books

Cat Sebastian

Books

It Takes Two to Tumble (2017)

The Lawrence Browne Affair (2017), The Ruin of a Rake (2017)

 

The Lawrence Browne Affair (2017)

Set in Cornwall, England in 1816

Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor is mad. He’s driven away most of his staff, and the local vicar is worried about his stability.

“Five servants quit,” Halliday said, tapping Lawrence’s desk in emphasis. Dust puffed up in tiny clouds around the vicar’s fingertips. “Five. And you were woefully understaffed even before then.”

Five fewer servants? So that was why the house had been so pleasantly quiet, why his work had been so blissfully undisturbed.

Georgie Turner is a confidence man, and has gotten himself into trouble, and so flees to the country on a job from his brother–looking into whether the mad earl really is mad.

Georgie had no illusions about evading Mattie Brewster’s men for long. Georgie was a traitor, an informer, and the Brewster gang would make an example of him. And rightly so.

That isn’t to say that Lawrence doesn’t have issues.

Lawrence had learned years ago that when he felt the creeping unease that signaled what he had come to think of as an attack of madness, he could sometimes set his mind to rights by exhausting himself.

It’s actually rather interesting, seeing how mental disorders were viewed–and how thin the line was between madness and being different. (Both could get you locked up.) I suppose that adding homosexuality–which was viewed as criminal and aberrant–would only have made it easier for someone neuro-atypical to see themselves as mad or going mad. I note it because this isn’t the first historical romance where one of the characters sees his homosexuality as a sign of his instability.

Sodomites had been a favorite subject of his father’s rage-fueled tirades, in which he lumped it in with other crimes against nature, such as Catholicism and being French.

I liked both Georgie and Lawrence right from the start, although as a confidence man, Georgie had the people skills that made him easier to like from the get-go.

On a hunch, he cut the onion into several oddly sized chunks. Before its pungent aroma had even reached his nostrils she was by his side.

“No, no. What are you about? Chop the onion fine, like this.” She took the knife from his hand and held up a paper thin slice of onion for his edification.

That bit where he ingratiates himself to the cook amused me to no end.

I also quite liked Simon, Lawrence’s son. Both how Lawrence ended up with a son as well as Georgie’s reaction to Simon (as well as Lawrence’s lack of a relationship with him).

Simon regarded him, his nose red with cold. “Uncle Kemble says Lord Radnor isn’t my real father anyway. So it’s only natural that he can’t be bothered.”

“Uncle Kemble can sod right off, then,” Georgie said promptly, before recalling that this language was not suitable for an eight-year-old’s ears. “Damn!” No, that was no improvement. Simon’s eyes were wide. “I’m sorry. But your uncle is a thoroughgoing bastard if he says that sort of thing to you.”

I think one of the things I am liking so much about the MM historicals I’ve been reading is that the illegality of the relationships give them an extremely different take on historical romances–two people that don’t necessarily trust each other can have a relationship and eventually develop that trust, because the very nature of their love could get them both killed or jailed.

As with the other MM romances, there is a lot of boinking, but I still quite enjoyed how the two men worked things out–and worked out things with Simon.

Publisher: Avon Impulse
Rating: 8/10

The Ruin of a Rake (2017)

Set in London in 1817

Lord Courtenay’s reputation is a rake and a libertine is well-deserved. He drank and gambled and whored and ended up spending his fortune. But the death of his sister–after her complete ruin–and his love for his nephew have complicated things for him. He wants to be involved in his nephew’s life, but his reputation means no one wants him near the boy.

Radnor’s secretary sent Courtenay an infuriatingly proper letter suggesting that Courtenay take himself as far away from Simon as humanly possible until the scandal died down. It was heavily implied that the scandal would die down at some point coincidental with Courtenay’s death.

Julian Medlock is a proper gentleman after a struggle to be accepted despite being the son of a businessman. But he wonders whether his need to be in England and be accepted has led to the downfall of his sister, who perhaps sacrificed too much for their return.

