Monday 22 July 2019

#CBR11 Book 46: "The Lawrence Browne Affair" by Cat Sebastian

Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

#CBR11 Bingo: Science! One of the protagonists is a scientist and his scientific experiments plays an important part throughout the story.

Official book description:
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.

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.

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.

Georgie Turner is the younger brother of Jack Turner from The Soldier's Scoundrel. He needs to get out of London in a hurry, as his underworld employer is none too pleased that he grew a conscience and refused to swindle the little old lady that was his mark. Jack's partner Oliver has recently received a letter from a concerned acquaintance, the vicar in the village near where the Earl of Radnor lives. There are concerns about the Earl's mental state, and the vicar would like it proven that the Earl is in fact not insane, like his father and brother were rumoured to be. The Earl has already scared away several secretaries and most of his household staff, so thanks to Jack and Oliver, Georgie knows there's a place in the Cornish countryside where he can hide out. As he arrives at the Earl's manor, which seems to have been left to fall into total ruin, he notes that he can always steal a number of valuables if he suddenly has to leave in a hurry.

Lawrence Browne, the current Earl of Radnor, just wants to be left in peace. He currently has only one maid and a housekeeper, and have them trained to leave his simple food on a tray outside his door. He knows he's likely to fall victim to the family madness sooner or later, but would prefer it if he manages to complete his latest invention before he goes stark raving mad. When his most recent secretary arrives, a very pretty man who doesn't behave anything like any of Lawrence's former secretaries, he's pretty sure he can scare the man off quickly enough with his wild temper, the state of the house and the sheer impossibility of getting his papers and affairs in order.

Of course, Georgie can't leave, unless he risk life and limb, so a temperamental nobleman is easy enough to deal with. While he may not have the education or qualifications a gentleman would have, he is intelligent, fastidious and very organised and simply cannot stand the mess that his new employer surrounds himself with. Besides, if he sorts through all the paperwork and tidies up the place, he might be able to ignore the obvious attraction between them.

Lawrence is not mad, but he does suffer from pretty crippling anxiety. Georgie figures this out pretty quickly and helps him find ways of coping. Working as a con man for most of his adult life has taught Georgie a little bit about a good many things, and it doesn't take him long to realise that the Earl of Radnor not only isn't insane, but he's really quite the unappreciated genius, who could be making a fortune of his brilliant inventions. Why Radnor has scared nearly all the serving staff and is letting his house literally crumble to pieces around him is more of a mystery.

Much of the book focuses on the interaction between Georgie and Lawrence, but there are a few other supporting characters who make the story more interesting as well. While there is instant attraction between the two men, they are also wary of each other and Lawrence has come to believe that his forbidden attraction to his own sex is one of the signs of his impending madness. It takes a while for him to get over his fears and what society has taught him about the evils of homosexuality, but in the meantime, he and Georgie can get to know each other better in other ways.

I think I liked this book even more than I did The Soldier's Scoundrel and I can see why Cat Sebastian has become so popular in romance reading circles so quickly. From what I can see, two of the supporting characters from this book will be the romantic pairing in the third novel, and I can't wait to see how that works out, as they seem about as unlikely a pairing as any I've seen.

Judging a book by its cover: While it's always nice to see two dudes on a historical romance cover (not something that happened until recently), the two guys on this cover look absolutely nothing like what either of our heroes within the pages of the book are described. At least this is a better cover than the one for The Soldier's Scoundrel. These two men at least look comfortable in each other's presence.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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