Elisa Ramblings's Reviews > An Improper Holiday

An Improper Holiday by K.A. Mitchell
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Jan 01, 10

Read in January, 2010

In 1814, after the Battle of Badajoz, Ian has one reason more to not consider himself a proper man, he lost a limb in battle and not he is not even up to the task he was destined to as second son of an Earl, to be an army officer. He is now living wandering from one relative to another, trying to choose the one who pities him less. He is probably searching to disappear from the world, and so he is not so happy when his brother, the Earl, asks him to be the chaperon to their sister to the annual Twelve Night fete at Carleigh Castle: the heir to the Marques, Nicholas, was not only Ian’s best friend at school, he was also his first love. Like so many lovers before them, when they were young and careless, they swore to be everything for each other for forever and ever, but then the war changed it all.

There is a right characterization in both men: Ian is the typical second son, the one to whom everyone, from his father to his tutors, always instilled the concept of honour. His family was not enough wealthy to provide for him, and so Ian had to find his way in the world alone; he was supposed to be an officer, he was supposed to be independent. Not yet out of school, and in love with another man, Ian was forced to enlist and leave everything he knew. He did that to honour what everyone expected from him, and even if he didn’t leave Nicky with a promise to come back, inside his heart he was bound to be an honoured man even with him: Nicky was his first man, and Ian was determined to maintain him the only one also. In every aspect of his life, with his family and with his lover, Ian was and still is a perfect romance hero. And as a perfect romance hero, when he comes back home with an heavy handicap, he can’t consider to “impose” himself upon his lover, that, on the other hand, being a first son and heir, has to marry and fathered one heir or two at least. Probably in Ian’s mind, if Nicky marries a woman, it’s not almost a betrayal; it’s another way to be an honoured man, something Ian can perfectly comprehend. So, in his “innocence”, Ian doesn’t consider Nicky totally lost, in a way he is still faithful to the memory of their past love.

It’s so with despair that Ian discovers that, not only Nicky was not faithful to them when Ian came back home as a less than full man, he wasn’t neither faithful to them when Ian was in battle. Nicky tells to himself that it was the need of companionship, maybe even the fear for what could happen to his lover, but in a way or another, Nicky didn’t respect the unsaid pact of being faithful to Ian. And, again, I think this is quite right with his character: Nicky is the first son, the heir; he has no need to be an honoured man; he will have everything thanks to his birth right. Oh yes, while Ian was away, he conspired with Ian’s sister, Charlotte, to have news on Ian himself, but this is the only hint I have that Nicky was as involved in their relationship as Ian was and still is. Now that Ian is back home, Nicky is bent upon the task to convince the man that they can be still together, that there are way for them to be couple, even if not in front of the society, at least in the intimacy of their bedroom. The solution is simple, and probably one that many before them took. But still, even if Nicky is now behaving as a man in love, I would not say that he is a perfect romance hero like Ian, I think he is a bit selfish and for sure a spoiled brat.

The setting is quite nice, the story turns mainly around Ian and Nicky, but there are some interesting supporting characters, and I liked very much as the author described the different connections inside both families, of Ian and Nicky; there are all the different possible relationships of the time, the widowed and ruined cousin, the married but without child sister who plays the role of mistress of the house ad interim, the old father, the distant brother… it’s like an handbook of a noble English family of the nineteen century.

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