Book Reviews

The Last Kiss by Sally Malcolm

Genre Gay / Historical / 20th Century / Warriors/Soldiers / Romance
Reviewed by Lena Grey on 19-May-2020

Book Blurb

A tender and triumphant story of forbidden love in the aftermath of war

When Captain Ashleigh Dalton went to war in 1914, he never expected to fall in love. Yet, over three long years at the front, his dashing batman, Private West, became his reason for fighting—and his reason for living. 

For Harry West, an ostler from London’s East End, it was love at first sight when he met complex, compassionate Captain Dalton. Harry knew their friendship wouldn’t survive in the class-bound world back home, but in the trenches there was no point in worrying about tomorrow…

Now, gravely wounded, Ash has been evacuated home to Highcliffe House, his father’s Hampshire estate. Bereft of Harry, angry and alone, Ash struggles to fit into the unchanging world he left behind. Meanwhile, Harry, broken-hearted, doubts he’ll ever see his beloved captain again. 

But when the guns fall silent and Harry finds himself adrift in London, a desperate hope carries him to Highcliffe House in search of work—and of the officer he can’t forget…

Book Review

“They were from two different worlds...But upon their coming together, they created- they found- their own path and together they had their own world and in their own world, they were the same...” ~ C. JoyBell C.

War has a way of negating any differences that may exist outside of it. Those who, in “polite society” would never have known, much less associated with each other, come together in a common cause... to survive. Such is the case with Captain Ashley (Ash) Dalton and Private Harry West. During the World War One, they were comrades in arms, their class differences erased. They were best friends who comforted each other regardless of what it took. Even though Harry saves Ash’s life, he knows that back home, it will mean little. His family may feel gratitude toward him but it won’t erase the chasm that class creates.

Ash is gravely wounded, loses a leg and is sent home, but the loss of a leg isn’t as painful as being away from Harry Ash. Although barely conscious when it happened, Ash remembers the tender kiss Harry placed upon his lips before he picked Ash up and carried him miles to the hospital tent. Without him doing so, Ash surely would have died. Now that he is back home, he is having trouble dealing with life. The war has irrevocably changed him. Things that were tolerable before the war are now almost unbearable; for instance, the celebratory attitude toward the war being over, the strict social class differences, the attitude towards women's rights, and most of all, the lack of understanding of loyalty and love. Ash’s parents expect him to go back to his former desk job, get married, and have children. Ash wants none of that. He can hardly admit it to himself, but he is in love with Harry West. The idea of marrying a woman, much less going back to an unfulfilling desk job after seeing the horrors of war, is far beyond what he can tolerate. His father has no understanding how humiliating it feels to be an amputee whose nerves are frayed. He thinks that Ash should “pull himself together”, forget the past, and move on as if nothing had ever happened. Ash isn’t emotionally or physically capable of doing so. Worse yet, he misses Harry with an intensity he can hardly bear.

Harry comes home when the war ends. He has missed Ash every day, but dare not contact him. He moves in with his sister and her children and tries to make the most of it. Like many veterans, he is having a hard time finding work. He knows that he could go to Harry’s family and ask for a job in their stables, but he hesitates. Harry and Ash were equals during the war and the idea of Ash being his boss now doesn’t sit right, but lack of finances forces his hand. He can’t live off his sister forever!

Ash is overjoyed to see him and makes his pleasure known. Harry feels the same, but is more hesitant. He can’t forget his place and tries to discourage Ash’s enthusiasm. Secretly, he relishes it. His father, noting the reaction, tells Harry that he can work there, but he is not to fraternize with Ashley. Although it is expected, it makes Harry sad. At the least, he can be close to Ash, even if it is pure torture at times not to be able to touch him.

This is an endearing story about two men who love each other in a world that is unaccepting of their feelings. It’s predictable, but oh so satisfying. I loved Harry and Ash. They really saw each other for the wonderful men they were and, although it was difficult, found a way to be together. Thanks, Sally, for the enjoyable read.  





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 327 pages/81000 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 26-March-2020
Price $3.49 ebook, $9.99 paperback
Buy Link