Author: K.J. Charles
Rating: 5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb:In the first novel of an explosive new series from K. J. Charles, a young gentleman and his elegant mentor fight for love in a world of wealth, power, and manipulation.
When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a Radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.
After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.
Review: [**Preface: I wrote this preface because despite the feeling in certain circles, M/M is not a trend. Thank you.
This is a stunning Regency period tale, featuring a sublime romance between two men, Julius and Harry. Their attraction and love grows organically and believably and is beautiful to behold. Men fall in love with each other. Always have, always will. In Regency times getting caught could see them hanged. Man on man love is no trend in writing just as it is no trend in real life. It is a grand component of the human condition. I fervently hope all readers who enjoy regency, intrigue, the perils of humanity, and who enjoy love… will read this book. Any story by the pen of KJ Charles is not to be missed.]
With her exquisite, razor sharp writing skills, KJ Charles delivers an engaging, delicious Regency tale of romance, intrigue, and savoir-faire. Her characters are all clearly defined and vibrant. Her settings are richly detailed and engrossing. Her use of period vocabulary is witty and magnificent. The care and knowledge she bestows toward the period is superb. Suffice to say, the actions and escapades of her Society of Gentlemen held this historical loving reader at orgiastic, rapt attention.
The prologue in this book sets the stage for later events. Well, duh, of course, but really, pay attention to it. Several early turn of events in the story may be seemingly inconsequential to the big picture, but are anything but. The author weaves her story in an extremely clever, gripping and fun fashion as all plot points dovetail together perfectly.
The main story begins in 1819. Harry Gordon’s entire life had been spent in Europe and London at the side of his radical, seditionist parents and their friend, Silas. After the death of his parents several years earlier, Harry and Silas took up running a London bookstore that specialized in a literal underground trade. Always looking over his shoulder due to his past and current activities, Harry is stunned to discover the person pounding on the door of the bookshop one day is there not to arrest him, but to whisk him away to a new and privileged life. Harry was immediately endearing to me. A dreamer, yet a pragmatist. Not afraid of hard work, yet willing to take an easy way out. He was young – he had much to learn about life!
Julius Norreys is a true London dandy. He seems to live to dress to impress, but his colorful clothing masks a darker internal struggle. Julius comes off as aloof, and in fact, he somewhat rues society, and prefers horseback riding at dawn in Hyde Park.
‘Generally speaking, the early morning was Julius’s preferred time of day, because one didn’t meet people.’
Oh I loved Julius from the get go. I’d ride with him (ahem). Calm, cool, confident – yet under the cocky façade lurked a deep longing. Hang on Julius, Harry is coming. In every sense. 😉
When Harry’s previously unknown wealthy and influential grandfather, Gideon Vane, claims him from life in the stews so that he may see the family line continue, Julius is tasked with turning Harry into a gentleman. Harry’s new found cousin Richard was overseer of this task.
The stoic Julius is initially reluctant, but Harry proves an eager and apt pupil. As they spend weeks together poring over the finer points of London society, their attraction toward each other grows, unbeknownst to one another. One evening the heat level becomes too much to ignore, and leads to this:
‘Julius took a very deep breath. “Do you know what you’re doing?” “Well, yes.” There was a laugh in Harry’s whisper. “You don’t need to teach me this.” God damn him, the earthy, vulgar, confident brat that he was. Julius sought for words, couldn’t find any, because now Harry was closer still, as close as could be, body to body, with his own solid length against Julius’s thigh and his fingers delving for buttons.’
The romance between Harry and Julius built at an authentic, unrushed pace. Neither of them was inexperienced with men, yet neither was a cad. These were two men genuinely interested in one another well beyond a quick tup behind closed doors. When they did get behind closed doors (or curtains, as it were) the level of passion between them was exquisite. Their sex talk was as one filthy, honeyed, honest and oh so arousing.
“Oh my Julius. So good, so lovely. So perfect. So desperate for it.” “What was that?” “You’re desperate,” Harry repeated.
“You’ve needed a good hard fuck as long as I’ve known you. Untouchable Julius.” His tongue flicked out, over Julius’s parted lips. “Why hasn’t anyone given you a proper ride before now?”
“Nobody was sufficiently insolent,” Julius managed.
Yeah, there is no doubt about the intensity of their devotion. They are amazing together, astoundingly good for each other, in any situation.
Harry was equal parts shocked and delighted to discover that there were private clubs, houses and hideaways for men of the ton who preferred to keep intimate company with other men. Julius, Richard and a small group of others had their own enclave, The Ricardians. I appreciated how plausible this group was. It wasn’t presented as tawdry, but rather as men needing a safe place to be their authentic selves, to even pursue relationships that actually involved the heart. Dominic, another friend who happened to hold a position in the government home office, is a Ricardian. It is Dominic’s position at the home office, and his shady propensity to visit the lower areas of town to indulge his baser appetites, which give Harry warning. Seems some officials are on to the fact that Harry was not always a society Vane. Gideon is not a man to be crossed or shamed, and Harry has to question whether his grandfather is friend of foe. Harry increasingly finds himself struggling with his ingrained sense of right and wrong as he witnesses the workings of high society, and when he sees atrocities visited upon the less fortunate, including his old friend Silas. Silas tells him:
“Decide where you stand, and stand there. I tell you this, no man will stand by you until you do.”
Harry does take a stand, with Julius firmly at his side.
The secondary characters in this book are every bit as interesting as the MCs. I love how Richard’s valet, Cyprian, and other household staff knew every “secret” going on and were actually a help to the Ricardians. There was also a refreshingly strong willed female character in Harry’s cousin Verona. I definitely want to read more about Silas, Cyprian, Richard, and Dominic, the latter of whose life has most definitely become caught between a rock and a hard place. 😉 As the series continues, I very much look forward to discovering more about these men, as well as the continuing relationship and endeavors of Harry and Julius. ♥
Historic fiction is one of my favorite genres. I’m fascinated by the culture. The excess of the upper class juxtaposed on the wretchedness of the lower class. The fact that being caught at same gender sexual relations could have one hanged. This book portrays people being human. Playing to the best of their ability with the cards life dealt them. In the case of Harry and the Ricardians, striving to act humanely and true to one’s own soul, while walking the line of societal decorum. While holding on to love.
**The cover of this book is not only gorgeous, but perfectly captures the mood of the period, and the intimate bond between Harry and Julius. Look at that brocade wall covering, the open, billowing shirt, the tight breeches, the adoring, beguiling faces, the covetous hand placements…….you get the idea. Sigh.