My wife and I have a tradition during the holidays of treating ourselves to a really nice Christmas gift. For me that has always been an especially pricey book purchase, the sort of thing I wouldn't feel comfortable getting under most circumstances. This year it was starting to look as though the fourteen volumes of Carr's "History of Soviet Russia" was going to be my big gift, and I even contacted a seller who had a set for sale for a relatively reasonable price.
Then while scouting a book to read about the battle of Kursk I came across Christopher A. Lawrence's book. The thing practically screams "indulgence" to me: it's a nearly 1700-page tome about the single largest land battle in human history. It would be an ideal holiday gift too, were it not for the fact that I already had one in mind.
Hence my dilemma: do I get Carr's series or Lawrence's book? Normally I would resolve it by checking out a copy of Lawrence's book through ILL to see if it is something I want to own, but there are almost no U.S. libraries in the system with copies, and those that do don't seem the lending type. So I'm stuck making a decision sight unseen, which are the sort of book-buying decisions I most hate to make.
An earl hiding from his future . . .
Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.
A swindler haunted by his past . . .
Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.
Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives?
Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember.
So much to adore about this frothy historical romance between a genius Earl and a con man.
I loved Georgie in the first book in this series and was thrilled to see him get the hero treatment here.
Laurence is my favorite kind of hero- gruffy, grumpy genius.
What I loved about this book is that the character growth and the falling love happens because these heroes slow down and really reflect on themselves and then they fall in love and lust.
We have a crumbling estate, a dog, a child, bumps in the night, experiments of all kinds but also a really fine discussion of mental health and its intersection with homosexuality (or not really), cruelty, genetics depression, anxiety.
And then Georgie's dire poverty and his criminal and ethical choices are just as interestedly engaged. The need for him to make a home of Lawerence child could have been more carefully explored but that is really a quibble.
The secondary cast (especially the dog who is pretty much a service animal without the name) is well drawn.
Georgie and Lawerence have a vibrant love story here. A treasure.
This was even better than the first. I loved Lawrence, and Georgie is surprisingly more likable than I found him in the first book. Not that I found him unlikable. He was just sort of there.
So what happens when a career conman has to hide away from his old gang and is sent off to a remote country estate that's depilated from years of neglect and is home of an eccentric, mad earl? Well, you get Belle poking around the Beast's castle, of course. ;) I seriously wouldn't have been surprised if the candlesticks started talking to Georgie in that scene. :D
This is the farthest thing from Beauty & the Beast though. Radner suffers what we today would call social anxiety, something I'm very familiar with. Georgie had an unprecedented whim to let a mark off the hook and actually do something nice for a change, and now much find a way to make amends with the grifter boss or face the consequences. He initially considers Radner an easy mark, but of course that all changes.
There's even a bit of a mystery involved with Radner's staff, and why exactly rumors of Radner's implausible mad acts are floating over the countryside. Radner himself is recluse and a scientist, obsessed with trying to get his telegraph machine to work and has little care for anything or anyone else.
I really enjoyed seeing how these two brought out the best in each other and accepted each other for what they were. There were no big misunderstandings or drama llamas here. The story unfolded authentically and while the MCs may learn to let go some of their own self-imposed preconceptions about themselves, they're still the same at their core, and this is what drives the story more than anything else.
Gary Furlong agains does a marvelous job with the story. He brings the characters and scenes to life with his voice, and it's just such a pleasant voice to listen to. I even slowed down the playback speed a little so I could listen to him longer. :D
I still love this series, and this universe. I'm crush that it's all going to be imploded, or exploded, or... well, it's going away. But I'm especially crushed by this issue.
They're all what now? My heart may not be able to take this to the end because of all the feels. I'm afraid I'll wallow and get spoiler-y, so that's that.