Title: Merrywood Hall: A Novel
Author: James Ryder
Release: 22nd December 2015
Genre: M/M (historical)
It was the year 1913.
Jack Curtis, rugged and brooding, fell for kind-hearted Tom Archer the first night he saw him. But as servants at Merrywood Hall pursuing their love wasn't easy because the Honourable Edward Merrywood, heir to the vast estate, was a bitter and arrogant man and he was determined to keep Jack and Tom apart.
For all fans of Downton Abbey then this historical novel will be right up your street especially if you like the period and its history. But there the similarities end. We start just before the First World War and a young man is brought in to Merrywood Hall after being found outside by Lord Merrywood in atrocious weather. Jack has come from a workhouse and the staff of Merrywood Hall are suspicious of him to say the least. However, as soon as this book started my heart went out to Jack, very much a lost soul trying to survive in a time when people were not quite so understanding of people's’ plights and could be cruel in forming assumptions based on prejudice. He has come from a workhouse and that makes him immediately a criminal for many. Tom is First Footman at Merrywood Hall and is intrigued by this stranger in their midst. Lord Merrywood puts him to work in his stables.
Tom and Jack soon develop a friendship that goes over and beyond what people of that time would expect for two men. The attraction is there and it doesn’t take too long for them to be head over heels in love with each other. But don’t worry there’s no insta love here as at this time in history it would mean they had to be careful that things didn’t come out in the open, let alone the first advances they made to each other were cautious to say the least. Very fitting for the time. But once they fall into each other's arms then they soon become inseparable. I could feel the attraction both characters had for each other and were marvellously balanced. If things were only ever that easy. Although their love for each other made them inseparable in their hearts circumstances have yet to play them a bad hand and do everything to try and keep them apart.
Tom has been in service all his life and never been beyond the village. Jack was brought up in a workhouse, a place where survival meant having lots of street smarts making him far wiser for his age. The one thing that Jack doesn’t take to easily is all the bowing and scraping to the aristocracy in order to work in such a position. A bit of a rebel to say the least but makes him bolder and not easily afraid. Basicall more confident and secure in many respects compared to Tom. This gets him into hot water to say the least with Edward Merrywood.
Edward Merrywood the eldest son of Lord and Lady Merrywood also has his desires on Tom and this leads him to all kinds of evil machinations to keep them apart. Ooohhh, how I hated this man! Abusing his position and privileges to get his own wicked way. A totally objectionable character that for a long time Tom and Jack see no getting away from. Ooohhh, how I seriously detested this character! Sorry, have I already mentioned this? Lady Merrywood on the other hand is a loveable and amiable person and really the only one in the house who treats her servants as human beings. However, as was the position of women at that time was under her husband’s auspices and therefore very much restricted in what she could do or say.
Mr Ryder puts Tom and Jack through hell and back…….. and then some more!!! The one constant that always remain is their abiding love for each other. Geez, just as you thought they would have a chance they are catapulted once again into a situation where you think they’re never going to survive this. And there were a few of them to say the least. Fate however can sometimes be a benevolent mistress and this comes in the outbreak of the First World War.
Historically the First World War was not only a horrendous ordeal for all young men but it also was a hammer blow and huge leveller to class structure in the UK. In order to survive this ordeal many class divisions were obliterated for the sake of the war effort. The upper-classes even having to get their hands dirty and get involved to do their bit for King and Country. I loved how Mr Ryder portrayed this in his story, however this throws Tom and Jack yet once again into a completely different set of circumstances. However, they still have to escape Edward Merrywood’s evil doings one last time.
I love my historical romances and I very often find there are two distinct ends to this historcal scale, if you will. Some novels describe every historical setting and fact in great detail to lend it the atmosphere needed and some rely on the reader's’ imagination, knowledge of the period and pictures in their head to set the scene. I enjoy both ends of this scale, however Mr Ryder’s novel belongs to the latter. You know the period it is set in, there is just enough description there to give the reader the necessary details but nothing more. It’s an historical novel that for the main part focuses on the characters, their interdependencies with each other and the plot. This for me was the strength in this novel. The characters were vivid, real, true to the time and I was invested in them from the very beginning. Loved them all. Except for Edward! Have I already mentioned how much I hated him? Well, I was so pleased when he had his just desserts at the end although I was beginning to doubt whether this would ever be the case. Huge fist bump to Tom and Jack when this happened. they were absolutely adorable together and anyone would only wish with all their heart that they somehow find a way to a future together,
Originally written in four distinct parts and published separately I can only say how happy I was to be able to read all four parts in one volume. I don’t think I could have survived having to wait for the each consecutive part to know how Tom’s and Jack’s journey in life would continue. A thoroughly entertaining M/M romance that left me with a huge, soppy sigh of relief when Jack and Tom get their appropriate HEA for the time. After what these two boys went through they deserved only peace, quiet and togetherness for the rest of their lives.
Meet James Ryder
James Ryder lives in Ireland. Naturally that means he’s full of stories inspired by its romantic landscape and passionate history. The only problem is getting the time to write them down. He has one of those Northern Irish accents too, which are apparently very sexy. James is not convinced of this, but invites you persuade him otherwise.
He enjoys writing stories that see strong, intelligent men find love and passion against all the odds. Other than writing them, one of the things he enjoys most is hearing how his books have touched other people.