Author: Pearl Love
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 136 Pages
At a Glance: I wish there had been more to this story. I look forward to the other books, though, to see what happens to everyone else.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: Holden Peters is a normal, middle-class English lad in all respects save for his preference for his own gender. Caught in a compromising position with his father’s clerk, Holden is forced from his childhood home and sent to The Garden, a mysterious tea and flower shop located in the heart of the notorious Seven Dials slum. To his dismay, Holden soon learns that the shop sells more than floral arrangements. Behind its genteel façade, The Garden is as an all-male brothel, and he is to be its newest acquisition in order to pay off the debts his father owes the enigmatic owner, Mr. Leslie. But Holden’s nightmare grows only more grim when he learns that, before he is allowed to see his first customer, his new employer will personally see to relieving him of his inconvenient virginity. Now Holden must steel himself and face his fears if he is to survive his new life as a courtesan in Victorian London’s depraved underbelly.
Review: Any book in a historical setting that includes an all-male brothel usually intrigues me, and that was the case with this book. Of course, it’s the second in a series, and I have not read the first one, but I don’t think that was a problem at all. I completely understood the story and was able to follow it.
Holden is a great character who gets caught by his father with another man. As a result he is sent away to Mr. Leslie, whom his father is indebted to. His father doesn’t know the extent of Mr. Leslie’s work, so it horrifies Holden when he discovers he will be one of the young men at a brothel. Especially since he’s a virgin.
He meets the other young men—Hibiscus, Peony, Gardenia, and Amaryllis—and earns his new name, Aster. I thought it was a great touch to have the boys named after flowers. It added to the allusion of The Garden.
While Holden is there against his will, and I was frustrated with him for feeling loyalty to the father that sold him, I enjoyed his interactions with the other boys. I also liked that he held onto his hatred for Mr. Leslie. It added to the story and made it a touch more realistic.
In the end, Richard and Gardenia are the most intriguing characters for me. Gardenia, because he keeps his past hidden, and Richard, for mostly the same reasons. Plus, I loved Gardenia’s playful nature when it came to Aster.
I wish there had been more to this story. I know it’s part of a series, but it seems like each book focuses on different characters, and I really wanted to see more of Richard and Aster, especially as Aster falls into his roll at The Garden, and as Richard becomes his handler. I look forward to the other books, though, to see what happens to everyone else.
You can buy The First Bloom of Winter here: