These two books are quite short, with Poacher's Fall being about 60 pages and Keeper' Pledge being just over 100 pages, so I'm going to review them together.
I first read this two years ago when it was released as Pleasures With Rough Strife as part of the DSP Advent Daily Dose. This version has been revised and expanded.
Set in the mid 1920's this historical tells of Danny who is poaching rabbits and decides to climb a tree to get some mistletoe for his widowed mother. He falls out of the tree,breaking his leg and hitting his head. When he comes to he is in the manor house owned by lonely Philip, who is still mourning the death of his lover and best friend a few years earlier. There's a connection between the men but Philip finds it hard to let go of his grief to act on his attraction to Danny.
The story begins well and I liked the pragmatic Danny who seemed very laid back about his sexuality, even as he is mindful of the consequences of being too open. This contrasted nicely with the nervy Philip who worries a lot about what others think of him and the consequences of his actions. I also liked the theme of family and the way that Danny, the poor one, is blessed with strong family ties when Philip is alone. The pair work well together when they are alone, but their respective stations in life were so far removed from each other that I wasn't sure how their relationship was going to work in the end. The story ends as their relationship begins and this means so much is left hanging. I was glad to know that I would be moving straight onto the sequel. Grade: Very Good.
Buy this book HERE.
This story follows on four years from the previous book. Danny and Philip are still together and snatching as much time together as they can given the circumstances. Philip's cousins are coming for Christmas and with rumours of the nature of their relationship circulating in the village, the pair decide to cool things for a while until the rumours die down. Soon the couple are involved with different family problems - Philip takes a young, flamboyant gay cousin under his wing, and Danny's brother Toby is causing friction in his family - this leads to painful decisions being made, and misunderstandings taking place.
The addition of Philip's family was a definite plus point in this story. I liked the very modern 1920's lady, Lucy, who reminded me a little of one of Evelyn Waugh's Bright Young Things. I also liked cousin Matthew, despite his tendency to seek attention all the time. The scene's between Philip and Matthew were amusing in the way that Matthew makes Philip flustered, but I also liked how Philip's calm and sensible nature works on Matthew.
The sub-plot with Danny and his brother Toby added some tension to the story, as well as the added bonus of having a scene set in my hometown of Pontefract :). It also linked nicely with the upper class setting in Philip's house, showing how much disgrace and status are just as important for the lower class in the 1920's. Toby's actions have consequences as do the actions of Philip and Danny. I liked that we are made very aware of the consequences for both men should they be found out and this is no glossed over historical which tries to force a neatly tied up happy ending when that would have been impossible during the time the book is set.
The part that worked less well for me was the misunderstanding towards the end of the book. It happened because of the separation between the characters as they are unable to talk through their thoughts and so make incorrect assumptions. This annoyed me a little and made me want to bash their heads together. Fortunately, the length of the story meant that the misunderstandings didn't last too long.
Overall, this was a well written historical which felt authentic. I can't say this is my favourite book by this author - that for me is Muscling In - but I'm still glad I read it. Grade: Very Good.
Buy this book HERE.