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Radical Proposals #1

Behind These Doors

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Lucien Saxby is a journalist, writing for the society pages. The Honourable Aubrey Fanshawe, second son of an earl, is Society. They have nothing in common, until a casual encounter leads to a crisis.  

Aubrey isn’t looking for love. He already has it, in his long-term clandestine relationship with Lord and Lady Hernedale. And Lucien is the last man Aubrey should want. He’s a commoner, raised in service, socially unacceptable. Worse, he writes for a disreputable, gossip-hungry newspaper. Aubrey can’t afford to trust him when arrest and disgrace are just a breath away. 

Lucien doesn’t trust nobs. Painful experience has taught him that working people simply don’t count to them. Years ago, he turned his back on a life of luxury so his future wouldn’t depend on an aristocrat’s whim. Now, thanks to Aubrey, he’s becoming entangled in the risky affairs of the upper classes, antagonising people who could destroy him with a word. 

Aubrey and Lucien have too much to hide—and too much between them to ignore. Rejecting the strict rules and closed doors of Edwardian society might lead them both to ruin… but happiness and integrity alike demand it.  

An Edwardian Romance.

393 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 21, 2018

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About the author

Jude Lucens

2 books72 followers
Jude writes historical romances about marginalised people affiliating and building family in the face of restrictive, often punitive, social norms. Her debut novel, Behind These Doors, is a 2019 Lambda Literary Awards finalist (Category: Bisexual Fiction).

For several years, she was a 1st Century Roman and Early Medieval re-enactor. Her primary focus was combat and target archery, and her secondary, living history and craft demonstrations—mostly fletching and ring-mail making—as well as explaining period clothing, weaponry, armour and basic combat techniques. She has hung up her bow and cedarwood arrows, and now makes silver and bronze jewellery instead.

Find Jude on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?i...
For news of upcoming and new releases, sign up for Jude's newsletter http://judelucens.com/contact-jude

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 164 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 58 books8,110 followers
August 2, 2018
DISCLAIMER: I edited this.

A gently paced romance well grounded in the period setting, featuring a poly setup with a married couple plus one, where the plus one falls for another man as well. The dance that ensues is carefully delineated, and the pleasure is in seeing the complex negotiations of consent and power and intersections of sexuality, gender, and class across the tangled web of more than one three-way relationship. A really solid and unusual queer historical, satisfying for those who like their histrom realistic, but still with a golden romantic glow.

Profile Image for Rachel.
755 reviews113 followers
May 3, 2019
5 Splendid Stars


"Behind These Doors" is a multifaceted, complex, multilayered story which is, at its heart, a deeply tender romance between two men. The primary romance alone is exquisite, but the descriptive historical aspects of Edwardian society, the battle for women’s rights and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the inclusion of a polyamorous romance thread all make this an enthralling read.

Lucien Saxby is a working class journalist, writing for the society pages. The Honourable Aubrey Fanshawe, is the second son of an earl. He spends his leisure time writing, drawing, and playing the piano.

Even though Aubrey is “Society,” he is quite down-to-earth and relatable. Aubrey is a perfectionist and when talking about the writing process he states, “How to explain the terror of ‘starting something new’? Of the blank, passive page waiting for the miracle of creative genius to stir it to life?” And later he remarks, “Editors just didn’t understand the demands of Art. Or the crushing terror of putting one’s name—even if it was just a nom de plume—to work that would be sent into the world for critics to sneer at.”

Neither Lucien or Aubrey are looking for lasting love when they initially meet. Aubrey is in a long-term (clandestine) committed romantic and sexual relationship with his childhood friends Lord and Lady Hernedale. Lord Hernedale presents as possibly somewhere on the asexual spectrum, and it is refreshing to see that realistically portrayed in a romance. Lucien has an ongoing affectionate and sexual relationship with his friend Ben, a bisexual married working class man of color. (FYI Ben and his wife’s {both former streetwalkers} story is told in Lucen’s novella, Gutter Roses: A Radical Proposals Short Story).

This story is a queer historical romance that models a complex polycule romance, a connected network of non-monogamous relationships. I have yet to read another romance with such complex and realistically portrayed relationship dynamics as this story.

Be reassured that this story has a beautiful HEA. My sweet, sweet Aubrey is the shining star around which the other characters orbit. His views regarding romantic love have opened my mind and changed the way I think about love and romance. He explains, “I have a whole heart for everyone I love, every time.”

And now, I love all of these beautiful characters, too.

Available via KU.

Highly recommend!!
Profile Image for Pam.
802 reviews25 followers
October 8, 2019
This was so good, I don't think I can do it justice. First, it reads very much like an m/m romance in case everything else has you concerned. It is first and foremost the love story of Aubrey and Lucien, and it is lovely.

It jumps straight in to the first encounter of these two men who have full lives separate and apart from each other, but find themselves drawn to each other over and over again. There is no intsa-anything (apart from lust :), so we get to watch a realistically paced romance amidst this fascinating exploration of class and the societal power dynamics of the time.

And that part is just so interesting. I am not a history buff, I don't like non-fiction, I don't do dense historicals. That is NOT what this is. It's just fascinating in its realistic portrayal of the differences between the working class of 1906 England and the nobility, and even among the different ranks of nobility.

Lucien has a very specific background that allows him to navigate between the different classes in a way most people couldn't, but the hard and fast rules of this society only stretch so far, and I love how realistic this is without being at all depressing. It is very matter-of-fact as Lucien and Aubrey figure out a way to carve out a place where they can be each other's go-to person.

Lucien has such concise, insightful thoughts and opinions on the class structure and is able to express himself so well, yet even the most kind, open-minded of the "nobs" struggle to wrap their brains around these things they just don't have any frame of reference for.

And then conversely, we get to see Lucien be the one who takes the ingrained imbalances between genders for granted. And it's not preachy or boring or heavy -- it's just woven so well into the story, as Lucien gets thrown on a piece about women's suffrage for his newspaper and works with a female journalist, as we get to know Henrietta (Lady Hernedale), as we see tiny moments of the lives of the women who run the boarding house where Lucien lives.

