Book: A Minor Inconvenience
Author: Sarah Granger
Genre: M/M Romance, Historical
Rating: Five Gold Signet Rings. (I’d rank it higher if I could)
Call it Jane Austen meets Horatio Hornblower–in a story that Jane would blush to tell!
Blurb: Duty, honor, propriety…all fall in the face of love.
Captain Hugh Fanshawe returned from the Peninsular War with a leg that no longer works properly, thanks to a French musket ball. Now his fight against Napoleon is reduced to quiet, lonely days compiling paperwork at Horse Guards headquarters.
His evenings are spent dutifully escorting his mother and sister to stifling social engagements, where his lameness renders him an object of pity and distaste. But his orderly, restricted life is thrown into sudden disarray with the arrival of Colonel Theo Lindsay.
Theo is everything Hugh is not—a man of physical perfection and easy yet distinguished address. Surprisingly to Hugh, Theo appears to be interested in making his acquaintance. Lindsay turns out to be a most convivial companion, and Hugh finds great pleasure in his company. Their friendship deepens when they become lovers.
In spite of himself, Hugh falls desperately in love. But when a French spy is suspected at Horse Guards, Hugh discovers nothing is as it seems…and the paper he shuffles from day to day could be the instrument of his lover’s death.
Earlier today, I was on Facebook, chatting with Lisa from The Novel Approach Reviews. She mentioned how sometimes writing a review was like writing a love letter to a set of characters and I had to chime in. “Yes! Yes! I know exactly what you mean!”
Because that’s what this is going to be here: a love letter to Hugh Fanshawe and Theo Lindsay from Sarah Granger’s A Minor Inconvenience. Let me begin by saying that I do not consider myself a reviewer. I think writing reviews is an art form that requires a certain amount of finesse and skill to share an opinion of a story without giving too much away. This isn’t a review as much as it is a gushing love letter. It is rare that one finds an author that truly understands the genre in which she is writing. Sarah Granger masterfully captures the essence of the Regency Romance as perfected by Jane Austen and imitated by every Regency writer since. In A Minor Inconvenience, Sarah weaves in all the tropes we’ve come to know and love: the effervescent and headstrong debutante, her shy wallflower friend, matching-making mamas, and the social maneuvering of the ton, which is conducted with a deadly intensity every bit as serious as Wellington’s campaign against Napoleon. As someone who has read a lot of Regencies, Granger’s knowledge of history and her familiarity with her subject rang true to me. Mantua-makers and high perch phaetons, Almacks, and the terrible threat of being ‘ruined’ were easily absorbed as rich background detail, the kind that makes you feel as though you’re recognizing landmarks as you arrive closer to home.
The genius of the story, however, lies in Hugh Fanshawe. On desk duty after receiving a crippling injury in the Peninsular War, Hugh is quietly soldiering on. His family, and in fact, society in general, looks upon him as less than whole, as damaged goods, even though his brother dismisses his debilitating pain with the label of ‘a minor inconvenience.’ Duty is all Hugh has left–duty to his country and his family obligations–while quietly accepting his life of pain and disability. He is also aware of his preference for men over women, something else that isolates him from the rest of society.
It would be a mistake to think that because Hugh is reserved (and somewhat resigned) that he does not feel deeply. The fact that this story is told strictly from Hugh’s POV means that we get a somewhat circumspect recounting of the impact Theo Lindsay has on his life–perfectly appropriate to the character, the time period, and the tone of the story. Like Theo himself did in an unguarded moment, I found myself also saying, “Oh, Hugh! What am I going to do with you?”
Theo remains a bit of a mystery throughout the story, but Granger brilliantly allows us to see what kind of man he is through his actions, rather than his words. Like Darcy, who comes to Elizabeth Bennet’s aid when Lydia has disgraced herself and her family, Theo doesn’t hesitate to use his ‘friends in high places’ to square things for Hugh in similar circumstances. Though his motives may be unclear, his love for Hugh comes shining through, even if Hugh himself is too dense to see it at times. 🙂 It is absolutely essential to the story that Theo’s intentions are unclear at times–that’s what makes the climax of the story all the more satisfying.
Then there is the lovely, gradually developing relationship between the two men–following the rules of society until it suddenly goes off the pages into territory of its own. While Hugh might have been reticent about sharing with the reader everything that went on behind closed doors, he was not shy with Theo. He gave himself unreservedly to the man who introduced him to everything he’d been craving and more.
