Driven from his family when his sexuality is exposed, Jonah discovers drama, passion, and intrigue in a traveling carnival--and in the enigmatic owner, Rafe Grimstone. The preacher’s son and the lord who’s rejected his former life in England feel the heat of attraction from the moment they meet. Open-hearted Jonah is willing to risk hellfire and damnation for brief moments of pleasure with Rafe, but the older man is frozen in a past he can’t escape no matter how far he runs.
As Rafe struggles to choose between responsibilities of his present and his past, mysterious accidents assail the close-knit community of the carnival. Will the perpetrator be revealed before the traveling show is ruined, and will Rafe finally reveal his true self to Jonah or continue to mask his identity like the changing images in a house of mirrors?
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: Absolutely lovely MM romance with a captivating 1902 carnival setting. Must read for fans of historical MM romance.
The Set Up: Jonah’s preacher father and religious cousins gave him a beating before exiling him from their small Ohio town when they found him in a compromising situation with another man. Battered and bruised, he wanders into the traveling carnival show, hoping to get work and run away. There he meets Grimstone, the carnival owner, who hires him and cares for his battered body. Jonah and Grim are deeply attracted to each other but Grim has a past he won’t share with Jonah and a future he can’t share with him.
Why I Read this Book: As you faithful blog readers know, J9 LOVES MM HISTORICAL ROMANCE! (You know I mean it because I went all third-person there!)
What I Liked: Two words: the setting. I adore and totally romanticize early 20th Century traveling carnivals. As a kid growing up in the City, I thought I would one day run away and become a Carnie (forget the fact I was born in the 70’s, can’t juggle and have no beard; I had dreams, I tell ya’, dreams!). The struggles and rewards of carnival life are just beautifully described here. The author has Jonah be the reader’s guide to the carnival life and as he learns the language and culture so do readers. The secondary cast of characters is so interesting and compelling: the fat woman with a heart of gold, the gentle giant, the drunken magician, the fighting knife-throwing couple, the lion with no teeth and the list goes on. I cared about Jonah and Grim but I also cared about their carnival family and I honestly had an emotional reaction when one of the beloved characters dies. This is some fine writing for any book but truly outstanding for an erotic MM romance.
What I Also Liked: Jonah and Grim and their romance were wonderful too. This author excels at writing flawed characters readers like me can relate to. Jonah has an innocence and naivety about life but his sexual knowledge is juxtaposed with this religious background. He is a little judgmental and has to learn to accept other people, which he soon embraces. He was a homespun hero that I couldn’t help but love. Grim tries to maintain an emotional distance from everyone but he can’t deny his emotional or sexual attraction to Jonah. His commitment to the carnival and his employees shows his inner self but he’s so tightly controlled that it’s lovely to see Jonah slowly chip away Grim’s emotional barriers. This is perfectly illustrated in a scene with Jonah and Grim at a pond after the carnival is asleep that is so emotionally and sexually intimate. This author writes wonderful characters and puts them in believable romances. This isn’t an MM erotic romance where the leads just know their mates but instead these are two people slowly developing a relationship and future together. This is exactly the kind of sexy and emotional romance I most enjoy.
What I Didn’t Like: I loved everything about this book. The pacing is meandering and gentle, fitting for the setting in my opinion but perhaps some readers may find this a little slow.
IMO: I promise I don’t know this author and have no stake in recommending her books but I stumbled upon this author (Bonnie Dee) and have loved everything she’s written. House of Mirrors is just the latest in the line of her books I’ve greatly enjoyed.