Gentle romp through Regency life

The Return of the EarlThe Return of the Earl by Sandra Schwab

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s a few things expected when reading a historical romance, especially a Regency one, and for the most part, this one has those.

However, in the first few opening parts of this story the author gets the name wrong of one of Britain’s finest, and most well known, Neo-Classical Georgian architects, Robert Adam when she erroneously gives him an extra S. It’s a minor point for sure but one that should have been spotted in editing and proofing.

Putting that aside though, this is a gentle little romp through country life as a reluctant Earl, still smarting over a perceived slight some 13 years earlier.

Characters were nicely developed though, again, a little bit repetitive in the phrasing when referencing Bryn’s heterochromia and with Bryn calling Con “my Con” all the time. Little bit more variety would have worked well here.

The steam levels are fairly low but the slow burn pays off in the final quarter of the story and the epilogue is lovely and in keeping with the historical setting.

#ARC kindly provided by the publishers via NetGalley in return for an unbiased and honest review.

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Definitely full of pleasure

The Art of Mutual PleasureThe Art of Mutual Pleasure by K.A. Merikan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All ends up brilliantly fulfilled. And that’s just what shy, naive Benjamin gets when he sets off on his journey to enlightenment.

This is a very clever book, in that it looks at the Regency period when quacks peddling all kinds of ludicrous cures prayed on the folks of London and fleeced them of their hard earned coins.

It’s also a highly erotic book, looking at one specific medical theorem which held that men only had so much semen in their bodies and spilling it by masturbating would weaken it.

After witnessing a teenage moment between two schoolboys while a boarder, Benjamin sets off down the road of self-pleasure but he’s bedevilled with guilt and believes himself to be getting weaker each time he spills his seed.

At times its painful to read as his incredibly naivety puts him into dodgy situations and as he struggles with his feelings as he gets ever more debauched while still retaining his child like innocence.

Frederick was a gem and he’s been keeping an eye out on Benjamin since the two men met up a decade or so after that incident at school. Once they got together things got even hotter and more erotic than they had been but they also brought a bundle of true emotions with them.

These two know how to write sex scenes that reach combustible levels and this story is no exception. Enjoy it, but keep a fan handy to cool yourself down because it’s volcanic.

#ARC kindly provided by the authors in return for an unbiased review.

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Regency spy romp with an Indian setting is enjoyable but nothing new

The Secret of the India Orchid (Proper Romance)The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a decent Regency tale spiced up with a bit of a spy mystery and set in the British Empire out in India, which added colour and flavour to the narrative.

Unfortunately, I’d spotted the villain as soon as he first appeared on the page but that didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story and the way the plot followed through was well done and didn’t drag endlessly on.

The romance element of the book was also well crafted, with both Sophia and Anthony appearing as properly fleshed out characters. There has been, I believe, one book before this one with the same setting and characters but concerning Sophia’s brother Jack and his romance, which I hadn’t read but it didn’t interfere with my understanding of the relationships in this book.
There was a little exposition at the start and then the story set off on its own journey without a lot more and was allowed to show itself without needless telling.

I liked Sophia, she’s a slight variant on the usual Regency heroine but her personality was rounded and her actions believable. Anthony was more on the lines of the Napoleonic spy – an earl masquerading as a rake and wastrel – and, again, his actions felt true.

Overall I enjoyed this book but it’s nothing I’ve not read before within this genre so it didn’t stand out as being new or a novel concept.

#ARC received from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Utterly compelling end to this Regency series

A Gentleman's Position (Society of Gentlemen, #3)A Gentleman’s Position by K.J. Charles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Richard, you and your sense of position and fear of abusing your power, you beautiful idiot. And David, brilliantly clever David, what a pair you made.

This book stunningly brings to a close Charles’ Society of Gentlemen stories with a pairing which is both utterly compelling and also extremely frustrating as society position and hide-bound adherence to the rules of the Ton keep two men so obviously perfect for each other apart.

There’s not as much overt politics on this one, it’s much closer in tone to a traditional Regency romance with the hero fighting to overcome obstacles in his way and learning a few painful home truths along the way.

There’s also more of a sense of adventuring in this one as the Ricardians must rely once more on David’s impressive talents to keep their secrets and see off once and for all an enemy of the group.

There were odd bits which I didn’t think worked quite as well as the previous novels when Charles used actual political events to twist her plot around. Richard’s trip to the wilds of Yorkshire to visit his estranged mother seemed simply to be a vehicle through which he and David could be alone enough to ‘have a moment’ rather than a necessary journey.

