Audiobook Review: Beguiled (Enlightenment #2) by Joanna Chambers

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.

Narrated by: Hamish McKinlay
Listening Length: 6 hours and 33 minutes

***5 STARS and more***

Guest Reviewer - Annery

This is the second book in the Enlightenment Series and I’m thrilled to say that Joanna Chambers is a true talent, sticking unflinchingly to a vision. On the audio front Hamish McKinlay, once again, delivers a masterful performance bringing the principals, David & Murdo, to vivid, distinct, and electrifying life. If I didn’t know better I could be persuaded that there are two narrators. As a bonus he fleshes out another handful of characters, including women, without hitting a false note.

The story picks up and takes place in August of 1822, two years after the events in Provoked, and once again the ‘action’ is firmly rooted in historical fact. George IV, commonly known as Prinny, the ne’er-do-well heir of George III, had been Regent for 10 years during his father’s bout of mental incapacity. A year after his ascension to the throne he embarked on a historical trip to Scotland, the first by a British monarch in almost two hundred years. The trip was stage managed by Sir Walter Scott and was full of pageantry on an epic scale. Here's a brief article on the visit.

This is the setting for David and Murdo’s reunion. In the two years since we last saw him David has made something of a name for himself as an advocate, under the tutelage of his patron and now friend, Patrick Chalmers. He continues to be the same David, dedicated to his profession almost to the exclusion of everything else but a good hearted and loyal friend. On the personal front, while he’s resigned to a solitary life with the occasional stolen moment for passion, he’s not as apt to see his desires as reprehensible.

“It used to be, when he heard people sneering about sods and buggers, his chief reaction was shame. Self-loathing. But more recently -- like when the scandal of the bishop came out -- he’d found himself growing angry when he heard such comments. Angry that people seemed to think they had a right to know what others did behind closed doors. Angry that they wanted to rip people apart for it, even blamed the state of the nation upon it.”
Meanwhile Murdo has ostensibly come to Edinburgh representing his father, the Marquess, as part of the King’s entourage. The two meet by accident or fate at the tailor’s shop and the kindling is set.

There is so much wonderful going on in this book and Joanna Chambers conveys all of this without ever ‘telling’ or crowding, but rather by conversations, thoughts, and actions. She not only steps up the story between our two protagonists but also sets them firmly in their time and place, which is a Scotland that was shedding its feudal past in favor of the business and educated classes. We also get a precis on the rights of women (none) via Elizabeth, Patrick Chalmers daughter, now prisoner of an unhappy marriage. However the author never loses sight of the story at hand, which is that of David and Murdo. This time around they’re not so much dancing around each other but falling head first into something they can’t or know to call love, because the world sucks, and that’s not something available to men. Or is it? This is the book in which these men really get to know each other. In every sense.

The real dark horse is Murdo, who’s come back to Edinburgh, among other reasons, to get back into David’s life in any way and for however long it may last. He’s the character who has changed the most. He’s searched his heart, realized, and admitted that he wants more of David. What that more is he has not named. Not yet. He’s that person we all want at the end of our HEA and there’s a scene, which replays in David’s head (and mine too), where Murdo invites David to his house by saying: “You know where my house is. Come anytime.” The memory of that invitation is like an ear worm in David’s head, insistent and persuasive.

Hamish McKinley’s rendering had me on my way to Murdo’s house. *heart palpitations*

I don’t know how much or little to tell because you should really just immerse yourself in this whole series, and yes I mean the audio too. Your heart and brain will thank you. I found myself highlighting and rereading whole passages but quoting them all here would be obnoxious. As an alternative I suggest you go to Chapter 9 of the book. This is the core of the book and of David & Murdo’s story; the themes it explores, and the predominant dynamic. I’ll wait.

David and Murdo have left a tavern and Murdo, gentleman that he is, walks David to his rooms. It starts: “Murdo followed David …” and that’s what’s happening, to one degree or other this August of 1822. The rooms are dark and Murdo is ‘lost’ but David is there to guide him: “Sorry. Here, give me your hand.” David starts to light the fire and, while still in darkness, they begin to talk. It’s one of those conversations you have in the refuge of darkness. Like a confessional. But slowly the light gets stronger, the room warmer. Once the room is lit and warm they’ve exchanged painful remembrances and shared a moment of honest intimacy that surpasses ‘just sex’. I’ll just come right out and say that Murdo is a prince. It ends like this, with David sitting on Murdo’s lap, after offering to suck him:

“Murdo’s eyes glittered. ‘Yes, but stay like this awhile longer. I like you here.’
“So David did, enjoying the warmth of the fire and the feel of Murdo beneath him, around him. Enjoying the tentative intimacy that was growing between them and that felt almost tangible, here, in this warm, secret corner of the world.”
The rest of the book carries through with this theme. David and Murdo deciding that being together is right or at the very least no one else’s business, but trying to find a way of making that possible and figuring out for how long? Murdo shines brightly, being there for David and his ‘causes’ even when he doesn’t know he’s doing it and with deeply romantic moments like this:

“Another good-natured chuckle, then lips at his temple in a brief kiss. A sigh. “David.” Just his name. Not a question but a statement. Or maybe an answer.”
David. Was ever a man more aptly named? Always willing to fight for what’s right even when he’s scared or in the face of daunting odds. But he has Murdo:

“He kissed Murdo, and it was like water. Like something necessary and life-giving.”
Even if I hadn’t read (totally did) the third book I would’ve been happy with this ending. Our men are on a believable path to a HEA that doesn’t rehash the same tired roles of other historicals, jump into anachronisms or require leaps of wishful thinking.

***I’d recommend this to everyone. Period. If you can definitely get the audio. Worth every penny. ***

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