An earl hiding from his future . . .
Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.
A swindler haunted by his past . . .
Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.
Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives?
Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember.
Well-drawn characters, both major and minor, snappy dialogue, and an excellent portrayal of a neurodiverse character coming to grips with his life, as well as a scoundrel coming to grips with his conscience. Read it from the library then bought a copy for convenient repeat reading. :D
Sebastian crafted a story that was deliciously complex, emotionally honest and truly special.
Easily read as a stand-alone, The Lawrence Browne Affair brings us an alternate and diverse view of historic romance from the late-regency, Napoleonic era. Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is burdened. Burdened with the family history of madness, a cloying shyness and discomfort in social situations, a crumbling estate and a decided lack of servants. Nothing is meant to come “easy” for Lawrence, and one might expect a slight and small man, a bit on the prissy side considering the title, but he’s far from that. Large, strong, sharp witted but completely without concern for the social niceties or interactions so many crave.
George Turner (Georgie) is a brother of Jack (from A Soldier’s Scoundrel), and another rather amoral human being, totally out for his own personal gain. But, when he is taken by a sudden (and recurring) twinge of conscience, he missteps with a gang leader and needs to readjust. Always in his life, Georgie has managed to endear himself to his marks, winning their trust and confidence, and a position as the personal secretary to the Earl of Radnor is the next challenge.
There are solid overtones that bring Beauty and the Beast to mind: Georgie being the softer and gentler, and often more personable of the two, especially when contrasted with Lawrence’s decided discomfort and bad temper that characterize his own interactions. But Georgie is supremely skilled in coaxing and cajoling trust and confidence, even as he reveals little to nothing about himself. Lawrence, mired in the fears that family history will also result in his mental decline, have served to push him further from the public’s eye, finding refuge in his experiments and scientific study. Experiments don’t require conversation, they don’t judge and point fingers while whispering, and more importantly, they don’t require him to be anything other than himself. Of course, there is talk of the Mad Earl: how could they not with his father’s dramatic demise, and the servants who left in droves didn’t understand the difference between science and witchcraft, and everything combines to make a story far more dramatic and intriguing than the truth.
Sebastian creates a story lush with description and detail, but never overburdens readers with empty facts. Secondary characters are wonderfully complex and introduced for specific reasons, while not always evident of the moment, you realize they add yet another layer to bring the story forward. Lawrence is instantly sympathetic, we see his social anxieties and understand his fears, and his deep-rooted need to be loved. Georgie has his moments of charm, but as his conscience started to guide his actions, and his own conflicts between his initial purpose and history allowed us to see his true heart, and the struggles he had between who he is or was, and who he wanted to be because of Lawrence and what he feels for him. The slow burn romance, combined with the gradual softening and connection between the two of them when attraction moves to action was delicious and will have you clamoring for more. When you add in the climax, when all secrets are revealed, what emerges is a connection that is both visceral and heart-felt. Sebastian crafted a story that was deliciously complex, emotionally honest and truly special.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.