Cover Image: The Boy in the Rain

The Boy in the Rain

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I found the story blurb very intriguing and found the writing to be very engaging. It was also very interesting learning about England’s  labor movement’s history. 

That being said I was not a fan of either character nor the course of their relationship. It really seemed the two were together because they found each other in a small village and not out of true desire or love. 

I have to give this book 3 out of 5 stars. Neither recommending nor discouraging others from reading it. I’m sure many other people will, and reading other reviews, have enjoyed it more than I did. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the author for providing this book to me to read and review.
Was this review helpful?
I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

Now available for pre-order!

The Boy in the Rain by Stephanie Cowell is a stunning, emotionally rich novel of illicit love in Edwardian England. It was hard to put this book down.

Robbie is a young, talented painter. Anton Harrington is a wealthy banker who is, at the core, a socialist reformer. They meet when Robbie, thrown out of the house by his uncle, comes to live in the vicarage in Nottinghamshire where the vicar is supposed to tutor him for the university. Anton owns a house in Nottinghamshire and is friends with the vicar.

The two men are swiftly smitten with each other. But love between men is forbidden. Illegal. Anton is older than Robbie, 30 to Robbie’s 19, and there are wounds in his past that complicate matters further. Robbie is an innocent in many ways, but more open and giving.

The novel follows the course of their relationship through its times of comfort and leisure as well as the more frequent times of strain. They pursue their own careers – Robbie becoming a celebrated London portraitist and Anton leaving banking to return to his political endeavors. Communication is sometimes fraught. They break up and reunite. But always, they are better, happier, together. The fact that the world does not permit them to love, and that there is danger in loving, gives this novel its conflict and its poignancy.

The writing is superb. The author climbs inside the hearts of the protagonists and the reader’s heart will break along with theirs. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
I did enjoy this book. I loved the time period, and I did find myself really liking Robbie as the main character. I found his highs, lows, and struggles to be emotional and relatable in one way or another. If you like period pieces, I do recommend this book and found many similarities to the book Maurice by E.M. Forster in this book. However, I did find the pacing to be off for me. I couldn't put the book down for the first hundred or so pages, but then when there were about a hundred pages left, I found myself struggling to get through them. I found that many of the conflicts between Anton and Robbie were just repeating themselves over and over, and I understand that relationships have ups and downs, but I think in the book, it was more circular than progressive when they tried to work on their relationship and the event of the story. Robbie was the person who kept me involved, and then the last twenty, so many things happened that I wished we had more time to explore, like the portrait of the Queen and the last stages of Robbie and Anton's relationship. 

I did enjoy this book, though, and I do recommend it to people who like historical fiction and period pieces.
Was this review helpful?
I’ll be honest…I wasn’t a big fan of this one. The cover grabbed my attention and the blurb pulled me in, but between the detached writing and the lackluster plot and the awakened, deeply troubled relationship, I just wasn’t impressed. Maybe if you’re in the mood for a more “cinematic-type” storytelling with lots of telling and self-pitying, you’d like this one.

Let me also mention Robbie’s immaturity. Even though Anton is the other MC, Robbie tended to look elsewhere. Not quite cheating, BUT…why? If he’s already stressing about Anton and being accepted, why add in that wandering eye? It didn’t fit in with the angst.

Maybe this is a me thing? Maybe? Regardless, I received the ARC from NetGalley and I despise leaving negative reviews but I’m being honest. I always recommend people follow their gut when reading so if you’re still on the fence, don’t hesitate. It wasn’t for me but it may be for you.
Was this review helpful?
This sensitive historical novel moved me so deeply that it's hard to find words for a review. I've been sitting with the impact of this book for days after finishing it. Where to begin? The meditative, introspective prose; the insight into how the bonds of love are tested, broken, and re-created as two people mature; the heartbreaking impact of England's criminal laws against homosexuality, which shockingly were not fully repealed till 1967. "The Boy in the Rain" bears comparison to the films "Casablanca" and "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" in its exquisite depiction of a love that must be sacrificed to society's demands, but that will endure forever in the heart.
Was this review helpful?
DNF -- I really loved the concept, the time period, and the descriptions of the setting. But the primary relationship, the dialogue, and the chemistry just did not click for me. Overall, the writing felt rushed and clunky, the protagonists completely underdeveloped and their romance underwhelming.
Was this review helpful?
I read an ARC for NetGalley, and I’m glad I was able to though the book was emotional gut wrenching. DO NOT read this book unless you want to experience an intensely angst-ridden relationship.

