The Will Darling books mean that I will read almost anything by KJ Charles for a while. This, however, which was hotly awaited and eagerly devoured didn’t quite do it for me, although I think it would do it for other people! If I had to put a pithy point to it, it reminded me a bit of The Queer Principles of Kit Webb in that there were way too many plots and characters and side quests and backstories all over the place, to the point where it felt like we were being set up for a larger universe (even though as per Charles it’s meant to be a duology) (but if the second book is anything like the follow up to TQPoKW, The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, I’ll forgive this book any manner of quibbles).
As has become somewhat commonplace in novels of this specific subgenre—historical fripperies but make it class conscious—we have a common man character who has grown up outside the lap of luxury who, quite suddenly, becomes Sir FancyPants and must head to the Family Estate to Put Things to Rights and figure out what to do with all that filthy, likely ill-got family lucre. There, he runs into a familiar but unwelcome-ish face…that of a one-off paramour, who coincidentally happens to be put upon boss of a local smuggling ring. Since this is class conscious romance, the smuggling is ethical and the baronetcy is a sign of hereditary aristocracy gone amuck (for the avoidance of doubt, no qualms with that depiction here).
What follows is a series of mostly chronistic misadventures punctuated with some slight anachronisms because we’re not in Romancelandia for realism, if we wanted that we’d live out our normal lives. Like I said at the outset, there was a bit too much plot for me to get fully invested in the main characters…but I understand that romances divorced (heh) of a larger social network tend to feel a bit claustrophobic as well. There are examples that handle it with more aplomb, maybe? I will pick up the second in this sequel gladly, and will re-read Will Darling at some point when I need it.