Author ~ K.J. Charles
Publisher ~ Penguin
Published ~ 11th August 2015
Genre ~ Historical M/M Romance
In the first novel of an explosive new series from K. J. Charles, a young gentleman and his elegant mentor fight for love in a world of wealth, power, and manipulation.
When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a Radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.
After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.
A new release from an autobuy author is always good news. That the new release is the first part of a three book series is just excellent.
Fashionable Indulgence is the first novel of the Society of Gentlemen series from K J Charles, a series following a group of friends with a story arc that continues over all three books while each volume concentrates on the development of one relationship. For those of us who like the whole story, the tale begins in The Ruin of Gabriel Ashley, initially released as part of the anthology Another Place in Time but also released as a short story.
This is historical fiction of the finest kind. It is set in the Regency period and so often the term Regency is applied to a particular set of props – tight pantaloons, highly polished hessians, high waisted frocks, marking ladies’s dance cards at opulent balls – with a focus solely on the relationship of the protagonists. It’s easy to forget that the term actually refers to the short but tense period between 1810 and 1820, when the country was enduring a horrible and protracted war, the King was too sick to reign so the country had no choice but to appoint his bloated pleasure-loving and ineffectual son as Regent to reign in his stead. England was at war with France until 1815 and after that, the uppercrust settled down to do some serious partying while the politically aware ground their teeth in fury at the injustice of the widespread poverty and social disruption.
Young Harry Vane’s parents always seemed to be one hop ahead of the law. Radical political agitators dedicated to the cause of democracy they were constantly on the run, and Harry had a price on his head by age twelve, guilty by association. Orphaned at 17 he was cared for by their radical friends, men and women who believed that the only thing to do with a broken society is to knock it all down and build it up along more egalitarian lines. Harry sort of agrees, but then he sort of wants a nice warm home, plenty to eat, and not to have to spend quite so much time avoiding arrest. While he might be on the books as a threat to the nation, Harry is the least fire-breathing of radicals so Harry is as delighted as his mentor Silas is gobsmacked when Harry is summoned to meet his ailing grandparent who intends to make him heir to a great fortune.
“I hate politics. I never want to hear about politics again. I want to be a gentleman-“
“Then do as I tell you.”
Enter the Ricardians, a group of discreetly gay gentlemen of the wealthier sort who support each other under the protective wing of Harry’s cousin Lord Richard Vane. Harry must not be allowed to embarrass the family so Lord Richard calls in an expert – Julius Norreys, perhaps the second most beautifully dressed man in London [the first is Richard but for that Cyprian the valet takes the credit. Julius is all Julius’s own work] but he definitely the foremost for manners, address and deportment.
Julius takes on the project with poor grace but finds himself warming to Harry, just as Harry finds he has a deep need to please Julius in every way. Both would like more but both are properly wary and Julius is very well aware of the responsibilities of being in a master-pupil relationship.
Will young Harry be able to shrug off his old political leanings, will he be able to take a wife, will he make a fool of himself amongst the sly wits of the ton, will he keep his hands to himself? Will Julius allow the steely veneer he assumed after the heartbreak of Waterloo to crack and show the sweet man within? Also – oh joy – who wants who dead?
This isn’t light fare. It’s a long book and has a lot of excellent ideas in it. There’s a fabulous cast of secondary characters, some of who will be examined more closely in subsequent books. I adore Lord Richard, gruff Silas the radical bookseller, foxy Cyprian, the delightful Verona. Quotable passages abound:
“If you can’t be happy, then be something else. Be useful, that would be good. Decorative, if you like. Selfish, if you must. But don’t whine about it.”
“He was wearing his new gray satin waistcoat, after all. If he fired his shot on it, the stain would never come out.”
All in all, as the start of a new series, this book is an absolute joy.