Cat Sebastian comes to the blog today with the second in the Seducing the Sedgwisks series, this one laden with challenges, issues and heart. Please read on for my review of
A Gentleman Never Keeps Score
Taking a turn from the lighter fluffier romance found in It Takes Two to Tumble, Sebastian turns the corner and brings us an unlikely romance between a former boxer and a ‘kept’ man of a Lord. And every moment of this story is unexpected in all of the best ways. Digging into the many societal constraints here: homosexuality, reputation, race, class, and position all placed our couple in a chessboard of challenges, where every move has several potential countermoves, and each is deliciously complex and nuanced, adding to the emotional impact.
Hartley had spent most of his life trying to make sure his siblings are set for life, and it has led to some pretty horrible moments for him. He was obviously abused and misused by his “godfather” the one who left him the fine house in London after his death. But the accolades and entrée into the finer houses and parties, and some of the more ‘scandalous’ have gone, much as his servants have left his employ as rumors of his ‘depravity’ have hit an all-time high in London. To protect himself from the emotional trauma of his abuse, and also of the slights and gossip, he’s shut down: he worked so hard to become the prototypical gentleman, always in control, well-groomed, unemotional, that he’s not very good at loosening his grip on control and allowing himself to feel emotions.
Sam Fox is an ex-boxer, making a go of things with his brother in a small pub in the East End. He never really enjoyed boxing, seeing it as a means to an end and source of cash, but when the young man he was training, also desperate for coin, threw a fight and later died from his injuries, Sam’s done everything he could to stay clear of boxing. Instead he’s got a small pub where food, companionship and a helping hand can be found in equal measure. It’s no small matter to note that Sam will (and does) think of everyone BUT himself first, and it’s how he comes to meet Hartley.
The dance here between these two is further complicated by Hartley’s inability to empathize and understand a point of view that doesn’t directly impact on his own sense of self and place, and the fact that he’s just afraid. ALL the time. Afraid that he won’t manage to provide for his brothers, afraid that he’ll be seen as something other than a gentleman, afraid of physical violence, even afraid of touch – all things used against him, time and time again, as he grew up. Sam’s easy friendship and obvious caring from his family, friends and customers alike is a novelty to Hartley, and the fact that Sam can’t get Hartley, and the ever-increasing cadre of buttons that line his waistcoats like armor keeps him wanting more, despite knowing the idea is bad and dangerous. With a bit of mystery surrounding some scandalous paintings, Hartley’s need for revenge and retribution have consumed him, leaving little room for emotion, relationships or even happiness.
Far more complex and interconnected than I expected: Sebastian managed to mix in a recognition that all were not created equal, and that color, class and cash often determined reception and treatment in this time. It was Sam who was instantly empathetic, who provided a way to see Hartley’s flaws, when his own perspective only brought (at first) his need for revenge that seemed to fuel his every move. By the time Sam is well and truly hooked, coming to the servant’s entrance on Sundays, Hartley’s inner conflicts and issues are starting to show themselves, and Sam becomes a balance to his often distressed and tense being. With the addition of a valet and cook, both rescued from the dangers of the streets, and a curious attachment to a 3 legged dog that isn’t winning any contests for beauty OR smell, there are momentary flashes of the man Hartley wants to be, it just takes a bit to get him there. With a lovely conclusion, plenty of heart and huge growth for Hartley as both he and Sam, and while not an easy read because of Hartley’s obsession with revenge, one that is a favorite for the clever way the story allowed each to find a way to hope together.
Title: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score
Author: Cat Sebastian
Series: Seducing the Sedgwicks #2
Genre: 18+ Read, Historical Romance, Interracial, Male / Male, Setting: Britain
Published by: Avon Impulse
Published on: 10 July, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google
Once beloved by London's fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.
Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and destroy a scandalously revealing painting of her, he agrees. Sam would do anything to protect those he loves, even if it means stealing from a wealthy gentleman. But when he encounters Hartley, he soon finds himself wanting to steal more than just a painting from the lovely, lonely man—he wants to steal his heart.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.