However, that’s the only real niggle in what is another wonderfully realised glimpse into a period of history which saw huge political unrest and change in Britain.

Oh and a final thought, Charles brilliantly places people of colour and a ftm transgender character right into the heart of this world with narry a second thought. Their skin colour and sexual identities are referred to only in passing and only as part of a deeper exploration of the incredibly dangerous line this group of men were following simply because they loved within their own gender.
I think sometimes it pays us well as a society to see how far things have changed and why they still need to go further and why we should never stop fighting for people to be allowed to love.

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Superb follow up to the first in this Regency series

A Seditious Affair (Society of Gentlemen, #2)A Seditious Affair by K.J. Charles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find myself lacking the necessary words to properly articulate just how much I loved this book. I’ve read many a Regency romance which uses the Cato Street incident as a plot point but never one which so skilfully weaves it into the narrative for an unconventional relationship between two men at opposite ends of both social and political spectrums.

That Charles also manages to make this a story of BDSM is really tantamount to her talents in writing this period of British history. Her phrasing, the use of time period correct dialogue and the objects which would have been available in the early 19th century, all work to add authenticity to her crafting of two truly individual men.

Dominic is driven, a Tory and a firm believer in the work he does at the Home Office, he’s also repressed, struggling with desires he’s been told are degenerate on top of the fact he is an ‘unnatural’ man and he’s still hurting from the knowledge his former lover couldn’t cope with those desires more than a decade earlier.

Silas, on the other hand, is as radical as they come, having already faced one flogging and a four month gaol sentence in his youth. He’s angry and agitating against the Government from his bookshop in Ludgate, while attending once a week at a select brothel where he puts his rages to better use helping an unnamed man.

They’ve talked and debated and burnt up the sheets for more than 12 months when they discover each other’s identities during a Home Office raid on Silas’ shop. Feelings on both sides are painfully bruised and Silas gives Dom a black eye to show for it.

Charles then takes them through a turbulent politically motivated dance of desires and wants, made harder by Dom’s duty and Silas’ pride.

Sex is incredible, the feelings these two men have for each other jump from the page in a tumult of emotions, despair, eroticism, brutal force and tortured submission. Dom needs to give in to Silas and sometimes he needs not to and to have his will taken from him instead. Silas knows his lover intimately, never pushing too far but taking Dom to the point at which he can surrender without guilt.

These two are an amazing pair and their relationship is carefully built and developed under the backdrop of the said Cato Street plot. When lives are put at risk, those around the two men must find a way to put personal feelings aside and Dom and Silas must find compromise without the cost of their love.

This truly is a bodice ripper, just without the bodice and a whole load of fancy coats instead. Regency romance at its absolute best.

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A triumphant trip through Regency England

A Fashionable Indulgence (Society of Gentlemen, #1)A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Regency period is my favourite historical setting and while this romance skirts much of the ‘traditional’ tropes found within a MF story, it does still include the might and power of the Ton, the rules and strict conventions which kept everyone in their place and touches on the beginnings of both political and industrial revolution which came from the North and inflamed the capital.

Harry is a wonderful character, fully torn between two worlds, noble born but cast aside due to his parents’ actions, brought back into the fold by a grandfather who must have an heir.
But Julius, he is a true Regency hero, both rake and reluctant participant in the trial of society, hurting from a personal loss more deep than most and unwilling to lower his guard.

These books are strangely erotic given that most of the action, outside of oral sex, happens in an aside, off page or in a fade to black. KJ Charles does well to convey the language of early 19th century lovemaking.

The Regency was a time of great change for Britain, and this is also well developed in the setting, with the French Revolution and Bonaparte’s rampage through Europe only a few short years before providing a critical backdrop to everything happening in London at that time.

The Peterloo Massacre was a tragedy, that the unarmed attendees at the speech calling for political representation were so brutally attacked and then made to be the originators of events is a shame that will always stain our history. Charles handles it with sensitivity and with dignity as one of the primary plot points in this story.

Ultimately, it is a tale of love, love at a time when men could literally die from it, from loving the wrong person. I look forward to seeing where else the series goes.

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Racy Regency seduction in this novella

The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh (Society of Gentlemen, #0.5)The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first KJ Charles Regency and , while it’s short, it perfectly captures the essence of the period and the rakish men who inhabited that wonderfully decadent period in British history.

Ash and Francis were a delightful introduction to this world, a young wastrel caught out by an older man who’d suffered at the hands of his bullying older brother. They came together in a tease of passion and I’d love to read more of this pairing.

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