08 February 2017

The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian

Summary from Goodreads:
An earl hiding from his future . . .

Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.

A swindler haunted by his past . . .

Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.

Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives?

Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember.

We first met Georgie in his brother Jack's book, The Soldier's Scoundrel.  Georgie's line of business is particularly shady, given that he's a confidence trickster.  It can also be deadly when you get cold feet during a deal and back out.  Sympathy for a mark is never tolerated.  Conveniently, Jack's partner Oliver has a way to get Georgie out of London while the criminal gang cools off: there's a "mad" Earl out in Cornwall who needs a secretary (and the local vicar a spy to determine whether the Earl is truly mad).

Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, doesn't particularly dispute the "mad" appellation.  He might well be.  He hates to be disturbed by anyone, develops anxiety out in public, and prefers to hole up in his study inventing a method of long-distance communication.  Besides which, both his father and his brother were definitely not sane, so it's only a matter of time before he also loses his grip.  He doesn't need a secretary hanging around, getting into his business, and looking so sinfully handsome.  Georgie is quick, efficient, fastidious (the result of a squalid childhood in the slums), and proves himself to be a help to Lawrence in his inventing.  He's also stubborn and reciprocates Lawrence's desire for pleasure and companionship.  But Georgie is living a lie and it's only a matter of time before his past catches up with him.

The Lawrence Browne Affair is a sweet romance, but I didn't love it quite as much as The Soldier's Scoundrel. Georgie is a very aloof character, even in his own book, so he still feels an enigma to some extent. Because of that, at times the story felt less like a romance and more like "Lawrence found a handler he couldn't frighten away." It's a minor quibble.  I did appreciate that Lawrence's "madness" was not perfectly defined; it comes across as either extreme social anxiety or somewhere on the spectrum but since things like the DSM-V didn't exist Sebastian tried to stay within contemporary descriptions. There were several interesting turns to the plot I liked.  There are some interesting incidents with superstitious Cornish villagers and a surprise character pops up. Plus, we get to see Oliver and Jack in their home, which was so lovely. This is a good second novel and I am intrigued by the character Sebastian has decided to follow in the next book (spoiler: it won't be Jack and Georgie's sister, Sarah, nuts).

The Lawrence Browne Affair is out now in e-book and will be available in mass market paperback on March 21.

Dear FTC: I got a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.  And then I bought a copy.

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