Andrew Cardwell is a man driven by duty to his country and to his family. After the death of his uncle, he's determined to provide security and stability for his family as the new Viscount Cardwell—even if that means marrying and producing an heir. Surprising himself, Andrew decides to sponsor a young artist named Jeremy for the season, to help him find a patron. What he doesn’t anticipate is how well Jeremy fits in his bed…and his life.
Jeremy Leighton knows what it’s like to be a disappointment. The only son of a vicar, he's refused to follow the path his father set for him, choosing his passion for art, instead. He accepts Andrew's proposal, hoping to prove to his father—and himself—that he can succeed as an artist. After spending time with Andrew in and out of bed, Jeremy struggles not to fall for the damaged viscount, knowing the season will likely end in Andrew's engagement.
Between a meddling cousin, a widow on the hunt for a new husband, and their own doubts about the relationship, how can Andrew and Jeremy shed the expectations of others to find true happiness?
I hate to do this to a new author but this was largely a miss for me. However, I tend to be a bit of stickler when it comes to historicals especially Regency historicals.
What I like best about this period, oddly enough, is the repression. Layer upon layer of clothing kept people as tightly bound as society's mandates on public behaviors which is the playground for spectacular tension building. That tension is compounded when you have two men as the protagonists because they quite literally could be hanged for sodomy. All those secret stolen moments, longing looks in the barouche and furtive touching in the gardens are what draws me to this period over and over again.
Pearce boldly subverted this conventional theme by having her protagonists take risks, skip the courting and have sex almost immediately. They fall in instalove which is, admittedly, a fresh take on the era but I found myself longing for the traditional.
Jeremy is the vicar's son who's a ginger and Andrew has recently become Lord Cardwell. The class difference theme is another that I enjoy but, again, not much was done with it. It was more in name only rather than showing ideological differences which could've enriched these characters as well as the story.
The middling parts of the story were on the dull side but I didn't hate them. There seemed to be an effort made to recapture some tension with Andrew's inability to emote due to his past which was believable from a PTSD standpoint, though it didn't endear him to me. Also, the pacing was sluggish throughout this part with little attention paid to character development and more focus on dramatics and sex.
Another thing I like about this era is the language, more specifically the double talk; people rarely spoke their mind and there was an extensive amount of manuvering particularly where the ton was involved. There was none of that here. The language often isn't consistent with the time period, at times it comes across stilted, forced and American. There was absolutely no finesse to these character's actions. No one is creative or possesses a cunning or progressive thought.
The conflict with Stanhope was the straw that broke my camel's back. I don't mind OTT antics and even slightly caricaturish bad guys but I wanted Jeremy to outwit him, beat him at his own game. He didn't but he and Andrew did get an HEA of sorts within the constraints of the time period. The thing is, though, I never invested in their coupletry.
I liked Jeremy slightly more than Andrew but neither sparkle. Attempts were made to convince me that he's a positive influence on Andrew and challenges him in ways too intimidating for others to attempt, but I was never convinced of this.
I know I just essentially tore this book apart but I do see promise in the writing and bear in mind this is one person's opinion and that person can be nitpicky when it comes to this genre. Pearce did do a good job of building their relationship, the sex is sexy enough and I did like the secondary characters which could lead me to try another book in this series.
I would recommend this to those who like historicals with a more contemporary feel.
A review copy was provided.
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