Stephen Clair, the notorious Earl of St. Joseph, has a lover he can’t afford, a social calendar that’s out of control and a libido that rules his life. If he can’t get control of all of them, he will fall into financial ruin. Could the youthful, handsome and dependable Jamie Riley be the solution to his problems? Jamie Riley has a secret that keeps him from accepting the sexual advances of his employer, Stephen Clair, and a past he would like to leave behind. But Stephen is a man who knows how to awaken a passion that Jamie has been trying to suppress, and carries a price that Jamie would rather not pay. But it isn’t easy to ignore passion, especially when it’s so temptingly close. Julian Jeffries, lover to Stephen Clair, has found a way of living the high life without lifting a finger. It isn’t until Julian notices that Stephen has been spending time with his latest employee, Jamie Riley, that he begins to worry about losing everything he’d schemed to have. Now Julian needs to find a way of getting rid of Jamie without raising suspicion. And, as Julian knows, the best way to do that is to dig into Jamie’s past and find something to use against him.
Review by Erastes
I won’t say I didn’t enjoy this, because I did. It was possible to unhinge my research head and treat it as a “romance novel” with all that that genre implies. Brooding hero, delicate (but rather stubborn) hero who isn’t going to let said BH get into his pants unless it’s true love – not if he can help it! (all whilst being swept along by his own desires)
So yes, it’s an enjoyable romance read. I liked the characters in the main. The BH (Stephen) was suitably brooding and sufficiently dissolute to make me happy. His kept man (Julian) was nicely venal without being a cardboard cut out and the hero (Jamie) was all right, although far the weaker of the main characters in my opinion.
I liked Stephen a lot. He was a product of his time and circumstances. He’d lost his family and was drifting further and further into dissipation and was more than ripe for True Love to Redeem Him. As much as I liked him he certainly deserved The Wet Fish Clue Slap around half way through, because he wouldn’t shake off the wastrel Julian he was hanging around with for the lack of anything better), he struck me as a very true man – being led around by flattery and his libido – and like a lot of rich men, he had lost the ability to tell whether affection was real or bought.
Jamie I never quite connected with, he held many of the attributes of the good romantic hero(ine), he was Good. He was self taught, (no education other than some old vicar in Yorkshire, but he could read Greek and was a published historian) He stepped into the running of great house and went from personal secretary to librarian to house steward, taking over Stephen’s budget and starting him on the road to solvency with a speed (the book encompasses about 3 months) and an ease that would have impressed even A Woman of Substance. But he didn’t impress me, I was a little bored with him – I never quite felt I knew him, perhaps it was his lack of flaws. He just started to get interesting towards the very end of the book, and I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that.
But overall, he was just a bit too passive for my liking, I have to admit.
There are many other secondary characters, which make for lively interaction. My favourite was Stephen’s Aunt Matilda.
It owed a healthy nod more to Heyer than to Austen, which was more obvious to me, (and to be honest I wouldn’t have been able to stomach), if I had not been reading my first Heyer at the same time as I was reading this, and therefore understood more clearly where the jargon came from.
The thing that jarred me is that really, the characters seemed to me to be modern day characters in a period setting. Their language vacillated from Heyerisms to Modern Day – “Jesus!” and “f*ck” are used as swear words, and someone says that they’ve “blown it” – another says he “needs to get laid” at one point, Jamie has a cute nose, and so on.
The household is so liberal it’s unrealistic – Stephen is not just casual or fraternising with his staff, he treats them as his equals, near enough, from the scullery maid upwards. (He’s an EARL) They all give him advice and he sits and chats and plays cards with them. I also couldn’t manage to believe that, in a society where buggery and sodomy was punishable with such regularity and fanaticism, that Stephen would get away with being a self proclaimed sodomite in 1816. Granted, being rich and influential, he might have been able to side step any conviction, but he would have been prey to blackmailers, scandal mongers and certainly ostracised from all polite society. He’d get away with it once, but not in a serial fashion in the way he does. Not without some other prop to sustain him – a great wit, a playwright, a bosom friend to Prinny, a huge and powerful family or something like that.
I did notice other small anachronisms and some sayings that are (as far as my research goes) only attributable to Heyer – but I only noticed them because of months of research into the same period so they won’t spoil the book for the general reader, and it will enhance the enjoyment for the Heyer-philes as they will find it familiar. There were however, some nice true details – the fact that the Elgin Marbles were in the British Museum in 1816, waiting for the Duveen Gallery to be built, good solid research into where Hanover Square is in relation to other streets in London.
However, as I say, it’s a decent enough read, although all in all I felt that it was all a little rushed and at 200 pages, it could easily have extended to 250-300 without harming the book at all, just to give us a deeper insight into the characters.
If you like m/m and you like Heyer, you’ll probably like it, but the anachronisms kept the rating down.