Octobercountry's Reviews > A Private Gentleman

A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan
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's review
Jul 31, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: kindle-lending-library

I greatly enjoy gay-themed Regency stories, but confess to a certain amount of unease about this one, due to the fact that it’s a bit darker in tone than many of the historical novels that I read. You could say that this book puts on display the seedy underbelly of the times in a way that Georgette Heyer never would.

With themes involving laudanum addiction and child abuse, there’s no doubt that this book touches on problems never mentioned in lighter historical fare. But at the same time the story is not all doom and gloom; not by a long shot. The sad and unhappy aspects of the plot are more than counterbalanced by the unfolding relationship between Michael and Wes. Here we have two very damaged individuals who find in each other a reason to go on. They bring out the best in each other, and their growing attraction, turning to love, gives them strength and enables them to fight their personal demons and become better people because of it. And isn’t this an uplifting example of what the best romantic relationships may offer?

There is some unpleasant content here, but the positive aspects of the tale were quite uplifting and rest assured that things end well for the pair. However, I did have a few questions at the end; now let’s see, what can I say without giving away any key plot points….

Michael and Wes end up in an ideal situation, but one that perhaps isn’t perpetually sustainable given the constraints of the time period. I’d like to see how, as time passed by, they managed to continue to live as a couple while still fitting into society. It’s true enough that there was a great deal of hypocrisy among the aristocracy in 19th century England. Wait, that’s true of every society in every time period! But what I’m saying is that the upper class could get by with behavior that might flout the conventional societal moral norms of the time, as long as the individuals were discreet and didn’t focus undue attention upon themselves. It really was possible for two men to have a serious committed romantic relationship in this society (even 200 years ago). But to do so they would have to have a logical and innocuous reason to spend a lot of time in each other’s company, or live in the same house. And I wanted to know how the two protagonists pulled this off after the story concluded.

Also, I have to wonder about the fate of the Westin family after the shattering events that engulfed them. (I should note this scandal was NOT due to anything that Wes did!) Could the family, no matter how well-connected and powerful, continue to take their place, and have an influence, in polite society? Or would they have to start afresh in some other country, perhaps on the continent or even America? I simply don’t know how this would have played out in Regency England.

But my questions didn’t adversely affect my feelings about the story. This is a book that I grew to like even more after I had read it, and thought about it a bit. I suppose I was rather uncomfortable with a few of the plot twists as I was in the process of reading, and only upon reflection did my feelings shift a little. I’ll recommend this one to those who enjoy Regencies with gay characters. I haven’t read any of the author’s other works as of yet, but I liked this one well enough that I’m certainly willing to try some of her other books.
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