Title: Life Begins at Forty (Sequel to Per Ardua)
Author: Jessie Blackwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Jack Ratigan, Ifan Griffith
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Historical Romance
After months of physiotherapy, Group Captain Jack Ratigan has regained some of the mobility lost in plane crash at the end of World War II. But six years later, he still requires the care of his cousin’s butler, Ifan—who is also Jack’s secret lover. In an era when homosexuality is an imprisonable offence, they have to maintain the utmost discretion or risk prosecution.
Insecurities, outside attacks, and misunderstandings are close to tearing Jack and Ifan apart: Jack’s impending middle age, an act of violence in their house, a letter threatening the close-knit community Jack now calls home—and the detective inspector from another jurisdiction investigating a similar unsolved case. The threat of exposure is growing, and for their love to survive, Jack and Ifan must determine who their true friends are—and if they are strongest together or apart.
For Jack Ratigan and Ifan Griffith, life has been a series of battles; some fought separately, some fought together, some threatening to tear them apart, while others have served to strengthen their bond and seal their future together as partners, lovers, and friends. They are the personification of per ardua ad astra, through adversity to the stars, and through it all, they have persevered, been knocked down but not out, which has become a hallmark of their relationship over the years.
Life Begins at Forty picks up six years after the end of World War II and the life altering plane crash that served a full measure of that adversity to Jack, leaving him physically damaged and emotionally scarred. It was with patience, compassion, strength, and love that Ifan was able to put Jack back together again. Though still hampered by his bodily injuries, it is the invisible scars that seem to be taking the worst toll on the once brash and bold American who returned to his Welsh homeland to fight for and to defend his country against the insurgence of evil that left him a hero.
Though the war is long over, Jack and Ifan now find themselves fighting a conflict on the home front, one that has insidiously infiltrated the safety and security of their family and their refuge. This is a battle far more difficult to fight because it is a coward’s attack perpetrated by a nameless, faceless enemy armed with hatred, prejudice, and a sense of righteous entitlement to that hatred that at the time, sadly, was supported by the law. It is an attack that is not based in fact but in unfounded suspicion, though the threat to Jack and Ifan is very real. The accusations alone are enough to intimidate, even when there is no proof to support them, and it is those accusations that exact a heavy price on the men and their relationship.
The decision to stay and fight or to leave and hope to outrun the damage that’s been caused places the two men at odds with each other. Fear is a powerful emotion that can make you forget how very much you have to stand up for, and how very much you have to defend. As Jack’s fortieth birthday approaches amidst the strain on their relationship, Jack and Ifan discover the hard way that love is truly worth fighting for.
Jessie Blackwood has written a story that celebrates overcoming adversity. There’s no artifice here, no contrivances; this is simply a story of two men who are willing to fight for their right to be together and to love each other in the best way they can.
Reviewed By: Lisa