Convincing Arthur by Ava March
Publisher: Loose Id LLC
Length: Short Story (85 pgs)
Rating: 5 cherries
Review by Phlox
Mr. Leopold Thornton missed his chance ten years ago. He isn't about to let this one pass him by.
Given Leopold's reputation for vice and debauchery, Mr. Arthur Barrington has a fair idea why the sinfully beautiful man invites him to his country estate. A shooting excursion? Unlikely. Especially considering Arthur is the only guest invited to the estate. He shouldn't consider the invitation, but a few days of mind-blowing sex could be just the thing to help him get over the heartbreaking end of a ten-year relationship. Then he can return to London to his thriving law practice, and quietly search for an amiable man who understands the meaning of the word discreet and who recognizes the value of commitment.
There was a time when Leopold wasn't such a rakehell. When every night didn't end with an empty bottle of whisky. When he believed in the rewards of patience. When he didn't give himself over to just anyone who'd have him. Old habits die hard, especially when tempted by six feet of solid muscle, but Leopold will only have a few days to convince Arthur he can be the man he's looking for -- that his love is genuine and he's worthy of Arthur's heart.
Regency doesn’t get any better than this. The yearning from afar, the long-standing social misunderstandings, the searing heat lurking beneath all the elegant formality and manners, it’s all here in spades. Any reader of Regency M/M is familiar with the themes – the need for discretion, the tension between what was then illegal and illicit love and society’s expectations, the overarching importance of reputation – so much so that the sub-genre easily falls into cliché. Ms. March, however, rescues us from the well-worn with such endearing, fully-drawn characters that the feeling of ‘here we go again’ immediately drops away.
Beneath his veneer of decadent nonchalance, Leopold is heartbroken, drinking to excess and sleeping with anyone that will have him to numb the pain of missing his chance at the only man he ever loved. Recovering from the heartbreak of the end of a decade-long relationship, Arthur keeps his agony and humiliation well hidden behind a proper gentleman’s polite façade, but inside he’s a mess, all too sure, he tells himself, of what he does and does not want for propriety’s sake. Both uncertain and hurting, each in his own way, the reader knows quite well that they desperately need each other but the question of whether they can look beyond mores and expectations to this simple truth drives the story onward at a perfect pace.
The love scenes are both tender and lava-hot, with a certain playfulness that hints at the possibility of a more lasting relationship. The period part of this period piece is, as always with Ms. March, executed flawlessly without material or dialectical anachronisms. The only bone I might pick with the author is the use of conjunctions to begin sentences—not a terrible sin when the narrative is in the character’s voice, but something to watch out for in regard to overuse.
The deep, alternating POV used here pulls the reader in so close, it’s easy to forget these young men are fictional. Heck, I’m so short on time, I forget to eat sometimes, but I devoured the whole story twice, with favorite bits re-read additional times beyond that. I so thoroughly enjoyed this lovely piece that I have found myself thinking about Leopold and Arthur quite often and hope someday we get to see what happens next.