Title: To Love a Traitor
Author: JL Merrow
Release: 15th September 2015
Genre: M/M (historical / mystery)
Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.
When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.
Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.
As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.
But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.
Oh YES!!! Give me an historical novel with an intriguing plot, throw in great period characters and an excellent writing style, suitable language for the period and you have me hook line and sinker. I devoured this book by JL Merrow, from the word go I knew there was going to be no putting this book down. We learn about the after effects of WWI and how it left people divided, hurt and wounded. Not only physically but emotionally as well.
George has come to London to take up a new job and has found digs, a room in the house of Mrs Mac. Here he meets Matthew Connaught a veteran of WWI who has lost his arm. It all seems quite innocuous at the beginning although from the very start my heart went straight out Matthew. this is what I love about JL Merrow’s writing, there is an immediate connection to the characters, easily obtainable and I feel like they have been part of the story forever even after the first chapter.
We learn however that George’s reason for coming to Mrs Mac’s is another one. He lost his older brother in the war on a raid and there is a suggestion that his death was due to a traitorous act of someone sending information to the Germans, warning them of the raid. He is also here because his brother’s fiancée also suspects foul play in the death of what would have been her future husband. What I found even more fascinating was the aspect that during WWI George had been a contentious objector, went to prison due to it and still feels a sense of shame and guilt. However, I guess the thing we never think about as JL Merrow shows in the story that in his own way George was also very brave, standing up for his beliefs and going against what is required, despite your reasons, also takes a lot of strength. In so many historical novels we always get the perspective the C.O.s were cowardly, people to be despised, loathed and shunned as the real heroes were off fighting. Here however I came to totally sympathise with George and his reasons and respected him all the more because of it.
So he is planted at Mrs Mac’s undercover to get the information he needs of Matthew’s treachery. What he gets is something quite the opposite. Bit by bit I could feel George falling for Matthew, who couldn’t? He is such a lovely guy, it’s almost impossible to suspect him of such a thing. This places George a right quandary, his heart telling him one thing and his head trying to rational and telling him another. So which one do you follow? Your head or your heart? On my lord, Matthew is adorable! Considering what he went through in the war it’s amazon that he still so happy, cheery and upbeat. Always positive in his outlook. Have I already mentioned that I loved the guy? Yes? Oh well then I guess I was completely infatuated by him then.
The more George gets to know Matthew the more his heart tells him he can’t have done anything wrong. It just wouldn’t be in his nature. However, disaster strikes and George’s cover is blown which puts him in a horrendous dilemma. By the time this has happened then both guys have already fallen for each other big time. Oh the heartache was unbearable. True to the time though JL Merrow never uses the word love and both MCs never say once to each other, “I love you.” This would never have happened in this day and age, other words are chosen like “fond” for example. But with JL Merrow’s writing talents you know exactly what these two guys feel for each other and when George’s unveiling drives a rift between them it was as heart-breaking as any other modern day break up.
But true love or should I say fondness wins through and they consider their positions and find a way to come together again. At least there was no cheating, at least in the romantic stakes, but another kind of cheating from George. The truth will out and eventually we get the whole story of exactly what happened to George's older brother or the circumstances of his death. Not the one I was expecting at all, so once again a brilliant piece of writing and when we get to the truth it is as surprising as it is harrowing. Oh lord, I had tears and a lump in my throat. To have lived in this time must have been in many respects horrid if you were gay. Unbelievable by today’s standards and that is why I love reading historical novels. When excellently written and researched, it makes me realise how lucky we are today, how far we’ve come and yes we still have work to do but lets keep things in relation and never get too despondent.
An excellent, historical novel that has been well researched. A thrilling read of spies and treachery but this is balanced out with people caught up in circumstance and impossible situations, so even the treachery is sad, understandable and heart-rending in its nature. So no good guys, no bad guys, just people caught up in life and being people, loving each other and again being disappointed, but always hopeful of a better future to come.
Meet JL Merrow
JL Merrow is a very English writer of (mainly) m/m fiction who finds writing the only way to stay sane, except of course when a plot is driving her crazy. Having grown up on an island, she can’t remember a time before she could swim and prefers to remain close to water at all times. Luckily, the weather in her native land being as it generally is, this is not difficult.
I’m that rare beast; an English person who refuses to drink tea. I’m a writer of (mainly) m/m or f/f romance, mostly contemporary or paranormal, but with a fickle muse that occasionally ambushes me in dark alleyways and drags me off, cackling, to write historical or science fiction.
Some might call all this pillar-to-posting tragic evidence of a short attention span; I couldn’t possibly….er, what were we talking about, again?
I enjoy reading, martial arts, and surprising people who judge a book by its cover.
She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.