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4.6 out of 5 stars
Kindred Hearts
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Such a gorgeous book! The writing is outstanding, and the characterizations are rich and three-dimensional. Set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the historical details are vivid and well-researched. I've added this to my "to re-read" shelf, knowing that I will come back to it again and again. Just a stunning story, and so well-executed.

MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW:

The first 20% or so of the book is devoted to the painful life of Tristan Northwood, a seeming bon-vivant who lost his mother at an early age, is estranged (at least emotionally) from his father, spends his nights seducing women and drinks himself senseless afterwards. Tris' father, tired of his wild lifestyle, gives him an ultimatum: marry and produce an heir, or be cut off and end up penniless. Tristan, with resignation, marries Lottie.

Lottie is a fascinating and almost anachronistic woman. She isn't interested in love, but she's a good woman, and she comes to care deeply for the troubled Tristan, bearing him an heir and giving him her solid, supportive friendship. But Tristan is depressed and miserable, and still drinks himself silly each night, if only to avoid the thoughts that keep him awake (he no longer is the womanizer he was). So Lottie contacts her twin brother, Charles, the handsome and successful Major Mountjoy, who is planning on returning to private life after years in the military (Tristan and Charles had never met before).

Charles is gay and Lottie has known it for years (they are quite an interesting lot, the Mountjoy's). The attraction between Charles and Tris is immediate, and deeply disturbing to the fragile Tristan. Charles learns that Tris intends to kill himself, and he intervenes - thus beginning a relationship between the two men that will save them both. Through all of this, Lottie, who is more than relieved that Tristan might be happy at last (and completely aware of the relationship - she's not interested in any physical relationship with her husband), gives the two men her blessing.

All of this happens before the book is 1/2 over! And that, in my opinion, is the beauty of this lovely novel. We learn about Tristan, feel his pain, understand where he's coming from, long before we ever meet Charles or even Lottie. The last half of the book focuses on the relationship between Tristan and Charles and their journey towards happiness as they recreate themselves. A nice added touch was the time Ms. Speedwell spent writing about the relationship between Tristan and his father, a man who genuinely loved his dead wife, and still mourns her loss, years later.

I cannot recommend this book too highly! A must for any lover of M/M historical romance. Definitely a gem.

Shira Anthony (a.k.a. Sarah Alexander)
Author of "From the Depths"
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 11, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
SECOND PART OF THE REVIEW MAY CONTAIN VAGUE SPOILERS.

I liked Finding Zach by this author, but this book I *loved*, enjoyed every word of it. It is a very well researched historical as far as I can see, has two heroes who are likeable, but also have some flaws. Moreover both Charles and Tristan, especially Tristan have real character arcs (I know it should be a given, but I do not see it in this genre too often for my taste, so when I do see it I always praise it), they grow and change for the better over the course of the story. I also liked that writer made sure that Tristan and Charles found a real passion, something wonderful to do with their time besides being with each other, I do not see that too often in historicals either. The most I can see is gentlemen spending time on their properties and if they figure out how to take better care of people who serve them, it is already a big deal. Tristan's wife Lottie is the most wonderful too.

I loved this book. There is some sex in the story, but in comparison to the length of the book not too much of it (three? four scenes? not even sure) and it definitely does not overwhelm the story.

EDIT:

THIS PART OF THE REVIEW CONTAINS WHAT MAY BE CONSIDERED AS VAGUE SPOILERS

So I keep thinking about this book thus I came back here because I decided I have something else to say. I really really liked how whatever Tristan was feeling before Charles came along was not described in modern medical terms and I also enjoyed how the guys were helping each other, when Tristan was struggling with his outlook on life, Charles helped him to stand on both feet and realize what he wanted from life and when Charles was not in the best shape closer to the end Tristan took care of him.

I also loved how the book succesfully avoided what I call the break up for the sake of creating a conflict out of nowhere. When characters are spending time apart it is because what is happening around them truly demands it and Charles would not have been Charles if he refused to do his duty. And the guys actually did not engage in idiotic quarrel before they needed to spend time apart. Oh this was such a refreshingly delightful story on so many levels.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
If confronted with the mediocre (at best) works that clutter the M/M romance subgenre, especially those written by lady authors, this novel, flawed as it is, stands out to attention and deservedly so because of its unquestionable achievements. This is why I thought four stars where more equitable than the deserved three.

