Julian Mure spent his adult life seeking nothing more than passing moments of pleasure, loving only himself. He prefered his own company to that of sycophants and casual liars, so the disdainful nickname of Narcissus holds no sting. Only one person has ever pierced Julian’s heart — pierced it and broken it at the same time — so falling in love is nothing he wishes to repeat. He finds the situation perfectly satisfying until the day his favorite hunter fails to clear a hedge-lined ditch, pitching them both headlong and costing Julian his right eye and arm.
Widower Alasdair Hedgeford was not oblivious to Julian’s desire, but married to Julian’s sister his place in the lad’s life was as older brother. No more. Over the years, he’s done his best to show Julian affection but that affection has changed into a desire for more.
Yielding to that desire would mean breaking two taboos. But given the opportunity to to visit Julian for the annual “First Foot” celebration, Alasdair cannot help but extend a challenge to the man: “Come dine with me tomorrow night, to celebrate the New Year.”
While the second book in the Challenged by Love series, Narcissus is the third one I read. And the first one I found disappointing. While the other two books felt somewhat complete, this one did not. It takes place over only a few days – much like Vulcan – but there was little character growth on either side. Plus, much of the book dealt with Julian’s PTSD – yes they didn’t call it that back then, but that’s what it was.
Perhaps part of the letdown is there was no sense of them falling for one another as they had already fallen before the book began. Julian has loved Alasdair for ten years, suffering through the unrequited love by living a life of perversion. Alasdair fought his love of Julian for the same amount of time, but for him he was in love with Julian’s sister. Since she’s gone and they are both in the same area, he decides to do something about it.
The scenes with Julian and Alasdair were hot but secondary to the rest of the story. For a romance, I felt it lacked form. For a story of a man suffering from everything he’s lost and from the event that turned him into who he became, it was intriguing, but I would have needed more –including him finding a way to get past his living nightmares – for the story to feel complete.
Twice I was popped out of the delicious historical references the author makes, putting us back into the time of the story, by words that sounded more 20th century than early 19th. The one that comes to mind is ‘watch’. Julian checked his watch for the time at one point on his disastrous trip back to his hall. In the early 1800s, gentlemen had pocket watches. Wrist watches weren’t created until the early 1900s. But because of just the term ‘watch’ rather than ‘pocket watch’, I was thrown, wondering when watches were actually invented.
But don’t get me wrong. Narcissus is most definitely a part of the Changed by Love series and if you are enjoying the series, you should read this one. It uses characters completely separated from the other two books, these two up in the Scottish Highlands. It has a tortured hero who was once good looking and is now battle scared and the man who will love him for who he is now. It just felt like we got a teaser look at Alasdair and Julian with little resolution.