by Rose LernerGenres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Self-effacing, overworked bookkeeper Elie Benezet doesn’t have time to be in love. Too bad he already is—with his favorite client, Augustus Brine. The Royal Navy sailing master is kind, handsome, and breathtakingly competent. He’s also engaged to his childhood sweetheart. And now that his prize money is coming in after years of delay, he can afford to marry her…once Elie submits the final prize paperwork.
When Augustus comes home, determined to marry by the end of his brief leave, Elie does his best to set his broken heart aside and make it happen. But he’s interrupted by one thing after another: other clients, the high holidays, his family’s relentless efforts to marry him off. Augustus isn’t helping by renting a room down the hall, shaving shirtless with his door open, and inviting Elie to the public baths. If Elie didn’t know better, he’d think Augustus didn’t want to get married.
To cap it all off, Augustus’s fiancée arrives in town, senses that Elie has a secret, and promptly accuses him of embezzling. Has Elie’s doom been sealed…or is there still time to change his fate?
Rose Lerner’s Sailor’s Delight is a slow burn, despite being a fairly short book, helped by the fact that there is a real sense of history between the two right from the start. The fact that Elie is Jewish and Brine is a sailor really shapes the story, through the Jewish holiday and Elie’s exploration of his feelings about and obligations toward people are all shaped by his beliefs and experiences as a Jewish man.
I don’t really know how to comment about the portrayal and whether it would satisfy someone looking for specifically Jewish queer romance (especially as Brine is not Jewish), but Rose Lerner has written in the past about being Jewish and the importance of Jewish representation, and I think the whole backbone of this book is about doing that.
The relationship between Elie and Brine is full of yearning. There’s obvious physical attraction as well, but also they obviously think about each other all the time, try to help one another, try to mesh their lives together, etc. It ends up surprisingly intense very quickly, and yet the steam level for the book is pretty low (no on-page sex).
All in all, it was one I enjoyed, though I needed the right moment for it — the intensity of Elie’s apparently unrequited longing was a bit much for me at one point, so I took a break from the book!