3.5 stars - A good regency era romance about two veterans from the 1812 Battle of Salamanca who meet in London three years after the war--young Preston who has fallen on hard times and sells himself, and Ben, a privileged estate owner who is wracked by guilt about what happened on the battlefield.
What I liked: At first, the set-up seemed very similar to another m/m regency romance The Gentleman and the Rogue, when a rentboy is taken in by a tortured, moody lord, but soon went into new directions. The horrors of the war that haunted both MCs definitely added weight to their stories, and both characters were very sympathetic as they tried to survive in a time where homosexuality was a crime, and things like trauma and PTSD weren't treated or recognized.
The darkness of their memories, and the heavy guilt over the secrets that Ben harbors definitely makes this less of a "regency romp." The sexy times that pop up are sweet, desperate, and often hold the lingering darkness of their pasts. (For instance, Ben enjoys being flogged. For those who dislike BDSM elements, this is not a BDSM read. It only pops up occasionally.)
I did appreciate how the sexy times were a good representation that this wasn't just Top!Lord and Bottom!Rentboy though. Things shake up pretty early on, and this is a nicely versatile read. I also liked how Preston took on his role of occasionally mastering Ben, and one night, when Ben is hoping for a paddling, Preston decides that true torture would be some impromptu orgasm denial and just says, "Boy, I'm so tired! Time for bed!" And goes to sleep, to the great shock of hopeful, lusting Ben. I totally laughed at that moment.
What was harder for me: The story slows down about half-way through and never really regains speed as the heaviness of secrets weigh things down, and then the inevitable reveal leads to more slowness as people move on to the familiar path of anger and Emo Separation Time. I kind of wish some more tension or excitement might have been peppered into the latter half to keep the pace up.
In the end, it was just an okay read for me, but if you love historicals in the m/m genre, especially in the regency period, this one may hit all your buttons very well indeed.