Oh, my, what a lovely tale. And how unexpected that it should be so. Not that Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon have ever disappointed in that scenario when they have given us historical MM romances before, but this one had a bit of a different spin from the beginning that made it seem like it might be a bit of a full-on angst trip.
Start with the cover. When I first ordered the book, I thought that the man with the beard was the professor (why not?, he looks a bit tweedy in the late 19th century fashion), and the blond on the right was the smuggler (why not?, he could be an ambitious Cornish lad looking to make money). Well, that was quickly put to rest in the first chapter, and as I went through the book I realized how perfect the cover is.
Carne Treleaven is a rough-hewn 28-year-old Cornishman and Phillip Singleton is the boyish looking but about the same age scholar who has just left his professorship at Cambridge for a life of adventure. This new life, he strongly believes, will center on opening the eyes of the world to the history and beauty of Cornwall and other British locales--and as possible vacation destinations. What, you say?
Well, they key to this whole tale (to me at least) is the fact that Phillip intends to accomplish his goal by writing books with photos--something which apparently hadn't come acros the minds of many back in that day. We see here how technological advances (the camera, and even the auto) can inspire some to think innovatively, and scare the living devil out of others who have secrets and a way of life to protect. That is the underlying current of tension that runs through the plot.
But it is the underlying current of attraction between Carne and Phillip that comes out of the blue (as blue as the Cornish coast and sky) that draws you in, relaxes and overwhelmingly charms you. That Phillip is gay, and quite accepting of his orientation, and Carne has never given his straight orientation a thought, is a theme that many authors, including these two ladies, have struggled to reconcile in the past. But this "gay-for-you" reconciliation is different in that they have created a surprisingly strong and confident (but wary of love) Phillip and an extremely open minded and in the end aggressive Carne that raises the eyebrow a bit but spreads the smile wide.
The plot is believable, the characters are true to the time, locale, and culture, and the wild and somewhat violent action that sums up the tale is brilliantly plotted out and superbly detailed. But what makes this book so wonderful is the rather extensive denouement in the final chapter and a surprising epilogue. You put the book down with a smile on your face, and a heart that goes pitty-patter.