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Nights in the roaring city remind bright young things that life’s too short to take for granted. Tucked away in Times Square hides the Pantheon: a secret cabaret for wealthy gay men. Pretty young men in elaborate costumes and rouged lips are eager to please, and the champagne flows all night long. It’s a world of frivolity, fantasy, and debauchery. As Eros, the most sought after performer at the Pantheon, Julius uses his beauty and charm on enthusiastic patrons, but growing weary of superficial love, he longs to make a better life for himself.
Five years after being declared mentally unfit after surviving the trenches of No Man’s Land, Edward Joseph Clarence Junior pieced his shattered life back together. Now he’s ready to take on the family empire. To celebrate his thirtieth birthday, Edward’s cousin takes him to the most posh nightclub in town, the Pantheon. Falling under the sway of Eros, Edward and Julius find a love they’ve never imagined and the chance for a future they had only dared to dream about. But as Ares, a notorious gangster and Julius’s most important—and dangerous— client watches them, the threat to their love and their lives grows by the day.
This is an overall fun historical, set in the roaring, mostly drunk 20s, about a wealthy albeit a little war damaged young veteran, and the hot dancer/performer/man-of-the-night that he meets in a gentlemen’s club.
Young and angelic-looking Julius is used to having men fall at his feet for any of his “favors” or attention, but he doesn’t know what to make of doggedly sincere Edward, who seems determined to win Julius’ affections by sheer force of kindness. Unfortunately for them, they are in the middle of a rip-roaring melodrama filled with conniving gangsters and jilted prostitutes who, as the saying goes, will stop at nothing–nothing!–to get their way or to get Julius to themselves.
What worked for me: I think one of my favorite things about Cochet’s historicals is her LOVE of writing them, her tempo with dialogue, and how it’s easy to picture every scene as something glorious in black and white on the movie screen. The stories often have that “classic” feel too–it may not always feel new, but it feels still very vibrant, and it was nice to return to Julius, who we first meet in the freebie short Roses in the Devil’s Garden, and here we can see him get his HEA.
What was harder: The last quarter or 30% or so gets very full of characters and side-stories, since there are technically 3 couples floating around and finding their way home, along with the appearance of some other Cochet couples who have a part to play in the plot. All these happenings seemed to slow down the story as well as crowd out a little the main conflict (or delay the climax. I felt a little frustrated with Edward who was sniping with some agents helping him, when I kept thinking, “Hellooooooo? Julius is in danger! Focus!”)
What was fun: Cochet “crosses over” many of her series in this book, and you either see characters from other historicals pop up or see references to, including from The Auspicious Troubles of Chance and The Amethyst Cat Caper. You don’t need to read these other books to enjoy this one, but they were fun to catch for those following all her books.
(I would recommend reading Roses in the Devil’s Garden before this. It’s free, and set’s up two of the characters that you meet later in this book. You probably CAN get by without it, but I would recommend the novella to provide some more context.)
For those who like historicals, this was a fun ride, although not my fave of hers. I think that still is her Teahouse series.