“Once we recognize the fact that every individual is a treasury of hidden and unsuspected qualities, our lives become richer, our judgment better, and our world is more right. It is not love that is blind, it is only the unnoticed eye that cannot see the real qualities of people.” – Charles Percy
Title: Never a Road Without a Turning
Author: Rowan McAllister
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: When unapologetic rake Phillip “Pip” Stubbs takes a position at Greer cottage, he’s only thinking of a new village to explore, new chits to woo, and hoping for another distraction from the growing restlessness inside him.
But when the new master arrives, Pip ends up more unsettled than ever.
Major Astley McNalty is a wealthy retired surgeon, soldier, and world traveler. Despite the injury that has left him lame, the gentleman has everything a common servant like Pip could ever wish for, and yet he spends his nights in drunken brooding and his days in solitary melancholy. He’s a mystery to Pip, so when the major defies convention and asks Pip to read to him at night, Pip gladly accepts for a chance to spend his winter evenings by the library fire and perhaps satisfy his curiosity. Until one night, while thoroughly drunk, the major kisses Pip and changes everything between them.
Fear of discovery, fear of repeating the past, and secrets on both sides threaten their burgeoning connection. They must learn to trust one another if they have any hope of finding a safe path to a future together.
Review: Historical M/M fiction is a genre that often gets maligned and picked on for various reasons. I regularly see reviews of this type of romance dispatched with a low rating due to discrepancies about the era, either customs and language are attacked for being too loosely followed or other such nitpicking elements of the stories are criticized. When I sign on to review this type of romance, I choose to focus solely on the story and its characters, not whether or not they should be wearing cravats or some type of hosen. Therefore, if you are a person who gets mired down in those smaller details, I suggest you skip my review as it will not address those areas—rather, it will tell you whether or not this was a solid romance worthy of a read.
Two men come from opposite sides of the caste system in historical England. One a man of the gentry who has been grievously injured during his service to the crown, and the other a street rat who was rescued by a well-meaning man who saved him from the hell that prison was in those days. There is an instant attraction, a fight to resist that attraction, and a misunderstanding that would nearly end that same attraction. Throughout this relationship, it is impressed upon the reader over and over that two men cannot be in love in this England of old. It is also drawn out again and again that the idea of a man living above his station and consorting with nobility is simply not done. Pip knows these facts intimately. Dr. McNalty is determined to follow them but not give up the man he wants, namely Pip. A deliriously hushed and furtive dance ensues between these two men, and it is fascinating to watch and intriguing to follow as it waxes and wanes and is very nearly crushed under the restraints and boundaries society heaps upon it and them.
The intimacy between Pip and Ash is very nearly their undoing. Both men struggle under previous bad experiences that have left them unable to deal with trusting a partner and fully opening themselves up to scrutiny. These men are adept at hiding, Pip, in particular, and they do so almost to the point of undoing any potential to live as lovers in the future. It was this dance that made the story so very appealing. The deep and wrenching pasts of both the main characters made this not just a regency romance but a lesson in how to learn to trust another person yet again, with not only the heart but with the ability to destroy reputations as well. Pip was in a position to blackmail and call out Ash. Ash could destroy Pip’s ability to trust another lover ever again. Both men had much to lose and this fact caused them to resist the very love they felt for each other until it was almost too late.
Historical romances are tricky. You want to see these men live happily ever after and yet you know that to be true to the form of this genre that will never really happen. There will be many compromises and lies surrounding this love of theirs, and it will not ever cease to be a component of their lives. So, the most you can hope for is a life that will allow them to somehow escape close scrutiny and potential imprisonment. While Rowan McAllister attempts to keep Never a Road Without a Turning from becoming too mired down in disbelief, there is a way to rapid closure to Pip and Ash’s dilemma of how to accomplish a life together. Within the last 10 percent of this novel, the author attempts to clean up all the loose ends and succeeds in many ways, but it was all a bit too fast—too convenient. And that is the real conundrum within this genre for me—that rapid close, the easy fix, the suggestion that all will be well when, in fact, we know as readers that these men will have to watch their steps every moment for the rest of their lives.
Never a Road Without a Turning was a good historical romance. The characters were both cleverly drawn and easy to enjoy. The story kept moving along at a good pace and held my attention throughout, with enough action and twists to keep it highly entertaining. However, the end of this lovely romance downplayed the sacrifice these men were going to have to make to remain together and, in doing so, I felt diminished the story just a bit. Regardless of that last bit, however, Rowan McAllister is a good author who writes a wonderfully engaging story and fans of this genre will enjoy this sweet novel.
You can buy Never a Road Without a Turning here: