on July 10th 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Published by Avon Impulse
Once beloved by London's fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.
Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and destroy a scandalously revealing painting of her, he agrees. Sam would do anything to protect those he loves, even if it means stealing from a wealthy gentleman. But when he encounters Hartley, he soon finds himself wanting to steal more than just a painting from the lovely, lonely man—he wants to steal his heart.
Content Warning from Author: This book includes a main character who was sexually abused in the past; abuse happens off page but is alluded to.
It is not strictly necessary to read the first book in this series to understand this book but it helps to gain understanding of the family background. Hartley is the oldest brother. He tried to make a prosperous life for his brothers by attaching himself to a rich man who was interested in him. At the time Hartley was a teenager and the relationship was abusive. At the beginning of the book, he has inherited his abuser’s house in London. Relatives of the abuser let details of the relationship out and Hartley is now shunned in society. He is living in a house where most of the servants have left because of the scandal. He is dealing with the psychological aftermath of an abusive relationship.
I love Cat Sebastian’s writing. Her plots are original and include people and situations that aren’t often seen in traditional historical romances. Sam is a black man who formerly was a boxer. He is trying to make a living running a pub but he is being harassed by a policeman who is convinced that there are illegal boxing matches in the bar. His brother wants to marry a woman but she is stalling. She tells Sam that she once posed for a naked painting for a rich man. She doesn’t feel right marrying a respectable man when that painting is still out there somewhere. Sam decides to track down the painting to steal and destroy it. The trail leads him to Hartley’s house because it was painted for his abuser.
This book highlights found family. Hartley assembles a rag tag staff of people from London’s underworld who have nowhere else to go. His valet is a former male prostitute. The valet brings home a cook/maid who was thrown out of her house for being pregnant. Slowly he realizes that piecing his life back together doesn’t mean that it has to look the same as it did before. He looks to rebuild his ability to trust and love that was severely damaged in his previous relationship. He needs to deal with the anger he has about being forced to prostitute himself for his family, who are uncomfortable with him now because of it.
I love all the characters in this story. The author does a wonderful job of making them each well-drawn, three dimensional people. No one is just a side character there to advance the plot. I’m looking forward to the next installment of this series.