Greenwood’s issues in this area a tiny bit more. Viola’s the protagonist, so this is a relatively minor quibble, but the whole ’sex fixes it all!’ is a bit of a trope for characters with self-consciousness around scars/significant body differences.)
Still though - minor, MINOR quibble. It’s a fantastic book, and one I’m likely to re-read soon, since I’m still thinking about it. I can’t recommend this highly enough.