It’s a beautifully written novel that felt like it spring full form from someone’s deep pool of emotion.

The author explores themes of love and at what cost it comes. She sets the novel in a historical context when it was forbidden for men to be together, so the interpersonal tension is credible and not artificially dramatized. It also heightens the price one must pay.

The misery was sometimes too much to bear, so I caution the reader who wants a lighter historical romance. .

All of that aside, it was a moving book. The ending was not one I would have wanted, so it left me with food for thought.

There were also some typos and indentations missing
Was this review helpful?
Rob Stillman wants to study art and follow his heart. He meets socialist Anton Harrington after he is sent away from his hometown to study under George, the vicar. Rob and Anton begin a a secret love affair in a time where Oscar Wilde has just been sent to jail for indecent acts with other men. Will they end up together?

This book was slow paced, but has so much yearning. There are things that Robbie did that I don't condone even if your relationship is secret. I think he needed to find himself. I think the setting is very interesting, as well as the time period. I did get bored at times, but I did end up really liking Louise.
Was this review helpful?
Received ARC from NetGalley, rating 3 stars.

I picked this book up because it had many things I typically like--LGBTQ historical romance, art (with a portion of the book taking place at an art school), and a description that made it seem like this would be a slow-burn.  Well, I got two out of three -- the main characters begin their relationship by the 5th chapter, and there's a little longing but it falls pretty flat.

My main issues were the very slow start, inclusion of some pretty graphic M/M sexual assault, and a number of plot holes and copyediting errors.  Robbie and Antonio (and George Langstaff, the vicar) are thinly characterized and -- to use a painting metaphor -- feel more like sketches than finished paintings. Robbie's friends and teachers at art school are a little better (I particularly wanted to know more about Annie), but in many scenes they just felt like they were there as foils for Robbie's angst about Antonio.  The assault scene did move the plot forward, but for as bland as the consensual sex scenes felt, the way this scene was written felt like it was given far too much focus.  My biggest pet peeve was the unclear delineation of thoughts from spoken passages--and since it's Robbie's POV, there is a lot of thinking going on!  Having the thought passages be italicized would help greatly with readability, as it was I often had to reread a paragraph or page multiple times to figure on if a character was thinking something.  There were also multiple niggling copyediting errors, mostly misspelled words that happened just often enough to be distracting.  I also felt like the lock of hair Antonio carries was going to be the Chechov's gun of the plot, and it just....didn't go anywhere.  A few times I thought there were some allusions that might have answered the question of whose hair it was, but we never get anything definitive, which was confusing and disappointing.

By the end I did feel more of a connection with the characters, but still felt like I didn't really understand why Robbie or Antonio did the things they did (to each other or themselves).  I like an ambiguous ending and this one felt about right--these men were not going to get a happily-ever-after no matter what, and having one of them leave at least left me wondering what might happen next and hope they have a better future.
Was this review helpful?
Recently, I have come to discover that historical fiction is a difficult genre for me to read. Usually if I am going to pick one up and enjoy it, it has some level of *sparkle,* if you will. The second I saw the cover of this novel (I mean, look at it!) and read the description, I found that sparkle and instantly started reading. 

This book is divided into five parts and spans the journey of Robbie Stillman's early adulthood, career, love life, and inner thoughts. The description of this book would lead the reader to believe it is a "Call Me By Your Name"-esque love story set in the early 1900's, however, it is so much more than that. It follows the genuine ups and downs of Robbie's self-esteem and how institutionalized homophobia during that time period effected men like him throughout history. 

While I could not put it down, I had a lot of gripes with the main character. He was constantly looking on the other side of the fence, in search of something in greener pastures when he had a good life already. I wanted him to complete some sort of mindfulness character arc by the end of the book, but I didn't find that. All of that being said, the lyrical and outstanding writing of this kept me fully invested and I couldn't stop reading until I had gone alongside Robbie on his journey. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Regal House Publishing, and Stephanie Cowell for sending me an eARC of this book in exchange of an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of The Boy in the Rain from netgalley.

