Review: 'The Boy in the Rain' a Haunting Historical Romance

Christopher Verleger READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Author Stephanie Cowell's captivating novel "The Boy in the Rain" is a beautifully written, haunting portrait of a complicated, decade-long romance between two men who meet during the Edwardian England era, when renowned playwright Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for gross indecency.

19-year-old orphan and promising artist Robert "Robbie" Stillman is sent by his cold-hearted uncle to live in Nottinghamshire, a town on the English countryside, where he is to be tutored by Reverend Langstaff. Robbie meets one of the Reverend's former pupils, 30-year-old Anton Harrington, a married, wealthy landowner with political aspirations. Robbie and Anton fail to resist their seemingly instant, mutual attraction for one another, and embark upon a passionate love affair fraught with heightened emotions and personal drama, which are coupled with the overarching social condemnation and illegality of their actions.

Despite the numerous obstacles – particularly Louise, Anton's wife, with whom he tries to reconcile and who turns out to be more of an advocate than expected – Robbie and Anton believe they are meant to be together, and inevitably find their way back to each other. Their emotional investment is continually jeopardized, however, as they both become public figures. Anton's portrait work is not only noticed but endorsed by the Queen, and his socialist leanings catch the attention of Parliament. With their behavior being watched so closely, they each wonder whether their relationship is even feasible.

Cowell's melodic, poetic prose drips with intensity and sentiment, and her descriptions of England's physical and political atmosphere are pointed and impressive. Readers will find themselves immersed in the lives of these men and share the same excitement and anxiety of the characters. Robbie's artistry, the backdrop of London at the turn of the century, and Anton's interactions with both the affluent and impoverished are depicted exquisitely and fastidiously.

Although "The Boy in the Rain" is a romance at its core, the novel provides an explicit, necessary reminder of how horribly men who loved other men were treated, regardless of their stature in society. Robbie and Anton are fascinating characters, each with their own compelling backstories. Both men have understandable flaws and variegated temperaments that resemble anyone who has experienced a problematic, albeit rewarding and ultimately worthwhile, relationship.

"The Boy in the Rain" is available now from Regal House Publishing.

by Christopher Verleger

Chris is a voracious reader and unapologetic theater geek from Narragansett, Rhode Island.

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