Reviewed by Tracey
Blurb: Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.
Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.
As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.
I didn’t realized until after I read this book that it is the third in a series of books by Cat Sebastian. I have always been a fan of historical romances and I am also a fan of M/M romances, so this book was a go for me, and it really worked. It is the story of a grumpy, uptight man colliding passionately with a charming, relaxed libertine. Both men are comfortable with their sexuality, which is a nice change from the usual angsty, conflicted stories of which there seem to be a lot nowdays. If opposites attract is a trope of yours, this is definitely a book you will love.
The story flowed smoothly, and the book was hard to put down once I got into it. The premise is pretty simple. Lord Courtenay, a bisexual rouge, needs rehabilitating, and starchy Julian is the one to do it.
“Wear your gray trousers,” he snipped. “And endeavor to tie your cravat less terribly. And for God’s sake, cut your hair.”
His rudeness somehow put them back on comfortable ground. “You like my gray trousers?” Courtenay raised his eyebrow. “You think I’m handsome in my gray trousers?”
Julian bit back a smile. “Shut up. You’d be handsome in a tattered burlap sack or in—” He had nearly said or in nothing at all, which was true but not the direction he needed this conversation to go. “Your looks aren’t the problem. Strive for some conduct and we might pull this thing off.”
Personally, I would never rehabilitate the charming Courtenay, but Regency England wasn’t an easy time to live in, especially for gay men. Courtenay is banned from seeing the nephew that he loves, for being a bad influence, so remaking his lifestyle is a must. It seems all of his supposed wicked exploits are laid bare in a gothic novel which was published, called The Brigand Prince of Salerno. The description of the Prince is too close to Courtenay for anyone to think any different, so the public was predisposed to believe it was all real, and that Courtenay was the Prince. Lady Eleanor Standish, Courtenay’s best friend, knows that he needs help, so she turns to her brother, Julian Medlock. It was a little hard to warm up to Julian at first, because Sebastian drew him almost unbelievably stuffy and priggish. Slowly, we were let into Julian’s thoughts, and slowly I came to understand and like him a little better. He is a very, very clever man and he is nothing except morally upstanding……except when he isn’t, but that is always in private. Julian had spent the years he and his sister had been in England working solely to find themselves a place in the ton. If you’re a reader of Regency romances, you know the ton can be a tricky place.
Lord Courtenay is ready for a change in his world. You can tell he is tired of being painted as a libertine, and he is disillusioned with the life he has been living.
London seemed haunted by ghosts–by ghosts of dead friends, of bad decisions, of good times that now were tainted by the knowledge of what came later. He couldn’t enjoy himself properly with the ghosts whispering in his ear, reminding him of the price of pleasure. It was a sin and a shame to let a talent go to waste, and Courtenay had once had a genius for depravity.
Courtenay doesn’t fight the need for help, but Julian, he doesn’t go gently into the act of helping Courtenay. He does agree, because it would help his sister. She is being tarnished by associating with Courtenay, and Julian loves his sister. Both men changed from their first depictions in the book. Like I said, I didn’t really warm up to Julian, and Courtenay was seen as a complete cad. Sebastian managed to slowly change both characters into men that you admired and wanted to read more about. Courtenay was shown to be a good man, a kind and generous man who feels he has deeply hurt, and let down his family when his younger sister died.
Now his fortune is gone, his sister dead, his nephew lost, and Courtenay had come to think of himself as an agent of destruction.
Julian, it seems, isn’t just a wealthy, starchy prig of a man. He is a man who was forced into adulthood too early, with all the responsibilities a young man shouldn’t have to shoulder. His life is so tightly controlled, that the ability to even interact with his sister is hard to do. His life is totally dedicated to living the life of an upright “gentleman”.
…friendship and Julian did not mix: he was cold and guarded, composed of layers upon layers of secrets each painted over with a polite lie. That was the way he liked it: he preferred the smooth, sleek varnish of falsehood to the unpleasant truths beneath.
I liked that it wasn’t a love, lust or sex at first sight book. It took a while for the men to warm up to each other, a slow peeling away of layers, until they both found what they wanted and needed underneath. Courtenay’s first thoughts on meeting Julian,
It wouldn’t be the first time he had dallied with a person he wasn’t terribly fond of, nor the first time he had turned lust into a kind of revenge. But Courtenay had always felt that kissing and groping and flat-out fucking were perfectly good ways to get to know somebody.
What is interesting, is that both men in this book are perceived by the public to be totally different than who they really were underneath the public persona. It was a fun to watch them discover the actual men hiding below the masks. Both men are harboring secrets, and the uncovering of the secrets leads to both men growing and understanding each other. Of course, these secrets are the basis of the story conflict, so I won’t talk about them. This is a sweet romance between the men, and Sebastian also spins out a sub-plot involving Julian’s sister, Lady Eleanor. I’m pretty sure I would have been happy picking up another book which told the whole story of Lady Eleanor and her husband.
The sex scenes were a mixture of hot and sweet. It was a surprising attraction for both men, and their reactions to confronting this attraction were enjoyable. The heat index on the sex scenes wasn’t off the charts, but it was still pretty good sex.
“I never want to forget what you look like right now,” Courtenay groaned as he started to move. You look like you belong to me.” It was half a lie, because Courtenay knew that he belonged to Julian. Or maybe it was all the same thing.
The resolution of the conflict between the men gives them a very happily ever after, as any good romance should. This can be read as a stand alone, I didn’t realize that it was the third book in a series, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t missing out on anything by not having read the first two. I will be correcting that shortly! I very much enjoyed this book, it was emotional, sexy and definitely driven by the strong characters that Sebastian wrote. I would love to revisit all the men in this book. It will go in my re-read collection.