Desert Isle Keeper
Introducing Mr. Winterbourne
After spending his morning riding in Town with good friend Perry Cavendish, Lysander Winterbourne, third son of the Earl of Winterbourne, plans to depart for Winterbourne Abbey the following morning. He hopes to one day run the estate on behalf of his father and older brother, and just a week ago – after his parents once again raised the subject of his future – he convinced his father to allow him to return to the Abbey to train alongside the estate manager.
Unfortunately, when he’s summoned to his father’s office later that morning, Lysander learns he won’t be leaving for the country after all. Instead, he’s tasked with introducing Adam Freeman, a wealthy mill owner and older brother of Simon, his sister Althea’s fiance, around town.
The earl had been part horrified, part delighted by the match. On the one hand, as the son of a mill owner, Simon Freeman was tainted by commerce and was a humiliatingly low match for Lord Winterbourne’s second daughter. . . . On the other hand, Simon’s family was outrageously wealthy, and the earl needed the money desperately.
Lysander is well aware that despite his father’s disdain, Mr. Freeman’s wealth allowed his father to pay off his debts. It’s also clear his father has forgotten their agreement about his future.
Adam Freeman can think of any number of things he’d prefer to do than spend the day with another spoiled aristocrat, but reluctantly agrees to do it for his brother’s sake. After arriving at the Winterbourne townhouse, the Earl introduces him to Lysander, and informs him Lysander will be showing him around town. Irritated at being pawned off, Adam sternly issues an ultimatum to the earl regarding payment of any remaining debts. He’s aware it was rude, but he doesn’t care. The afternoon proves to be as unpleasant as he expected – whispers, insults and disdain greet him at each of the drawing rooms they visit – but he’s pleasantly surprised by his guide. He’s caught off guard when Lysander apologizes for the way he was treated during their afternoon outing, and later, at Lysander’s club for dinner (after spending the latter half of the day fencing), he can admit he’s fallen under the young man’s spell.
Lysander, the golden boy of the Winterbourne family, is kind, handsome, and good, and ashamed – by his father and his gambling debts, and by the way Adam was treated during their afternoon outing. He was astounded and impressed when Adam confronted his father at the start of the day, and he’s delighted with the version of Adam that emerges after they pay a visit to his fencing master. By the time they wind up alone on a terrace at a ball they agreed to attend together, he can’t deny his attraction to the handsome Mr. Freeman.
Oh, reader! This opposites attract romance is a delight in every single way. The chemistry between Lysander and Adam is delicious, the frisson of attraction between them is palpable and only grows as the day progresses, and the contrast between the men is perfectly rendered. I loved every single thing about this tale (even its length), and it’s incredible how much story and character development the author is able to include in this tiny, marvelous, gem of a novella. Introducing Mr. Winterbourne is sexy and smart, and a wonderful introduction to this promising new series.
Note: Introducing Mr. Winterbourne first appeared in Another Place in Time, a 2014 historical m/m anthology.