Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Lawrence Brown Affair by Cat Sebastian

Title: The Lawrence Browne Affair
Author: Cat Sebastian
Cover artist: N/A
Buy at Amazon
Genre: Historical
Length: 335 pages

An earl hiding from his future . . .

Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.

A swindler haunted by his past . . .

Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.

Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives?

Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember.

***

Oh, two such opposite men attracting! And both, in their way, fish out of water. And it works, it absolutely works.

Lawrence, who is most frequently addressed as Radnor (I have to believe this is correct), suffers from a terrible family history: he wasn’t the son raised to be an earl, most of his immediate family were either crazy or just horrible people, and he suffers from what seems to be debilitating anxiety. Mental health knowledge of the time being of the “chain them to the wall and squirt cold water at them” level, Lawrence treats himself as best he can by minimizing contact with the outside world. He’s enjoying the relative quiet of very few servants left, and if the family seat is crumbling around him, the quiet is worth it. He's constantly afraid that he'll tip over the edge and be lost to sanity forever. If ever someone needed a Xanax, it's Lawrence.

He’s a brilliant man though, and kind in a rough way, to the point where he does have friends who care enough about him to keep the grasping relatives away. Being known as completely mad and in control of great wealth brings the vultures, and the trick is to get Lawrence to agree to things that are in his best interest.

A completely honest secretary would be a good start. Which isn’t Georgie. He’s a con man on the run, and the great house of Penkellis with its mad scientist in residence looks like a great way to evade the crime boss he’s running from. Full of goodies, that house is, all ready for him to pad his pockets with, and he didn’t count on growing fond of the lord of the manor.

A conscience is a terrible thing to have in this case, and watching Georgie twist in the wind while debating what to do to save his own skin and still not damage the man who’s captured his heart is sweet reading. Some of his decisions look quite weird – did he really think [that] was going to work? But his heart is in the right place, meaning lost to Lawrence, and he does want to do the right thing, if he could figure out what it is in this dangerous muddle.

These two pick at each other, prod at each other, and gradually fall in love. Neither one has had an outside voice of reason in far too long, and Georgie is able to wield some influence over Lawrence in the matter of a small son, an accidental house party where we get to meet more characters that will star in future books (loved them too!) and finally in becoming a little more involved in the world. Both men see the themselves and each other in the lenses of their own experiences, and readers get to watch them unfold to new ways of thinking, and to puzzle out mysteries large and small. (Okay, I was cheering "Work it, Lawrence!" in one place.)

The history feels really right, and the author doesn’t wish away the realities of the time. People did get hung for sodomy, and that is treated as a real danger, not mentioned and ignored. Even with the restrictions of the times (Regency, Napoleon gets mentioned) they manage to turn the conventions in their favor by the end, and a few of the unconventional things as well.

I enjoyed this book so much that when I went to write a review, I ended up rereading the entire story again. 5 marbles.

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