“I held up my end of the bargain. I married well.” She broke off into an anxious laugh. “So well, my husband has kept the diameter of the globe between us in order to let me spend my fortune in peace. There’s no reason I shouldn’t live out the rest of my days doing precisely as I please.”

Both these characters turn up in the previous book, and Medlock was entirely disagreeable, so I was somewhat doubtful as to how the author could make him likable. Courtenay was immediately redeemed in the previous book, despite his reputation, because he traveled across the country in terrible weather just to make sure his nephew was okay.

Medlock just came across as a prig.

But of course Medlock had his own secrets and his own past.

Julian reached blindly for his glass of port and drained it so he wouldn’t be able to point out the incongruity of gentlemen, who by their very definition did not work, accusing the poor of laziness.

Kisses that didn’t lead up to some kind of release were totally foreign to Julian. He had never quite understood why a person would want to get themselves all worked up without an end in sight.

I think that what I particularly liked about this story and the previous was that Courtenay and Georgie were deeply concerned about Simon’s well-being, and went to great lengths to make him safe and happy. The romance was important, but it wasn’t everything that was important.

I also liked the secondary story of Medlock’s sister and her husband, who were trapped in a marriage that was a terrible mess–and although it was a misunderstanding–it was one that made a great deal of sense considering the times. In fact, in a brief exchange, the problems the two had made absolutely and complete sense, and I was immediately on-board for both of them to work things out.

(T)he fact of the matter is that I think Eleanor and Julian tend to forget I’m Indian.”

“Pardon?”

“I didn’t— oh damn it— I didn’t know whether she’d want an Indian husband with her in England.”

It was a book I read years ago that explained why so many English men took Indian wives, and it made sense and also made you feel even more terrible for the children of those unions.

I also liked Courtenay’s thoughts about trying to escape misery.

He’d let his exile take him farther than had been possible the last time, when he’d had a woman and a small child to consider. He’d go to the Argentine or to Siam. Far enough that nobody would have heard of him and he could fill his eyes and ears with new sights and sounds to replace the memories he didn’t want.

It was another story I quite liked–especially since I didn’t like one of the characters before I even started this story.

Publisher: Avon Impulse
Rating: 8.5/10

 

It Takes Two to Tumble (2017)

Set in England in 1817

Ben Sedgwick is happy being the vicar of Kirkby Barton. He is engaged to the girl who has been his best friend since childhood, and he feels comfortable about his calling. He might not want to, but when he is asked to take the Dacre children in hand until their father returns home, he does what he feels is his duty.

Phillip Dacre has been away at sea for two years, missing the death of his wife, and most of the growth of his three children–children that have been running wild since the death of their mother.

Although some of beginning reminds me a bit of the Sound of Music (especially the bit about the trees) it quickly turns into its own story.

Phillip sucked in a breath. “I have no intention of harming my children.”

“Oh, I’m certain you don’t. You’d likely call it discipline. But I’m not interested in semantics. I won’t leave your children alone with someone who seems determined to make enemies of them. They’ve had precious few allies these past few years.”

I especially liked Phillip’s confused and conflicted feelings about his wife.

Suddenly he resented Caroline for having died, which he realized was a ridiculous thing to do, but he did so anyway.

There was one thing I especially liked about the story, but that also was in some ways a weakness of the story. The youngest boy has a reading disability, which Ben has discovered, and is one of the reasons he is so protective of the children–because Jamie’s siblings are protective of him.

I really really like that this was an integral part of the story, but I felt that it got resolved a little too quickly and easily. This is mostly because it’s a shorter story, and there were a lot of things to resolve, but it is such a big thing in the lives of those who have to deal with it, I found it a little frustrating that things were just a little too pat.

I know it wasn’t a main story arc, I just wished it had taken a bit longer to resolve, because that would have felt more realistic. Otherwise, I did enjoy the story.

Publisher: Avon Impulse
Rating: 7/10

 

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