Band Sinister by KJ Charles

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Band Sinister is a Regency-era m/m romance novel by KJ Charles. I received an ARC of this book, and before I launch into my review, I want to share how excited and grateful I am for the opportunity. For Charles’ last two books, I stumbled upon the submission form for review copies too late. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was able to submit a request for Band Sinister.

Guy and Amanda Frisby live in bucolic mediocrity, and while they aren’t necessarily happy with their forced seclusion, they endure it because that’s the way things need to be.

As the story begins, Amanda has just written a gothic novel based on their neighbor Sir Philip Rookwood and his friends. Amanda breaks her leg in an accident, and is taken to Rookwood Hall to recover. Guy is obligated to join her in order to maintain a sense of propriety; no decent woman will serve as chaperone because of the rumors surrounding Sir Philip and his friends. They are certainly an eclectic bunch, but they are kind to the Frisbys.

Guy realizes that Rookwood Hall is not the wretched hive of scum and villainy that he was led to believe. There’s clearly a connection between Guy and Philip, but Guy has never allowed himself to even acknowledge such feelings, let alone act upon them. Philip is much more (so much more) experienced, but he’s gentle and patient with Guy, who proves to be equally adept and curious. Guy is so shy that he can’t even say what he wants in English- he reverts to Latin. And if that’s not the sweetest most precious thing in the entire world, I don’t know what is.

In many books, conflict stems from a Big Misunderstanding that could have been resolved with a frank conversation. Conflict in Band Sinister does not fall victim to this pitfall; it’s much more realistic, and it’s heartbreaking to contemplate the weight of obligation versus doing what the heart wants.

I loved everything about Band Sinister. I took two classes about gothic novels in college, so I appreciated the inclusion of a gothic novel as a plot point. I’d like to think that Charles named the Frisbys after the family of mice in the children’s modern classic Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It would be so delightfully perfect.

Speaking of delightfully perfect, I’m grateful for the lessons in some of the salacious lines from Latin literature.

On a more serious note, despite the frequent doses of levity, this book presents some serious points on family bonds, friendship, love, redemption, consent, and trust.

I would absolutely recommend Band Sinister to fans of m/m historical fiction. This is absolutely my favorite KJ Charles book. I received my copy at the end of August, and I’ve read the book at least 3-4 times since then. I plan to buy my own copy of this book, and if an audiobook is produced, I’ll buy that too. I can’t wait to read Charles’ next book, but in the meantime, I will content myself with another readthrough of Band Sinister.

 

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Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

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Carols and Chaos is a young adult historical fiction novel written by Cindy Anstey. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I have enjoyed her three previous books.

Carols and Chaos serves as a companion to Suitors and Sabotage, but each of the two books offers a very different perspective. Both books are set during the Regency era and both have young adults as their protagonists, but Suitors features members of the gentility whereas the two protagonists in Carols are servants. Upper servants, yes, but servants nonetheless.

Kate Darby has established herself as a lady’s maid. This is not to be a permanent occupation- Kate intends to open up her own dress shop one day when she has saved up enough money. The young ladies she assists are amiable, but her job is not always easy because her mother (who lives nearby) asks for help and doesn’t understand that Kate’s focus needs to be on her duties at the manor house. Kate also does not need to be distracted by the handsome Matt Harlow, who serves as valet to the Steeple brothers, who have come to stay at the house for the Yuletide season. Read more

Last Night With the Earl by Kelly Bowen

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Last Night With the Earl is the second book in Kelly Bowen’s The Devils of Dover series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I enjoyed A Duke in the Night, which was the first book in the series.

Rose’s sister was Clara was the heroine of A Duke in the Night. Rose is happy for her sister, but she is perfectly happy to remain at Haverhall School, giving art lessons to young ladies and taking on commissions for personal portraits. However, her plans for a predictable future change when a man from her past quite literally tumbles into the house.

Eli Dawes has not been seen for years, and is presumed to have died during the Battle of Waterloo. He has been hiding on the Continent for a number of years, but his father’s death compels him to return and reluctantly claim the title he has inherited. Read more

A Sinner Without a Saint by Bliss Bennet

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A Sinner Without a Saint is the fourth book in Bliss Bennet’s The Penningtons series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was not familiar with Bennet before this, but as soon as I saw that this entry featured a m/m pairing, I was intrigued.

Benedict Pennington might be the younger son of a peer, but he is also a talented artist who harbors strong opinions about art. He believes that art museums should be accessible to everyone, and not even the wealthy people who can afford private collections.

