The Breaking of M - Melissa Snowdon That title! That cover! That deliciously vague blurb! How could I resist this book? I'm so, so glad that I didn't even try.

This story is about (and narrated by) Matthew, the eponymous "M". An amoral, unrepentant spy gallivanting around sixteenth century Venice. There, in the midst of being dishonest, he meets Vito Alessandro, an agnostic priest and the youngest son of a rich merchant. From their first meeting, their relationship is established as antagonistic and contrary and utterly delicious. Through a series of strange bargains, the two realize their attraction to one another and start a clandestine affair. At the start, neither of them are particularly likable, but they grow on you. This is not your typical romance, it's mostly unsentimental and almost hostile, but so fun to read about. And the two of them are each bloody insane. Matthew is a fairly typical rakish character; an opportunist who would do whatever (and whomever) he needed to survive, while Vito is a feisty little firebrand (and I love him for it). I really enjoyed the two of them. Like, REALLY REALLY enjoyed. I've been thinking about this, and they are probably in my personal top 5 favourite MM pairings (which is saying a lot with the amount of MM I read). I've been resisting the comparison, but in some ways I was strongly reminded of Stockholm Syndrome's Pip and Lindsay. They had the same push-pull dynamic that I adored in SS. And the sex! Oh god, the sex. I don't usually go on and on about sex scenes in books, but seriously, it was ridiculously, obscenely, unbelievably hot. I don't think a word has yet been invented to adequately describe it. "Hot" just seems tepid compared to the actual thing. But more than that though, seeing the two of them butt heads and fight and bicker was just as great.

The rest of the book sees M grappling with his desire to run (as is his nature) and fighting whatever spell Vito has cast on him. It's quite a long book and lots of things happen that I won't talk about because it'll give away the game (I've put a spoiler at the end about some things I think you should you know before reading). The last 20% or so came a little out of left field, and my one complaint is that this important bit felt a little rushed and random, but suffice it to say that I felt sick just now as I was finishing. I already wanted to reread it at around 25%. It's that good. An honest-to-god all time favourite. If I could give it infinity stars, I would.

Fair warning though, it requires a lot of concentration. It's written in a sort of archaic style, both in the syntax and vocabulary, and I often had to stop and think about a phrase before I really understood it. That said, once I got used it, I loved the writing. It was wordy, sure, but it was also funny and lovely and sometimes poignant. Snowdon is not stingy with her imagery; and though some might find it tiring, I thought the prose rich and evocative. At the start, I highlighted phrases I liked, thinking that I would pepper my review with them, but I ended up with so many that I nixed that idea because then this review would be like a hundred times longer.

I have a feeling that this book is going to be really polarizing, people will either love it or hate it (and the middle-of-the-roaders just weren't paying close enough attention). I guess I haven't been subtle about which group I belong to. Okay, yes, I am prone to hyperbole, this is a thing I know about myself, but this book is honestly the best thing I've read all year (and it's been a good year for reading). I would recommend it to anyone who likes steamy historical (well-written) fiction and wants a change from sappy postmodern romances. But I would not recommend it to those looking for a quick, easy read or to people who get easily frustrated.

Be warned though, there is an important menage relationship that happens toward the end of the book, it doesn't take up much space, but it is kind of central to character development. It's also smoking hot, but I know some people hate MMM, and it does kinda come out of nowhere.