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Regency Imposters #1

Unmasked by the Marquess

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The one you love…

Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever.

May not be who you think…

Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.

But is who you need…

When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?

320 pages, ebook

First published April 17, 2018

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About the author

Cat Sebastian

26 books3,379 followers
Cat Sebastian has written sixteen queer historical romances. Cat’s books have received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist.

Before writing, Cat was a lawyer and a teacher and did a variety of other jobs she liked much less than she enjoys writing happy endings for queer people. She was born in New Jersey and lived in New York and Arizona before settling down in a swampy part of south. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading, having one-sided conversations with her dog, or doing the crossword puzzle.

The best way to keep up with Cat’s projects is to subscribe to her newsletter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 747 reviews
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 24 books627 followers
Want to read
December 13, 2017
I beta read this book. It's *hella* queer. Trust me.
Profile Image for Caz.
2,758 reviews1,033 followers
May 31, 2018
I've given this a B- at AAR, so that's 3.5 stars rounded up.

Unmasked by the Marquess, the first in Cat Sebastian’s new Regency Imposters series, marks something of a departure for her in that, unlike her previous books, it isn’t a male/male romance. The two protagonists are a man and a woman – but the fact that this isn’t a standard m/f romance quickly becomes apparent when we learn that our heroine – a former housemaid named Charity Church – has actually been living as a man for the past six years and feels far more ‘right’ in herself dressing, acting and living as a man than she ever did as a woman.

(I’m using ‘she’ and ‘her’ in this review, even though Charity is non-binary; the author uses those pronouns throughout the book for reasons she explains in her author’s note, so I’m going to follow her lead).

Robert Selby and his sister Louisa have come to London with the object of securing an advantageous match for Louisa. Unfortunately however, coming from rural Northumberland makes an entrée into the right circles in London rather difficult as they know no one who can introduce them. Remembering his father’s old friend, the late Marquess of Pembroke, Robert hits upon the idea of asking the current marquess for help; if a man of his standing is seen to take notice of Louisa, then surely other men will follow and a proposal will ensue.

Alistair de Lacey has spent the years since the death of his profligate father working hard to rebuild the family finances and to claw back the respectability the late marquess threw away in favour of a life filled with excess and dissolution. When a charming and rather attractive young man named Robert Selby is ushered into his library, Alastair expects to be tapped for money, so is surprised when Selby tells him that the late marquess stood godfather to his (Robert’s) sister, and asks for Alistair’s assistance in launching her into society. But Alistair – who has just received (and turned down) a similar request from his late father’s mistress on behalf of her eldest daughter (Alistair’s half-sister) – isn’t inclined to help and sends the young man on his way.

Charity – the author has her think of herself as Charity in the chapters from her PoV, while Alistair thinks of her as Robert and later, Robin – is disappointed and isn’t sure how to proceed. The next day, however, an unexpected encounter with Pembroke and his younger brother, Lord Gilbert, engenders a remarkably quick volte-face on Pembroke’s part and soon, Charity – as Robert – and Louisa become part of Pembroke’s small circle.

After this, things move very quickly – rather too quickly in fact, because in no time at all, Alistair and Robert are the best of friends, and while we’re told this friendship develops over a couple of weeks, on the page there’s a big jump from their not knowing each other at all to being extremely comfortable with one another. Given that Alistair has been established as overly cautious and very proper, the way he so easily befriends Robert feels somewhat out of character. The way they seem to just ‘click’ is nicely conveyed, but it’s still quite a leap from there to bosom-buddies, and I couldn’t really buy it in context.

Alistair is well aware that he can feel sexual desire for both men and women – although this being the nineteenth century, he hasn’t acted on his attraction to men – so it’s not the fact he’s attracted to Robert that gives him pause. It’s the way Robert has so quickly worked his way under his skin, the way his presence in a room can light it up and the way Alistair feels so much more alive when Robert is with him. So it comes as a huge disappointment when, on the morning after their first kiss, Alistair learns that Robert lied to him about Louisa’s being the old marquess’ goddaughter. He lashes out angrily, even going to far as to accuse Robert of intending to blackmail him over their kiss – and the only thing Robert can think of to allay Alistair’s fears on that score is to confess that he’s not Robert, but Charity.

Of course Alistair is even more furious at this deception – but after a few miserable days and weeks alone, decides that having Robert – as Charity, Robert or whoever she wants to be – is preferable to not having her in his life at all. He doesn’t care what’s under her clothes; it’s the person inside he’s interested in, but the trouble really begins when he asks Charity to marry him. Charity insists Alistair hasn’t thought it through; how can a marquess – especially one as concerned with reputation and propriety as he is – possibly marry a former housemaid? And not only a former housemaid, but a former housemaid who doesn’t intend on living the rest of her life as a woman and will be damned if she’s going to give up the freedoms she’s enjoyed for the past six years?

