20 September 2016
The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian
A scoundrel who lives in the shadows
Jack Turner grew up in the darkness of London's slums, born into a life of crime and willing to do anything to keep his belly full and his siblings safe. Now he uses the tricks and schemes of the underworld to help those who need the kind of assistance only a scoundrel can provide. His distrust of the nobility runs deep and his services do not extend to the gorgeous high-born soldier who personifies everything Jack will never be.
A soldier untarnished by vice
After the chaos of war, Oliver Rivington craves the safe predictability of a gentleman's life-one that doesn't include sparring with a ne'er-do-well who flouts the law at every turn. But Jack tempts Oliver like no other man has before. Soon his yearning for the unapologetic criminal is only matched by Jack's pleasure in watching his genteel polish crumble every time they're together.
Two men only meant for each other
A few months ago I saw a random tweet that Avon Romance had signed a new author of m/m (male/male) historical romance. I was immediately interested. LGBTQ+ romance is a big blind spot for me. I'm not exactly sure why (aside from me not deliberately seeking out non-hetero pairings in my romance) but I need to remedy that. The Soldier's Scoundrel got to be the first true m/m romance in my reading life (i.e. the first full-length novel where the HEA between the men was the plot focus, as opposed to erotica short stories or the non-hetero pairing between side characters or something).
Cat Sebastian has given us Jack Turner (an ex-thief/servant turned sort-of-private-eye/fixer) and Oliver Rivington (wounded, earnest, aristocratic ex-military man). Recently sold-out of the army, Rivington turns up at Turner's place of business demanding to know why his sister paid Jack for his services (Jack generally doesn't advertise his...specialty). Jack, for his part, doesn't feel the need to justify himself, or betray a client, to a privileged, far too-handsome for his own good toff.
Of course, they are instantly attracted to each other. Oliver, like a puppy with a bone, keeps after Jack until he learns the nature of Jack's business and then he offers to help. But Jack doesn't need Oliver's help (or distraction). Or does he?
Jack and Oliver are pretty adorable together, particularly Oliver. As described, I kept thinking of them as Aidan Turner from Poldark as Jack (dark-haired, sardonic) and Tom Hiddleston back when he was still blonde and appearing as a very young cop in Wallander (earnest, cheerful) - actually, I quite like this casting choice, this pleases me. There's a little hint of a "Sherlock and Watson" relationship during the investigation of the Wrexhall matter which sends them off on a trip into the countryside. The male-male relationship presents an interesting shift in the power dynamic of a historical. Without the historical gender differences, Sebastian used class differences as a way to build tension (there is a little bit of worry about homophobia in society, but this appears much less of an issue than the son of an earl having a close companion from the servant class).
This isn't a perfect 5-star book. There are some leaps in the plot that feel a little rough. I had hoped that Sebastian would push the examination of class a little more, particularly since the only real objection to Oliver's acquaintance with Jack comes from Oliver's father and the tone of his one scene is very hard to tease out - class-based objection vs. objection to homosexuality. But on the whole this is a delightful romance to read and I'm very glad to see that Jack's brother Georgie (who is a very interesting character) is up next in the series.
Dear FTC: I received a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss and then I purchased a copy for my Nook.