And these moments are all just woven in between the romance. I am ridiculously picky in that I like my romances to be about the romance, but I also want other stuff going on, yet I don't want to get taken away from the romance *too* often or for *too* long at a time... like, I want exactly the right percentage of romance to non-romance plot points to the nth degree :) And this hits it perfectly. (Partially because a lot of the non-romance stuff on Aubrey's side is really still romance since it pertains to his other romantic relationship!)

The polyamory aspect had me hesitating to try this one because I am so sensitive to any emotional imbalances between the different parts of these relationships — this is just so outside my reality, it can be hard for me to enjoy — but this one was just fantastic. And again, REALISTIC. Even as a relatively powerful Earl, there's only so much Rupert and Henrietta can realistically do to include Aubrey in their lives. This is just not something that people would accept or look the other way about, especially in a time when you literally get arrested for being gay.

Aubrey's background with the Hernedales is revealed slowly, but we get to see all the nuances play out, and it all just makes so much sense in the end. And as long as the three of them have been together and as much as they love each other, there's just only so much time Aubrey can spend with them as the technical, legal, societal "outsider" of the relationship, even if he's not the third wheel by any means in their hearts.

The way all the relationships fit together just makes so much sense as a product of that time in history and the constraints it would place on each one, but also in that way polyamory stories have to work for me personally, in that it all feels like how it was meant to be.

The whole thing is just so impressive with all the fascinating nuances she works in while also being, first and foremost, immensely enjoyable.

Note: You do have to have a little tolerance for the f part of an mmf sex scene, but I think there's just one in the whole book, and the languaging really avoids the common pitfalls. I am currently in a phase where I can't do mf sex scenes, but this one did not bother me at all. I don't know how to explain it, but even though Henrietta is a huge part of the story and very much an equal part of that threesome, this is very much an m/m romance.
Profile Image for hedgehog.
216 reviews32 followers
July 25, 2018
2.5* rounded up because poly + solid research.

- Everyone is poly! They make it work! \o/
- A character somewhere on the asexual spectrum! (Or that's how I read it; the modern terminology is of course never used.)
- I think this is the first time I've ever read a historical romance novel that had a character carry around a condom. Is that a weird thing to devote a whole bullet point to?
- The historical details are well researched, grounded to a specific time and place without going overboard. The writing is confident and smooth.
- There's an upstairs/downstairs type of romance and the book doesn't shy away from the difficulties of crossing class.

Not so much:
- The sex scenes were a little flowery and generic. Please, no more weeping cocks (why are the cocks sad, whyfor do they weep).
- I didn't like the characters or root for the romances, particularly. Aubrey is a tiresome wet blanket, but halfway through I also tired of Lucien snapping at Aubrey for not being woke enough. Which, no, he's not, but somehow these exchanges turned into Lucien escalating an innocent remark, forcing Aubrey to grovel abjectly in apology, and then grandly pronouncing he won't understand, anyway. While I did appreciate not glossing over the class differences, if your entire relationship is built on repeated insistence that your partner is incapable of XYZ (with a dash of smugness that they're not as woke as you, the paragon of wokeness), their existence is repulsive to you, then maybe... don't... date them? I didn't get the vibe this was a lasting romance, despite all the protestations of love.
- That the characters bother to communicate with each other is great, and doubly so in the Henrietta/Aubrey/Rupert triad, where communication is of the utmost importance. But too much page space is devoted to these stilted conversations where everyone lays out their psychological underpinnings and everyone responds as appropriately as if they were reading off a therapist script for How To Be A Good Listener. At some point I'd like some of the character development to be shown or acted out, not just a bunch of talking heads.
- Man, that Ben/Cath thing came out of nowhere. Demanding that I care about him on equal footing with Aubrey was a failed sell when he was hardly in the book as his own character. [Edit: there's a prequel featuring Ben and Cath that I haven't read. In that case, my bad for not realizing I needed to have read another book before this one. I will say that that this novel does not stand well alone in respect to that plotline/those characters.]
- Slice-of-life is fine, but I didn't feel like anything happened. There's an RPF suffragette subplot that Lucien/Henrietta have a hand in, but it still feels kind of... unimportant to the characters? I started zoning out around three-fourths of the way through when it became clear nothing else was going to happen but more talking-as-plot-progression. This story could've been cut by a third and been just fine; there's nothing here that justifies 400+ pages. I understand there was a thematic thing going with the exploration of women's rights and how the characters were trapped by society's expectations etc., etc. But it wasn't terribly interesting, didn't come together in any cohesive way. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it felt like there weren't any stakes, I guess? Not enough connective tissue. Something.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,515 followers
July 5, 2019
I really enjoyed this story of a gay journalist from humble origins, and a bisexual, polyamorous nobleman, working to fit a growing loving relationship into the minimal overlap of their lives in turn-of-the-century London.

The Honourable Aubrey Fanshawe has been in love with his best friend Rupert, Lord Hernedale, since they were boys at Eton. Rupert's wife and childhood friend Henrietta loves both of them, and although marrying Rupert was her logical choice to protect all their futures, the couple have as much as possible made a place for Aubrey in their life and when safe, their bed. Where they all enjoy each other, with Rupert at times watching, at times joining in.

Still, Aubrey is the one who has to get up out of that bed, leave the two people he loves, and go home in the dark and cold. Sometimes, despite the sweetness of their relationship, he is desperately lonely. And sometimes he has sex with other men, because he can't just march over there and demand room in that big bed.

Lucien is the son of a valet, and spent his childhood as servant-companion to a chronically ill nobleman. He could have done that forever, but service grated on him, and he left, first for the military and now to make his living as a journalist. He has an old friend whom he sometimes meets for quick sex, and he dallies with strangers in the parks that are known cruising grounds, but something in him yearns for a relationship that lasts longer than it takes to come, and that goes deeper than being pals with a happily married man who sometimes likes a tumble on the gay side.

