Retro Review Tour & Giveaway: Enlightenment Series by Joanna Chambers

 

Covers by Natasha Snow


Provoked (Enlightenment #1) 

 
Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK  (FREE till June 17)
 

David Lauriston is struggling to build his reputation in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. His humble origins are enough of a hurdle, never mind his recent decision to defend a group of weavers accused of treason, prompting speculation that he may harbour radical sympathies. The last thing he should be doing is agreeing to help the brother of one of the convicted weavers find the government agent who caused his brother’s downfall.



David’s personal life is no more successful. Tormented by his forbidden desires for other men, and the painful memories of the childhood friend he once loved, David tries his hardest to live a celibate existence, castigating himself whenever his resolve slips. 


But then—into David’s repressed and orderly world—bursts Lord Murdo Balfour.


Cynical, hedonistic and utterly unapologetic, Murdo could not be less like David. Whilst David refuses to entertain the prospect of entering into a loveless marriage for propriety’s sake, Murdo is determined to wed one day—and has no intention of giving up the company of other men when he does so. But as appalled as David is by Murdo’s unrepentant self-interest, he cannot resist the man’s sway.


Murdo tempts and provokes David in equal measure, distracting him from his promise to find the agent provocateur responsible for the weavers’ fate, and forcing him to acknowledge his physical desires.


But is Murdo more than a mere distraction? 


Is it possible he could be the very man David is looking for?
 


Beguiled (Enlightenment #2)



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Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.


King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.


David and Murdo’s last parting was painful—and on Murdo’s part, bitter—but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital.
Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms.


But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.

 


Enlightened (Enlightenment #3) 



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 

David Lauriston has been recuperating at Lord Murdo Balfour’s Laverock estate for the last five months. At Laverock, he has regained his health and confidence and has found—with Murdo—more happiness and contentment than he has never known before.


David is all too aware that some day soon he will have to leave Laverock—and Murdo—and return to his legal practice in Edinburgh, just as Murdo will have to return to his life in London. But when David’s mentor, Patrick Chalmers, asks David to return to Edinburgh to visit him on his deathbed, it seems that day has come sooner than either David or Murdo would have wished.


Chalmers begs David to undertake one last piece of business for him: to secure the future of Chalmers’s daughter Elizabeth. But to carry out his old mentor’s wishes, David must travel to London, with Murdo.


No sooner have the two men arrived in the capital than they encounter Murdo’s ruthlessly manipulative father, who reveals a shocking secret that rocks David to his foundations. What’s more, when David discovers Elizabeth is facing far greater danger than even her father feared, he is determined to help her, no matter the cost to his own safety.


As the stakes rise, it is Murdo who must choose what he is prepared to sacrifice to keep David at his side, and ask whether there is any possibility of lasting happiness for men like them.

June 13 – Bike Book Reviews, MM Good Book Reviews
June 15 – Keysmash, The Librarian’s Corner
June 17 – Dog-Eared Daydreams, Padme’s Library
June 19 – Jessie G Books
June 21 – It’s About The Book, Sarandipity, Bayou Book Junkie, My Time Out Book Blog, Gay Book Reviews, Ellie Reads All The Books, My Fiction Nook, Urban Smoothie Read, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, From Top To Bottom Reviews, Boy Meets Boy Reviews

Review:  As someone who counts historical fiction as their favorite subgenre, this series is definitely an all-time favorite of mine. Joanna Chambers combines settings and actual events in Scotland and England with provocative, authentic characters, resulting in a stunning portrayal of humanity and love. David and Murdo’s journey revolves around plenty of intrigue, power struggles and introspection. It ventures deep into the heart and soul of each man and the countries they call home. The titles of the books are so clever, the solitary yet powerful words hint of the relationship progression: Provoked, Beguiled, Enlightened. I’ve reread this series a few *cough* times and am ecstatic to discover audio versions are in the works. Last but not least… the new covers by the talented Natasha Snow!? Exquisite, and in my opinion, are perfect depictions of David and Murdo.

Provoked (Enlightenment #1)

Historical MM? Yes please! This is a subgenre in which new books always ping my radar and have me clicking “buy” immediately. Provoked went beyond my wildest dreams with its depth. This book’s richness of plot, protagonists and purview are stunning. In a nutshell, this is gorgeous writing with characters that feel as though they could walk right off the page.

David has risen from humble beginnings where it was made clear to him that desire for other men was sinful. Well, it’s also against the law. His conflict between “doing the right thing” in both his private life and his professional life as a solicitor always weigh on him. David has worked hard to achieve what status he has, and he is thankful for it. It’s oh so plausible then, when he crosses paths with Murdo – who is as powerful in physical presence as he is in social standing – that any attraction David feels for the overwhelming man is tamped down, and even met with self-loathing.

Murdo is to-the-manor-born. He expects people to jump for him, yet he doesn’t come across as haughty or unkind. A bit pushy sure, but he’s accustomed to getting what he wants and also being above common law. When he sets his sights on David, the mutual attraction is evident. The vast difference with which each man deals with said attraction is acutely plausible, given their personalities and backgrounds. Murdo appeared to have a grand life, but things aren’t always what they appear from the outside – in either man’s situation.

