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ARC Review: The Servant and the Gentleman by Annabelle Greene

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Summary:

A surly gentleman and his overworked clerk fake a relationship in this swoonworthy Regency romance from Annabelle Greene.

William Hartley’s wealth and social standing often make up for his short temper, but they can’t cure his claustrophobia. He’d lost hope of finding help for it, until meeting Josiah Balfour. In a moment of panic, Josiah’s presence is a balm to his senses, leaving Hartley calm for the first time in months.

Josiah Balfour knows his place—and it’s not in the bed of a gentleman. As the administrator for the Society of Beasts, he’s responsible for the club’s well-being. When a threat to the Society emerges from an unexpected quarter, it falls to Josiah to deal with it. But Hartley is willing to help, even if it involves posing as a couple to infiltrate a rival club.

Josiah needs Hartley’s prestige to help him save the Society, while Hartley simply needs Josiah. Their relationship might be a sham, but the desire between them is all too real. Stuck in close quarters with everything they love on the line, they discover that everything might just include each other. 

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this thoughtful and romantic story. The fake dating across class boundaries was fun, and Josiah helping Hartley fend off his PTSD was well done. There were so many sweet moments as the two of them fell for one another (while pretending they hadn’t because it was impossible), as well as the perfect amount of wry humor.

The writing was lovely and the heavier topics (class boundaries, protecting those accused of loving other men, money and power, PTSD from a traumatic event) deftly and thoughtfully handled. There were a few more sex scenes than I usually like, but I was enjoying the story so much I didn’t mind skimming them.

My favorite thing about it is the way Hartley and Josiah relate to one another and push one another to be better. Hartley is a bit of a Darcy – he doesn’t really see anyone he considers ‘lower’ than himself and Josiah pushes him to open his eyes to all that he’s been ignoring. Watching Hartley slowly work to change was very satisfying. Hartley in turn pushes Josiah to have more confidence in himself.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Carina Press for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

…Josiah joined him, lying down beside him, his face so full of long-suppressed emotion that it could have been a poem.

ARC Review: Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall

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Publishing Date: January 25, 2022

Synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Boyfriend Material comes a delightfully witty romance featuring a reserved duke who’s betrothed to one twin and hopelessly enamoured of the other.

Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally.

It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.

Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.

Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was absolutely a delight and I LOVED it. I knew after reading Boyfriend Material that this was going to be good, especially since it’s a queer regency and I love queer regencies. But it surpassed my every expectation.

Was it over the top? Yes. Was it absolutely hilarious? Also yes. I highlighted no less than 58 passages as I was reading. Was it also surprisingly sweet? Also yes.

Valentine was exceedingly grumpy and tended toward the opposite of introspection, though he did eventually realize that he was demisexual and also gay. Bonny did not delude himself as to his sexuality but tended rather strongly toward the dramatic. Really he and his sister made quite the pair and were rather a trial for staid, determinedly practical Valentine.

Having nearly all the side characters be queer made this over-the-top story even more delightful, and made for plenty of comical ‘of course they are’ moments of realization for Valentine. I am here for unapologetically queer regency romance characters. Really there aren’t enough of them.

Do you like Regency romance? Do you like queer romance? If yes, then do yourself a favor and read this. You’ll thank me, once the hysterical laughter has subsided and you can breathe again. In case you need further enticement, Alexis Hall has described it as “Dude, Where’s My Curricle,” which is both hilarious and accurate.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Montlake for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

“You need to go away this instant and put your head in a bucket of water.”

Tarleton did not, in fact, go away that instant and put his head in a bucket of water.


Thankfully, Valentine had slept where he had fallen and still in his clothes– thus sparing them both an intimacy they were not prepared for.


He positively pitied the poor woman who was going to have to spend her life with the lightning storm of wayward impulses given human form that was Bonaventure Tarleton.


“What is happening, please? I did not invite an assessment of my kneeling.”


Not to be outdone by physical expressions of dismay, Tarleton flung both his hands in the air, like a diminutive Prometheus defying the gods.


Having apparently taken his fill of the bitter draft that was Valentine, he cast himself upon a nearby chair and flung an arm across his face. “What is wrong with you?”

This felt unwarranted. And somewhat hypocritical, coming from a man who clearly had many, many things wrong with him.


There was a long silence. They Tarleton stood up, but only in order that he might further misuse the furniture by violently reoccupying it.


“I’m hoping a madcap chase across the country will bring you together.”

“It is doing literally the opposite.”


Growling with all the gravitas of a lapdog, Tarleton tugged again at Valentine’s coat. “I may be but little, but I am fierce.”


Oh God, what did that mean? And why was Valentine suddenly too warm and too… looked at? Even though Tarleton wasn’t actually looking at him.


“Well,” returned Tarleton, with a noticeable lack of gratitude, “thank you for destroying my dreams.”

“I was under the impression I was saving you from an unpleasant reading experience.”


Behind him came the chaotic rustling of a chaotic person getting dressed chaotically.


“A Stable? Anything? Tarleton, we could die.”

“This is England. If people died of rain, there’d be nobody left.”


“Of course it will hold me. I’m tied to a chair. You’ve tied a duke to a chair. I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.”


Valentine’s eyes were beginning to ache from the demands of expressing so much scepticism.


Silence descended like the guillotine.


Peggy shrugged. “Hero. Heroine. In an ideal world, one would be both.”


While Valentine was a duke and, therefore, did not whine, he was nevertheless aware that his tone was not as unwhineful as it could have been.


For someone with all the poise and patience of a sparkler, Bonny was moving with astonishing care.


“No,” said Valentine slowly, and with a vague sense of dread that perhaps he was going to be peculiar even by the standards of people who were peculiar. “I have never felt that sort of inclination towards anyone, man or woman.”


Bonny just sparkled enigmatically. “Follow me.”

“That’s not an explanation,” Valentine pointed out. “That’s a direction.”


And for a little while, he was nothing but horizon.


“It is now the nineteenth century, and we respect women and treat them as equals in areas not pertaining to politics, property, warfare, finances, or the law.”


Things had gone astray. That much had been obvious for quite some time. But Valentine was starting to realise that astray was not so much a binary state as a spectrum of disaster upon which they had not yet ceased progressing.


A huge yawn attacked Valentine out of nowhere.


“For someone who reads as much as you do, your sense of the heroic is oddly banal.”

“Sometimes the truest heroism is.”