I can’t leave off this review without mentioning the wonderfully developed secondary characters, in particular, Lady Emily. Oh, Hugh! How could you be so blind? Lady Emily is a marvelous character–a woman smart enough to know she can’t get what she wants–and strong enough not to let that sour her. She is far more than the token female friend in a M/M romance–she is a true friend in every way while still abiding by the rules of the day.
I really can’t say more without giving too much away. There is so much about this story I love–the ways in which Theo make Hugh feel like a whole person, someone worth loving. The ways in which Hugh sheds his negative self-perception to risk all for a love he can never openly declare. This is an utterly perfect story, and one of the best ones I’ve read all year. It is not a beer to be chugged at a party and immediately forgotten. It is a fine wine to be savored and revisited again.
Hello, Sarah! Welcome to my blog! I am so excited to have you here! First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?
Thanks for having me, Sarah, and for your (definitely discerning!) questions. I like to write and read M/M romances, and haven’t yet met a sub-genre I haven’t liked. I’m not sure whether there are underlying themes across my stories, though one common thread in my writing is the need for each person within a relationship to retain their autonomy, even when they’re as snuggly and happy a couple as can be.
I see you write M/M fiction. Would you characterize your stories as M/M romance, erotica, or something in between?
I’d say romance first and foremost. The erotic content varies enormously depending on the characters. In A Minor Inconvenience, Hugh just doesn’t talk sex in detail, even though he’s not at all retiring when it comes to doing it, whereas in another story I’m working on, the point of view character is insistent about sharing every last detail of his many encounters.
What draws you to the M/M genre? Have you written in other genres?
I stumbled across the M/M genre for the first time when looking for fan-fiction about a minor character on a TV Show (Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, for anyone who remembers that triumph of cheesiness and oiled male torsos). I liked it, finding two attractive guys to be even better than one. While that aesthetic appreciation hasn’t faded in the least, I’ve found I also enjoy writing about relationships that have different societal pressures and expectations from those placed on M/F relationships.
I haven’t written M/F for many years and can’t see it happening in the near future, but never say never.
Hercules and Iolas! I remember them! I was a big Xena fan, too. 🙂
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?
My answer would probably vary depending on when you asked it. At the moment, it’s Hugh in A Minor Inconvenience. What I love most about Hugh is the way that he just keeps going, with quiet dignity and courage, no matter what life throws at him.
With so much taken away from him, back in the ambit of his family who regard him with fondness but without a great deal of respect, and forced into social situations where he feels uncomfortable, he’s retreated somewhat from life. And then he meets Theo, who doesn’t treat him as anything less than a man and fellow officer, and begins to rediscover his self-determination. I suspect I feel a particular resonance with him because, having been struck down by chronic illness some years ago, I relate to the temptation to withdraw and become resigned that this is how life will be from now on.
Hugh is a treasure! I can see why he would be a favorite. I can also understand how you can identify with him as well. I think the best characters come from some part of us within.
Research: love it or hate it?
Love it, love it, love it. In fact, entries on my blog are almost all about fascinating (truly!) things I’ve discovered when researching. I have to be very strict with myself or I’ll find myself spending hours reading about the reproductive habits of the Surinam toad, with no recollection of how I got there from eighteenth-century racehorse bloodlines.
Same here! In fact, I’m contemplating setting a story in the 1950s and I’m nearly giddy with the influx of research materials coming my way. If I want to get any work done, I have to set a timer on the research. 🙂
Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?
I miss them horribly at first, and visualize their lives long after the last page just to ensure they’re happy. But once another set of characters comes along, I can let them go to forge their own way through the world. I haven’t yet had the impulse to write a sequel – there has to be enough story to tell rather than me simply indulging my love for the characters. But that doesn’t mean I never will. 🙂
I’m so glad to hear that! I know sometimes there simply isn’t another story to tell about a set of characters, but it’s always nice to know there could be. 🙂 Thank you so much for coming here today, Sarah! Be sure to stop by again, and keep us apprised of your upcoming work!
Sarah Granger is a sucker for a happy ending. She believes, however, that characters will only fully appreciate their happy ending if they’ve suffered along the way.
Sarah lives in the Cotswolds, an idyllic part of the English countryside with gently rolling hills, dry stone walls of golden stone and fields dotted with sheep. She has shamefully broken with local tradition by not having a rose growing around her front door. When she isn’t writing, Sarah enjoys walking in the countryside with her elderly and affectionate black Labrador.
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On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.granger.311
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