When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
This story was long, which meant the author could include both the gothic oceanside home and a Season in London. I don’t feel the second half and first half tied together enough plotwise — the villain for the end of the piece was brought in quite late. Emotionally, I can see why a longer resolution was needed for reconciliation, but I think it could have been accomplished a little more directly. Both halves of the story could easily have been made into their own story, and perhaps picking one to focus on would have kept it tighter. And it maybe bothered me that the heroine is given another side role rather than being central to the story, when part of her story is that she gave up so much to be herself, including having her own independent life?
I thought the emotional conflict over the MC’s transition and “betrayal” was done well (though I’m not trans so defer to actual trans people on whether the rep was good). The hero adjusts to the transition fast, but I feel like as an author you need to do that or he’d look like a transphobic dick, which would kill the story. The sex scenes were written tastefully and thoughtfully.