There is a lot of plot and backstory stuffed into the book, and I have to admit that sometimes it felt like overkill. Charity’s reasons for becoming Robert Selby are good ones, but it’s complicated, and becomes moreso when an important fact of which Alistair – and the reader – has been ignorant, is suddenly thrown into the mix near the end of the book. The strongest part of the story is actually Alistair’s progress from curmudgeonly stick-in-the mud to a man who is much more forgiving of the foibles of others and comes to realise the importance of love and the difference between living and merely existing. He’s become aloof and inflexible, but once he becomes involved with Robert, the real Alistair, the man who is decent, kind and funny, begins to emerge, and Ms. Sebastian does a very good job of having him recognise just how far from his true self he had strayed. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Alistair and Gilbert, which is well done and feels very ‘brotherly’. It’s clear that the two care for each other very much, but have lost some of that feeling in recent years because Alistair’s need to be all that is respectable and proper has caused him to lose sight of what’s really important in life. I liked Charity and her determination to hold on to her independence; I liked her gumption and the way she forces Alistair to see that the rules that govern his life don’t work for everybody.

There are some good, meaty points being made about what it’s like not to fit into established roles, about how few options were available to women and the way society treated those who didn’t wish to conform – which is why I was disappointed when the conflict in the romance boiled down to a very old chestnut, and one I’m not particularly fond of – the ‘I will not let you sacrifice yourself by marrying me because I am not suitable’ one, which always feels as though one person is telling the other that they’re stupid and don’t know their own mind. It’s not that Charity is wrong to point the problems out to Alistair – they’re undoubtedly bigger problems than face many a cross-class couple in historical romance – it’s that she’s prepared to ride roughshod over his feelings rather than try to hash out a solution that will work for both of them that I didn’t like. I also found it more than a little jarring that a man who was trying so hard to be as unlike his father as possible didn’t think twice about the fact that he would be doing to his own (future) children exactly what his father had done in making his children a topic of gossip and scandal in a society that, sadly, did visit the sins of the father upon subsequent generations.

Even with those reservations, I liked – although I didn’t love – Unmasked by the Marquess and am going to give it a cautious recommendation. The writing is sharp and witty, and I liked the principals and secondary characters. But while the relationship between Alistair and Charity has plenty of sexual tension and their verbal exchanges are entertaining, the romance is somewhat lacking in the early stages and I never got rid of that feeling that I’d missed something amid all the busy-ness of the rest of the plot.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
940 reviews13.9k followers
June 17, 2021
What a cool book! It's been a while since I've read a historical romance that wasn't immediately forgettable. I love that this book pushed the boundaries of gender expectations of the time period, and even though there were some shaky plot points and unresolved questions I have surrounding the main character being nonbinary (including that I don't think this is ownvoices), I loved rooting for Robin and Alistair. I don't have much else to say other than it was a quick read and I enjoyed the writing style.
August 2, 2022

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DNF @ 23%

Okay, so take this review with a grain of salt because I know this author is super popular, and I think she'll appeal to readers who like hist-rom authors like Sarah Maclean, Olivia Waite, and Erica Ridley. I've tried to like all of these authors because they seem like incredibly nice people who do good things for the romance community, but their books are just too, well, nice. I like romances that have some sort of conflict, either external or internal. Maybe because I'm a person who has a lot of conflicts, both external and internal, and it's validating to read about characters who go through hell and still have that happy ending.

I actually tried reading this book a couple years ago and I stalled in the same spot I'm stuck in now. There's a lot to appreciate in this book. For starters, the hero is bisexual/pan (on page) and he talks a little about that struggle. He's also uptight and very posh and he wears glasses(!) and is old enough to be going slightly grey. I liked Alistair a lot and his struggle with his happiness versus his need to be correct for the marquessate was pretty well done.

The other lead, Charity, is non-binary, and I thought that dynamic was interesting-- but it's also not immediately clear. I had no idea she (she uses "she" pronouns in the narrative at all times when not dressing up like a man) was non-binary. It's not super clear from the text, except maybe where it's implied by how she feels more comfortable in a man's clothes. If I hadn't known from other reviews that the NMC was non-binary, I would have just thought that this was a book with a heroine who was super into gender-bending for the agency that it gave her and who was maybe questioning her own sexual/gender identity. I'm not non-binary so I couldn't tell you if this rep is accurate, but given when it's set, I guess it also makes sense that the non-binary protagonist wouldn't use they/them pronouns and might have a lot of confusion about what non-binary meant to them in a time where society was pretty violently against anything that didn't fit neatly into the cis-heteronormative construct.

So yeah, this book wasn't for me. But a lot of my friends liked it, so it might be for you.

2 to 2.5 stars
Profile Image for Katherine Fabian.
Author 2 books14 followers
May 5, 2018
Gloriously queer, gloriously funny, gloriously meta. What a satisfying book, what a satisfying romance.

I do love how both this and the last queer regency romance I read could be subtitled “Wow yes I totally owe a debt to Georgette Heyer and when she’s great she’s great but also HERE ARE MY MILLION FEELINGS ABOUT WHEN SHE’S NOT GREAT OMG.”

Heyer: Oh boy, love me some super cishet cross dressing shenanigans where everyone is cishet because actual queers are disgusting.

Sebastian: Okay, fine, that but non-binary — and btw queers are the greatest, fuck you.

