The Gentleman's Book of Vices by Jess Everlee

London, 1883

Finely dressed and finely drunk, Charlie Price is a man dedicated to his vices. Chief among them is his explicit novel collection, though his impending marriage to a woman he can’t love will force his carefully curated collection into hiding.

Before it does, Charlie is determined to have one last hurrah: meeting his favorite author in person.

Miles Montague is more gifted as a smut writer than a shopkeep and uses his royalties to keep his flagging bookstore afloat. So when a cheerful dandy appears out of the mist with Miles's highly secret pen name on his pretty lips, Miles assumes the worst. But Charlie Price is no blackmailer; he’s Miles's biggest fan.

A scribbled signature on a worn book page sets off an affair as scorching as anything Miles has ever written. But Miles is clinging to a troubled past, while Charlie’s future has spun entirely out of his control… 

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Tommy Hawthorne (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Audio
YEAR: 2022
LENGTH: 303 pages (8 hours 54 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Historical, Romance

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Secondary Character(s).

THE GENTLEMAN'S BOOK OF VICES has a good start, an enjoyable middle, and an ending that is in turns stressful and anticlimactic. While ultimately not one I care for, it might appeal to those who don't mind oddly convenient resolutions to problems the characters can't quite find their way out of.

The biggest tension is that Charlie is engaged to marry a woman he likes but does not love (or at least is not interested in, sexually), since's he's gay and would rather be a confirmed bachelor if the choice had been afforded to him. He's marrying as part of a scheme between their parents to get the two of them married and Charlie's debts settled. The problem is that, around a month before the wedding, Charlie meets and is infatuated with Miles, a pornographer who runs a bookshop. Miles won't sleep with a married man, so if Charlie wants to keep seeing Miles for longer than a fling, he'll have to call the wedding off. For a long while it seemed like everything revolved around whatever Charlie was going to decide, with Miles having made his position clear but not able to control whether or not Charlie got married. 

I think I like my books with a bit more stress but not this kind of stress. I dislike lying in relationships and am rarely able to handle them in fiction, and this manages to have a lot of that stress without most of the actual lies, which doesn't soothe things for me as much as it could have. I'd prefer a book where it feels like the characters worked for the ending, like something is different by the end because they have changed in a meaningful way. Miles may have, but so much of the narrative focus in terms of agency is on Charlie that I'm not even totally certain of that. The resolution seems to be just handed to them, and in a way that changes my thoughts about the beginning as well. It's likely too sexually explicit to work for those who prefer their romances closed-door or fade-to-black, while dodging explicit detail once things really get going. It's not for me, though I had a good time in parts.

Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, sexual content.

Moderate CW for homophobia, cursing, infidelity, alcohol, death.

Minor CW for sexual harassment, abandonment, pregnancy, terminal illness.

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