Lucien has never wanted a relationship with an aristocrat, though. His parents' lives were spent at the whim of nobility, and his time in service to William, where a mask of friendship covers obligation, makes him leery of the upper class. He accepts and resents William's continued gifts and casual charities, as they smooth his life but make him itch. The last thing he wants is a man of money keeping him as a lover. But a night at a play brings him and Aubrey together, and that sweet, diffident, careful young man works his way under Lucien's guard. And nothing in his life will be simple again.

I really appreciated the historical grounding of this story, from the clothes and social mores, to the details of the women's suffrage movement and the strains of class differences. I also loved having strong female characters, an ace-spectrum character, and a polyamory where a new lover isn't a reason to devalue the old. The progression of the relationships felt realistic, and the obstacles valid. The ending wraps up a bit easily, with a couple of big obstacles swept away, but it was warm and sweet and didn't impose limits on love. I'm really looking forward to the next in the series.
Profile Image for David.
602 reviews128 followers
December 8, 2019
This book was chosen to satisfy the ReadHarder prompt for "An historical romance by an AOC". Often smuttier than a chimney sweep just before his weekly bath, it proved to be well-researched. The writing is of a higher caliber than I was expecting, which is always a nice discovery, and the best of it is applied to descriptions of setting, atmosphere, and period costume and etiquette. The romantic dialogue and lovers' banter was less convincing; rather repetitive and somewhat stilted.

Despite promises of sexual ribaldry involving (mostly) men in Edwardian London, such proceedings were described in a relatively pedestrian manner. Those sex scenes - and there are several - felt choreographed rather than inspired. I humbly submit that others may find them more titillating than I did.

What this book really does is serve as an apologia for several socio-political issues that continue to engage our concern today:

Sexual self-determination (bisexual, polyamorous relationships in particular)
The infringed rights of women and minorities
The disenfranchisement of the working classes
Lack of access to affordable, quality health care (and housing and nutrition and fuel)

It made for great context, however it also turns out that I was never really in danger of...well...um, reading harder.

2.5 stars rounded up for Lucens' obvious talent and passion
Profile Image for Lotta.
1,040 reviews18 followers
December 3, 2018
Review the second, December 2018: This book is so lovely. I adore the language and emotions and the characters. I cried a little at the last scene with Cath and Lucien. Glad I decided to read again <3

Review the first, May 2018: Slight back story: I've been in a bit of a book slump lately, and have spent more time on audiobooks than on my kindle, partly because of time restraints and family obligations (like, I'm obligated to spend time with my family instead of on reading). Anyway, I started this book and read the first chapter, and then I didn't have time/right mindframe to continue until a couple of days ago, when I decided to give it some time to really get into it. And I did! To the degree that I lay reading in bed until well after 1am just to finish.

It started out kind of slow for me, with lots of characters that I found difficult to keep apart initially. At around 28% I was convinced this was a clear 4 star read, really good. When I finished last night that had evolved into a five star, favourite book.

This book combines several things that I really like in books. Diverse characters, romance, politics, descriptions of class society and how it affects how people think and react and see one another, awareness of social and gender (in)equality, relationships that are negotiated and communicated, friendship, non-traditional identities and sexualities. But not that these things are lectured or preached, just people, going about their lives in ways that suit them.

I love how the characters learn different things from each other. Lucien brings his class awareness, Aubrey his thoughts on love and relationships, Miss Enfield the idea that women journalists might have other ambitions than society reporting. Lucien has more conservative views on things than Aubrey in some respects.

I love the way Aubrey's and Lucien's relationship grows and evolves, and how they from early on are so drawn and commited to each other, almost despite themselves, and how they are both unsure and insecure. It's wonderfully described.

At last a word on the sex. There isn't very much on page sex, but when it's there, it's good and emotional and not your run of the mill enter peg into slot until mutual, synchronised completion. It's relatable and real, at least to me. There is some quality dirty talk between Lucien and Aubrey, and the intimacy level is very high.

Full disclosure: I got this book as an ARC and am friendly with the author on SM.
Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 15 books304 followers
October 22, 2018
Gorgeous, lovely, wonderful polyamorous romance set in 1906 London. The main love story is between Aubrey Fanshawe, second son of an earl, and Lucien Saxby, working-class journalist. If you're a fan of historical romance that engages with feminism, class and power differences, political struggles, etc. (think K.J. Charles and Courtney Milan) then you should give this a try. I loved watching these two guys - and various other characters - work so hard to love each other, make mistakes, hurt people they care about, apologize, and try to do better, and I loved how their stories were so carefully built within their historical setting. Lucens does an amazing job of having characters talk things out with each other, sometimes at length, while maintaining the character voices and the feeling of engaged conversation rather than people suddenly giving dramatic speeches.

I also appreciated the diversity here of various kinds. Aubrey is in a long-term committed romantic and sexual relationship with his childhood friends Lord and Lady Hernedale. Lord Hernedale is somewhere on the asexual spectrum, which doesn't bother his wife or Aubrey, but which sadly is a source of profound insecurity for him. Lucien has a casual ongoing sexual relationship with his friend Ben, a bisexual married working class man of color. Lucien has a wealthy acquaintance who has an unlabeled long-term disabling chronic illness. This is historical romance on the realistic end of the spectrum, not the fairy tales of balls and castles, and I am 100% here for it.

There's one minor tweak I would have wished for: a bit more of something to establish the meaningfulness of Ben to Lucien, to better support some of Lucien's personal-growth-related realizations about relationships late in the book. I originally also felt like Henrietta, Lady Hernedale, needed at least one more speaking appearance after various male characters have realized that her agency has been taken away. I needed that to feel like the book wasn't also overlooking her. EXCEPT after I finished writing this review, I read an interview with Jude Lucens on Corey's Book Corner that basically said this was a deliberate decision not to take more away from Hettie by having her story told through a man's eyes. The next book in the series will be hers. I am 100% happy with that.