Heyer: Mmmmm, don’t you love it when plucky heroines insult stiff unbending noblemen’s sense of propriety without in any way disrupting the status quo or the things I really fetishise about nobility?

Sebastian: Okay, fine, that but one tiny extra thing what was it I forget oh yeah fuck the status quo and the horse it rode in on (and you can put my protagonist in a dress if you must but you can’t make them a heroine).

Heyer: Oooh yeah, love a good romp with delightful plotting and a secondary romance that thinks it’s a melodrama.

Sebastian: Okay, there we actually agree. Excuse me while I borrow heavily from several of yours in a truly delightful manner.

But my favourite bit of meta is (a) v spoilery and (b) something that’s going to stick with me for a while.

Profile Image for Jessica .
2,129 reviews13.8k followers
January 21, 2021
3.5 stars

I have seen so many people rave about this book, so I was excited to finally read it. We have a bisexual hero and a non-binary love interest (though Robert/Charity/Robin goes by she) and when they meet, Alistair is unaware that Robin is not who she claims to be. There are a lot of secrets regarding Robin's past and some aren't revealed until later on in the book.

First, I really loved the chemistry between Alistair and Robin. They are insanely attracted to each other but there's a lot of angst because they cannot be together for a number of reasons. That was definitely my favorite part of this book. Alistair was just so unapologetically attracted to Robin and just wanted to be with her. The plot, though, became a little cumbersome and lacking at the same time. At points, I felt like the plot was just going along and nothing was really happening on page. But, we had a lot happening off page with Robin's "sister" and Alistair's brother and it was all sort of hard to keep track of. When I finished, there wasn't anything I absolutely loved about this book or the characters. And I can't really say a whole lot that happened. They just danced around the same issues and more secrets about Robin were revealed along the way. I did hope to love this more than I did, but it was still a good read.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,473 reviews1,890 followers
May 30, 2018
This review can also be found at Romantic Historical Reviews.

While my rating for Unmasked by the Marquess is the lowest I've ever given to a title by Cat Sebastian, I don't want any misunderstanding here: it has nothing to do with the fact that this wasn't an m/m romance and any disappointment regarding that fact. I'm not disappointed at all. I knew going into this, her first book in her Regency Imposters series, that this story was an m/f pairing with a twist. Unfortunately, I just wasn't fully compelled by the story, likely because we were pulled in too many different directions by the end of it; nor was I as sold on the romance as I have been with the author's other couples, even though I liked both principals quite a bit.

Our first introduction to Charity Church is while she's in disguise as Robert Selby. Why, you ask? Because Charity is trying to do right by the girl who was raised alongside her, more or less as a sister. The real Robert is two years in the grave, the real Robert was Charity's sweetheart, the real Robert thought it fine to send Charity to Cambridge in his stead to receive an education he couldn't care less about, meaning she was already used to dressing like a man and had wholeheartedly embraced the freedom afforded to men in this time period. In the aftermath of Robert's passing, Charity wants to settle his sister Louisa in a good marriage and so keeps up the assumed identity. Coming from nowhere Northumberland, however, makes an introduction to London society rather difficult when you have neither money nor title. But Charity has pinned her hopes on the new Marquess of Pembroke, who just happens to have been the son of an old friend of Louisa's late father, knowing their circumstances would change dramatically if only he will make some introductions on Louisa's behalf.

Unfortunately for Charity, she isn't the only one looking for favours. Alistair de Lacey is just trying to keep his estate afloat and bring back some respectability to the Pembroke title after the damage done to it by his father's gambling, womanising and spending. He finds it easy to deny the request made by his late father's mistress to help launch her eldest daughter (Alastair's half-sister) into society, but not so easy to say the same to the strangely compelling young man who has turned up in his parlour. Nonetheless, Alistair turns him down.

Naturally, despite the rejection, Alistair crosses paths with Robert again, and this time, instead of resisting the pull, instead of trying to convince himself that he doesn't find Robert engaging and delightful, the marquess embraces it, embraces this new friendship, even knowing that the longer they are in each other's orbit, the less he's able to deny his attraction to the young man, for all his unpolished manners and too-long hair. Likewise, the more time Charity spends time with the well-mannered, proper peer, the more she notices that his aloofness isn't the truth of him. Not that she's one to speak of truths.

What surprised me about this story was how quickly the lies were brought to light. Sadly we are all too familiar with romances that drag them out until a misunderstanding or discovery blows it up in the characters' faces, and there's none of that here. Sure, there are things (a lot of things) left unsaid that we discover along the way, but I appreciated that the author didn't rely on those for epic over-the-top drama or conflict.

I truly liked both characters, though Alistair had the better character arc by far – which is understandable, as he was the one who was set in his curmudgeonly ways, only to be changed for the better by falling in love (in fact, one of my favourite scenes features a moment where this same sentiment is more or less expressed, and by a rather unexpected character). And I liked the representation afforded by a character like Charity who isn't just dressing like a man to hide her identity for one reason or another, but because she finally feels like her true self when not weighed down by skirts or the mantle of her sex. Ultimately though, I wish there had been more focus on her, instead of the drama happening around her, or even some discussion around her childhood and any struggles she might have had prior to discovering her gender fluidity. I felt Charity could've been better developed but still appreciate that this kind of story, with this kind of character, exists.