The setting is a common one: England in the early XIX century, the age of the Napoleonic wars to be precise.
The main difference from the general rubbish is that THIS author chooses to really EXPLOIT this setting and not to limit herself to a spattering of aristocratic titles the characters use to address each other. I had the impression the characters were the children of that precise time and not stereotypical figures to be found at any given epoch with little if any change.

Handsome, popular, smart Tristan is a bon vivant, a womanizer and a no gooder, just as much as any other nobleman's son of his time. Nobody seems to perceive the desperation that lurks behind his beautiful eyes. His father forces him into a loveless marriage to produce an heir and Tristan finds himself mated to a bizarre wife. He manages to build a decent friendship with her but this does not prevent him from falling deeper into depression. Enter Charles, his wife's twin and get ready for melodramatic fireworks.
Ms Speedwell has evidently read some German literature of the XVIII century and introduces a well known topos: the situation called by Italian Germanist Ladislao Mittner "triangolo filadelfico" (appr. philadelphic triangle - philadelphic to be understood in a classical Greek way). In a few words it is a highly conventional literary situation where two men develop a close friendship and one of them marries the sister of the other one. She does it with a twist, though: the friendship here is between the spouses and the love between the husband and his brother in law.
That this might be intentional is confirmed by the fact that the two twins are said to have a German mother and to make extensive use of the language; what German words (not always correct, I am afraid) actually come into the novel are usually easily understandable endearments.

In this first part of the novel there is already an amount of plot that most other authors would have deemed sufficient for an entire novel. That is not the case here. The meeting and falling in love of the two men does not bring the story to its end: plenty of events must still take place before the author gives us the expected happily ever after; it is a long, satisfying ride that is angst-y, melodramatic and emotional, but always remains within the boudaries of "moving" without stepping into "ridicule".
I read it with gusto and with as few interruption as possible, but it is not devoid of flaws, some of them serious.

First of all there are several inconsistencies or near inconsistencies, that is sentences that though not exactly contraddicting previous statements were quite unexpected. I shall make just one example: in the first part of the book Tristan admits to not speaking any modern language at all but in the third part, set in Bruxelles, he seems to have a good knowledge of French, a knowledge he cannot have developed in just two weeks.

Characterization has its flaws too and in a character-focused novel this carries some weight. Tristan and Charles actually grow up as individuals, they change for the better, they have a development. This was clearly intentional and makes a difference.
That said, Tristan acts younger and more immature than his age should grant. It was probably to enhance how much he changes thanks to his newfound love but it feels exaggerated. Moreover someone who is known for being a perfectly well bred gentleman would not behave like he does at times. Charles fits of jealousy do not ring true for one described as utterly kind and sensible. As was the case with the "near" inconsistencies, it is not that these accidents are entirely unjustifiable but surely they are out of character and some adjustment has to be taken.
Charlotte, Tristan's wife, is possibly the main problem. It must have been difficult to portray such a singular woman, well bred, daughter of her age but at the same time refreshingly open minded and utterly sensible. She is glad of her husband love for her twin brother and lovingly accepts it.
This in theory. When coming to life in the book, Charlotte is plain weird: sometimes she is just as Ms Speedwell intended her to be but more often she seems to be kind but utterly cold hearted. She is sometimes bright but more often obtuse, her strenght of character is most of the time just distant kindness tinged by indifference. As she is the third main character, another key difference from other M/M romances where just the two lovers are dealt with by their author, these inconsistencies have substantial weight: when Charlotte was on stage I constantly had to adjust to an unexpected behaviour.
I wonder how the editors of this book could have let these problems slips from their attention. It is still good, a pleasant read that will keep you glued to your seat, but could have been great and unfortunately is not.

Sex scenes are not many and never gratuitous. I suggest you buy the kindle edition as the printed one is outrageously expensive.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This book was just fine writing from beginning to end...perfect historical fiction, well researched, the vernacular was just right, and the love story was beyond moving.

It's 1810 and Tristan Northwood is going through life as the stereotypical spoiled young English aristocrat having fun, womanizing, drinking too much and indulging as much as he can.

In an effort to sober him up (in more ways then one) his father marries him off to Charlotte Mountjoy, a young woman from a good family with financial troubles. Charlotte has no interest in love or marriage so is agreeable but uninterested.

Tristan and Charlotte have a friendship, bu there is no love, they produce and heir for Tristan's father. And Tristan begins to fall in to a deep depression.

