Bridgerton goes Gothic in this sweeping Regency romance by celebrated author KJ Charles.
Major Rufus d’Aumesty has unexpectedly become the Earl of Oxney, master of a remote Norman manor on the edge of the infamous Romney Marsh. There he’s beset on all sides, his position contested both by his greedy uncle and by Luke Doomsday, son of a notorious smuggling clan.
The earl and the smuggler should be natural enemies, but cocksure, enragingly competent Luke is a trained secretary and expert schemer—exactly the sort of man Rufus needs by his side. Before long, Luke becomes an unexpected ally...and the lover Rufus had never hoped to find.
But Luke came to Stone Manor with an ulterior motive, one he’s desperate to keep hidden even from the lord he can’t resist. As the lies accumulate and family secrets threaten to destroy everything they hold dear, master and man find themselves forced to decide whose side they’re really on…and what they’re willing to do for love.
Readers Rave about KJ Charles:
"KJ Charles is one of the best romance novelists writing today. Historical romance at its finest." —Sarah MacLean, New York Times bestselling author
"Once again KJ Charles has produced an absolute masterpiece!" —Joanna Shupe, USA Today bestselling author
“A romantic, swashbuckling tale from start to finish.” —Manda Collins, bestselling author of A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem
Charles's swashbuckling second Doomsday Books romance (after The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen) enthralls as it transports readers back to the moors of 19th-century Kent. Set 13 years after the previous installment, the story focuses on Luke Doomsday, who was introduced as the intelligent but unhappy child of a notorious family of smugglers and has now grown up to be a talented and successful secretary, recently hired by Rufus d'Aumesty, the new Earl of Oxney, who needs help navigating the harsh world of the marsh on which his estate resides—and who wants to be more than just Luke's employer. With the Doomsday clan on hand, there's plenty of family drama, scheming, and secrecy to complicate the lovers' path forward. Charles's historical accuracy extends all the way to the colloquial names of the day for penis ("his stand" is a common one) and she excels at delivering both steamy sex scenes and fascinating discussions of honesty and morality. How, for example, does one decide whether to tell a loved one a secret that will surely break their heart? Charles tackles this and more in a beautifully executed sequel that will live up to fans' expectations.
Not quite as fast-paced as the first book, but just as satisfying. I adored the characters and the twists and turns here, and was so happy to read a book about Luke, as he’s such an interesting and lovable character. I love the word building and lore of the Doomsdays and the Marsh—I do hope KJ writes more of these! I want to know all about this world, it’s just delightful.
KJ Charles is always top notch, and “A Nobleman's Guide to Seducing A Scoundrel” is positively addictive. Mounting intrigue, heroes who can’t help but get in their own way, and a gentle, but seemingly endangered love affair all nailed me to swipe, page after page, long past bedtime. Book 2 of The Doomsday Books is a standalone, though book 1, “The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen” is equally terrific and does add some depth.
The novel begins thirteen years after Country Gentlemen, when Luke Doomsday (whose face was disfigured by his dad in book 1) answers a summons of Major Rufus, Earl of Oxney. Rufus’ Uncle Conrad had expected to inherit rather than Rufus and has thrown obstacles to scuttle Rufus’ claim. The most recent is the suggestion that Luke’s mother was married to Rufus’ father prior to Rufus’ mother, invalidating Rufus inheritance. Meanwhile, Luke sees Rufus as a man in need of his organizational/secretarial skills, and Luke needs a position. They decide Luke will look through estate records for any mention of his mother, while helping to get the books in order.
Uncle Conrad hadn’t realized he wouldn’t inherit if his theory proved correct. His obnoxiousness increases, realizing Luke would become the new Earl. Rufus and Luke must deal with Conrad’s ongoing fury, alongside Conrad’s wife and three adult children, who live under the same roof, even as the two young men sense a growing, but inconvenient attraction. And just as readers are hoping things might improve, we discover Luke, himself, has many hidden secrets. Uh, Oh!
Ms. Charles makes me consider the nature of Regency life, whether by direct instruction about history, or simple demonstration. Imagine the requirement to live with people you found tedious or even odious over a life time!
“He (Rufus) was supposed to have the assistance of Cousin Odo, Conrad’s younger son… (who) had acted as grandfather’s clerk. Odo was a vague sort of man, nervous to the point of imbecility, who only seemed happy talking about ancient history and the family heritage, subjects in which Rufus had no interest… Odo’s hand was appalling, a chaotic close-written chicken-scratch.” In few words, Ms. Charles has penned a full caricature which enhances my understanding of both men. The aura of a Regency piece is maintained with old-fashioned language that remains sufficiently modern to be easily digested.
Ms. Charles’ intricate exploration of personalities puts her on my top ten author list. The following quotes quickly demonstrate Rufus’ kind-heartedness, even though he had to be self-sufficient by age sixteen and is a combat-seasoned soldier. “Rufus wasn’t going to besiege a harmless castle in the air.” “’You’ll never fall in love in your life,’ one of his partners had told him. ‘That or you’ll do it once and once only, and God help you if it’s a mistake because you’ll be stuck with it.’” Can’t you feel the ominous clouds over his head?
When Rufus actually laughs realizing Luke might inherit, even though it would cost him his title, Luke asks why. Rufus responds, “Honestly? Spite. Oh, If I am to be turfed out I’d rather it was in your favour than Conrad’s. It would be highly entertaining if you took the earldom. The combined blue blood of the d’Aumestys would clot on the spot.” Not only did I smile, but my opinion of Rufus raised immeasurably. Will Luke be his downfall? Oh dear. I was hooked.
The men’s staggered and bumpy path towards one another is a glory to behold. Do yourself a favor and set aside time to enjoy “A Nobleman's Guide to Seducing A Scoundrel.” Each phrase and every scene deserves to be savored! Masterful!