I can't wait for Lucens to write 10 more books. No pressure though! Authors are not vending machines even when they're capable of making you cry. (Even when they introduce a fantastic lesbian reporter secondary character who needs her own book. Or a chronically ill nobleman who has huge growth potential. Just saying.)

Jude Lucens is a bi, demisexual, pagan woman of color.
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,258 reviews273 followers
June 20, 2020
I'll tell you plain: I read this because of Wollstonecrafthomegirl's review I have kindle unlimited for a week or so more, so I wanted to get this read in before it was up.

The whole time I was reading this, I didn't know how I felt. I got Audrey's emotional sensitivity. I got why you would love Lucien. I got Rupert and Henrietta. All of whom, it seems, are central romantic characters-this isn't to take away that there are several, several other characters. But something about it was so sad. And most of my brain didn't think this ended up as a satisfactory ending for anyone. It was more of...a compromise.

Look, writing polyamory and queer romance that is historical is always a challenge for a HEA. I just want to trust the resolution better than this. And that I can't point to any single central character or romance is somewhat problematic. I know who they were supposed to be, but I don't know if that's how it ended up. I honestly added b/c of Wollstonecrafthomegirl's review, read the first paragraph a couple times, and recall vaguely a sense of ambivalence. I think I echo that here. This book is well-written. It's realistic, honestly, and it's bogged down by heavy obstacles and a lot of unhappiness. In the end, I don't know if anyone in the book will end up happy. And while I think that-to echo her review again-doesn't mean this isn't worth reading, I would go in knowing that it's a delicate dismantling of a polyamorous main character, his new love interest, and his love interests spanning more than a decade.

I will add the criticism that while well-written and reflective of the serious issues, there was very little to no humor. There was a lot of angst. And a lot of the conversations reflected angst and feelings and get-to-know-me or rehashing-relationship information dumps (necessary, but tedious to me). In the end, I just don't think it worked for me. It felt weighed down, and I didn't really buy into the characters till around 60%, feeling more at home in certain relationships than in others. (Including and not limited to friendships). I'll add the note that I like polyamory in romance. I have no trouble with it, will jump at the chance to read it, nor a lack of sexual exclusivity between characters. But in the case of several of the dynamics here, I'm not quite convinced.
Profile Image for Allison.
1,510 reviews10 followers
July 21, 2021
This is a wonderfully quiet book that still manages to pack so much into the story, plus it's got great representation. At its heart it's a story about people finding their way to each other, just living life, and doing their utmost to be the best versions of themselves. But there's so much more happening here, from the women's suffragette movement to the changing roles of society and the ruling classes, down to the minutia of how even as you try your hardest you can still hurt those you love. So many layers that I'm sure I'll be discovering new things on every re-read. This book is amazing at showing just how entwined everything is, and how much that affects life in myriad ways. The beginning is a little slow to start and I very occasionally felt a little like I was being told things (although definitely not hit over the head with them) but for a first published full length novel it is amazing.
Will re-read and will look forward to more from this author. Absolutely recommend.

Audio: narrator has a very specific voice that worked well for most of the characters. Sadly I didn't love his narration but it is very skilled.
Profile Image for Helen Kord.
323 reviews36 followers
December 6, 2018
This is such a hard book to review because I could write for hours about my quibbles with it and not be done, but I just don't have the energy. So here's as brief a review as i can. Spoilers will happen

* Our main couple, Lucien and Aubrey are... okay. They're okay. They keep arguing in circles and I'm not even that sure why they fall in love, but they're perfectly fine. I was more into them before the Thing happened (and don't worry, we'll get to the Thing) but the Thing completely sucked out all my enjoyment
* The time period was pretty interesting; it's bizzare to me how little edwardian romance there is, given how fascinating it is. Although I still felt it was under-utilized
* I was really into the polyamory (at first), I was excited to read about a different kind of poly relationship than we usually get in romances- Aubrey has his long-term lovers Rupert and Hattie aside from Lucien and I felt there was a pretty realistic reactions all around to that
* I liked Lucien's colleague, she was cool and badass and I'd like more of her please
* I liked Lucien's friend Ben although the fact Lucien realized at the end he was also in love with him felt out of nowhere and I feel like this group should just fucking stop adding people to their cluster before setting down any boundaries jesus fuck
* I liked seeing a pretty realistic portrayal of someone on an asexual spetrum in relationship with allosexuals with high libido and the potential loneliness that can entrail. But. BUT

Right, let's unpack the Thing.
A bit of background. Rupert and Aubrey have been lovers for 14 years. After few years, Hattie, Rupert's childhood friend, joined them. After few more years, when Hattie needed to marry, they decided she should marry Rupert, since he's actually titled, as opposed to Aubrey, and while he understood, he's been carrying that hurt around for a decade. It always hurt Aubrey that he couldn't spend all his time with his loves, while Rupert and Hattie got to be always together, since Rupert was legally her husband. The 'legally' is important. See, apparently since Rupert has low libido, he's been unable to impregnate his wife for 6 years, which, I mean. I can't say I'm an expert or anything, but libido itself has no impact of pregnancy, no? Just that the chance is lower since they're having less sex. So if they've been having such trouble with getting pregnant, there's probably a different reason for it aside from his libido. Which Rupert himself wouldn't know, probably, but the author writing this in the 21st century would. So that was annoying. But, near the end of the book (literally, this shit happens like 85% in), we find out that Rupert has also been carrying around a lot of hurt because his asexuality apparently makes him less of a man. So that's the background. Now to the Thing

Around 60% in, we find out that Hettie is finally! pregnant. Yay for Hettie and Rupert! But then the Thing happens for Plot Reasons, and Rupert decides for all three of them that they're breaking up with Aubrey. And he feels that he can do that, because A) he's a Man, B) he's got a title but most importantly, C) he's Hettie's husband, thus legally he owns her. So he tells Aubrey to fuck off (after 14 years! out of nowhere!), but "you'll still be our dear friend, won't you Aubrey?"