The disparity in the men’s social standing, as well as David’s personal struggles and causes, dovetailed perfectly with what was going on in the political climate of the times. I liked both men at once; getting to know them and seeing them learn from each other while dealing with burgeoning political intrigue made for a highly satisfying read. Provoked? Why yes, yes I was. Next book now, please!

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Beguiled (Enlightenment #2)

Such a fantastic historical romance series. After adoring the fabulous Provoked, I’d been very much looking forward to this next installment in the story of David and Murdo, and the author delivered in a deliciously satisfying way. I love how both Murdo and David are very strong in character; the evolution of their interpersonal dynamic is a delight to witness. Murdo has more “life experience” and is higher class than David, but never acts superior, snide or dismissive. He does treat David with the care and respect he deserves, while gently, yet insistently, guiding him to accept his feelings regarding his sexuality, and their relationship. I have so much adoration and respect for this depiction. Such a breath of fresh air these characterizations are. (I read a lot of historicals, and so many feature one haughty main character and one that is presented as painfully naive.) The sex and intimate scenes between David and Murdo are the perfect blend of passion and tenderness – hot, romantic and also very much important in depicting character development. The plot is interwoven with wonderful secondary characters and threads which are very exciting, and is set among authentic historic events and vivid descriptions of Edinburgh. I could not put this book down – I just had to know what was going to happen next. Highly anticipating the final book in the series.

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Enlightened (Enlightenment #3)

This is such a superb historic romance series, featuring two rewardingly strong main characters in David and Murdo. I absolutely ate this latest installment up. As I mentioned in my review of Beguiled, I love the depiction of the interpersonal dynamic between the aristocratic Murdo, and David, who while a solicitor, is still viewed by society as being dirt on Murdo’s boot. Murdo never allows the class disparity to be an issue between them. Unfortunately, this proves more difficult for David to cast aside…

The sheer believability of the actions of David and Murdo, and their romance, is largely what sets this book, this series, apart. Well, that and amazing dialogue, stunning settings, and some great “I’m holding my breath over what’s going to happen next” moments. The author’s writing is breathtakingly sublime. I think I may have highlighted half the book!

Enlightened begins six months after the distressing and daring events at the end of Beguiled. David has been residing at Laverock House, Murdo’s country estate while recuperating from a severely broken leg. It’s fairly evident by his caring behavior that Murdo desires for, and believes David will decide to stay on indefinitely. David, while not invulnerable to the growing closeness between himself and Murdo, still cannot see that as a viable option. Partly due to their different stations in life, and partly due to deep personal hurt from his past.

“The protective barriers he’d spent a lifetime building up felt like they were crumbling away in the face of emotions he was helpless to deny. There would be no protection left to him when this ended. And the end was coming.”

I kept muttering aloud, Oh David, don’t give up please! Murdo adores you, he’d do anything for you. Trust that the two of you can find a way! The conflict of David’s emotional turmoil, coupled with what Murdo was feeling and whether or not they could give voice to their true feelings, was realistically dealt with and did not come across as contrived at all. It took them a while to find their way, considering the time in which they lived, their pride, and their stubbornness. All of these elements combined with complicated extenuating circumstances, and the fact both were not men given to spouting hearts and flowers made for an engrossing read. One of the sparkling aspects of this book is while conflicted and often angry with each other, David and Murdo were still able to communicate, to talk and not flail around or storm off over cross words or failure to be completely truthful. They stuck it out, they worked it through. All brought forth in glorious, on-page dialogue.

Time and again, David would hear the echo of his dear friend and mentor’s words:

“Be happy. Don’t let love go. Don’t deny it.”

Elizabeth’s situation puts a strong and sobering light on women’s complete lack of rights and equality in 19th century England and Scotland, dovetailing with the scandalous and criminal issue of homosexuality. Her story continued to be closely interwoven with David and Murdo’s, and indeed is key in the brilliant resolution to the men finding lasting happiness together. Being such a huge fan of historical fiction, I always look forward to how authors will resolve issues satisfactorily, leaving the main characters free to pursue a life together.

With Enlightened, Joanna Chambers deftly delivers stunningly clever plotting into a very satisfying resolution of all major issues including: Murdo finally detaching himself from his cruel and overbearing father, Murdo’s future as a political player vs. a recluse bachelor, Elizabeth’s fate as a battered wife on the run, and David’s courage in the face of decisions regarding his personal and professional future. It was such a rise to witness the very social mores and customs of Murdo’s social circle become the key to unlocking freedom for David and himself. Brilliant.

Murdo to David: “I thought you were naïve, till you made me see that the life I’d always wanted – the two lives I’d wanted – didn’t amount to anything at all. I wasn’t going to have it all. I was going to have nothing.”

The Enlightenment Series as a whole depicts David’s process of maturing, his coming to realize what he truly desires, and indeed can actually achieve in his life. His enlightenment. Murdo in turn grows to realize what is of utmost importance in his life. He realizes his true enlightenment as well. Enlightened together ♥.

I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Author Bio



Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. She spent over 20 years staring at blank sheets of paper and despairing of ever writing a single word. In between staring at blank sheets of paper, she studied law, met her husband and had two children. Whilst nursing her first child, she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna lives in Scotland with her family and finds time to write by eschewing sleep and popular culture.

 

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