As for the supporting cast, they, too, could've been better developed. I found Keating, a former boxer and fairly disreputable fellow playing at being Charity’s manservant, interesting and yet totally underutilized. I liked the idea of Amelia Allenby, the eldest daughter of Alistair's father's mistress, though we learn nothing about her except she's at risk of becoming a bluestocking and also develops a close friendship with Charity acting as Robert. And while Louisa and Alistair's brother Gilbert were both a little silly, as were some of the actions they took near the book's climax, it was harmless more than annoying. But likewise, Louisa just felt like a convenient excuse for the plot, a stunning beauty and nothing more, though Gilbert at least had some personality, even if it wasn't much of one. I just.. couldn't keep myself checked in. There were a lot of elements at play which had a lot of potential had only a few of them been used and better fleshed out. Ultimately, however, I never felt as drawn to this couple, as of Sebastian's other couples.

Unmasked by the Marquess might not be my favourite romance by this author but I did appreciate all the dialogue around how Charity identified and how it was not a choice or a role to play. As I'm sure you can guess, the fact that she is not Robert Selby does come out, and I liked how accepting Alistair was and how, when it came down to it, gender didn't matter for him. Whether in trousers as a man, or dressed as woman, he was very into Charity/Robert, and Alistair's bisexuality didn't allow for any self-recriminations over being attracted to Charity when she was Robert. That being said, I wish more time had been spent on the realistic hurdles they would have to overcome in order to be together instead of just glossing over them and wrapping it up with a convenient bow at the end. In no way am I turning up my nose at the HEA, because isn't that why we all read romance? I just wish this had ended up being less typical HR fare when all was said and done.

Would I still recommend this title? Yes. It actually might be the best offering for those readers who love historical romance but aren't sure about the queer side of things and would definitely be a good introduction to test the waters of the sub-genre. And I absolutely applaud it for the representation it offers. I just wish more time had been spent on what made this novel unique, and that it been given an ending better suited to that uniqueness, instead of fitting it into the standard HR format.
Profile Image for Jan.
893 reviews175 followers
January 16, 2023
Two unconventional MCs. The hero, a marquess, who privately accepts that he is attracted to both women and men, although he hasn't actually been with a man for some time. The 'heroine', a foundling orphan raised as a charity girl, is a cross-dresser, and has lived the last several years in the guise of a male, including some years at university. And when they meet, they are attracted to each other from the start.

I liked the MCs, and their relationship felt quite genuine. I also liked that the author doesn't wait too long . I wondered how the characters' somewhat complicated situation could be resolved and they could get their HEA, but the author managed to pull it off in a satisfying way. An enjoyable read with a lovely love story at its core.
Profile Image for Chels.
302 reviews396 followers
April 6, 2023
Oh so you're a mildly conservative marquess who is overly judgmental of others? And then you fall in love with a young man who needs a haircut and has no money or social standing? You attend events that you wouldn't normally go to because you know he'll be there? You invite him to your social club because you can't stand the thought of him laughing at another club when you're not around to hear it?

And then you find out he's actually in disguise and is not a man at all? You're not gay but Queer? And your nonbinary love interest doesn't want to marry you because they don't want to wear a dress or learn how to be a member of the peerage?

(I loved it.)
Profile Image for Andrea.
932 reviews138 followers
May 1, 2018
When I saw that Cat Sebastian wrote a m/f historical romance I thought she would be the one author to pull it off. I love her m/m books for their rational characters who face problems head-on and work hard on their relationships. When I saw that this features a nonbinary heroine and a hero who actually falls for her in her male get-up I was SO excited! I thought, YAY, finally a nice spin on HR! But I guess it wasn't meant to be...

I absolutely LOVED the beginning. Seeing Alistair just accepting the fact that he was falling for his new, MALE friend was perfection. Those two had bickering, chemistry, everything! I thought them finding a way to make their relationship work while Robin figured out who she was would be the main plot, and I was so on board with that.

And then... I don't even know what happened in the middle there. Ok, I do (DRAMA!), but. I thought it was just a bit. Pointless. Those two had so much to work through, and what do they do? Yell, pout, go "oh no, us not being together is so much better because you will grow to hate me eventually" (one of my least favorite clichés ever), and break up for no other reason than add even more tension. Add a villainous cousin, a bunch of other random things that lead to more DRAMA, and I sort of hated the entire middle part. I mean. I went back to the Turner series and re-read the entire thing instead of finishing this...

The ending did make up for it , so I'm rounding up to three stars.
Profile Image for ⚣Michaelle⚣.
3,672 reviews205 followers
April 19, 2018
See my Rant Here for pre-rating...

