Okay, so even if this is the first book of hers that hasn’t made me drool with unbridled enthusiasm, I still really enjoyed it, and it’s clear to me that Cat Sebastian is going to continue to publish books that I will enjoy reading. I think maybe I was just expecting a lot more from this than it was capable of giving? I don’t know. It’s also the first non M/M book of hers I read, but I don’t think that’s why I didn’t enjoy this one as much.
So, the book. The first half of our couple is Robert Selby, nee Charity Church, a former maid who has been living as a man for the past six years. The real Robert Selby was the son of her employer, and when he decided Cambridge wasn’t for him, he decided Charity should go in his place and pretend to be him. Charity thought this an excellent idea as well, especially when it turned out she liked acting and dressing as a man much better than she ever liked doing so as a woman. (The book isn’t explicit on how Charity/Robert would identify today, but it’s pretty clear by the end that non-binary is the appropriate term, which is confirmed in the author’s notes at the end of the book.) Only when the real Robert Selby died, Charity kept on being him. For many reasons, really, but mostly because his estate was entailed, and that means his sister Louisa will be left out in the cold. Charity/Robert is determined to see her married before giving up the fraudulent identity of Robert Selby.
And the second half would be the man with the largest stick up his bum, Alistair, the Marquess of Pembroke. Well, actually that’s not true. He’s just very sensitive about propriety and money because his father ran their estate into the ground, and as Alistair sees it, flaunted his mistresses and illegitimate children around as if it were nothing. He is determined to be proper and responsible, and bring respectability back to the De Lacey name. If he really had a large stick up his bum, he wouldn’t fall so hard for Robert/Charity/Robin, Robin being the name the former Charity Church starts to go by after meeting Alistair. Alistair has known for some time his liking for both men and women, and can’t help but be attracted to young Mr. Selby. For obvious sexy reasons, Robin can’t keep her secret for long.
I think what I’ve determined is the flaw for me in this book is that Sebastian skips the best part of the romance, which for me is all the interactions and things where they actually do the falling in love. She nails the initial attraction and flirtation between the two of them, but then sort of skims over the meat of the actual friendship/relationship building, so the next thing we know, they’re ready to do it and stuff, and I’m like, WAIT! I want more of that other thing! I know she had to make room for the angst and the coming to terms with things, but dangit, I know she can do it all because she’s done it in literally every other book I’ve read from her.
There is some angst here, but surprisingly the book does have a very HEA. Not entirely sure how historically accurate it is, but frankly, don’t really care. It’s nice to think it could have happened this way, even if it couldn’t.
Now eagerly awaiting her next book being published in July.
[3.5 stars, rounding up]