Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Heidi Cullinan - A Private Gentleman

Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist's house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek.
He finds the orchid, yes but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.
Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan's bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark.
There s only one way out of this tangle. Help Wes face the fears that cripple him right after Michael finds the courage to reveal the devastating truth that binds them.

Comment: This is the second book I've read by Heidi Cullinan, this time an historical after having tried one of her contemporaries last year. I remember that book being interesting but I thought the execution could have been better and now that I've read an historical, I must say I have the same opinion: it seems her books have exciting premises but not a matching development.

In this historical story we meet lord George Albert Westin, the second son of a marquess, and when the story begins he is dreading the prospect of being at a party so he can have the chance to see a rare flower. He is very shy, has a stutter which makes others not want to be near him and needs the aid of laudanum to be in social environments.
At that party he meets and ends up helping Michael Vallant, a professional courtesan-like. Michael does feel attracted to Wes and the fact he was kind to him and they end up intimate. The problem is that Michael can't work anymore after being with him so he seeks him out to see if he is actually the cause of his recent fear of being with someone.
These two seem to have nothing in common but once secrets start to come out, it will be quite obvious they actually have more in common than what they assumed...

Since this story starts on the premise Wes is shy lord, I imagined the story would move on trying to help Wes be more at ease with others and nothing like the help of a confident male prostitute, who despite his own issues, would fall in love and want to help the man he cares about the most and Wes would blossom like his beloved flowers and do the same, thus putting them in the road to HEA.
Sadly, this story was much heavier on the dark and drama side than what I expected.

I mean, that is not a problem per se. I do like drama and darker elements when well done. I just think that here there are way too many intended dark elements and I was never convinced the protagonists could actually be falling in love.
Wes is clearly battling an addiction and this is always difficult to "solve". In a way, the problem wasn't solved so in that regard things are realistic and optimistic for his future. This isn't Wes' biggest issue but I think his character evolved in a believable manner considering his vulnerable side and his self image.

Michael is also much more fragile than what the blurb suggested. He isn't in any way a confident man and not just because of his recent issues with sex. It seemed the author wanted to portray a tragic hero-like character and he does have a past that is very tragic.I just struggled to see how cynic he had to be when he decided to choose his profession. I can understand how he felt he wouldn't be better for anything else but alongside his more sweeter nature and behavior in some scenes, it just doesn't feel the balance between cynicism and innocence of character was well achieved.

The romance was a little off, and I feel this happened because their relationship wasn't well developed. If one thinks well, the way they connected and how they managed to be together felt rather forced. Yes, this is an historical but... I can't help thinking their romance shouldn't happen, maybe they should have been better friends, especially because neither felt like being ready to commit to someone, since they still had so many personal issues each to solve.

Then there's the plot. The most complicated matter is related to Michael's past and the man responsible for his fears and issues. It wasn't such a task to discover the man still acts as horrifyingly as he did towards Michael but then again, this book had too many complicated and serious issues to be discussed and solved and I don't think this should have been focused on romance on top of all the psychological problems the characters faced in their past and face during the narrative.
To top it even a secondary character had a terrible past which we have to know the details of!
I can imagine the author wanting to create a dark environment, I do applaud she didn't create just a unbelievable fluffy historical but I just don't think this was well balanced.

This makes me think about the author's style in general. It seems - by just the two books I've tried to be really fair - that her style isn't tidy, meaning there are a lot of subjects, situations she wants to include and they don't always seem to match in the big scheme so, for me, the stories feel a little disjointed, with the romances being a little off.
I might try another one one day to see if I just picked the "wrong" books but I don't think this is the best author for me.
Grade: 5/10

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