One Night in Hartswood by Emma Denny (14th Century Oxfordshire #1)

Oxford 1360

When his sister’s betrothed vanishes the night before her politically arranged marriage, Raff Barden must track and return the elusive groom to restore his family’s honour.

William de Foucart — known to his friends as Penn — had no choice but to abandon his fiancĂ©, and with it his own earldom, when he fled the night before his enforced marriage. But ill-equipped to survive on the run he must trust the kindness of a stranger, Raff, to help him escape.

Unaware their fates are already entwined, their unexpected bond deepens into a far more precious relationship, one that will test all that they hold dear. And when secrets are finally revealed, both men must decide what they will risk for the one they love…

PUBLISHER: Mills & Boon
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 352 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Historical, Romance

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s).

ONE NIGHT IN HARTSWOOD is everything I hoped for, and more; a gay romance which mostly takes place during a several week journey by horse, as one man returns home and the other flees an oppressive household. I love romances that are built on communication, which is somewhat ironic, given that both Raff and Penn are keeping major parts of their identities secret, even if they talk about everything else. Normally, lying in relationships stresses me out, but the symmetry of the fact that both of them are keeping the same level of secret and don’t know if the other one is safe to trust with it helped it be less stressful for me. 

This is set up to have at least one sequel, though its particular story is self-contained. Rather than leave an obvious story hook open, it ends with the characters in new situations which grant the possibility of future events without demanding any particular follow up. 

I love Penn and Raff, I like them as individual characters and I enjoy how well they work together. They each have very different relationships with their families. Penn seems to be close with two of his several siblings, despite neither showing up for very long. His father is terrible, rather unambiguously playing the villain. Raff has close and mostly loving relationships with his sister and brother, and, despite their differences, they seem to understand each other fairly well. Not much is shown of Raff's relationship with his father, but what is there seems to be filled with respect and care.

Other things I love, in no particular order: how much of the time is spent just traveling and sleeping in the woods and dealing with inns; the wound care towards the end of the book; the way Penn obviously grows as a person; the more subtle ways that Raff starts to trust in other peoples' competence.

This was great, I want more, and I'm eager for the sequel.

Graphic/Explicit CW for sexual content, injury detail, medical content.

Moderate CW for grief, classism, gaslighting, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, deadnaming, confinement, alcohol, emotional abuse, physical abuse, blood, gore, violence, medical trauma, war, murder, death.

Minor CW for vomit, pregnancy, child abuse, parental death.

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Two men stand in a misty forest, their foreheads are pressed together and the man on the left is tenderly holding the back of the other man's neck. They are dressed in medieval clothing, and the man on the left has a sword belted at his waist.


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