Now, dear reason, my blood was boiling in fury, but I was also getting triggered out of my mind. Because I've been in this exact situation, just few months ago. I had the man I was in relationship with, the man I loved, tell me out of nowhere, that's he's ending it all and that I should fuck off but also "we'll still be friends, no?". When I say out of nowhere, I mean it. I went to sleep happy, woke up and was told it's all over. It didn't help that he was incredibly rich, I was currently visiting him in new york, and was completely at his mercy, since neither my credit card nor phone worked in america. I had no money, no transportation, my flight home was supposed to be in two weeks and even if my card worked, I was still broke. I was completely, absolutely at his mercy at the other side of the planet. I don't think I need to explain how terrifying this situation was for me.

Now Aubrey here. He didn't have a job, just an allowance from his elderly father, and a large part of the book is his fear that his brother is going to cut him off once his father dies. Rupert was going to be the one financially supporting him. So when Rupert suddenly cuts him off as well, not only does he break his heart, his living situation is suddenly all tits up as well. He also wants him cut off from Hettie, because, as I said before, he feels that's his right. Apart from all that shittiness, given how much stock this book puts in feminism and rights of women, that was absolutely bizzare to see. Not to mention that during this entire final part where Aubrey and Rupert hash it out, she never appears. What?? The fuck??? This book with suffrage as a major part doesn't let Hettie in during the negotiation of her future???? WHAT

Anyway Aubrey begs Rupert not to do this. He begs and cries and Rupert doesn't listen and sends him off. After encouragement from Lucien, Aubrey goes back the second day and begs him again and after around 10 pages of endless, circular arguments, he manages to make Rupert take him back. No grovel, no apologies, no nothing.

What, pray tell, the fuck???? How the fuck is Aubrey supposed to trust him ever again?? How should Hettie??? WHY WOULD I WANT THEM BACK WITH RUPERT

This whole thing was so nasty and unnecessary and awful and it completely ruined any enjoyment I had towards this book.

So in the words of our good prophet Justin McElroy,
Fuck This
Profile Image for Wollstonecrafthomegirl.
472 reviews203 followers
June 19, 2019
This is worth reading. Saying that upfront again: this is worth reading. As historical romances go this is pretty damned impeccable on writing style, descriptions and sense of time and place. Lucens has got the chops for this game. As I said, this is worth reading.

So, why am I so focused on that central message (worth! reading!) right at the start?

Probably because my own feelings about this at the end of the book are, despite the fact that it is plainly a Good Book, muddled. Frankly, if some of you could read this and then write reviews telling me what to think about it that would be helpful. Plus, I really don’t want this review to put anyone off because - as I say - definitely worth reading.

So, here I go: muddled thoughts are as follows.

There is so, so much going on with this book. It’s fantastically ambitious and thoughtful. It’s very, very far from the beaten path of the average historical romance in the amount it packs in, not so much in plot but in themes and ideas.

This is demonstrated by the very fact of the central romance. This isn’t just our H/H, Aubrey and Lucien, falling in love (although it is that) because our hero, Aubrey, is already in a relationship and not just with another man, Rupert, but that man’s wife, Henrietta, as well. And that relationship is not a small part of the book, it is a Big Part of the book. There’s a significant sex scene involving the three of them and I do not have to tell the regular romance reader how unusual it is to have a sex scene involving one of the H/H with someone(s) other than the other half of the H/H. It’s basically a secondary romance but it involves one of our central couple. And they don’t break up to make way for Lucien, so he and Aubrey can enjoy the ‘real’ central romance. Quite the contrary, Lucien has to adapt - it’s part of the conflict. This is all so, so unusual in romance and perhaps part of the reason this hasn’t found a wider readership.

I’m not adverse to a poly romance and I’m not such a romance purist that this was per se off putting to me. That said, it was one of the aspects of the book which troubled me the most. I think because it split the focus. I really liked all the characters and I liked them all together and I was interested in both relationships, but I found it somewhat exhausting bouncing back and forth. I found myself wishing Jude had chosen one of these relationships for the central romance (ditching the other one) and then built all the other aspects of her great writing and themes around it. And yet, even as I type that, it’s a foolish idea because it’s such a huge part of what makes this book unique and interesting.

Plus, it’s not like this wasn’t romantic. It very, very much was. There are romantic scenes between Rupert, Aubrey and Henrietta sometimes the three together sometimes Aubrey with one or the other. The romance between Lucien and Aubrey is lovely as well, although I wouldn’t necessarily put it any higher than that.

There us a very nice class conflict built in - one of the marvellous themes in this book - which is deepened by Lucien’s early life in service and his continuing servile role to his ill friend William. Lucien has realised over a lifetime of service that working to care for someone is not necessarily caring for them, ”Time to get moving, if he was becoming sentimental. Fanshawe [Aubrey] has friends and good health. He had wealth, for God’s sake! And birth, too; a kind of material security Lucien would never have. You couldn’t afford to feel sorry for a chap like that. You couldn’t delude yourself that he needed anything from you, or wanted you got anything more than a quick Fuck. Might as well try to befriend a bloody mink.”

Lucien and William’s relationship is one of the most thoughtful aspects of this book and is an incredibly thoughtful way of revealing Lucien’s character and why he might think taking up with Aubrey is a bad idea, “Did he love William because they’d have become friends anyway, under any other circumstances? Or only because he’d been trained to feel precisely that.” William was such a part of Lucien’s upbringing and the weight of obligation, frustration, guilt, love and conflict which results from their relationship really seeps into Lucien’s whole being. As does his sense of service generally - his instinct is to polish the cutlery or hang up the suit. Compare and contrast Aubrey who has no such hang ups. He made the choice of who to be friends with when he was a boy and his valet picks up all his belongings. It makes for a chasm between the two of them which is patched up (although not completely - because divides like that do not simply cease to exist) by Jude in a thoughtful way.

