Janell: This is the third in a historical m/m series. I read the first one and enjoyed it. I did not read the second book because, after seeing the characters set up and knowing that their relationship leaned toward BDSM, I figured it wasn’t for me. This book picks up after the events of the second, and I didn’t feel lost at all. You might have trouble keeping all the characters straight if you started with this book, but you could get by.
Jen: When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was the third story in a trilogy. But even if I did, I might have picked it up anyway, because it features one of my very favorite tropes: a historical where one person is much lower than the other in social station. Here, the romance is doubly forbidden, because it involves a m/m pairing in the 1800s –and because it involves a lord and his valet. Yum.
Janell: Okay. This story rules. The end.
Lord Richard Vane, second son of a marquess, is the anchor for all of his friends. He is impeccable, he follows all the rules, and he solves all of their problems. Well, actually, he has his valet Cyprian solve a lot of those problems. We learned of Cyprian’s skills previously: he’s the best valet in London, and all of Richard’s friends want to hire him.
Jen: Cyprian is a valet, but he’s really been so much more. He’s a fixer; whatever goes awry in Richard’s life, Cyprian quietly corrects. He has become completely indispensable. And he has become the object of his master’s desire. It’s a pull that goes both ways, but until now, neither man has acknowledged the attraction. Cyprian could never make a move on someone so high above him; and Richard would never force his attentions on what could be an unwilling servant.
Janell: For four years, Cyprian has been in Richard’s bedroom every morning and night, dressing him, undressing him, being ever so proper. If Richard said one word, Cyprian would act. But Cyprian is terrified to make a move, because he couldn’t bear it if Richard said no.
Events force Cyprian and Richard to confront their attraction early on. Richard, moral paragon that he is, refuses to sleep with a servant.
“If my touch becomes repellent to you, if you have needs that I cannot meet, or I have wants that you find abhorrent, yet I pay your salary, what will you do? What when I lose my temper with you, and you may not hit back?”
His argument makes sense, but it’s so sad and frustrating for Cyprian, who doesn’t care. After being rejected too many times, Cyprian finally realizes that he needs to look out for himself, and he leaves.
I’m going to take a detour here to mention Cyprian’s hair — it’s bright red. Richard digs it so much that he orders him to powder it white every day so he won’t be tempted to touch it. I loved that small plot thread. Cyprian thinks his hair is abhorrent to Richard, and he apologizes when it’s not powdered. Richard finally admits how much he loves it, and Cyprian can hardly believe it until Richard tells him over and over. So sweet.
There is so much longing in this story. But there’s also some comic relief: upon hearing about Richard’s interest in a valet, his friend says, “We all know you set your requirements for a lover impossibly high; I am amazed you deign to f*** below a baronetcy.”
Conversely, when Richard fantasizes about being just “plain Mr. Vane,” Cyprian responds: “My dear sir. The great Cyprian does not condescend to valet a mere mister.”
The character journeys are perfect. Richard has to stop making decisions for Cyprian and assuming that he knows best. Cyprian has to stand up for himself. They have to call each other by their first names. By the end, Cyprian is once again doing illegal things to solve problems, and Richard is cheering him on, and they are madly in love and they respect each other. Happy sigh.
Jen: So here’s the thing: I really liked parts of the book. The sexual tension is fantastic and the payoff is very satisfying. I also liked the class issue and the nature of a gay man’s struggle in such a dangerous time. But I really felt the lack from not having read the previous books. It didn’t interfere with the romance in any way. But the broader plot… the extended character list… the history… yeah, I felt it. I also Hated (with a capital H) the way Richard called Cyprian “Mr. Fox.” There is nothing sexy about that whatsoever.
I felt like there were times the story dragged a little, especially at the beginning. And I felt like there were times Cyprian was too hard on Richard for saying the wrong things for the right reasons.
That being said, I did enjoy the book. It was sexy and I believed in the relationship between the two heroes. But I feel like I would have liked it much more had I read the two books that came before it.
Jen’s Rating: B
Janell’s Rating: A
*ARC provided by publisher
Click to purchase: Amazon
A Gentleman’s Position
by KJ Charles
Release Date: April 5, 2016