Series Review: Enlightenment by Joanna Chambers


This is a second edition of a book previously published by Samhain Publishing.

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?


This is a second edition of a book previously published by Samhain Publishing.

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.


This is a second edition of a book previously published by Samhain Publishing.

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.

Love should not be denied.

I’m not sure how I’ll recover from this series. I’ve read some remarkable historicals but this was exceptional and I fear my book hangover will be epic.

I read these in succession. Honestly, I don’t know how you could read one and not them all. They're like potato chips and I'm infinitely grateful I did not have to wait between... chips. Provoked set the stage and drew me into this world just on the tail end of the Regency period in Scotland. Edinburgh plays as large a role in Enlightenment as any character which is told from David Lauriston’s perspective. We follow him on a journey of self-discovery as he falls in love with Lord Murdo Balfour and finds his truest self.

David is a self-made man. He chose to go to university to study law rather than stay on his family's farm. He’s… difficult, peevish. His views on the world and his place in it are practical and somewhat inflexible. He's got a vision of his life and, though lonely, he's committed to it. His morals don't allow much leeway thus he's decided to never marry and have to live a lie. He’s gay and self-loathing about it because he’s been indoctrinated in the fire and brimstone which makes his future happiness seem an unlikelihood if not an outright impossibility. This time period, as confining and provincial as it most certainly is, makes for a brilliant canvas on which to paint an exquisite romance filled with sexual tension, that lingers in the memory and is what keeps me coming back to this genre again and again.

He’d been convinced that his fascination with the act, his desire for other men, was a sign of a weak and sinful nature. Something to be suppressed at all costs.

I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to believe oneself anything other than abhorrent when constantly inundated with the sentiment that homosexuality is not only a sin but a crime, a crime with a hefty penalty. Chambers did a tremendous job of making this worldview the cornerstone of David's character. David’s beliefs are based as much on the law as the views regarding homosexuality and his being a lawyer makes them that much more ingrained. Thus he only allows himself the occasional furtive and anonymous tryst then hates himself afterwards and turns to scotch as a panacea.

Murdo is David’s opposite. He’s hedonistic, charismatic, outgoing, witty, wealthy and maybe a little rakish. The Romantic Rascal, as it were. He’s so easy to like. So easy. But I loved them both equally. Murdo's character isn't simplistic but he wears his heart on his sleeve which made him easy for me to read so I didn't mind not having his perspective. I think he fell in love with David during their first meeting that segued into a debauched back alley blow job.

“God, but I want to do everything to you. I want you in my hand. I want you in my mouth. I want to bury my tongue inside you and fuck you forever.”

David is such a challenge for him, though, and I think his pulling away was a way of protecting himself from heartbreak. When I realized that two years had elapsed between Provoked and Beguiled, I think I maybe had a touch of the vapors! But in those two years both evolved. Happenstance throws them together and from their first meeting I was riveted and ultimately dazzled by the second installment. I felt as though my heart were being basted with romance. Two years may have passed but it's clear neither of them forget the other.

The touch of Murdo’s mouth made him feel alive, his neglected body given meaning by the attentive desire of his lover. Each kiss saying, you are here, in this world, with me.

Make no mistake, David and Murdo are the centerpiece of this series, but the inclusion of the cast of characters that make up David's inner circle drives the plot forward. These characters were all well constructed, can just as easily break as warm your heart and how their lives intersect with David’s and Murdo's made for a couple of verklempt moments. I found I rather enjoyed the bird’s eye view over the more commonplace myopic stories that focus entirely on the couple and their coupletry. It enhanced David, and to a lesser extent Murdo’s, characterizations by showing how far they are willing to go in the service of a friend and each other thereby making for a richer story altogether.

One such act of selflessness leads them to Perthshire, Murdo’s newly acquired estate, for a good portion of Enlightened where they’ve lapsed into an easy domesticity filled with fishing and walks in the country and unruffling some neighbors' feathers.

What moved me, and is making this series so difficult to let go of, were the subtle changes both these characters made due to the other’s influence over the course of their story, how they begin to find a way if for no other reason than not to do so would leave them both heartbroken and their futures bleak. I do so love couples who bring out the best in each other and make each other happy. They still disagree and are truly awful at communicating their feelings but when it does finally happen, it’s glorious. And so them.

Somehow, Murdo had become more important to him than anything else. Everything he'd worked for- respectability, a shining career, wealth-all of it would be ashes in his mouth if he lost Murdo.

"To hell with what I deserve," Murdo whispered. "All I want is you."

There is sex and chemistry between them, obviously, and it had its moments, but I think what I liked more than anything was how Murdo cossets David and how comfortable they are with one another. All the small, quiet moments between them-Murdo rubbing David's leg with liniment, pestering him about using the cane, David wearing Murdo's old clothes to go fishing, all the peccadilloes that you know and accept about another person that you live with and the rhythm of their shared life. All those things made it crystal clear how in love they are and how perfectly they fit together, but go unrecognized or are taken for granted until one is faced with the possibility of losing it forever. Their level of comfort truly shone in the epilogue. The epilogue that killed me dead.

The prose is lovely and stays true to the time with Chambers folding in a multitude of historical details that strengthened the narrative. I also really loved all the Scottish details-the streets, the cobblestones, the wet, the tiny pubs, Sir Walter, the kilts, the scotch-all reminded me of a wonderful vacation and how much I loved Edinburgh.

The whole series is magnificent and if you're a historical romance reader Enlightenment is simply a must read.

Review copies were provided.

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