The writing is great and period appropriate. Just a few examples:

“Aubrey held his breath, searching Lucien’s semi-visible eyes for… something. Something impossible… The weight of things half spoken settled between them as they walked, binding them with the deep complicity of willful ignorance. Aubrey wasn’t sure how Lucien felt about him. He wasn’t certain how he felt about Lucien either, except that he very badly didn’t want to be without him. Instinct mapped the hidden shape, and flinched from exposing it.”

”Ben’s ‘your lordship’ stung almost as much as William’s ‘natural born valet’ comment. Both said he didn’t belong and never would; that when they looked at him, nobs and working people alike saw only a flawed imitation of themselves.”

On the suffrage movement and the appeal by Pankhurst et al to working women (another couple of the themes in this book), ”The vision appeared to be for the poor to deplete themselves serving the wealthy, as ever. Meanwhile, wealthy women, whose fathers and husbands and brothers and sons squabbles in the House behind them- fussed over menus and dynasties, and made no effort whatsoever to convince their men to support women’s suffrage.”

”For the next hour, Lucien struggled to memorize the dynamics of the various women’s suffrage groups, while Miss Enfield explained interconnections between people and events. By the time she suggested they tackle more urgent stories, his head felt over-stuffed with the quarrels and political differences ethic had hives what seemed dozens of groups and he felt obliged to apologise for wasting her time.”

Miss Enfield, the lesbian reporter (usefully used to explore some gender themes and the vexed issue of working women) is one of a number of fully fleshed our secondary characters. Most obviously Rupert, the slightly diffident, perhaps asexual, other lover of Aubrey and Henrietta - outspoken, feminist, clever (fantastic, basically). There’s also a very canny valet whose name escapes me who helps Lucien and Aubrey keep their secret. Ben, Lucien’s boxing friend and lover and his working class family - full of love but without funds. William is also very well fleshed our even though he’s only ever seen through Lucien’s jaded eyes.

Amidst the sheer volume of stuff going on in this novel there was also a coherent plot. Not too much drama but enough going on to hold my interest.

Although some of the conflicts and plot points were, in my view, wrapped up far too neatly. Aubrey’s potential financial issues, which only marriage could cure under ordinary circumstances, rather disappeared. Lucien finds he too is in a poly situation with Ben - which felt a bit like Jude saying to the reader ‘don’t worry, Lucien is going to get a side piece too - extra relationships for everyone!’ *Oprah gif* Ben’s wife is very forgiving of this relationship in a plot wrap up that really did feel wholly artificial. Jude just seemed to want to put Disney bows around everything and she really didn’t need to, particularly because it distracted from an otherwise well-plotted and refreshingly realistic book.

In conclusion: I can’t give this five stars because, for me, it didn’t get there, but I have no doubt that for many readers this will be a five star read and I do hope it finds a wider readership. Will be awaiting Jude’s next romance with interest.
Profile Image for Emma.
508 reviews
May 27, 2018
I should start this off by saying I beta read this novel. That being said, Lucens has written a thought-provoking first book. The themes of upper-class vs lower-class have been explored in countless novels, but the juxtaposition of it here in both politics, with the discussions built around Women’s Suffrage and who benefits vs who suffers the initial cost, and personal relationships elevate it from what might have been a simple Upstairs/Downstairs story (even if Saxby is not actually a valet).

Additionally, as becomes clear within the first chapter, the relationships in Lucens’ novel do not follow a strictly heteronormative structure (for lack of a better word). There are many interweaving couples without the plot seeming overly cumbersome or mired in characters—and without the author seeming to pat herself on the back for diversity of sexual norms. Each interaction allows the reader to gain further insight into the MC’s motivations and hopes for the future.

Overall, this was an intriguing read that I would recommend for anyone who like well-researched historical romance with characters that share insecurities but are able to learn to communicate with minimal angst.
Profile Image for Jenn (not Lily).
3,805 reviews18 followers
June 26, 2021
A little bit of an epic, including LOTS of long descriptive passages. Overall, excellent writing and lovely representation of a historical poly relationship. Some really fantastic rants about suffrage and the class system, along with both steamy and tender moments between both the MCs and their other partners. Beautiful, but a bit long at some points, although I may have been influenced by the fact that I'm currently running a mild fever... I'll definitely be looking for more by this author!
Profile Image for Ekollon.
475 reviews44 followers
August 4, 2018
I was, perhaps, too excited about this book coming out. So excited because the blurb sounded so good! And then I dove in, and . . . I didn't like it the way I wanted to.

First off, this is a polyamorous novel, but not the kind that I'm really into. Instead of everyone being involved with each other, we have branching off groups and subgroups. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's not my cup of tea. We also kind of have primary and secondary partners, although everyone in the book insists we don't and all involved are primary.

The characters in this book felt way, way, way too dramatic, and by dramatic, I mean they kept manufacturing drama for themselves. They both kept simultaneously having too much communication and not enough communication, or at least not the right kind of communication. They didn't tell each other things first or check things out with each other first, and then after they did whatever it is that hurt the other person, they went on about it for pages, something which I suppose would maybe have to happen in real life if they messed up this way, but I absolutely did not want to read about. Like the whole kind of primary and secondary thing that is going on? Absolutely not something they addressed at all until suddenly they addressed it for pages, although the degree to which it is resolved is questionable.

I didn't like Rupert. He did too many bad things in the book without there being enough time devoted to his positive development for me to feel kindly towards him.