Well, it appears to have disappeared. Anywho, tl;dr: Pre-rating due to troll(s) who gave it 1-star before it was even finished, let alone published.
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,179 reviews213 followers
April 22, 2018

I consider Sebastian's take on Heyer's Frederica a job well done. I loved reading this. She might not have Heyer's wit yet but she has other attributes she uses well. The fact that she showed me clearly, made me feel in fact, how really uncomfortable Charity Church was in her clothes, is a feat.

And furthermore she made me think, what makes us women, men, whatever, biology? society? If we are one thing and dress differently then prescribed by society, what are we? Gender seems to be rather unfixed at it's moorings if you say that what makes you a woman is a skirt. Bah.

Good job, ok sometimes the pathos was well rubbed in but I've good hopes for future Sebastian stories.
Profile Image for Renae.
1,013 reviews277 followers
July 27, 2020
Hello, good day, and welcome to a review of the most delightful romance of 2018! If you haven't purchased Unmasked by the Marquess yet, please do so. Then read the book and come back to join me in general happy shrieking over how great this novel is.

I will wait.

Unmasked by the Marquess is a book that, above all, exudes hope and vitality, even in situations that seem very hopeless. Often while reading, I had to wonder how on earth everything would work out. How could Alistair, a straitlaced lord, and Robin, a nonbinary orphan, get what they deserved out of life? I had to trust that Cat Sebastian would see them through this, that she would—in all of her mysterious authorly wizardry—deliver on the promise of any romance: Happily Ever After. And I promise, while the way seems dark at times, it does all sort itself out to perfection.

This is, obviously, not your grandmother's traditional Regency romance (no offense, Georgette). This is not a story where the dashing lord meets the shy-yet-beautiful wallflower at the ball and pursues her in spite of obstacles until they end up, in a sugary sweet epilogue, with 10 chubby children (named, in alphabetical order: Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Dragon Fruit, and so on) running amok at their feet. Nope. While Unmasked by the Marquess is a sweet and charming book, it's not that kind of sweet and charming.

At the beginning of the book, we meet Alistair, a very serious and rather dour marquess, who's spent the past few years cleaning up the messes his scandalous, irresponsible father left behind. Alistair prides himself on being above reproach, and on not doing anything hasty or improper. But then Robin comes galloping into his office, asking for help with her sister's Season, and Alistair's stodgy life gets tossed about.

Robin, meanwhile, is a merrily irreverent person with a gorgeous personality. I love her the most. When her oldest friend asked her to switch places and go to Cambridge in his stead, she jumped at the chance, and for the past five years she's been succesfully masquerading as a man. But it's not quite a "masquerade," because Robin feels more at home in a masculine sphere than she ever did when her name was Charity. Throughout the book, Robin is joyful and gloriously herself, and always quick with witty comebacks. 10/10 would like her for a friend.

The contrast and (dare I say) culture shock as Alistair and Robin grow close to one another is delightful. Robin brings out not just "the best" in Alistair, but life in general, as he's been so pinned down by always trying to do the correct thing. And I think that, in turn, Alistair makes Robin feel seen and loved a very special way—he doesn't love her in spite of her masculine clothes and behavior, but because of them.

Ah, my heart. BRB, taking a break to snuggle both of those wonderful idiots and their wonderful kitten.

In terms of the more technical aspects of the book: not to worry! Cat Sebastian is a wonderful writer with a true talent for infusing dire situations with an upbeat, optimistic atmosphere. The internal musings of both protagonists were often hilarious, the sex scenes were phenomenally written, and the supporting cast was vivid. Everything about this was just...ah. *kisses fingers*

I know the universe has been sending me signs to read Cat Sebastian's books for a while now, but damn. The universe really knew what she was saying. Unmasked by the Marquess is glorious, charming, sexy-af perfection.

Thank you for coming to this meeting of Fangirls Anonymous.

📌 . Blog | Review Database | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,767 reviews1,767 followers
April 27, 2018
Okay, so even if this is the first book of hers that hasn't made me drool with unbridled enthusiasm, I still really enjoyed it, and it's clear to me that Cat Sebastian is going to continue to publish books that I will enjoy reading. I think maybe I was just expecting a lot more from this than it was capable of giving? I don't know. It's also the first non M/M book of hers I read, but I don't think that's why I didn't enjoy this one as much.

So, the book. The first half of our couple is Robert Selby, nee Charity Church, a former maid who has been living as a man for the past six years. The real Robert Selby was the son of her employer, and when he decided Cambridge wasn't for him, he decided Charity should go in his place and pretend to be him. Charity thought this an excellent idea as well, especially when it turned out she liked acting and dressing as a man much better than she ever liked doing so as a woman. (The book isn't explicit on how Charity/Robert would identify today, but it's pretty clear by the end that non-binary is the appropriate term, which is confirmed in the author's notes at the end of the book.) Only when the real Robert Selby died, Charity kept on being him. For many reasons, really, but mostly because his estate was entailed, and that means his sister Louisa will be left out in the cold. Charity/Robert is determined to see her married before giving up the fraudulent identity of Robert Selby.

