** This review is copied word-for-word from my review of The Crofton Chronicles bundle. **
Book 1: The Actor and the Earl
POV: 3rd person, one character (Sebastian)
Star rating: ★★★★★
This was a fantastic, charming story that really lifted me reading-mood, after a few bad reads. I'd lost interest in reading for the 2-3 weeks prior to picking this up and this has completely reignited my need for historical romances.
After having read the blurb, I was a little surprised that the story kicked right off with Bronwyn having already run off and Sebastian being recruited by his own family members to take her place. I'd expected Sebastian to step up of his own choice, to save the family honour, but the conspiracy of Claire and Anthony stepping in to make everything crystal clear from the start was brilliantly done. It made it even more exciting to know that there was a circle of people who knew the secret and could be trusted with it, like Matthew, Edward and Miriam.
I found Anthony highly intriguing, because he was mysterious, secretive and had enough mood swings throughout that I could never quite pin down how he was feeling or what was going through his head, which made the ending really exciting. I never knew what was on the horizon with Anthony, but I did with Sebastian because, strangely enough, I thought exactly the same things at the same times that he did. When he doubted, so did I; when he had faith and trust, so did I. It was reassuring to have a main character, especially the primary POV, be someone that I could so easily relate to. His love of the arts and acting really helped, while also giving the perfect background to his charade.
I loved the progression of the story, how naturally Anthony and Sebastian fit together, even before they knew each other. But I also loved that it wasn't all smooth sailing, either. That Anthony had a son, a dead wife, a reputation and a whole lot of baggage as well as a real, valid need for a new wife, that the Queen had encouraged. On the flip side, Sebastian has nothing – no baggage, no scandals, no rumours haunting him, except those about his dead father.
I loved Miriam for her teasing and the constant support she offered Sebastian, especially when she warned him from getting to close at the beginning, for his own good. In fact, all the women were so brilliantly written that it was refreshing. Bronwyn was feisty and brutal with her handling of Sebastian and Anthony's relationship, while Claire was strangely business-minded one minute and then emotionally supportive and caring the next. I loved all three equally. Then add in Matthew's care, attention and his friendship with Sebastian, and Edward's friendship with Anthony and the supporting cast were just as important and significant as the main characters.
Throughout the story, I loved that Sebastian's first thoughts were about how to save Anthony from scandal, if they were ever found out. But I also loved that he had his head screwed on straight and he was always aware of the risk, even when Anthony forgot or didn't care. I did worry that Lady Eleanor might be vindictive enough to discover their secret and let it slip (and still might), but I also loved their very smart decision to get Bronwyn involved and legitimise the act.
The only issue was the small editing problem of missing or extra words and a single instance of Anthony being called by a surname other than Crofton, which was a little confusing.
Overall, it was an incredibly fun, exciting read with some real moments that had me in tears and some moments that made me worry for Sebastian's head. I was constantly intrigued to see how each twist would play out and am still intrigued as to how it will continue. I loved the jealousy, the realism of the emotions, the chemistry between the characters and how much it hurt me when Sebastian hurt. The inclusion of historically accurate material – the nice slip of The Globe and Shakespeare helping Sebastian learn his lines – all served to make the story more real and relatable. The brief slips Sebastian made from familiarity were brilliantly handled, as were his reactions to Anthony's first apology reunion, which was gut-wrenching. There was so much to love about it that it just had me on a constant emotional rollercoaster.
I marked so many that I could only whittle it down to four.
““Gift? Who would give us money to marry Bronwyn? I was convinced we'd be stuck with her, since there's no money left from my father's estate for her dowry.”
“Lord Crofton has been most generous.”
“That is because he has not met Bronwyn, or he would've sewn shut his purse.””
““I should not press you.”
Sebastian couldn't remember the last time his heart had beaten so fast, but with Anthony's hand on his face and the warm, spicy scent that came from the other man, his heart pounded.
“Maybe I want to be pressed.””
“Anthony had no made a declaration of Love. But Sebastian thought rather sadly that it would be the closet to it that he would ever get from Anthony Crofton.”
““There is only so much a man can overlook before he either turns blind or goes mad.””