Published: April 2016 by Loveswept
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Society of Gentlemen #3
Genres: Historical romance, LGBTQIA
Available: Publisher (electronic only) ~ Amazon ~ Kobo
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This review contains spoilers for previous books.
Among his eccentric though strictly principled group of friends, Lord Richard Vane is the confidant on whom everyone depends for advice, moral rectitude, and discreet assistance. Yet when Richard has a problem, he turns to his valet, a fixer of unparalleled genius–and the object of Richard’s deepest desires. If there is one rule a gentleman must follow, it is never to dally with servants. But when David is close enough to touch, the rules of class collide with the basest sort of animal instinct: overpowering lust.
For David Cyprian, burglary and blackmail are as much in a day’s work as bootblacking–anything for the man he’s devoted to. But the one thing he wants for himself is the one thing Richard refuses to give: his heart. With the tension between them growing to be unbearable, David’s seemingly incorruptible master has left him no choice. Putting his finely honed skills of seduction and manipulation to good use, he will convince Richard to forget all about his well-meaning objections and give in to sweet, sinful temptation.
KJ Charles has hit it out of the park with her new historical romance series Society of Gentlemen. The series wraps up in A Gentleman’s Position and I therefore wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point. By the time this book gets underway, both characters have an important history behind them that has an impact on this story.
This is particularly the case for Richard, who is the lynchpin of the eponymous society for gay men of social standing. The series is set in London in 1819-1820, a time in which homosexuality was still a crime. Each member of the society is aware of the risk they run should their activities be discovered. As the man with the highest social standing and the person who has brought them all together, Richard acts as the moral arbiter of the group. This prevents the group from drawing unwanted attention to themselves and allows Richard to maintain his moral high ground in a society that deems his sexual preferences as perversion. As a consequence, Richard comes across as unreasonably rigid at times and his decrees have hurt friends and family members in previous books. Readers of previous books may have a hard time finding him sympathetic, though I think Charles has done an excellent job of redeeming him.
David is Richard’s valet and fixer. He excels at manipulation and takes care of all Richard’s dirty tasks (both literally and metaphorically), making him a pragmatic foil to Richard’s moralism. David’s ruthlessness could quite easily have made him appear cold, but his devotion to Richard and his excellent people skills give him a likeability. This is reinforced by the scenes with his family.
The whole series has been about power dynamics and A Gentleman’s Position is certainly no exception. Richard is very conscious of how his position might force David to say to agree to a relationship he doesn’t truthfully desire. And even once it is plain that it is something David wants, Richard still can’t agree because he knows that there may come a time when David no longer wants it but becomes trapped there by their difference in station. In this way, although Richard is conscious of his privilege, it continues to blind him into taking away David’s choice and agency.
I liked how the story came to show how even though Richard appears to have everything–wealth, position, a close cabal of friends–David is much more fortunate in a number of ways: through his loving family, his cunning mind, work he loves and is good at, the fact he is at the pinnacle of his profession as the most sought after valet in London. On the surface it appears Richard has all the power, but David quite clearly has his own strength. Richard struggles to see things from perspectives other than his own, whereas this is something at which David excels.
The tension between them is breathtaking and Charles does a fantastic job of portraying their longing for each other. I also very much enjoyed the friendship between David and Silas. Although they have known of each other for some time, they’ve only been acquainted for a short while. Nevertheless, their relationship is warm and sincere, providing a much-needed sanctuary for them both.
Once again, KJ Charles has proved why she’s one of my favourite authors. I would highly recommend the series.