And the second half would be the man with the largest stick up his bum, Alistair, the Marquess of Pembroke. Well, actually that's not true. He's just very sensitive about propriety and money because his father ran their estate into the ground, and as Alistair sees it, flaunted his mistresses and illegitimate children around as if it were nothing. He is determined to be proper and responsible, and bring respectability back to the De Lacey name. If he really had a large stick up his bum, he wouldn't fall so hard for Robert/Charity/Robin, Robin being the name the former Charity Church starts to go by after meeting Alistair. Alistair has known for some time his liking for both men and women, and can't help but be attracted to young Mr. Selby. For obvious sexy reasons, Robin can't keep her secret for long.

I think what I've determined is the flaw for me in this book is that Sebastian skips the best part of the romance, which for me is all the interactions and things where they actually do the falling in love. She nails the initial attraction and flirtation between the two of them, but then sort of skims over the meat of the actual friendship/relationship building, so the next thing we know, they're ready to do it and stuff, and I'm like, WAIT! I want more of that other thing! I know she had to make room for the angst and the coming to terms with things, but dangit, I know she can do it all because she's done it in literally every other book I've read from her.

There is some angst here, but surprisingly the book does have a very HEA. Not entirely sure how historically accurate it is, but frankly, don't really care. It's nice to think it could have happened this way, even if it couldn't.

Now eagerly awaiting her next book being published in July.

[3.5 stars, rounded up]
Profile Image for annob.
529 reviews60 followers
October 10, 2018
3.5 stars!
It's easy to focus on the rarity of a non-binary MC in this mainstream romance, and I am too particularly impressed this story is published by such a Big Name publisher. I do hope this is the first of many inclusive books to come!

This story is first and foremost a historical romance. Someone who usually don't like the genre isn't likely to enjoy this book. True to the genre social differences and other realities of life in the time period are toned down or simply ignored for the sake of creating a story that can appeal to current day readers. To some degree the non-binary character gets the same treatment.

I can't help but compare this book to The King's Man by Elizabeth Kingston. It also has a genderqueer protagonist (even though it's tagged as MF romance). I enjoyed the storyline much more in Kingston's book, but it had an ending which was... not great. Cat Sebastian avoids getting angsty, and leaves her characters and readers off in a happier place.

I found the relaxed sexpositive attitude in the book one of its strengths, genderqueerness no hinder for sexual enjoyment at all. As far as likable main characters and romantic chemistry the MC's both had to grow on me. Alistair has qualities which made him not very likable at first, and he never quite becomes a character I was smitten by. Robert/Robin/Charity has charm and is not a pushover by any means, but any deeper character exploration is ignored in favour of the overall deception plotline. The HEA and resolution was perfectly ok for a historical romance even though not very plausible for the time period.

An enjoyable read but my favourite by the author remains to be The Lawrence Browne Affair.
Profile Image for Hannah B..
873 reviews1,305 followers
June 24, 2022
This was cute and definitely unique. Like the characters, I had no clue how they were gonna get out of the woods by the end, but of course they did! The sex scenes were good as well; I think we got around three.

The pre-ending was tedious, however, and did drag on a bit too long. Everybody just kept on running from that poor man. There’s a lot of “will they won’t they” in regards to getting married, which on one hand is like ugh but on the other it’s like well I truly don’t know if they will lol. So while I was frustrated, the characters did all make valid arguments and the kitten was adorable.

I adored how it was made clear that Alistair didn’t love Robin despite her choice of clothing, he loved her because of it. I also really liked the line “they were not mens clothes they were hers.” I paraphrased it but !!!

The book was narrated by Joel Leslie who did a great job and was a super quick listen! Oh and the scene on the cover was actually in the book!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5 🌶🌶🌶/5
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,253 reviews181 followers
April 5, 2019
The cover might be selling a ‘usual’ kind of Regency romance but this LGBT novel features instead a trans/non binary couple.

Women dressing as men for a plethora of reasons is not a new thing, but here it did ‘feel’ totally different. Robin does not identify as a woman and is more ‘herself’ in the garbs and role of a man. As for the Marquess, he too does not fit the social norms, being attracted to both genders. Their journey is compelling, but the plot did dip a little in the middle, and I would have liked more depths in the study of these characters. Still, an interesting and entertaining read.
Profile Image for Eugenia.
1,667 reviews255 followers
May 7, 2018
A Fun, Non-Binary Romp through Regency England.....

I’m one of those people who skims over things like instructions, directions, and book blurbs. Thus being the case, I didn’t really know much about this book I had preordered months ago; Cat Sebastian being one of my favorite authors.

What I got was my first regency romance with a non-binary character in the form of Robbie/Robin/Charity. Born female, but finally settled into her skin once she donned men’s clothing whilst attending Cambridge in place of her master, she continues to don men’s attire and plainly refuses to wear anything but.

Our other MC is a cis gendered male, Alistair the Marquess of Pembroke, who is attracted to both genders. Does this make him bisexual? Pansexual? Who knows, who cares, really because it’s Robbie/Robin he’s attracted to. Robin, as he calls him. Not Charity.

Robbie Selby needs to find a husband for his friend and “sister,” Louisa Selby. This brings him to visit the marquess for a favor. Thus, is the set up for the book.

