Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: The thread between them-the love between them-wasn’t a chain, or a tether. It was a lifeline.
Captain Iain Sinclair is leaving the King’s service to embark on another adventure, this time in India as an undercover agent. Before he leaves though, he wants to make amends and rekindle his friendship with James Hart. James was a childhood friend of his who accepted him for exactly as he was. When James reveals his heart to him, Iain cruelly pushes him away and has avoided him ever since.
James has loved Iain since they were boys. He has done nothing but put himself out there only to be rejected by Iain at each turn. After Iain humiliated him the last time, James declared himself done and has gone on with his life, determined to forget Iain and his love for him.
Iain only has one chance to convince James to forgive him but James’s indifference is something he has never encountered before. Iain is forced to take a deep look at why he rejected James in the first place and decide if his reasons for mending their friendship are as purely motivated as he seems to think.
Unnatural is a spin-off set in Chambers’s passionate and bittersweet Enlightened series. Fans will remember seeing Captain Iain Sinclair while Mundo and David were in the London attending to the King. As with the Enlightened series, Chambers’s writes an angst-ridden M/M romance facilitated by guilt and fear. Set in the regency period, family and society values play a large role in the reasons these friends go their separate ways in the first place. The story reveals in both the past and the present, allowing us to see the awkwardness in these two former friends and the reasons behind it.
Much of Iain’s issues stem from his father’s treatment of him. Appearance is everything to Iain and his father’s approval is the standard on which he lives his life. He can’t allow his attraction to men to develop into an tendre for someone; something that could have easily happened with James. His family’s name and honor is at stake. James was easy to like and relate to. A gentle man who wears his emotions on his sleeve. He is prone to honesty and his friendship with Iain was an important part of his life.
While I enjoyed the story. It’s well written with interesting characters and an engaging descriptive base, I found this one didn’t draw me inasmuch. There were no subplots to bracket the romance. Nothing to really draw our heroes away from their own issues; essentially creating a vacuum that mainly consists of Iain chasing after James demanding his forgiveness and James struggling not to fall back into his old patterns of codependency. The tension and action left me feeling like we were reliving the same scene over and over.
Their chemistry was muted because Iain is forever pulling James into his orbit then tossing him away because of his fears. Iain can’t seem to let go of his self doubts or his uneasiness at the fact he prefers men. There was a large part of me that felt their attraction was merely a residual effect from their childhood. It never felt mature or fully developed.
While most will like this easy flowing friends to lovers romance with it’s low key manner, I would have enjoyed it more had there been less shame and fear and more time spent with our heroes loving one another.