Robert is a grumpy ex cop now mystery writer; he doesn't like the city, he doesn't like the crow, he really doesn't like either the cultural circles he has to frequent to promote his books. He has the fame to be caustic and unpleasant, always criticizing the poor attempt at literature to whom he considers only amateur. Thanks to a sudden availability of money (he sold the right of one of his books for a movie), he decides to leave the city to find a secluded place in the country: Larton seems correspond to the characteristic he is searching, far from all the main route, without any particular historical interest, it's the perfect place. Robert bought the east lodge of a decrepit georgian mansion, while the dispossessed owner of the mansion lives now in the west lodge. He hasn't had the pleasure to meet the man, a army officer who is often abroad, but all around the village he listens to the gossip about him and his brothers and sisters, old name landowners that now have difficult to make the ends meet.
When finally Robert meets Michael he is surprised to find out that he is almost his age (don't know exactly, but I believe they are over forty at the beginning of the story), and all in all he is a pleasant man to frequent (Robert has no particular love for the old aristocracy... well truth be told, it seems that Robert has no particular love for the human genre at all, he is only fond of cats). Well Michael has a great fault, he is very much in love with his horses, and he drags Robert around on horse fairs and various events, cementing a bond that, later in the book, we understand is not only friendship. There is no big love declaration, but a slow and continuous taking possession Robert's time, till the moment in which Robert declares to Michael his availability to give a try to "them", to live together.
Michael and Robert set up home together, Michael with his dog and horses, Robert with his cats and books, Michael with his paddock, Robert with his garden, Michael with his incapacity to deal with money, Robert with his scrupulous family budget: fantastic the scene in which Robert clear the bank balance of Michael as Christmas present, telling him that in this way he has no more to worry, and Michael was never worried from the first.
It's very good as the author accompanies the reader through Michael and Robert's relationship, passing from friendship to love without any shock, with a natural flowing. I found charming when I read Robert remembering an event of their life for the second time in the book, and at first I though it was a forgetfulness of the author, but when it happened again I realized that it was a way for the author to prove to the reader that Michael and Robert was becoming an "old" couple, with a lot in common, with their happy moment, but also with their little quarrels, with joy and sadness. All around them, the crazy family of Michael, classic dispossessed aristocrats who still want to live like 100 years before, and all the people in the village, who welcomed Robert as a lost son, and are only happy that he decides to take care of the daredevil who was Michael.
There is no sex in the book, or at least, no sex that the reader witnesses: when it's the moment for Michael and Robert to have their private moments, the reader is gently pushed out the room, and they do what they want behind closed door. The behavior of the village and of the relatives is the same: we all know that something is happening between them, but it's not matter to speak... no sex please, we are English! Anyway, I didn't miss it, I was more than happy with their tender moment, and the aftermath that found them cuddling in front of the fire, or lamenting that they are too old to do such things.
Amazon: Larton Chronicles