In comes Captain Charles Mountjoy, Charlotte's twin and the man that will change Tristan's life. They share and interest to learn about medicine and become partners in that too.

These two men were perfection, their love and passion for each other, the will to sacrifice, the need for each other so great it was palpable. They were like beautiful music, just good and right, and lovely to experience.

This book had all the makings of a great novel I kept getting surprised and thinking..."I can't believe this was written this year" This writer is well acquainted with another time.

I loved this book and it's definitely on my favorites shelf. And hope there's much more historical from Rowan Speedwell, perhaps Derek will find his love out there...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A gay romance novel in which the Duke of Wellington is a character? Just imagine, if you will. Rowan Speedwell's "Kindred Spirits" pulls off a neat hat trick with a skill not much seen outside the historical romances of regency England penned by Georgette Heyer. Even in comparison with the ancestress of all of these books--Thackeray's "Vanity Fair," Speedwell has accomplished something quite remarkable. The book is beautifully and elegantly written, with a compelling narrative, fascinating characters and a romantic plot arc that will fulfill every promise it makes to the reader.

The real trick, of course, is to present a gay romance in a way that is emotionally plausible without being absurdly anachronistic. Speedwell gives us the characters of Tristan Northwood and Charles Mountjoy; both aristocratic, both handsome, and both very much burdened with inclinations that fly in the face of prevailing English social mores of the 1810s. Speedwell offers her readers a profound understanding of literature and language of this period, as well as a firm grasp of both actual history (the written kind) and speculative history (the kind that we know only by inference and extrapolation). The ultimate question in a book like this is the reader's ability to accept the central premise in the historical context, and that Speedwell has given us without a false step.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I tend to be very sparse in giving out reviews but I have to heap praise on this writer for Kindred Hearts. Set in the time of Wellington and Napolean, Speedwell delivers a fine balance between characterization, romance and a beautifully drawn setting. Both protagonists are built strongly and stand out against the colourful cast of characters behind them. The relationship and its drawbacks are realistic and the ending...no spoilers... is thoroughly believeable.

One of the best books I've read all year. Hands down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
What a nice surprise it was to actually download a full-sized book from the kindle store (when will Amazon start standardising the listed length of kindle books by word count?????). As I prefer a longer read, I was already humming in pleasure as I started to read & I wasn't disappointed either. This was a lovely romance. Lots of time spent laying the foundation story lines. Lots of time spent on character development. As far as I could tell, the author actually spent some time to ensure historical accuracy for the book. The story had genuine characters that you found easy to like & wanted to read about...BUT...it just didn't grab me. I wasn't on the edge of my seat chewing my nails during the crisis scenes. I didn't rush the dishes so I could get straight back to the book. I even managed to iron the kid's uniforms before picking up my kindle again! I felt emotionally divorced from the story which is a real shame. Another whinge is that after such a slow build up during the book, the ending felt far too rushed & pat. What could have been a great read was in reality just okay. I probably won't read it again but it did keep me entertained between the chores.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I stopped reading regency/period romance novels when I was sixteen because I'd finally figured out that they all follow the same thin plot (with a few exceptions)and I wanted something different.

Sadly a lot of m/m romance stories fall into this same trap, but not "Kindred Hearts". There is no swooning young man who might as well just be another damsel in distress to be found here.

Here you'll find believable characters with an interesting plot that goes beyond just the romance. Strong, real feelings and sizzling chemistry.

This is how every m/m Regency romance should be.
Will be re-reading in future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is a lovely novel. The protagonists are fully-developed, three dimensional characters: Tristan, the lost soul whose pain is hidden within the carefree facade; Charles, the noble soul who wants to be of use to help people. The historical background lends authenticity to the characters' actions and conflict. When I read a novel, I want to see the characters develop and mature in their journey, so that by the end of the book, one feels "vindicated" for the trials they went through to achieve their happy ending - and this novel delivers that. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is Delicious.
Great story,clearly well researched historically with delightful and charming well drawn characters and a truly romantic plot. I didn't want it to end.
What more can one ask?
Well written and engaging MM romance novels are few and far between. Out of a field of dozens,I've found a few that I feel
can be called truly outstanding:
This wonderful novel which I loved-highly recommended.
Jane Seville's "Zero at the Bone",
Mary Kay Shapiro's 'What Love Means to You People",
Madeliene Urban and Rhianne Aile's "The One That Got Away"
and almost any by Josh Lanyon or Neil Plakey.
Start with this one.
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