The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles
The Doomsday Books #1
LGBTQ Historical Romance
March 7, 2023, by Sourcebooks
Review by Angela
Writing a coherent review without gushing over and over about how much I loved this book will be challenging, but I’ll give it my best shot.
The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen starts out by introducing London and Kent, two men who meet while frequenting the same pub. They’ve been trysting for a week and relishing their time together in the backroom where they revel in the other’s touch, taste, and closeness. Then their time comes to an end, with a nasty row and the thought that they won’t see each other again.
Sir Gareth Inglis arrives in Romney Marsh to take over his late father’s estate. He knows nothing of the grounds or his father’s business dealings since he hadn’t seen or heard from him since he was six, but this is his chance for a real home and to get to know his half-sister. He doesn’t realize his past and the man he thought he left there are about to rock his seemingly tranquil world.
Joss Doomsday is a smuggler and head of the Doomsday family. He’s known who Gareth was to him for some time, but stayed out of the way and out of sight since they did not leave off on good terms. Then Gareth sees something he shouldn’t have, goes to the authorities and Joss desperately needs to get him to NOT testify against his sister. He’ll do what’s necessary, even though it’s the last thing he wants to do.
My word, but I loved this book so hard. Action, adventure, mystery, tenderness, and romantic love, this book had it all, and I eagerly devoured every word. This is one of those books that you read in the car while sitting at a light, or while waiting at the pick-up line at the grocery store, literally unable to put it down until you get to the HEA.
Joss and Gareth couldn’t be more different in looks, temperament, and stations in life, but they are drawn to each other nonetheless. Both heads of their family and both burdened with difficult relationships, but their life experiences have thought them to deal with them in different ways. Joss either charms or forces his way into the situation to achieve his goals, while Gareth tends to tense up, get angry, and avoid problems. As a reader, I absolutely loved seeing them get to know each other, and themselves, by challenging each other’s assumptions and expectations, talking it out, and choosing to expand their beliefs and do better.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the constant threat of the MCs being outed gave me no small measure of anxiety throughout the book. Joss and Gareth know that they have to be careful, and they do try, but there are outside forces (on both sides) who use their relationship against them for their own gain. I was glad that each instance was dealt with and ultimately ended with them realizing that they had the loving support of several family members.
The main plot arc was highly original and well done. There are several villains here, all working together and Joss and Gareth are caught in the middle. The setting of the marsh, full of country gentry and smugglers just trying to make a living during the hostility with France, was fascinating to me. Throw in some quiet, contemplative walkabouts with our MCs looking for beetles and newts while getting to know each other, then falling quite in love and I was a goner. The HEA for this couple was just about perfect. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, especially after learning who will be one of the main characters.
Such a fantastic book. I highly recommend.
Final grade- A
Great review of a fantastic book.
I look forward to reading this! Thank you, Angela, for sharing your enthusiasm.