St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, England, 1905.
When Jonty Stewart takes up a teaching post at the college where he studied, the handsome and outgoing young man acts as a catalyst for change within the archaic institution. He also has a catalytic effect on Orlando Coppersmith.
Orlando is a brilliant, introverted mathematician with very little experience of life outside the college walls. He strikes up an alliance with the outgoing Jonty, and soon finds himself having feelings he’s never experienced before. Before long their friendship blossoms into more than either man had hoped and they enter into a clandestine relationship.
Their romance is complicated when a series of murders is discovered within St. Bride’s. All of the victims have one thing in common, a penchant for men. While acting as the eyes and ears for the police, a mixture of logic and luck leads them to a confrontation with the murderer—can they survive it?
Repressed mathematics lecturer Orlando Coppersmith doesn't know what force of nature took his seat by accident in the Senior Common Room, but Jonty Stewart is the sunlight and rain that will nourish his world and crack his façade. Orlando is the brilliant and polite example of Edwardian ideals, never straying into physical impropriety, and entirely unaware of such scandalous things as men lying together. Jonty knows more, including the secret underbelly of single-sex societies; Orlando's innocence is something he both treasures and hopes to channel into a pure love that can also be physical.
The unfolding of their love is very much complicated with a string of murders within the college, the work of someone with a need for vengeance that Jonty and Orlando can understand once it's exposed. In best Gaudy Night style, (and thank goodness for having read that or this American would have been a bit lost in the environment of St. Bride's) Jonty and Orlando assist the police and find the murderer, but not before three bodies need to be returned to grieving families.
Orlando blooms under Jonty's attentions, feeling his way into love and sex, though he's shocked by the raunchy books found in the first murder victim's possessions, and needs time to reconcile these two aspects of sexuality. Jonty gives him time and distance as needed, and once in a while, a little shove in the right direction. Their relationship is sweet, tender, and I want to pour them a nice glass of port and lock the bedroom door behind them.
The murder mystery part of this novel worked for a time when gentlemen sleuths could work hand in hand with the police and forensics was a hopeful idea and not a science. I'm not quite convinced the clues were there and the mystery fair -- we don't really get to see much of the suspects. The reasons for the murders and the resolution were certainly tragic.
I very much enjoyed this excursion into a more formal time, when there were things that gentlemen just did not do, or didn't get caught doing, where the exchange of names was considered nearly as intimate as exchanging bodily fluids. The slow pace of the relationship was lovely, being so emotionally involved, with the sharing of secrets and sorrows.
I picked this up as a free read on Amazon, and what a great thing -- there are more Orlando and Jonty stories! Now I have to read them all, Ms Author, so the free read did exactly what you hoped to draw me into this world. 4.5 marbles