Title: Lost and Won
Author: Sarah Ann Watts
Length: 16,494 words
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m historical (1600′s) romance
1651: the Battle of Worcester is lost and won. Charles Stuart is a fugitive with a price on his head and Cromwell has the ‘crowning mercy’ of victory. Philip, a sober, respectable young man, fought bravely for the parliamentary cause and is looking forward to peace at his own hearth.
Francis, his lover and childhood friend, returns to make peace with his dying father and to give back Philip’s heart.
Soon Philip finds himself reluctantly sheltering a royalist spy and protecting the witch in his family.
Philip’s duty is clear and Francis staked his life on his honour. All he has to do is let Francis go. But how can Francis ask Philip to deliver him to justice?
I picked up this story because it’s not often that you find a m/m historical story set during the 1600′s. This one is set at the end of the English Civil War. Philip has fought bravely for the roundheads and now returns home to his estate. That very same day his old neighbour, friend and lover, Francis, arrives at his house seeking assistance. Francis fought on the side of the Royalists and now is a wanted man. Philip struggles with his conscience. On one hand he knows that he should report Francis as an enemy, on the other he still loves and cares for him.
There was much to like about this story. In particular I liked the struggle that Philip feels over his feelings for Francis. He’s a good man, but also loyal to his cause and these two ideals clash in his mind, especially when he comes face to face with those who would exploit their positions as victors. At times Philip seems callous in his actions towards Francis, but that too fit with a man who struggled between love and a dislike of Francis’ political views. Yet, there were also periods of tremendous tenderness between them, especially in the scene where Philip takes Francis to see his father. The period feel was strong with enough in the setting to firmly ground the story without need of extra detail. This is reflected in the oblique sex scenes which worked for me, but may not satisfy those who wish for me explicit detail.
Where the story worked less for me was in the character of Philip’s half sister, Arabella, who is a sort of witch, although this is never fully acknowledged. She floats in and out of the story, sometimes meddling in Philip’s affairs and provides a paranormal aspect that I couldn’t really see the point in. I found her a little irritating. Another annoyance was the way that the end of the story suddenly speeds up, spanning several years at once. On one hand I could see why this had been done, otherwise there would have been no concrete HEA, and yet I couldn’t help but feel like I had been given a whole novel’s worth of stuff in a few pages. I would have rather read a much longer piece which focused on Philip in those few years, rather than have a huge rush at the end. It left me feeling like I’d missed out on half the story somehow, especially as more space would have allowed me to learn more of Francis, who isn’t as fleshed out at Philip.
So whilst I enjoyed this historical setting in this story and liked Philip as a character, the rush at the end left me disappointed. If you’re looking for a historical story with an unusual setting, then I could still recommend this one to you.