“Love for sale walked comfortably before the world—rouged and vulgar, stained and pitiful, deemed immoral and yet more welcome than the briefest kiss exchanged between two men.” – Hayden Thorne
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Pages/Word Count: 252 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: James Ellsworth is a bit jaded, especially for his young age. He hates school and longs for his parents’ estate, where life is far more pleasant. Meeting new schoolmate Daniel Courtney is a much-needed distraction, one that will prove more and more engrossing as James and Daniel grow older.
When his father dies, James is thrust into a position of responsibility, not just to his estate, but to his mother and sister as well. He leans as much as he can on his friendship with Daniel, but young Courtney has his own problems. His brother, George, is all Daniel has left in the world, and when he loses his brother to a freak accident, Daniel is left alone and without prospects.
All the while, the two young men are discovering a relationship that their Victorian world will never approve of. Trying to deal with their loss and their love drives them apart — James to a life of debauchery, Daniel to a life of study and work.
As they grow older, James and Daniel discover that life is not what they thought it would be when they were schoolboys together, and that, even as they try to make their own way, they always come back to one another.
Review: One of the many things I’ve always loved about Hayden Thorne’s work is that “a-ha moment” when I find the one thing to connect to that suddenly makes her books more for me than what they might seem on the surface. Knowing the legend of Icarus, of how his hubris, or pride, or simply the sheer giddiness of his freedom led him to ignore his father’s warning against flying too near the sun or too close to the sea, but to follow a very careful path of least resistance, became his greatest downfall.
For James Ellsworth and Daniel Courtney, who met as boys, became lovers later on, and then lost their way because they weren’t able to find the path through the labyrinth of complications that loving each other fostered in a time when neither society nor the law would deign to overlook the love between two men, their tragic fall may have been painful but was necessary for them to find their way back again. Daniel’s pride, James’s hubris, and the inequity of their lives kept them trapped in an unhappy separation, but it’s the thread of the love they have for each other that eventually drew them together again.
Icarus in Flight is a book that reads like a Merchant/Ivory film adaptation of an E.M. Forster novel, capturing the sense of time and place to perfection in its staid and stately ways, as well as honoring the difficulty of a relationship such as Daniel and James’s without once falling into the temptation of sugarcoating what love was like for gay men in the mid-19th century. But for a few rare instances, happily ever afters were found in secret liaisons and stolen moments, which, for me, has always lent a natural poignancy to historical romance, and is one of the reasons it’s one of my favorite sub-genres to read.
The characters in this novel are all fully realized and realistically portrayed, from its lovers to the meddlesome sister who insinuates herself in James’ life in the most unwelcome of ways, and whose motivations seemed to have little to do with a love for her brother but rather for herself and for the image of her family. Inherent complications fulfill the emotional quotient of the plot, one that’s not action driven but is a character driven piece of literary fiction, lovely in the way Hayden Thorne consistently delivers.