Viscount Dulcie is the heir to his father’s earldom, and he has spent most of his life courting scandal. Dulcie and Benedict were at school today, and the latter had a bit of a crush on the former. They have not encountered each other since then, but when they are forced into close proximity, they realize that their feelings have not dissipated over the years. Read more

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey

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Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is a picture book written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Juliet Sarda. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I wanted to share it with my girls. They always enjoy the books I receive, and their feedback is useful in helping me write my reviews.

This is a children’s biography about Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote Frankenstein. Because this is a picture book rather than a chapter book, there is a limited amount of space in which to convey a great deal of information. Mary’s childhood is briefly covered; most notably, that she hid behind the sofa to listen to Coleridge recite the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Much of the book covers her relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley and the circumstances that led to her inspiration for writing Frankenstein. The prose is quite evocative, and one can quite easily picture spending rainy days in a castle with two of England’s most famous poets. The book ends with the enduring legacy of the Frankenstein story.   Read more

Another Place in Time by Anthology

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Another Place in Time is a collection of m/m historical romance short stories. I was already excited as soon as I heard about it in one of my Facebook reading groups, but when I saw that the collection included something I borrowed from my library network and had yet to add to my personal library, I was even more confident with my purchase. Read more

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

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A Gentleman Never Keeps Score is the second book in Cat Sebastian’s Seducing the Sedgwicks series of Regency-era m/m historical romance novels. Sebastian is one of my favorite authors, so I preordered this book as soon as it appeared on Amazon.

Readers were introduced to Hartley Sedgwick in the first book in this series, It Takes Two to Tumble. Allusions were made to his situation, and now we get a clearer picture. Hartley inherited a house and funds from his godfather. This is hardly unique, except his benefactor favored Hartley over a biological son. This prompts the son to share with all of proper Society exactly what Hartley did to earn such a bountiful inheritance. Hartley has been shunned from the very people who once delighted in his company. Read more

Wagering for Miss Blake by Callie Hutton

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Wagering for Miss Blake was written by Callie Hutton, and is the fourth book in her Lords & Ladies in Love series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I haven’t read any of Hutton’s other books, but I am always excited to discover new authors.

Giles is instantly smitten the moment he meets Suzanna, but she informs him that he can’t marry him because she can only consider men with titles. Giles, the third son of an earl, is so smitten that he isn’t particularly offended by this rather mercenary declaration, and he soon discovers that this is her parents’ rule, not necessarily what she wants. Giles, ever the optimist, bets Suzanna that he can make her fall in love with him.

Suzanna feels torn between her feelings and her parents’ wishes. Giles is the first man she has ever felt a connection with, but she knows how important it is to her parents that marry a man with a title. She tries to avoid him, but he is rather persistent in his attempt to persuade her to change her mind about him.

I found myself feeling sorry for Suzanna. It’s clear that her mother is overbearing, and the ironic part is that Suzanna’s father is not titled, so that makes her mother somewhat hypocritical for insisting that Suzanna rule out any non-titled suitors. Giles, for what it’s worth, is a very patient soul. He knows that he can reveal information that would necessitate a marriage, but he chooses to win his wager fairly.

There is, a Big Misunderstanding to create conflict, but it could have been solved quite easily with a simple conversation. I thought the way in which Suzanna handled the resolution was unfair, considering that she created the problem in the first place.

I would recommend Wagering for Miss Blake. This story was cute enough, and it’s fairly light in tone. There is plenty of cute banter, and Giles is a sweetheart. I’m looking forward to reading more of Hutton’s books in the future.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.

One for the Rogue by Manda Collins

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One for the Rogue is the fourth book in Manda Collins’ Regency-era Studies in Scandal series. I have read the other three books in the series, and so I was definitely excited to read this one. Collins dropped some hints about this pairing in the last book, so it made waiting for this book very difficult!

Gemma is the last unmarried young lady living in Beauchamp House, and she is perfectly happy with that arrangement. She is not interested in finding a husband, and she would much rather devote her time to her passion- geology and fossils. She has tangled with Lord Cameron Lisle once already, so she is not particularly thrilled when he takes up residence in a neighboring manor house. But since Gemma’s sister is married to Cam’s brother, there is no reason that the two of them can’t come to some sort of understanding. Read more

It’s All About the Duke by Amelia Grey

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It’s All About The Duke is the third book in Amelia Grey’s The Rakes of St. James series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I enjoyed reading the second book in this series, so I was looking forward to finding out what was going to happen next.

The Duke of Rathburne, or Rath, as he prefers to be called, finds himself in possession of a young ward who needs to make her debut in Society. Rath is acting out of a sense of duty and responsibility; this jaded rake certainly isn’t going to do anything foolish like fall in love with the girl. Read more