TW for: sexual assault, cheating, homophobia, alcoholism, on page character death, prison (I don't discuss all of these in my review but they are all in the book)

This book was weird, and the weirdest part is that it had all of the things I normally love and yet I didn't enjoy it. The Boy in the Rain was queer, historical, and crammed full of tortured characters, and somehow still boring. Robbie, who is 18 at the beginning of the book, feels way too young to be involved in any sort of adult relationship (and I read a lot of age gap romance, so normally I don't mind a gap. This one however made me feel rather icky). It takes forever for him to even begin growing up, and it continuously made me uncomfortable that he was in a relationship with a man over ten years older than him. Robbie and Anton are both horrible people, and not in a fun way. <spoiler>Anton leaves Robbie without any warning to go back to his wife, Robbie later cheats on Anton when they are back together, and neither of them are any good at communication. They spend the whole book learning how to love each other and be kind to each other and themselves and then Robbie throws it all away over one vague blackmail letter that doesn't make any sense at all. It was a stupid ending that destroys any and all growth he went through during the book. I hated it</spoiler>. We never even find out who that lock of hair that Anton kept in that book belonged to. Why not? I was curious.
I also had some trouble with some aspects of the writing, but that is more me being picky than actual issues with the book. For one, why is it allergic to the word fuck? Swearing isn't a new invention! I dislike it when characters look at their reflections and then describe themselves so we know what they look like, especially when it is just thrown in for info-dumping in the first chapter. But this might be because character descriptions mean nothing to me and I don't pay attention to them, so do with that what you will. I did struggle with the other random info-dump moments, which often seemed to come at awkward times, like in the middle of an argument. The writing was full of declarative sentences, one statement and then the next. This works in specific situations, but not for an entire book. Especially if the book is meant to feel raw and heartbreaking, which I imagine this one was. Also, the phrase "surge of sexuality" is stupid. Get rid of it. 
There were some things I did like about The Boy in the Rain, they are just overshadowed by the rest of it. I loved the Vicar's growth throughout the novel, and his kindness even in the face of things he doesn't understand, even if it takes him a while to get there. Louise and Annie are wonderful. Keith was cool  <spoiler>other than I didn't like that he had sex with Robbie while Robbie was in a relationship. I was sad when Keith died and thought it was useless as a plot device</spoiler>.
All in all, this was an easy read, which it shouldn't have been. It should have been devastating. I gave it two stars, although it is really more like 1.5 rounded up. I'm not sure if this is a me thing or a you (The Boy in the Rain) thing, but this book just didn't tug on my heartstrings or make me feel anything at all, other than wonder at its stupidity. I should have liked this book more than anything, which makes it even more disappointing. Oof.
Was this review helpful?
The best part of reading this was zoning out and jamming to my reading playlist before remembering what I was reading.

Okay so I don't know how to list everything wrong with this book so let's start off with the few things I liked.
- some of the physical descriptions
- some of the cozy romantic scenes when the characters aren't talking or having sex
- some of the letters the characters send to one another were very sweet and romantic

Now for all I didn't like:
- the age gap being described in consistently uncomfy ways
- romanticizing SA scenes without trigger warnings
- break ups and getting back together without any explanation or foreshadowing, just for drama or to emphasize the "tragic times."
- using a slur against Romani people
- the pacing was all over the place
- the writing style was so stagnant, made me feel like the author wanted to say "look how tragic aren't I so talented writing this melodramatic masterpiece?"
- the most lackluster ending to a book I've ever read in my life
- absolutely no investment in the romance or stakes whatsoever because they're such a bad couple
- references to Oscar Wilde felt forced more than anything else as if to show the author knows queer history
- the characters broke character so often just for the author to jerk them around to do whatever the plot demanded of them
- I sincerely doubt the MC would have been able to paint the queen I'm sorry but that plot point just made me laugh because I couldn't believe what I was reading.
- the love interest's wife deserved better, I don't even remember her name but she was done dirty and written with very little respect in my opinion.

