I realize there’s an entire subgenre of queer m/m-focus literature set in Ye Olde Times that has a soupçon of reality (like, there have always been queer people but there’s no Edwardian timeline in which they were openly walking about and getting married), some very specific tropes for characters (usually, seemingly-himbo + someone), and mile a minute sort of pity pitter patter pithy laugh lines.
I think seemingly-himbo (the shimbo, we will call him) is probably my favorite foil to the more immediately interesting second protagonist. While I also love a good etl or ftl, there’s nothing quite like the sudden 180 that occurs when the shimbo realizes he’s actually into the quirky/librarian (yes that’s an adjective like “those are librarian glasses”)/weird/uninhibited other character.
Valentine is just the most lovely of shimbos, having gone through life studiously avoiding “deep thoughts” or “examining what’s going on.” Lo and behold, here is Bonny of the Floral Body Parts (reader, I almost snorted milk through my nose) come to take him on an Adventure to chase after his erstwhile fiancee, and in doing so perhaps disabuse him of many of his preconceived notions. And disabuse he does! Through many great tropes–“Rich [Duke] Has Lost His Wallet,” “Gal Pals, Just Gal Paling Around,” “Only One Carriage/Bed/Private Space,” Valentine comes to realize his love for…floral arrangements.
Side note that nothing was so satisfying as the neat dispatchment of that other HR trope, “But What About The Line of Succession?” When Valentine’s mama pointed out that someone else with a passel of children could take it over (and you won’t care because you’ll, well, be dead)…ten million claps for mama.