Holy wow do these people just keep adding sexual partners without checking it out with each other first. I mean, okay, if they're going to have more partners then that's their choice, but they keep adding people to their group without the others knowing, which doesn't seem the way to go at all.
Profile Image for Amy Cousins.
Author 49 books621 followers
October 21, 2018
I finished Jude Lucens's Behind These Doors late last night (and read the tie-in short story today!) and I'm still thinking about it. This is a lovely book, deeply thoughtful about queer found families, all the many kinds of love, communicating across class and other barriers--where we can't even see how we're misreading situations and other people because we don't understand how our own ingrained assumptions skew our perspective--politics and women's rights, compassion and service. I also wish we would all model our reactions to conflict and call outs/call ins after the characters in this book, who listen, remain open and vulnerable even as they are challenged about their words and actions, and learn to do better. It's inspiring as hell. Sweet and powerful and angry and righteous.
87 reviews34 followers
October 14, 2022
Review to come for this amazing book, because I'm not over the glitch with the page count leading me to believe I still had 20 pages left with these characters, when in fact, I did not. 💔

FYI, the ebook ends at 370 NOT 390. Yes, I'm having a violent emotional outburst (insert foot-stomping and hair-pulling GIF here).
Profile Image for PaperMoon.
1,389 reviews57 followers
December 24, 2020
Love cross the social divide brings a host of problems but more so when the MCs are Uranians (men who love men) living in the pre-Titanic, pre-Downton, pre-WW1 era - the necessary oppressive subterfuge required for survival is clearly evident throughout the read. To further compound our MCs woes, Lucien is drawn into a longstanding existing 'throuple' dynamic between Aubrey and his childhood/youthful friends Rupert and Henrietta.

The complications that ensue from adding a fourth piece into an carefully set up polyamorous is actually quite well laid out by the author (some rather expository passages aside) but it did take me a little while to warm up to any of them. However, I did get emotionally invested in all their fates ... as well as those of a couple of warmly drawn secondary characters (Ben and Cath - who have their own tale in Gutter Roses). Gender-dynamics and social justice is explored within the throuple relationship as well as in wider suffragette movement/advances of the day. Likewise, inherent power imbalance between the privileged landed gentry and those who serve them (no matter how benign, benevolent or loving the players are to each other) is similarly surveyed in Lucien's relationships with Aubrey and William.

Whilst there is no evil antagonist actively working to ruin the reputations/lives of our MCs (unlike say in Jackson Marsh's Clearwater Mysteries series, it doesn't take very much to shake the 'house of cards' as the seeds of destruction actually lie already embedded in the psyche and hidden insecurities of a couple of our main 'foursome'. I appreciate the HFN (rather exhaustingly wrought in the end) but there's a few over arching plot threads which still need addressing but alas, the next book in the series is yet to be released (no date set). If and when that happens, I hope it satisfies my curiosity and interest in characters such as Aubrey's and Lucien's parents, Lucien's feisty female colleague at work, and Aubrey's rather splendid valet - Grieve.

3.5 stars mostly, but rounded up to 4 in the end.
Profile Image for Ellie.
814 reviews165 followers
June 21, 2018
I haven't read many polyamorous romances but I quite enjoyed this one. It's a tender, emotional romance exploring a number of conflicts (along class lines, along making a polyam relationship work). There are lots and lots of historical details, which sometimes felt overwhelming. The romance unfolded at the background of the the Suffragette movement and the fight for the rights of women. This is a very character focused story about a bunch of people who are so very different from each other but who love each other dearly who are trying to find a way to be together and happy despite the social norms and conventions which stand in their way.
Wonderful writing, smooth flow of an interesting story. Great debut!

Disclaimer: I'm on friendly terms with the author and I read an ARC of this book provided by her
Profile Image for Rafa Brewster.
257 reviews21 followers
July 25, 2018
DNF at 70%. I thoroughly enjoyed it up to about halfway through but then the slow pace and repetitious nature of the book caught up with me in a major way. Things that were unique to that era at first impressed me as being well-researched, but then started to grate on me because they kept being repeated in unnecessary detail. I think the slow pace also allowed me too much time to question certain things about the two MCs behaviors. Even when certain things came to light, I couldn't look past the idea that it had never occurred to Aubrey to tell Lucien that he was in a committed open relationship.

I enjoyed the idea behind the book and its attempt to tackle a polyam relationship between classes but in the endless conversations and avowals of love, I just lost interest. I seriously considered tackling the final 30% but 30% is A LOT considering how long the book is. Overall, I thought the writing was strong and well-researched but it could have used nine rounds with a very firm editor.
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,479 reviews424 followers
July 12, 2018
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.75 stars

With this story, I have managed to randomly bump into a book that ticked all the boxes I wanted ticked in a story about polyamory. It’s worth noting that Aubrey, Rupert, and Henrietta’s relationship is on display from page one and Lucens does a delightful job of detailing the dynamic of these three long-time lovers both in public and in private. The new relationship Aubrey finds himself developing with Lucien is then something new and separate from the one he enjoys with the Hernedales, but Lucens provides perhaps even more depth when describing how Aubrey and Lucien react and interact as they learn more about one another.

One of this books strongest pluses is the focus on interpersonal scenes. Our narration is split fairly evenly between Aubrey and Lucien. This means Aubrey’s scenes highlight his values of infinite, but unique, love for all his lovers and acknowledgement that he wouldn’t take on more lovers than he could reasonably satisfy, not just sexually, but emotionally. For example, Henrietta’s brother’s actions threaten to ruin the romance, if not even the friendship, between the Hernedales and Aubrey. We have glorious pages upon pages where Aubrey discusses the impending fall out and falling out tete-a-tete with Henrietta and again with Rupert. The reader is treated to intimate discussions between the lovers, raw emotions, and how powerfully the threat of exposure can affect the dynamic in Aubrey’s love affair with Rupert and Henrietta.

Read Camille’s review in its entirety here.

