Review: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

Reviewed by Caitlin

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score is the second installment of Cat Sebastian’s “Seducing the Sedgwicks” series. Sebastian has been an autobuy for me since I read The Soldier’s Scoundrel (book 1 of “The Turner Series”), but this book is far and away my favorite since that series.

It’s 1817. Hartley Sedgwick is a 23-year-old gentleman and a social outcast. He inherited a house in Mayfair from his godfather, Sir Humphrey Easterbrook, with whom he carried on a sexual affair. Hartley has told himself he did it to get his brother Will a commission in the Navy and to make sure his other brothers had food on the table because the truth – that he was too young to make such a choice and was taken advantage of by someone who was supposed to care for him – makes him feel even weaker. At least this way, he was an active participant, rather than a victim.

Somehow, about two months prior, the news broke about why, exactly, Easterbrook left Sedgwick the house, and Hartley went from being a friendly enough acquaintance to a social outcast. He assumes Martin Easterbrook, his godfather’s son who inherited nothing but his father’s debts on his passing, was behind it, but Will disagrees. After all, Martin has to live with the shame his father left behind. The gossip ruins him as well.

Easterbrook’s depravity was truly varied, and he enjoyed commissioning dirty pictures of otherwise-respectable people – the daughter of a shopkeeper, for example, or a midwife – for his own personal use. One of these portraits is of a black midwife named Kate. Kate is so worried the portrait might leak one day that she refuses to marry the man she loves, Nick, because she doesn’t want him shamed by it. Nick doesn’t care, but as long as that portrait is out there, she refuses to budge.

Kate explains all this to Sam, her friend and the owner of the pub The Bell, who promises to get it back for her. He watches the house and decides to break in on the day all the servants are out. Hartley catches him breaking in and Sam assumes he’s lost and naive and some servant propositioning him – he must not know his way around. When Sam realizes that Easterbrook is dead and Hartley is the new man of the house, the two decide to work together to find the portraits and destroy them. For Sam, it will allow his friend Kate and his brother Nick to marry. For Hartley, he’ll finally have revenge.

Look, I know Sam likes men, but I fell in love with him and I fell hard. He’s an ex-boxer turned pub-owner who enjoys giving the free black population of London a place to feel at home, eat, and meet others who can help them find work. He’s funny and loyal and caring. When he and Hartley confront their attraction to each other, but Sam realizes Hartley is afraid to be touched (thanks a whole bunch for that trauma, Easterbrook), Sam allows Hartley to move at his own pace and be in charge of the encounter all the way through. After all, Sam is much bigger than Hartley is.

Oh god, anyone who still thinks the concept of enthusiastic concept isn’t sexy needs to read this book. Sam constantly checking in with Hartley and making sure Hartley feels comfortable is not only adorable, it’s straight-up hot. Sam’s body is like most romantic heroes – he’s enormous, built like a fighter, completely made of muscle, and unnecessarily tall – and to have a man like that use his strength FOR Hartley rather than AGAINST Hartley (as Hartley puts it) is the sexiest goddamn thing.

Hartley is a fascinating character, too, as he struggles with his demons and overcoming the trauma of an abusive relationship while dealing with constant shunning that he feels he has earned. Sam is kind, caring, and understanding, but he isn’t the only one bringing Hartley out of his funk. Hart’s valet Alf is adorable and hilarious, and the cook Alf finds – Sadie, a genteel 18-year-old who was raped, impregnated, and kicked out of her family’s home – takes to her change in station without even a hint of a fuss (also, I am very much shipping Alf and Sadie).

This is a beautiful book, the perfect antidote to some horrendous garbage going on in our world right now.

Rating: A

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score
by Cat Sebastian
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Avon Impulse

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