Feeling unrequited love for someone is a difficult position to endure, as Devon Wilcox from 'The Reluctant Customer' by Pearl Love can tell you. In Victorian times, when the object of your affection is another man, it's even more distressing. Being in love with his best friend, Wallace Church is Wilcox's darkest secret and he would be mortified if Wallace ever found out about it and terrified for fear of losing his friendship. Needing him more as a friend than as a lover, Wilcox suffers in silence, that is, until an unexpected opportunity presents itself for him to revealed his feelings and, only then, if Wilcox is brave enough to take advantage of it.
Besides hiding his feelings for his best friend, Wilcox has another problem. His attempt to scratch his itch often ends badly. On one particularly bad night, Wilcox is confronted by Church who scolds him for putting himself in such grave danger in the pursuit of pleasure. Wilcox tells him that he sees no other alternative rather than seeking out unsavory company for his liaisons, but Church may have a solution for him. After taking him back to his house, he imparts knowledge of a place called The Garden. Wilcox's response is humorous: “The Garden. ... As though I have any interest in horticulture.” Tired of what he perceives as a game, Wilcox becomes impatient. It's then that Church explains in a more direct manner: that The Garden is a brothel and the flowers are beautiful young men. Church talks him into going, but he is still convinced it's a trap of some sort and is quite reluctant.
When they arrive, Wilcox and Church are greeted by their host, who assists them in picking flowers which will match their particular needs. Wilcox is still amazed, but can't deny the beauty of the place and of the young men who work there. He begins to relax somewhat and anticipate an enjoyable evening, that is, until Church suggests the unthinkable, that they share a room. After he recovers, he, still reluctant, agrees and the boys take them up to their room. They go through their routine of preparing to serve tea and biscuits which thinking about how to best please the men. Although the boys are delightful, Wilcox can't take his eyes off of Church. Gardenia, the boy chosen to pleasure Wilcox, quickly catches on and initiates action which will get them involved with each other. Using the boys as facilitators, Church and Wilcox finally come together in a heated, passionate fire which threatens to burn up the sheets beneath them. Church has no idea that his friend feels anything but friendship toward him, but is pleasantly surprised and eager to explore his newfound knowledge. Upon leaving, they tell their host what a marvelous time they had and promise to return.
This is a short, but sexy, friends-to-lovers story with a touch of foreshadowing mixed in. The lyrical language was typical for the Victorian Era, adding to its ambiance. The descriptions of the characters, the brothel, and its inhabitants were exquisite. The sex scenes are so steamy and are portrayed so well, they made me feel like a voyeur. The story is light, amusing, and very sensual. I recommend it for a quiet afternoon when you want to relax and be carried away to another place and time. Thanks, Pearl, for introducing us to Wilcox and Church.
Originally reviewed on Rainbow Book Reviews.