Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: Unnatural by Joanna Chambers

Unnatural by Joanna Chambers
Series: Enlightenment, Book 4
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: M/M Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781619232396
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Warning: Contains a dashing military hero with one weakness—a scientist who feels their chemistry in every cell of his body. Kissing in the rain, skinny dipping, and emotional flashbacks. Huzzah!

Unnatural is a fantastic mix of sweetness and angst! I’m a sucker for a good friends-to-lovers story and Joanna Chambers has delivered a great one in this utterly addictive tale.

Unnatural is a character-driven story, so it’s fortunate that Ms. Chambers has written two excellent heroes. James is a naturalist, a welcome change from the usual Regency-era hero. I absolutely adored him. His open, honest, and loving nature, his unwillingness to consider his attraction to men “unnatural” just because society says it is makes him impossible to resist. James wears his heart on his sleeve for much of the book, and I loved that about him, though given the time period that very openness could put him in a lot of danger. Iain, on the other hand, is very aware of society – and his father’s – opinion on gay men. Iain has been raised to know nothing but fear, duty, and disappointment. James is the bright spot in his life and Iain is unwilling to lose that friendship by giving into his desire for the person he cares about the most. Because of his conflicted feelings, Iain does make a lot of mistakes with James, pushing him away, but always coming back. Normally that much push-pull would annoy me, but Ms. Chambers does such a great job of showing why Iain acts the way he does that I could see why James forgave him – to a point. It’s no spoiler to say that in the present James has had enough and won’t settle for less than he deserves. Whether or not Iain can give him that is something I’ll leave readers to discover, but I will say that I was practically glued to the story, rooting for James and Iain to get the happily ever after they deserved.

The story is structured so that readers go back and forth (with the dates clearly marked) between James and Iain’s past and present, starting with their initial meeting as children. Watching their relationship develop from friendship to something infinitely more complex, seeing the pleasure, fear, hope, mistakes, and pain unfold makes the story all the more powerful. Their present – the part where we hope to see Iain and James get their happily ever after – relies heavily on their history, so while I’m not normally a fan of constant back-and-forth, it really worked for this book (though I do wish we got a bit more time in their present).

Unnatural is part of Ms. Chambers’s Enlightenment series, and since I haven’t read the first three books (David and Murdo’s romance) I can safely say that this story can be read as a standalone. David and Murdo do appear, which should please fans of the series, and after seeing them in Unnatural I definitely want to read their books. But I’m even more interested in seeing the intriguing Kit Redford again, so I hope Ms. Chambers has more Enlightenment stories planned. If you enjoy historical romances with sweet, likeable heroes, heartbreak, and steamy second chances, then you won’t want to miss Iain and James’s book.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this nice review, I agree that when we're talking of historical accuracy with emotional impact Joanna just rocks it out of the park! ;-P)

I've liked this sweet novel & naturally was glad to meet again our old friends Murdo & David...<3 (You've absolutely to read E. saga, it's simply GREAT, my #1 in this pure period drama genre, frankly even better than this spin-off, because it has it all, smooth writing style, smart plot & engaging MCs.
Actually I've preferred Murdo to Iain as *Alpha guy* y'know, I've enjoyed his being more possessive of his lover & the realistic differences as social status, plus the delicious angst!)

Last not least now I'm very curious (like you) to know the story of flamboyant Kit Redford & his naughty-sexy-clyb, oh my I'm sure we'll have fun LOL. ;-P)

Unexpectedly I've found Jamie the most appealing heroe of our MCs: his the best lines of the novel, plus it's refreshing to see a naturalist in this context, also metaphorically speaking, within the big picture.

Only two quibbles: I didn't like the timeline structure so much instead, particularly too chaotic for my taste to keep track of the feelings linked to a specific time (I know that she put always the date & ages on every chapter but it's not enough, it kills the emotional natural flow).

Plus after having loved the adventurous pace of the previous Enlightenment series, here I've noticed how there's no big external plot afterall, it's like we're told of things but of course it's not the same feeling as before...the focus is constantly on the MCs' on & off romance (e.g. I think it's why someone was quite bothered by Iain's behaviour). Bye-bye xo