No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017/09: Wanted, a Gentleman -- K.J. Charles

I make my money from hopes and dreams laid bare, and those are too important, too revealing, to be treated with anything except scorn." [loc. 716]

A Heyeresque romance, with two main differences: both of the leads are male, and one is black.

Martin St Vincent is a freed slave, now a successful businessman. His former owners have asked him to help with a delicate matter: the daughter of the house, Miss Jennifer Conroy, has apparently eloped with a man who had been sending her secret messages via a 'lonely hearts' periodical, the Marriage Advertiser. Martin has always been fond of Jennifer, and despite his anger at the imbalance of power between the Conroys and himself, he agrees to help.

His investigation leads him to Theo Swann, proprietor of the Marriage Advertiser, who is burdened by a debt incurred when he was young and foolish. (He is now older.) Theo agrees to help Martin, for a fee. But can he be trusted? And will Jennifer and her mysterious beau make it to Gretna Green before Martin and Theo can catch them?

This is a delightful Regency romance with, as usual from KJ Charles, plenty of social conscience to set against the inherently frivolous conventions of the genre. Theo is a shady characters with a number of intriguing secrets: Martin has done his best to rise above the injustices of his station, but feels that he must conceal the deep-rooted anger that drives him to help others. As the two get to know one another -- and discuss romantic novels, which play a key role in the plot -- it becomes apparent that, though neither is a typical Regency gentleman, both have elements of the heroic.

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