Alistair has the greatest change in this story, going from a righteous, frosty peer of the realm to a man capable of empathy and love all thanks to our spirited hero/heroine.

I liked this story a lot. I didn’t love it, but it made curious to see how an HEA could be accomplished for this couple, one that included marriage and not subterfuge. I got so see it, did I buy it? Kinda yes, kinda no. But, it sure as hell was fun to see Robbie in action! He was truly hilarious and is worth the reading of this book just to see him flaunt convention and take down a marquess a few pegs.

Being a predominantly MM reader, the lack of two male MCs threw me for a loop, but I survived due to Robin’s amazing likability (or should that be likeability?). Either hold true for this amazing non-binary character who didn’t deny her femaleness, maleness, attraction to men, and who chose to wear what s/he would.

The sex was not explicit at all, so even if you’re a dedicated MM reader, girlie parts won’t offend you here.

The writing was fantastic as always, yet I felt there was something missing from the story. Maybe it’s just me missing an extra 7-8 inches I’ve become so accustomed to in my MM romances!
Profile Image for Bookphenomena (Micky) .
2,494 reviews404 followers
March 19, 2018
4.5 stars

This is my first book from Cat Sebastian, but I had no hesitation picking it up because my friends have been recommending her work for a year and I’ve just not got to her books until now. UNMASKED BY THE MARQUESS didn’t disappoint with this unexpected story that was delightful, emotional and beautiful.

If you want traditional characters from HR, then this probably isn’t what you expect but if you hang around for a few pages, you’ll be sucked in like me. I know Cat Sebastian writes mainly m/m and this story of Robin and Alistair chronicles a beautiful friendship into something more. Robin is not all that character might seem but the life is borne of necessity turning into preference. I was immediately won over by Robin, a caring, selfless and brave character. The initial friendship dynamic between these two is relatable, just like when you click with someone.

“His mouth quirked into approximately one-sixteenth of a smile - you would need a protractor to be sure it had really happened - and his left eyebrow shot up as if to say, What in God’s name am I doing in this place?”

Alistair started off as a dry, overly pompous character but Robin was the making of the Marquess. Alistair just needed someone in his life to care enough about, to bring out the goodness hidden inside. Alistair’s greatest facet was his comfort in his own skin and identity alongside the same feeling towards Robin. The chemistry between these two grew so naturally over time and it was utterly palpable.

The story was interesting and absorbing from cover to cover. So, in summary, new Cat Sebastian fan over there. Give me all the books!

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book.

Reviewed for Jo&IsaLoveBooks Blog.
Profile Image for Elizabeth May.
Author 11 books2,253 followers
May 18, 2018
Bisexual hero. Non-binary hero(ine). Witty, smart, romantic, gorgeous. Cat Sebastian is an auto buy for me at this point.
Profile Image for PlotTrysts.
647 reviews216 followers
March 4, 2021
We had a bit of a disagreement on this one! Laine felt that the back half suffered from unrealistic conflict, while Meg thought the unique twist on the "I can't marry you for REASONS!" trope was great. Meg also appreciated the homage to Georgette Heyer's Frederica.⁠

What we both liked? The unexpected setup: Robert Seldon is in town for the sole purpose of importuning the Marquess of Pembroke into sponsoring his sister's entree into the ton. But Robert is an impostor: he was born Charity Church, a foundling raised to be a housemaid in the real Robert's household. The hijinks that ensue surrounding the irresistible passion between Robin and Alistair are fun, sexy, and unconventional. Check this one out if you've been looking for an LGBTQ+ romance that is historically accurate - and not in a depressing way!⁠

21-Word Summaries:

Meg: Dealing with attractive androgynous persons takes especial care for noblemen who want to avoid social scandal. Georgette Heyer gone delightfully awry.

Laine: The characters’ sexual identities and preferences may stray from a typical romance novel, but the manufactured angst and sibling drama doesn't.

Profile Image for Xan.
619 reviews274 followers
June 11, 2018
I have mixed feelings about this book, and about the non-binary representation in it.

Read my full review on my blog.

Content Warnings
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,320 reviews284 followers
June 20, 2018
Not my favorite CS, perhaps my least favorite (which is likely still shelving it in my top 75 romances). It wasn’t the threads and complication for me, but I felt like it took a good 20-35% to sink my teeth into. In the end, it was lovely and sweet, though Charity’s decision irked me at the end , I indeed understood it, but felt something missing. All in all, another delightful story from Cat Sebastian.
Profile Image for Ekollon.
475 reviews44 followers
October 9, 2018

Currently on sale on Amazon and Kobo and various other places for $.99.

via https://www.bookbub.com/books/unmaske...

So, this book. I don't know. I want to like it (non-binary rep!) but, well, I'm not wild about it. Mostly, I don't like either of the main characters. I really dislike Alistair (although he does get better as the book goes on) and I feel really meh about Charity/Robert/Robin.

