We've met Iain in the Enlightenment series, first in the very short novella "Season's End" (between the 1st and 2nd installment) if you're read it you might remember Iain having a scene in this "high society brothel" in which he yells at a young guy that he shouldn't be there and he shouldn't have gotten an invitation / recommendation and so on.. the scene continues on to Murdo without an explanation to what actually went on there. This is the last time Iain and James meet but it's not where the story starts.
James and Iain known each other for years, since they were kids. It was summer, James was almost 10, when he first met the 13 years old Iain when their family starts spending summers together (from their sisters' and mothers' mutual acquaintance). Though there's quite an age difference they are drawn to one another. James is fascinated by the older kid, he truly idolizes him, and Iain is intrigued by this young kid who knows so much about nature and keeps exploring his surrounding promising he would grow up to be a scientist. For years they spent their summers together and sent letters during the time they weren't able to meet. They were best friends in every sense of the word. The book describes their beautiful connecting, we start with the first time they spend the summer together and move back and forth from the past to the present. The past getting closer and closer to the current time in which James and Iain aren't speaking due to the outburst at the brothel 2 years before the current time.
James had loved Iain for years. He even knew Iain was gay because he "caught" him once.. staying in the shadows he was amazed and aroused by the experience and yet he choose to keep quiet. When he finally acted on his desire Iain accepted the kiss and then rejected him. He tried to explain to James it was a BAD idea for them to act upon their mutual desire with how society perceive it. As the years went by it kept happening again and again, James acting upon his love and attraction to his best friend only to be rejected every time. Every time Iain backs away for a time yet he keeps returning, hoping he could still keep his precious friendship with James. He never admitted to how much James means to him, not to James and not to himself and yet it's always there, the need to be in touch with his best friend even if he cannot have what he wants most.
I was heart broken the whole story. James had SUCH a hard time with how Iain behaved but I couldn't take sides.. I couldn't blame Iain because he did what he thought was the only option that would keep them safe. His upbringing, his inner beliefs and what life taught him was basically - put your best side for everyone to see otherwise hide in the shadows and try not to have any enemies. In the end he was just so miserable, not only because he and James weren't speaking for two years, because his life didn't mean anything to him anymore which is why he makes this "drastic" decision to leave his military service and travel to India to become a sort of a spy. Yet before he leaves he wants to reconcile with James especially because they would probably never see each other again.
This is where we're at in the current time. But before he meets James he has a short meeting with his friend Murdo and his lover David (the MC in Enlightenment). What he sees there doesn't only make him jealous it also sow the seeds to a realization he might have been wrong all these years.
I could write more, but frankly I feel as though I've already wrote too much. I can't recommend this book enough. IMO it's a MUST read. I don't think you HAVE to read "Enlightenment" series before but be advised that the one scene Iain meets with Murdo and David there's a HEAVY spoiler (!) to the second installment and what basically enabled them to be together. Though I wonder what you would get out of it if you haven't meet any of the characters before.. Naturally I recommend you start with the first one because I every book by Joanna is a JOY and shouldn't be missed :)
I kindly received this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Additional Details: Kindle Ebook, 230 pages, 29-30 November 2015 / On GoodReads