The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles (The Doomsday Books #1)
Abandoned by his father as a small child, Sir Gareth Inglis has grown up prickly, cold, and well-used to disappointment. Even so, he longs for a connection, falling headfirst into a passionate anonymous affair that's over almost as quickly as it began. Bitter at the sudden rejection, Gareth has little time to lick his wounds: his father has died, leaving him the family title, a rambling manor on the remote Romney Marsh...and the den of cutthroats and thieves that make its intricate waterways their home.
Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. His family is his life...which is why when the all-too-familiar new baronet testifies against Joss's sister for a hanging offense, Joss acts fast, blackmailing Gareth with the secret of their relationship to force him to recant. Their reunion is anything but happy and the path forward everything but smooth, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. It's a long road from there—full of danger and mysteries to be solved—yet somehow, along the way, this well-mannered gentleman may at last find true love with the least likely of scoundrels.
COVER ART: Jyotirmaryee Patra
COVER DESIGN: Stephanie Gafron
CONTRIBUTOR(S): Martyn Swain (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Dreamscape Media
LENGTH: 342 pages (11 hours 17 minutes)
GENRE: Historical, Romance
Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Main Character(s).
THE SECRET LIVES OF COUNTRY GENTLEMEN is another excellent gay romance from K.J. Charles, this time between a noble and a smuggler... with the complication that the noble, Sir Gareth, didn’t get his inheritance until his twenties when his estranged father died unexpectedly. Gareth pushes away a man with whom he'd spent a very pleasant week, only to have it turn out that this man lives near his late father's home and their lives keep intertwining in unexpected ways.
I don’t generally like the miscommunication trope, but this one is handled well without making anyone behave nonsensically (as much as I'd prefer they'd made different decisions earlier) Much of the tension is over people who think the Gareth has information which he does not, and this was overall delightful to read the missed the violence in murder and other dangers of smuggling as a profession. I like Joss, I generally enjoy roguish characters, and as a smuggler he fits that both in occupation and in personality.
I love the Doomsdays as a family and as individuals. The ways they behave collectively and individually just make so much sense and written so well. There's a real sense of identity to the people in the Marsh without turning them into a single mass. There's also a focus on Luke, a boy whose father uses his position within the Doomsdays to mistreat him and wield power as a petty tyrant over a child with limited recourse.
I wanted a romance with danger and maybe a little death, and this delivered on all fronts with a fascinating narrative to boot. The ending leaves room for some kind of follow-up on Luke, and I plan to read the sequel which features him as an adult.
Graphic/Explicit CW for sexual content, kidnapping, child abuse, homophobia, confinement, violence, injury detail.
Moderate CW for blood, medical content, abandonment, emotional abuse, physical abuse, murder, parental death, death.