Overall the premise was pretty good and the few good moments keep it from being 1 star, but the execution failed at every point I could see. Again, I don't know how the author got away with writing a literal slur in this book or how they didn't think twice about the SA scenes.  Sorry to say, I don't recommend this one.
Was this review helpful?
“You should burn this, perhaps?”

This line, in the opening letter of the book, it was instantly drew me in. It’s so simple yet strikingly effective, In my eyes, that perfectly lays the weight of what it was like to be a queer person in the early 1900s.

Unfortunately, However engrossed I was with the beginning of this book, I found that is didn’t quite meet my hopes or expectations. I found most of the dialogue and pacing a bit lackluster. On the other hand, the setting and atmosphere of the novel was fascinating enough to motivate me to continue reading it. 

However, the small areas of discontent were nothing compared to how invalidated I, as a queer man, felt reading certain portions of this book— and I’m not talking about period typical homophobia. I’m talking about the author briefly described Robbie, the main character, getting sexually assaulted by a group of older boys and, because he “instantly became hard” that was how he knew he was gay. Yeah, no. BIG no from me. But because this is an ARC, I am hoping that this can be resolved before the official release, since the rest of the paragraph about Robbie being naturally inclined towards men works perfectly well without the THAT. I won’t lie, reading that so early on in the novel ruined my taste for it as a whole.
Was this review helpful?
I am picky about my historical fiction. However, anything historical on the topic of the LGBTQIA+ will peak my interest. I'm glad this book was one of them, because it was a beautifully tragic story. There is a certain comfort in knowing these events have been occurring throughout history, but equally tragic to know they still are today. The romance between the two main characters was wonderfully written. 
I look forward to the success of the book upon its release day.
Was this review helpful?
Many thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. 

I have so much to say about this book. 

Let’s start off with the good sentiments. 
So this book has a lot going for it, the characterization of Robbie and Anton was really very solid. These were two fully fleshed out characters with their own motivations, personalities, and weaknesses and I really enjoyed getting to know more about them and getting a peek into their respective histories. The writing also has moments of brilliance and several times the author really outdoes herself with encapsulating something complex and rich in only a brief sentence or two. For instance, one I especially liked comes from the chapter “Conversation” in Book One, the context is Robbie musing on how his desires, which seem so benign and natural to him are vilified as perverse in the eyes of society, the church, and the law. (note: this quote comes from an advance copy of the book and not a final edition) 

“Men were beautiful things: Why could God create such things and not allow them to be touched? Wasn’t it natural to touch a beautiful thing?” 

Excellent stuff. 

The author also excels in portraying the mix of apprehension and longing endemic between two men in Edwardian England who see each other as potential partners but unsure of how, or even if, to make the first move. These early chapters showing the beginning of their relationship were some of the finest in the book. 

Now for the not so great elements. 

At times the pace of this book was jarring and disjointed. Sometimes events and characters would shift perspective, setting, or even whole countries, in only a few words. This took some getting used to and by the end it wasn’t quite so disorienting but it still made the story feel jumbled in places. The dialogue too, both internal and verbal, could use some work. Almost all the characters speak in the exact same, matter of fact, way and sometimes their exchanges are as abrupt and full of non-sequiturs as the scene transitions. Additionally, the book felt repetitive at times and certain phrases (“his face grew stern”) are relied on to an all to noticeable degree. 

Finally, my biggest problem with this novel was the eternal back and forth between Anton and Robbie, perpetually breaking off and then mending their relationship in an everlasting emotional tug of war that exhausts the reader and saps even the abundant vitality of this otherwise charming and earnest book. I lost track of the number of times either of our main characters left the other, always “for their own good” and then regretted it and eventually returned. It strains the heartstrings and after the third or fourth “final” break up or reconciliation it’s difficult to care or wish for anything except maybe a permanent resolution, of any kind, to this Sisyphean “will they, won’t they” pattern. 

These characters also seem to learn nothing from any of their many break ups. Anton always goes on repressing his feelings and hoarding his words and Robbie always manages to drink too much too fast at the most inopportune times. And in every break up neither of our leading men ever just talk or even attempt to communicate! Our leading men would rather jump at any opportunity to board the earliest train out of London or Nottingham depending, rather than speak for even a few moments longer about their relationship or their emotions. 

