Having read and enjoyed MJ Pearson's previous historical m/m, The Price of Temptation, I was eager to read some more of her books. Discreet Young GentHaving read and enjoyed MJ Pearson's previous historical m/m, The Price of Temptation, I was eager to read some more of her books. Discreet Young Gentleman has the same fluid prose and attention to detail as TPOT, but its tone is much darker.
The book begins with our hero Dean, the Earl of Carwick, returning from seeing his tenants. He is looking forward to his wedding to the daughter of the local magistrate, which, for reasons we discover later, is necessary as Meredith brings much money to the union. The coach is held up by a rather inept highwayman who Dean easily overcomes and takes to his prospective father-in-law to be brought to justice. However, it is discovered that the man, Rob, isn't a highwayman, but a male prostitute. The magistrate is appalled that Dean has been in a closed carriage with a male whore and calls off the engagement to his daughter. In desperation, Dean persuades Rob to travel to Bath with him, where his fiancee is currently 'taking the waters' to see if he can get Minerva to talk to her Father and claim it was all a misunderstanding.
The journey to Bath makes up the bulk of this novel and in the spirit of all 'road movies' the pair find themselves sidetracked by many situations - some of their own making, some not - which stretches their journey from 4 days to more than a week. During that time, Dean and Rob slowly get to know each other and Dean comes to realisation that his attraction to the other man is not something that can be repressed. I liked the format of the book, just as I like any book which takes us on a journey. By necessity both men are within close quarters during the journey and that too allowed me to get to know Rob and Dean better. I liked the way that Dean, at first, is eager to get to Bath, but once he learns of Rob's love of ghost stories is happy to stop here, there and everywhere in search of a good 'ghost sighting' place. Along the way, the reader too gets to find out a bit about the history of various establishments in Worcestershire, the Cotswolds and onto Bath. It was all very interesting and added to the historical accuracy of the book.
In terms of characters, we only really get to know three very well. Dean and Rob, obviously, but there is a sub-plot involving Dean's coachman, Erich, which I enjoyed just as much as the main story. Both Dean and Rob have parts of themselves with which they are unhappy - although in the case of Rob, this is not the fact that he's a whore. I liked how both men were so similar in their journey through life and the point at which this is made known explicitly, was quite a poignant part of the book. Out of the two characters I liked Rob better. He has a determined cheerfulness about him as well as a gentleness and vulnerability which made him appealing. Dean is the third person narrator, and it's possibly this which makes him the less sympathetic character as we see all his disgust and jealousy over Rob's profession. On a number of occasions he is downright insulting to Rob - flinging his profession in his face and calling him names - and I did wonder why Rob put up with that with such equanimity, especially as he is nothing but supportive and caring towards Dean.
Despite Dean's attitude to Rob, the growing feelings that he has for him was handled well. This is no 'straight to gay' story, more a tale of a man who is in desperate denial. It takes the whole journey for Dean to come to the realisation that he is gay and yet he is determined to get married. There is a sense of quiet hopelessness as Dean realises that knowing Rob, knowing what he can never have, will colour the rest of his life and I felt quite sad for Dean and Rob at that point. It was beautifully done.
Other characters do flit in and out of the book as the heroes make their way to Bath. I especially liked the scene in the all male house party hosted by Dean's friends, the time spent with Dean's uncle and also how even the most minor character, such as innkeepers and barmaids were characters in their own right.
Overall, this was an unexpected read. I had thought from the blurb that I would be treated to a rollicking journey in the tradition of a comedy or farce. In fact I got much better than that: A strong character based book following two men who yearn for one another but have many obstacles in the way and a theme involving how your looks or abilities at birth can affect you for the rest of your life. I enjoyed Discreet Young Gentleman very much and would recommend it to those who like Regency historicals or character based romance....more
Why I bought the book: I bought it after reading Torrid by this author (which I reviewed here) and it's been on my TBR pile for two years, believe itWhy I bought the book: I bought it after reading Torrid by this author (which I reviewed here) and it's been on my TBR pile for two years, believe it or not.
Plot: This is one of Morgan Hawke's Yaoi inspired books. The story is based on the Kitsune myths. Rusty is a costume designer who manages a costume shop. When a gorgeous looking man, Shiro, comes in to collect a costume he flirts shamelessly with Rusty and is very interested in Rusty's black fox mask which Rusty carved when he was a teenager. When Shiro tells Rusty that he's been looking for him for some time and that he has a fox mask just like Rusty's, Rusty is thrown into a confusing world where nothing is as it seems and where he is has no choice but to to submit to a man.
The story itself is a typical Yaoi. The strong and attractive Shiro confuses Rusty who isn't gay, but feels mesmerised and intimidated by Shiro's assertion that they are meant to be together. The Kitsune myth is successfully integrated into the story and there was a nice blend of the modern with the fantastical. The part where Rusty makes his transformation was handled in a way that was amusing but also showed how baffled Rusty is at what is happening to him. I especially liked the way he had difficulty in controlling his ears and tail. There were, however, a few plot holes which irked me by the end. For example, Rusty leaves his old life behind seemingly without regret. There were also a few things introduced into the story which are never properly explained, such as Rusty's power to control the weather or the reason why he bleeds from a wound in his neck when he needs feeding.
Characters: I liked Rusty a great deal as a character and thought him rather sweet and noble. His confusion is endearing and I was interested to see how things worked out for him in the story. Unfortunately I didn't like Shiro who was far too smug and self-satisfied. Like many Yaoi stories, Shiro as the Seme delighted in taking the upper hand but the inequality irked me a little and I just didn't feel any romantic spark between the characters. Shiro almost drugs Rusty with his sexual advances making him unable to form a coherent thought; he uses sexual bondage and manipulation to get what he wants; and whilst all the sex is consensual, Shiro is totally in control and almost blackmails Rusty into bottoming for him. What did work was the way the two men clash in a battle of wills and some of my favourite parts were those where Rusty is refusing to back down from Shiro or finds a way to circumvent the sexual manipulation. This just made me like Rusty more for standing up for himself.
Overall: The parts of this story which worked best for me were those which used humour to lighten the situation and where Rusty fights for his independence from Shiro. I also liked the background to the story where we learn how Rusty has come to be as he is, and also some of the ways he has learned to survive. The rest of the story still worked and made sense, but my dislike of Shiro as a character rather clouded my feelings towards their HEA. The story was still worth reading though and those who like Yaoi inspired stories should give this one a go. ...more
Liked the clean lines in this and the lack of background guff. It made the posture and facial expressions stand out more and therefore gave more emotiLiked the clean lines in this and the lack of background guff. It made the posture and facial expressions stand out more and therefore gave more emotion to the story. Also liked that each character was distinctive in looks and personality, unlike some Yaoi I've read where some of the characters are so featurely similar it's difficult to work our who is who.
The story was simple but very romantic and contained enough drama amongst the romance to add a realism to the story.
Looking forward to book two which looks to be a bit steamier in content....more