I’ve been looking forward to this book since I finished the first one by Cat Sebastian, The Soldier’s Scoundrel, which I reviewed here earlier. This book is about Georgie Turner, the younger brother to Jack Turner in the first book. Georgie is a thief, born and bred on the streets of London. He has no misconception of what he is and where his desires lay. His only code of conduct is not to take advantage of anyone who is naive and that is what gets him in trouble with the crime lord that takes half of his profits. This results in Georgie needing to get out of London until things calm down.
The perfect opportunity presents itself then, as Lord Radnor requires a secretary on his estate in Cornwall. To be precise, he doesn’t really want to hire a secretary, but his vicar realizes Radnor needs someone to step in and help out. Lawrence Brown, Earl of Radnor, prefers the company of his dog over humans, and fears that he is going to succumb to the same madness that killed his father and brother. He is also attracted to men, and believes that is part of the madness. He didn’t want the title, and spends all of his time working on scientific experiments, leaving the manor to crumble around him in decay. As a result, the local folks believe that he truly is insane and should be locked up.
When Georgie arrives, he’s taken aback at the disrepair of Penkellis Castle and the apparent lack of any servants. His first encounter with Lawrence is less than encouraging, as Lawrence hurls a book at his head in an effort to scare Georgie off. Of course, Georgie has faced much worse on the streets of London, and he decides to stay on for awhile anyway, and see if there isn’t something he can steal to make the trip worthwhile (he is still a thief after all). He’s also attracted to Lawrence, who is big and brawny, dressed in buckskin rather than broadcloth, and rather unkempt in a sinful sort of way. He begins to work on straightening out Lawrence’s paperwork, despite the earl’s continued resistance to Georgie’s presence. After awhile, their working relationship settles into a pattern and Georgie starts to find he is truly interested in Lawrence’s experiments. He also begins to see that Lawrence isn’t going mad, he is just unable to handle change in routine and is prone to what we would call panic attacks.
Lawrence begins to enjoy having Georgie around, and he is finding that the attraction between them is getting more difficult to ignore. Georgie gets under his defenses, slowly making changes in the household so that Lawrence can still function and at the same time proving that their mutual attraction isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the sexual chemistry is hot and sensual between them, surprising both of them.
Just as they are accepting this life together, Georgie discovers a letter advising that Lawrence’s son would like to come for the Christmas break from school. It turns out that Lawrence’s short marriage was in part due to his attempt to be with a woman, and the woman was already pregnant. She in turn disappeared after the child was born, leaving her son in care of other family members after she passes away. Now Simon will be arriving at Penkellis, and Georgie is determined that the place will be somewhat habitable by then. In turn, Lawrence has to accept the noise and bother of fixing the place up.
There is another side plot going on, along with Simon’s reprobate uncle also arriving at the estate, the same man who prompted the vicar to look into Lawrence’s mental state. Georgie makes a decision that will turn out badly and Lawrence needs to conquer some of his fears in order to help him. In some ways, this reminded me of a Beauty and the Beast tale; but all in all it’s a grand story that tells us how love can transcend our preconceptions. Georgie and Lawrence accept each other for what they are, not trying to change the other one, but being happy together and making a life together, unconventional as it may be. Cat Sebastian has done an excellent job of writing this book, and I look forward to the next one.