Profile Image for Milyd.
502 reviews16 followers
January 17, 2021
Wow I was a bit nervous about the polyamory aspect, but honestly I couldn't have read this book at a better time. Although it's fiction, I think it truly gave me a new perspective on relationships, and I was pretty much rooting for everyone here. I don't think I was very sold on the Lucien/Ben aspect though. Maybe because they didn't interact as much? (Don't know if they did in the prequel)
Profile Image for JD Crittendon.
1,118 reviews11 followers
March 11, 2021
What Flaws We See In Others, We Harbors Ourselves!

The loves, likes and an antagonist are featured in the Lucien & Aubrey historical Edwardian romantic story. What a well written tale with a historical look at the class system, suffrage and morals of 1900s England.
There is so much to love, the well developed MCs, even the minor characters are well written. I enjoyed the intellectual debated regarding the have and the nots. The suffrage portions are well researched and the unusual relationships are explain as plausible and authentic.
The pacing is a slow burn but extremely sexy and sweet.
A damn good story!
Profile Image for Rhode PVD.
2,341 reviews23 followers
July 22, 2018
Admission: I beta-read this as it was being written and was one of several who begged the author to publish it. However, I paid for my copy of the final book.

For me, it’s the combination of all factors. Friendships and romances I can believe in, rich writing (if you love phrasing and wordplay, you’ll love this) and trustworthy historical details. It’s a lush novel you can dive into, feel embraced by and learn new things from.

For me it was also a relief from too many historical romances in which the world is nothing but cishet dukes, virgins and ballgowns. There’s diversity in this book, some of it written from an #ownvoices perspective. The diversity includes people of different classes, sexual orientations, races and genders. (Although the primary romance is m/m, there’s also a pre-existing m/m/f relationship.) In addition the main hero, who is a journalist, witnesses famous IRL feminists during the fight for the vote.

I also loved how realistically - yet utterly warm & heartfelt - polyamorous relationships were depicted. If you are someone who cannot abide the thought of people having multiple, concurrent relationships (openly and honestly with their partners), then this book is not for you. If you are someone who enjoys reading about multiple partners for titillation only, this book is not for you. I’m not saying those things are wrong — just that this is different.

This is a book about a group of people, men and women, lovers and friends, from a variety of backgrounds, who are fumbling their way toward creating loving, intertwined lives in London with historical, feminist events occurring in the background.

And, as I already mentioned, it’s awfully well written, in sweeping prose that carries you along. I’m looking forward to the next one in this series.
Profile Image for Liewen.
193 reviews11 followers
July 14, 2018
Beware : this is a slow pacing novel.
But oh my, it was soooo enjoyable, with all the things I love in historicals : a thouroughly researched historical background having its full part in the plot, complex and three-dimensional characters, so very likable but fitting with their time period, a nice and polished writing.
4,5 stars for this good an solid HR.
Profile Image for Freya Marske.
Author 13 books1,675 followers
July 12, 2018
This will probably disappoint you if you're looking for something with a strong narrative impetus -- there was no clear tension or overarching plot structure dragging me through, so I kept comfortably putting it down and leaving it for a while before picking it up again -- but it happened to be exactly what I needed this week: a quiet, domestic, introspective, thoroughly romantic story about people having difficult conversations and falling in love. And the suffragette movement! And class tensions! And A FUNCTIONAL LOVING TRIAD and COMPLEX POLYAMORY and DEMISEXUALITY, all which I have been dyiiiiiiing to see more of in historical romance fiction.

(And it includes a namedrop of Wightwick Manor and Kempe's designs for William Morris, which made me VERY HAPPY, given I am someone whose current Edwardian WIP has devolved into a vain attempt to rein in my enthusiasm for the Arts & Crafts movement.)
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,206 reviews188 followers
March 17, 2019
A polyamorous historical set in early 1900s London, with more complicated upper-class/lower-class drama than you can shake a stick at. Aubrey is already in a fulfilling but necessarily secret relationship with his old school friend and his wife, but when he meets Lucien, a journalist, he’s immediately intrigued. It takes a lot to negotiate how the various relationships will work, especially because the society of the time so strictly dictates what is and is not acceptable, but Aubrey is a big-hearted, sweet, and kind person, and he’s willing to listen when Lucien confronts him about the ways privilege has made him blind.
Profile Image for Victoria (Eve's Alexandria).
664 reviews384 followers
October 17, 2019
A quite exquisite poly romance centred on the burgeoning relationship between the Honourable Aubrey Fanshawe and a Daily Mail society journalist called Lucien Saxby. Set in 1906 it beautifully captures the established decadence of the early years of the 20th century, the last hurrah of Empire, but with a feminist and socialist eye that skewers the privilege of men like Aubrey. Raised on the edges of upper class society, as the son of a valet and the nursery companion of a lord, Lucien has all the accomplishments of a ‘nob’ but now, as an adult, none of the financial and social security. He can ‘pass’ amongst them but never be one of them; not that he would want to be, given how little regard and respect he has for that way of life. It’s the central conflict of his relationship with Aubrey, a man who represents the kind of indolence and thoughtlessness that he despises.

But Aubrey is deeply lonely, and so is Lucien, is spite of the fact that both men are already involved in more or less committed relationships elsewhere: Aubrey with both of his childhood friends, Lord and Lady Hernedale, and Lucien with his boxing partner Ben (who is himself married). The attraction between them is undeniable, and beautiful, if fraught with misunderstandings and challenges. They are both cinnamon rolls, caring, kind and needful of lots of interpersonal contact for their wellbeing. We get lots of scenes of them working out their relationship and what it means, for their wider romantic network and for each other.

It’s a very talky book, told through the dialogue that spools out of our MCs, and a very touchy book, where love is expressed most in caresses and embraces rather than bedroom scenes. (Although there are some brilliant bedroom scenes too.) The writing is extremely good, polished in a way that reminds me of my beloved KJ Charles (although without her lightness of touch). This is perhaps unsurprising, given that she edited the book.

All in all, highly recommended. I downloaded the accompanying short story Gutter Roses (Ben and his wife’s story) immediately, but that’s sadly the only other thing Jude Lucens has published so far. More please!
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