Kindred Hearts by G.S. Wiley
Crippled by a devastating stammer, Alfie would prefer to hide himself away in the audience of London’s theaters. But as the perfect Georgian gentleman, it’s his responsibility to find a husband for his ward Eleanor. The pain of having to converse with strangers is lessened by the appearance of the kind-hearted Lord George Caldwell and his cousin Lieutenant Markham, who is far more interesting than any character Alfie has seen on stage, and far more intriguing than any man he’s ever met in person.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This short story is one of the spice lines of Torquere Press, which incorporates a spice somewhere. Here the mace fruit cake is used well, although I kept thinking of the modern day uses of mace spray instead of the nutmeg like spice intended. Either way this delightful historical touches on romance, marriage, and accurate details of the time period to offer a quick, fun read. I wish the story had been longer as it didn’t fully satisfy like other offerings by this author but still stands out as a solid, interesting story.
The shorter novella gives a glimpse into the life of Alfie. An older gentleman (gasp 30s!) whose main passion is the theatre, he has a set schedule of different theatres each night to visit and a beloved favorite on Saturday with an incredible lead actress. Unfortunately for Alfie, his family has descended upon him and decided his ward, Eleanor, is ready for a husband. Although he’s rarely seen the girl, his mother wants a good match and Eleanor’s flirtation with a younger son of a Baron isn’t going over well. Alfie attempts to find Eleanor a match, solve the problems of his favorite actress, while figuring out his emotions for the enigmatic but attractive Lt. Markham.
Although there are several threads going on in the plot, they are all well crafted and worked together so the story never feels overwhelming or too busy. The tie in of Eleanor’s new flirtation with Lord Caldwell gives Alfie an introduction to the man that stirs his emotions, Lt. Markham. The theatre aspects with the spice fruit cake are very nice touches and end with a solid resolution and bit surprising. The romance between Alfie and Lt. Markham stays within accurate historical details, even so far as Alfie recognizes he’ll likely marry one day (far down the line he hopes) to further the line.
The great writing of Wiley’s is on display here but as fun and entertaining as the story is, it lacks a little something. Alfie’s romance is almost eclipsed by the manipulations to ensure George and Eleanor get together and the issues with Alfie’s mother. While all of these touches are nice and help compliment the historical period well, I still felt somewhat unsatisfied at the end. I would have liked a little more focus on Alfie’s own romance, which feels secondary to the main plot.
All the characters are very well rounded and interesting from Alfie’s stutter to Eleanor’s pragmatic look at life and even Lt. Markham’s wish for more war action. There are a few stumbles where Alfie didn’t make much sense in his actions. He has never acted on his desires for men before and shows great fear in that direction yet comments that due to his stutter he has to have a lot of strength and courage. While I agree with the later comment, I felt this would have helped him gain more courage to face his desires, which he does eventually with some liquid courage.
As a short delightful historical, Kindred Hearts really delivers. It has some very nice moments and the flawed character of Alfie is very nicely drawn. The entire story feels unique and different from most stories in the genre so definitely check this out.
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