Cat Sebastian


It Takes Two to Tumble (2017), A Gentleman Never Keeps Score (2018)

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

Unmasked by the Marquess (2018)


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.”


“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

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score (2018) 

Set in London in 1817

Sam Fox is an ex-boxer and a Free Black–a pillar of his community who tries to help others as he was helped by this before him.

Some black families, like Sam’s mother’s people, had been in England for centuries. But a generation ago, Britain had promised black Americans freedom if they fought against the colonists. Sam’s father had been one of them.

And he wants those he cares for to be happy, so he decides to search out the nude painting of the woman who should be his sister-in-law, to recover it so she can destroy it. Which leads him to Hartley Sedgwick.

Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after stories have gone around to ton about how he really earned the house left to him by his godfather.

There are several interesting things about this story, the first of which is the life of a free black man in London in the early 1800s. It was nowhere near as bad as how men were treated in the United States, but it certainly was more difficult than the lives of other working men trying to make their way.

Because if he started hitting everyone who looked down on him because of his race or his class, he’d wind up going on some kind of spree.

The second is the damage that was done to Hartley, in his effort to build better lives for his brothers. It’s quite clear that despite his natural inclinations, he’d been into situations that were abhorrent to him, which broke him, and kept him from any kind of normal relationship.

But it’s that damage that makes Hartley look out for those in his care, and I enjoyed seeing his friendship with Sadie develop.

How could anyone sleep under these conditions? Sadie might die. Her baby might never live. It was appalling that this was how people came into being and Hartley had a mind to lodge a complaint, or, since that was not possible, to weep onto someone’s shoulder.

I liked that Hartley’s background allowed him to understand just how dangerous childbirth was at that time.

I also liked the glimpses into the life of his brother Will, who is clearly struggling, but just as clearly trying as hard as he can.

Will periodically went into what Hartley thought of as a decline and Ben called an episode. He didn’t sleep, barely ate, forgot to write whatever he was meant to for those horrid publications, and was forced to seek even more dismal lodgings than before. During one terrifying period the year before, he had turned to opium to calm whatever trouble roiled inside him.

That’s a tough one, and I’m not quite sure how one survived that in the 1800s.

The romance was… okay. I liked seeing how Hartley was slowly able to put the pieces of his life back together, and I liked seeing Sam come to learn that it wasn’t a failing to depend upon others.

Publisher: Avon Impulse
Rating: 7/10

Unmasked by the Marquess (2018) 

Set in Regency England, mostly London.

Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke has been struggling to rebuild his fortunes after his father left the estates in ruin, spending much of his money on his mistress and the children he had with said mistress. He also wants to see his younger brother settled in a living proper to a younger son of a Marquess.

Robert Selby is in London to give his sister a season in the hopes she makes good match that will keep her happy and out of poverty. Because “Robbie” is really “Charity”, masquerading as Robert, and as soon as Louisa is married, Robbie will disappear. Robbie asks Alistair to introduce his sister to society.

Overall, I found this story to be weak. I truly didn’t understand what Robin saw in Alistair, since he was pretty much a complete jerk to everyone, and didn’t even have noble intentions as an excuse for being an unpleasant sod to everyone–including his brother.

Robin, I very much liked, since her motives were fairly clear from the start, and only became more honorable as the story progressed.

“Is that your experience, my lord? That a single dance with a young lady is enough to confer such an advantage on her? I’ve never met a marquess before so please forgive my ignorance. Is nobility a sort of contagion? Like lice or influenza?”

I also liked Louisa and Gilbert and Amelia and Agatha Cavendish (although Mrs Allenby came off exceedingly flat).

Snippets of conversation drifted their way.

“The issue is the quality of the manure,” Louisa was saying.

“What do you know about drainage?” asked Lord Gilbert. He was writing in a small notebook he had withdrawn from his coat pocket.

Miss Allenby shot Charity an incredulous glance. “Are they discussing agriculture?”

“Likely so.”

I also felt the ending of the story was a little too pat, a little too convenient, a little too unlikely. As much as one wishes, I don’t think the HEA was at all probable or likely, and that made a story that already felt weak, fall flat.

And sadly, this is a pretty terrible cover. It starts with the hair being… not right. And then I think their faces aren’t quite right either with him looking very much like an android. As a thumbnail it’s not awful, but once you look at it more closely, the details are disconcerting.

Mind you, nothing about this book was horrible, it just kept coming up short pretty much across the board.

Publisher: Avon Impulse
Rating: 5.5/10


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