Monday, April 16, 2012

Kindred Hearts by Rowan Speedwell

Note: This is a review of an adult book. Please, do not read either the review or the book reviewed unless you are an adult.

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Charming rascal Tristan Northwood seems to have it all: an ancient name, a noble inheritance, a lovely wife, and a son he adores. Women love him, men admire him, and it seems there is nothing he can’t do, whether it’s seducing a society wife or winning a carriage race. Little does Society suspect that the name means nothing to him, the fortune is in his father’s controlling hands, and he has no interest in his wife except a very distant friendship. Society bores him, and he takes dares because he only feels alive when he’s dancing on the edge... until his wife’s brother comes home from the wars.

Decorated war hero Major Charles Mountjoy jerks Tris out of his despair by inspiring feelings of passion Tris had never suspected himself capable of. Almost as terrifying as those feelings for Charles are the signs Charles might return his affection – or, even worse, that Charles sees the man Tristan has been trying so valiantly to hide from the world.


This is actually the first historical gay romance I have read. It has been on my radar since I saw it mentioned by Nimue at Endlessly Bookish, and after reading it I can say I am glad it caught my eye.

Although Kindred Hearts is generally well-written, I can see some possibility for improvement. Transitions between the scenes are sometimes rough, and, combined with the telling mode, they detach the reader from the story. Also, there is some repetition, which could be avoided or handled more subtly.

Speedwell uses quite modern language when dealing with philosophical and psychoanalytical views and theories, which sounds a little off. Even though it is likely that the 19th century people would draw the medical and psychological conclusions Speedwell’s characters do, the modern wording makes it seem rather implausible.

Character-wise Kindred Hearts is an amazing, heart-felt book. Initially, the characters seem rather shallow, Tristan in particularly, but after a few pages they capture the reader's attention completely.

I felt so much sympathy for Tristan. His mother dying when he was a little boy, his father does not know how to deal with him, so he takes to controlling every aspect of his life to make the best of it. The effect is quite the opposite. Tristan becomes a man with a very low self-esteem, always thinking the worst of himself, believing his father hates him, and deeming himself unworthy of anyone’s love. Thinking of himself as a failure and a disappointment to his father, he turns into a reluctant rebel. Yet, love is what he longs for, and he, to his bitter disappointment, does not find it in an arranged marriage to Charlotte.

I disliked Charlotte at the beginning. She is a cold, dispassionate person, who cannot and will not give Tristan the love he craves. However, she is in her own way a kind and pleasant woman, and turns out to be the second best thing that happens to Tristan. She is a rational thinker and a good judge of character, and she does her best to be a good friend to Tristan. She turns out to be a supportive person, one Tristan can count on, and for this I loved her in the end.

Charles is everything you could want in a loved one. He is a strong character, smart, and loyal. He is a confident man, at ease with his identity. As his sister, he is good at reading people. He helps Tristan see his potential and encourages him to find something he is good at. With Charles beside him, Tristan finally discovers a way to a live a fulfilling and happy life.

I loved Speedwell’s approach to character development and the analysis of human behaviour. She coveys the feelings and thoughts in a clear, tangible manner, and makes several memorable punch lines along the way. Although some twists and turns seem a little farfetched, Speedwell craftily makes the outcomes seem probable.

Finally, Kindred Hearts is set at the time of the Napoleonic wars. It both authentically represents the historic era, its events, and characters. Overall, it is an enjoyable and absorbing read.

RECOMMENDATION: Kindred Hearts is a lovely, heartfelt historical romance. It reads smoothly and keeps the reader’s attention throughout the story. However, it may not appeal to some readers due to sexually explicit content.

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