Alistair starts out as a pretty intense twit who is willing to actively harm others who are in worse positions than he is because . . . he doesn't want to be bothered by them. Yeah, asshole. He's also massively judgmental of people who don't live up to his standards, including for things beyond their control (aka his half-sisters). As I said, he gets better, but the fact that he stopped being an asshole didn't make me like him. I didn't mind that people in his life were willing to give him a second go, but I guess for me his wretchedness was too strong to let it go so fast.

As for Charity/Robert/Robin, she (using she because that's the pronouns that were used in the book, and non-binary people can use whatever pronouns they want, thank you) was infinitely better than Alistair, but I had trouble for a couple of reasons. First, because of all the stuff going on with her behind the scenes (trying to avoid spoilers), my understanding of her kept changing. Second, I was REALLY pissed off by the part with her where she want all, "If Alistair really loved me, he wouldn't have offered [that thing he did] because he would understand I wouldn't want that, instead he would have offered [this other thing]." That is a massive, blinding pet peeve of mine because Charity/Robert/Robin hadn't talked to Alistair about how she didn't want what Alistair had offered, she just expected him to know she wouldn't want it. That's not the way any relationship works, and it's especially not the way it works when you're encountering a person with very specific, very atypical needs in a time period where you can't even begin to research those needs.

I was also a little sad because I felt gender non-conformity was used interchangeably with non-binary, or, specifically, we were to understand that Charity/Robert/Robin was non-binary BECAUSE she didn't conform to gender norms. However, gender non-conformation isn't non-binary. A person is able to not conform to gender norms without being non-binary and a person is able to be non-binary while conforming to gender norms. If you don't understand this, consider if Charity/Robert/Robin up and moved to a country that said women could wear trousers and waistcoats, go to University, and the like. Would she suddenly become a woman, or would she remain non-binary?

The ending also disappointed me. I don't like it when things that are set up as insurmountable suddenly become nonissues.
Profile Image for Tamara.
982 reviews30 followers
April 19, 2018
I'm not sure I have the proper words to describe how much I loved this book. The writing flowed easily and had moments that I can only describe as poetry.

Alastair seems like an unsympathetic character at first, but further into the story you realize he doesn't really have a cold heart, only ice walls around it.
“Robin, I don’t think I’ll ever have the words to describe what you did for me. I was living a half life until that day you let Louisa’s bonnet loose in Hyde Park. Portia says I was on ice, and she has the right of it. I wasn’t living. I was only . . . there.”

I loved Robin. She is spring, and self-sacrifice, and will of steel and human.
“Well,” she said, her eyes wet, “somebody really ought to build a statue of me. I’m amazing.”

And they were perfect together.
"For weeks she had felt lucky to be desired by a man who was open-minded enough to tolerate her strange attire. But it occurred to her now [...] that it wasn’t a question of toleration. He liked this. He liked her, funny clothes and odd hair and the entire in-betweenness of her. She wasn’t an ordinary woman, but he wasn’t an ordinary man either. They fit together, and it felt right."
"He felt sorry for the man he had been before knowing Robin. That man had been worried about all the wrong things—money and prestige and respectability, but like she said, those things were only feathers, useless until you fly."

I have no more words. Just, if you're a fan of any kind of historical romance, go and read this NOW.
Profile Image for Cat M.
170 reviews24 followers
May 4, 2018
This is genuinely EVERYTHING I could want in a book. EVERYTHING.

Sebastian takes the “girl disguised as a boy” trope and turns it on its head, adding wonderful levels of complication and nuance.

For one thing, Charity/Robin is non-binary and absolutely unwilling to return to dressing and presenting as a woman, not even for the opportunity to marry a very proper and somewhat uptight Marquess with whom they are in love.

And even if Robin were willing to give up that identity, they still wouldn’t be a suitable wife for a Marquess in the eyes of London society. Charity Church was a foundling and a servant, there’s no secret aristocratic pedigree, no hidden fortune or high-society connections to make the match non-scandalous.

But here’s the thing: assuming you have the money and means to carry it off, being shockingly bohemian or scandalous isn’t actually a terrible fate. A Marquess can get away with a hell of a lot, if he’s willing to put his happiness and the happiness of his loved ones ahead of any concerns for propriety or correctness.

I love Alistair and Robin, but I think my favourite relationship in this book is the one between Alistair and Mrs. Allenby, his late-father’s long-time mistress and the mother of his three acknowledged half-sisters. Propriety says the upstanding Marquess should want nothing to do with his father’s bohemian mistress, and at the beginning of the book Alistair absolutely agrees, but in fact Mrs. Allenby and her daughters are kind and generous and entirely the kind of family Alistair needs, it just takes him a while to figure that out.

Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,154 reviews1,466 followers
May 23, 2019
This was refreshingly very similar to cis het Regency romances that I've read, but with a bisexual male character and a non-binary cross dressing character! I really liked the dynamic between the leads (stiff, aristocratic Alistair who doesn't know how to love and easygoing playful loyal Robin). I was impressed that Sebastian succeeded in writing the characters and their relationship in a way that didn't conform to hetero dynamics despite the fact it's about a cis man and a person assigned female at birth. Also, the bisexual representation was great! It felt very authentic. The ending felt a bit too neat but that's a pretty small quibble.
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