I understand relationships are hard, and they’re work, and it must have been fiendishly challenging to do that work in this time and place with a prison sentence or denunciation hanging over you. But people don’t behave this way. People learn and grow emotionally (which they do in the novel, to be fair, though never enough to prevent another inevitable, tearful, break up), and when they’re in love and want to be together they don’t invent reasons to leave and return ad infinitum over the span of decades as happens in this book. By the end I found myself thinking, these aren’t people, or even characters, they’re puppets. 

I can appreciate an author trying to write a gay historical romance story where most of the roadblocks to a relationship are internal and stem from the challenging nature of relationships rather than from the explicitly homophobic society they live in (though that plays its part too); but this novel just didn’t accomplish that and for me and didn’t quite stick the landing. Despite its shortcomings I couldn’t seem to stop reading it, even as I grew frustrated with its compounding issues.
Was this review helpful?
5 stars. This book: not perfect but so, so lovely, so, so shattering. I could NOT stop reading, couldn't continue to be with Robbie and Anton, to see how THEY would continue. Kudos to Stephanie Cowell for making me care so much. Also, too many times historical fiction novels can feel anachronistic, especially novels with LGBTQ+ characters and themes, but except for a very few and fleeting moments, the author had me very firmly in Edwardian England, feeling the fears, the despair of perhaps never being allowed to find and share love. I never doubted that the main characters, and all the others on the (virtual) pages, were real, flawed human beings for us to care for.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Regal House Publishing for the e-ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review of this wonderful, powerful, evocative, lovely book.
Was this review helpful?
Rating: 2.5

I really wanted to enjoy this book. The synopsis sounded promising; I loved the cover. But as the story went on, it felt as though it were lacking something. One of my issues came with the dialogue. It felt flat and like it just touched the surface of what it could have been. I do plan to give this one a reread at a later time, as I feel as if I just wasn’t in the right mood or mindset for it right now.
Was this review helpful?
I received this advanced copy from Netgalley and Publisher, so thank you!

The book is divided in five parts and spans for about ten years in which we follow mainly Robbie Stillman's career, love life and inner torments. First of all, there is a love story, but for me, it is not the central point, what I take from it is how institutionalized homophobia in society affected the queer people back then and their relationships.

To be honest, I struggled to pass through the first part, the writing was odd, there wasn't a natural flow between scenes, abrupted changes of themes ocurred. However, when I reached the second part, story started to develop nicely or perhaps I grew used to the writing style.

I liked the relationship between Robbie and Anton, there were low and high points just as in real life and I can't imagine how was to be queer with The Gross Indecency Law.

One weird point for me is that Robbie always saw his paints as not good enough and by the end of the book I did not get the feeling of a closure about this topic, he just settled as a portrait artist and that's it? And lastly, I find really odd the friendship between him and Louise, Anton's ex-wife, specially at that time, well, I don't know, maybe it could happen.

Overall, after that first part, I really enjoyed the book, the settings were nice, all the themes addressed were really interesting and to imagine all those horrific things happened in England until the late 60's and still happen across several countries across the globe, it is revolting.
Was this review helpful?
This book made for a really emotional read and I really enjoyed the journey it took me on. I'm really looking forward to reading more work by this author.
Was this review helpful?
*I received this book for free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

1.5 stars

Half a star because the book slightly reminded me of Maurice. The writing style was killing me. Nothing ever seemed to happen and if it did it was simply stated, not described. It was very slow-paced. I didn't like any of the characters. 

The plot points were typical. The title and cover grabbed my attention. But the ending was bad. All-in-all, if anything this would have made a better movie.

Highlight quotes:

"Being liked is a luxury in this world".

"You have so much talent, you don't know what to do with it all; it comes from you, I think, in a volcanic way--or rather, you don't so much have it as it has you".

"Love it to be avoided. Friendship is the best".

My other big issue was:


Robbie with the wandering eye. Let's all make cheating the new norm, why not. Also, Robbie seemed like a user.
Was this review helpful?