Author: Autumn Montague
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: MM Historical
Summary: Julian Mure spent his adult life seeking nothing more than passing moments of pleasure, loving only himself. He preferred his own company to that of sycophants and casual liars, so the disdainful nickname of Narcissus holds no sting. Only one person has ever pierced Julian’s heart — pierced it and broken it at the same time — so falling in love is nothing he wishes to repeat. He finds the situation perfectly satisfying until the day his favorite hunter fails to clear a hedge-lined ditch, pitching them both headlong and costing Julian his right eye and arm.
Widower Alasdair Hedgeford was not oblivious to Julian’s desire, but married to Julian’s sister his place in the lad’s life was as older brother. No more. Over the years, he’s done his best to show Julian affection but that affection has changed into a desire for more.
Yielding to that desire would mean breaking two taboos. But given the opportunity to to visit Julian for the annual “First Foot” celebration, Alasdair cannot help but extend a challenge to the man: “Come dine with me tomorrow night, to celebrate the New Year.”
Review: Julian has spent the past eight years using people, seeking only pleasure, at the expense of anyone else’s feelings. He comes from a family of wealth, one who’s mother died giving birth to Julian, a fact his siblings remind him about. Father has never been there for him. Only the family butler, Garrett, has truly cared for Julian, and his oldest sister, Elizabeth, who mothered him. Julian has had his heart broken and falling in love is something he doesn’t ever want to experience again. So, he filled his life with “Fawning sycophants, importunate women, lecherous men.” These keep emotions at bay, at least until he finds himself nearly drowned in a ditch underneath his dying horse. He loses an arm, an eye, and the lifestyle he had perfected. The scene of his time in the ditch is so painful to read.
Julian is now back at home, determined to be the head of the house the servants need him to be. When the First Foot visitor turns out to be none other than Alisdair – his beloved sister’s widower and “…the man Julian had loved for the past ten years.” The man who unknowingly broke Julian’s heart and made his foreswear love. But Alisdair is now a widow and he’s admitting to himself how much he noticed Julian in the past.
As the two reconnect, it is a revelation to see Julian make his way from “spoiled child” in his words, to someone who deserves to have love. There is the washing of the feet of the First Foot and Julian’s fear of embarrassing himself or his house was heart wrenching. Then his realization it was Alisdair, my heart went out to him even more. He suffers from phantom pain in his eye and arm that the doctors take to mean he is mad.
We get to go along on the journey of discovery and connection these two take, in a time when such love was forbidden and between two people who are both wounded – one from the loss of a wife, the other from physical loss. As Alisdair seeks to prove to Julian he is accepted just as he is right now and Julian tries to reconcile the man he was with the man he is, it’s a lovely journey and I would recommend this book.