“There really were no chains like the ones in your head.”
I was curious how K.J. Charles would handle this sequel since she had the relationship, without the POV of this book's couple and details, already existing in the first book. The backstory sounded fascinating so I was kind of hoping she'd start at the beginning to show them first meeting because it sounded like an fun event, and because I don't enjoy reading first books about established relationships. Still, I knew that wouldn't work since the series is not a trilogy of each book focusing on romance - it also focuses on one overlying plotline that they couldn't go backwards on with the second book.
She ended up doing it well - the opening shows them in an established relationship, but she went back to earlier in the first book from their point of view, before they learned each others identity. This worked great because it showed how well they were working out before they ran into the crisis I knew was coming up. A few of the same scenes of the first book made its way in here to be recapped from another point of view, which worked - if she hadn't done that, it would feel false.
I would have loved to see their first meeting, but we do learn details of how they were introduced. Silas was an excellent character in the first book when the author showed him briefly through other people's eyes, and being in his head in the second book proved him to still be an interesting protagonist. He is, to coin a phrase, "rude, crude, and socially unacceptable." Perfect for this strange duo, where Charles likes mixing oil and water in her historical romance novels. Dominic is an intrigue as he's kinky and spicy in a time where that was poorly understood and under explored.
There was magic to be had behind doors - some intense scenes that were unlike stuff she's written otherwise. The end even shows they are willing to work even further outside the box in the future, wouldn't mind a follow-up to some of those fantasies/scenes at all.
Outside of bedroom action their relationship was intensely driven - they had genuine interest in each other because of their intellectual combating and societal differences making them a challenge for each other. Real heart was there in love that wasn't contrived because they were older men who had lived life and knew what they wanted by now, but were still surprised to finally find it. There was plenty of drama and tension to keep the pacing up because their issues were real and beyond them, issues that needed both to change some, to adjust and negotiate, while having to work with others to help them out.
“It was hard to keep up the fight for the freedom of your fellow man when your fellow man was a bastard.”
It's funny that when I picked up the first book, I was more interested in that story by the blurb, but by the time I was nearing the end of it, I couldn't wait for the second. Now when I've read the second, the one I'm most curious about now is the last.
The strange grouping of the friendship group is intriguing - different men in different situations all looking out for each other to an extent depending on where they stand in the world. Richard is again a little irritating with his controlling tendencies, and I'm glad the author concentrated so highly on that relationship. We saw it in the first but nowhere near this level, to where it revealed private conversations between Dominic and Richard, Silas and Dominic about his issues with Richard, the scene with Silas and Cyprian (loved that scene because it showed hidden maneuvering with Cyprian's side), and Dominic's thoughts on his complex relationship. I can't wait until the third book where I can be in Richard's mind and see his views on it.
The overarching story that is about the imbalance of the social classes, the twisted system leading to overbearing laws and deaths of the innocent fighting back, is both frustrating and fascinating. It's hard to read about because it's so unfair and infuriating. K.J. Charles notes in the back of the book that the tragedy for some of the characters was based on the actual unfair demise of real characters in history. Mixing these situations and the invented players for a real past injustice gives the trilogy deeper felt depth.
I love this author and will definitely be getting the last of the trilogy as soon as its released.