A Layered Mask is pretty much an old-fashioned and traditional historical romance. In Edwin Nash we meet the inexperienced, wide-eyed innocent, forced to face a world and forces he’s ill equipped to handle when his father decides he needs to find himself a wife. Enter Thomas Downe, a somewhat older and far more experienced and world wise man who takes the younger Nash under his wing. There are the careful and secret flirtations, early morning horse riding dates and a slow, patient, and breathtakingly beautiful seduction. A traditional romance except for the fact that our star-crossed lovers are both male.
To say I lost myself in this story would be an understatement. I fell for both men as soon as they entered the story, enjoyed every moment of their courtship and despaired with them when it all appeared to come to an early and devastating end. The slow seduction of Edwin took my breath away; it was both incredibly hot and touchingly sweet.
While, at first glance, it may seem as if the fact that this is a historical romance centred around two men sets it apart from other historical romances, on further inspection that appears to be less true. Of course it was against the law and very dangerous for men to seen to be involved with other men and a loving relationship between them would have been inconceivable in those (and far more recent) times. But it was not just gay men who were denied the opportunity to find love. As becomes very clear in this book, all people were expected to marry for reasons other than love. Money, land, politics, heirs were deciding factors when it came to choosing your life partner and that was as true for those who fell for people of their own gender as it was for heterosexuals. I really appreciate that Sue Brown showed the marriage conundrum in all its glory. While the solution to the problems may well seem a bit convenient to some, I have no complaints. Any resolution in which love triumphs over prejudice and custom – in all its disguises – is one I’ll enjoy and treasure.
Once again Sue Brown drew me into her world, made me connect with her characters, and left me admiring her beautiful and smooth writing. The language and descriptions in this book felt entirely appropriate to the period in which the story was set. This was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.