This was my first historical male/male romance. It’s full of sharp dialogue, fancy clothes, and powerful gentlemen, and I mostly enjoyed it. The author is new to me, and I’d definitely read her again.
Harry’s father had noble blood, but he married a peasant woman and was disowned when he began inciting the poor of London to riots. Harry was raised in exile in France, hating the nobility. When his parents died, he returned to London, to the seditious rabble-rousing bookstore that he knew as a child. He’s then found by a family lawyer. It turns out that his uncle has died, and Evil Grandfather would rather reform Harry into a proper heir than let the estate pass to an unworthy relative.
Evil Grandfather assigns the reformation task to Harry’s cousin Richard, who passes it on to Julius, who “was of medium height… and made of moonlight.” Julius is a dandy in the fashionable sense of the word. He cares for nothing other than his appearance and fine horses. I never knew the importance of buttons, or waistcoat fabric, until Julius lectured Harry about it.
Julius’s instructions to Harry are delicious bits of wisdom: “‘You are permitted to speak. I may even, on occasion, require your opinion. You need not fear being wrong. I shall tell you if you are wrong.’” “‘You may be on whatever terms of intimacy with your valet that you choose. My man attends to my appearance with a pride only equaled by his lack of interest in my well-being.’” And, “‘If you speak of your past, in society, you will make the people around you uncomfortable, and they will make themselves comfortable again at your expense by means of mockery and contempt.’”
There is a plot, and there are high stakes. Harry must pass as a proper gentleman, without arousing suspicion about his treasonous past. He must embrace the aristocracy, even when it opposes his moral compass. Evil Grandfather also expects him to marry quickly, to really ensure the bloodline. Meanwhile, Harry and Julius are getting it on. They discuss that it’s only until Harry gets engaged, because Harry has a duty to Evil Grandfather and he doesn’t want to cheat on his future wife, and Julius is made of ice and can’t be emotionally involved.
Poor Harry is caught in the middle. He really hates Evil Grandfather, and he hates how the newspapers lie about riots, and he hates the aristocratic dismissal of the lives of others. But he puts up with it because he also really hates being poor and living on the streets. Without embracing the lie, he’ll be homeless at best, thrown in prison or hung at worst.
The external plot takes up most of the book, which is probably great for some people. There was a lot of mystery and suspense. But I came for the romance. Julius is slow to warm up to Harry. He has reasons for being so cold (hint: The War), and it’s hard for him to admit that he could be worthy of love. I enjoyed his character so much that I wanted more joy and happiness for him. There is a happy ending, as happy as two gay men in the 1820s can have. It’s just almost overshadowed by other characters near the end.
So. If you like a little more politics in your historicals, with an extra dash of forbidden love, you should give this a try.
Click to purchase: Amazon
A Fashionable Indulgence
by KJ Charles
Release Date: August 11, 2015