In The Victorian, Abel takes the enemies-to-lovers trope and turns it on its head, creating a unique and original plot, perfect for the two characters who were brought together. With Seth and Charley, twenty years of history, hurt, grievances and pain are exposed. Their story is one of self-discovery and self-acceptance, changing hearts and minds by taking the risk of looking past the veneer on show to the world and searching beneath the surface for what is real. It's beautiful, it's heartbreaking, it's hot as hell. The Victorian, yet another smash hit, is actually the perfect Christmas tale; it has redemption, hope and love, while managing to be both heartwarming and devastating at the same time.
I always feel struck dumb and speechless, when I finish a Lavender Shores novel. Like all my thoughts are a tangle and lost in the pages I've just put down. Like my heart and mind are still stuck there, on that last page, and it will take me hours to get them back again.
For now, all I can say is that I was immediately drawn into the story. We've been circling the whole Seth/Charley debacle for eight books now and never known the full story, only hearing snippets and gossip from the other Lavender Shores townspeople. To finally see them together was one thing, but to start with that dual Prologue was something else entirely. To see it from both POV's is my new favourite way of starting a story; and it's a way that I've never seen another author attempt. Though it starts with a threesome, there's really not all that much “three” about it, except for some direction and a short period of contact at the end. And the Prologue is the only time it happens, but it also gives us a bit more insight into all three characters; Seth, Charley and Silas. I loved that it showed us different aspects of who each of them were.
As always, I loved catching up with the previous Lavender Shores members. Seeing Andrew and Joel's big news, the changes that had happened for Alex, Moses and Xander, even to see most of all the previous characters revisit for the founding family and town events. Mabel, who had been a side character and a staple of Lavender Shores since book one, became the mother hen and comfort blanket to this story. She and Sapphire were a beautiful addition to Charley's journey that let me feel at ease with the time he spent in turmoil. Knowing they were there for him, had always been there for him, was just something that made my heart lighter, even in his toughest moments. The inclusion of politics, with the appearance of Senator Gonzales, was actually perfectly appropriate. Not only to the story and the political times of the real world, but also due to the essence of Lavender Shores, the characters that the Senator interacted with, and the impact it had on Charley and Seth.
Now I just need Nick's story, and that would be the cherry on top. In all honesty, I actually made a note at 3% that I loved seeing more of Silas in this book and that he'd be a great match for Nick. Then, after reading the amazing story for Seth and Charley, what did I find? Only the best news, that had me doing a literal fist-pump in glee! Silas is the next book, and I'm going to get my wish! I couldn't be happier.
Forgive me for not picking my usual one quote, but there were a few that spoke to me and I couldn't leave them out. This first quote is one that I can't explain. I can't even tell you when in the book it happens, only that when Charley said these words, my heart broke:
“God, the man was cruel. That wasn't news to me, nor a surprise. I'd known that for two decades. Part of why I despised him. I knew he despised me right back, but still...to have him use those terms, after all the years that had passed...I didn't know he still had the power to hurt me.”
“He looked up, his gaze meeting mine and shook his head, looking like the motion used every last ounce of strength. “Don't.”