“So what of your sister, Mr. Hewel? Or were you always meant to play my bride?”
“Hardly. She has run off with a man she thinks herself in love with.”
Crofton laughed. “Clever girl.”
“So it seems.”
Sebastian watched as Crofton examined him closely, taking in his appearance from head to toe. “What now? You know what we planned to do.”
“I think the plan has merits,” Crofton replied with a sly grin.
“Her Majesty has granted me permission to wed Bronwyn Hewel. How would it look if Bronwyn were to refuse? But I think that we can come to an arrangement that will prevent me from having to sully the once-great Hewel name.”
Sebastian didn’t like the sound of that—the words too close to blackmail for his comfort. “Meaning what, exactly?”
“If you are willing to keep up this pretense, continue to play Bronwyn, then I in turn would take up the mantle of devoted husband.”
“Your greatest performance, Mr. Hewel. Fool the court and polite society in an extravagant wedding, then retire to my country house to be my beloved wife for perhaps a year or two, after which time my young, but sickly, wife will succumb to a fever, and you will return to your life as Sebastian Hewel.”
For a moment Sebastian was unable to reply, Crofton’s shocking proposal robbing him of words. “But why would you want this?”
Crofton’s smile was predatory. “I have my reasons.”
“No buts, Mr. Hewel. Do you have your answer? A life of luxury and your honor, or your family’s disgrace?”
Sebastian’s heart raced, but as he stared into Crofton’s expectant face, he really had little choice. “I accept.”
I don't read historical novels. I just don't I especially don't read historical romance. So why did I sit down and read this book in two sittings (damn the need for sleep)?
The story itself is simple, if fresh and quite unique. Anthony, the Earl of Crofton needs to marry into a family who is overtly loyal to Queen Elizabeth. He arranges a marriage with Bronwyn Hewel. Unfortunately Bronwyn runs off with a stable hand just before the wedding.
Sebastian Hewel is an actor in a Shakespearean troupe. As it is considered unlucky for women to take the stage, and as Sebastian is relatively new, he plays only female roles. Thus he is adept at pretending to be a woman, which is no mean feat when considering the amount of clothing women are required to wear at these times.
It suits both parties, that Sebastian take on the role of his twin sister and marry the Earl. Of course they then fall in love and have a series of adventures, as lovers do,
There is nothing particularly remarkable about the story, but the way it is written is definitely cause for celebration. The story is told in a very straightforward way and gives you a glimpse into the lives of a poor actor and a super rich Earl, in Victorian London, without overloading you with information or trying to teach you anything.
We learn a lot about women's dress because we struggle with it alongside poor Sebastian, and we learn a lot about a woman's role in society because Sebastian is forced to learn pdq and again we struggle to get to grips with it alongside him. There are some beautiful historical details and a very delicate hand in painting pictures of day to day life, even down to the books they read and the games they played.
There must have been a lot of research as the book is full of little authentic details, such as a doll being called a poppet, ladies taking ale with their breakfast, and eels having so many bones they have to be picked from the palate. Of course the bigger authentic details are astounding as well.
It's amazing there's room for sex scenes but my goodness there are. I never realized how erotic it was to have to strip off so many clothes. The sex is hot but not gratuitous and fits in perfectly with the tone and pace of the story.
Whilst I can't, in all honesty, say this is at the top of my favourites list, this is only because I have read some pretty amazing books and it is saying a lot that it has made its way onto the list very comfortably. I would recommend this book without qualms to both those who love, and those who generally hate historical romance.
Author Bio: Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Tour Dates: 5/19/14
Tour Stops: Fallen Angel Reviews, Prism Book Alliance, 3 Chicks After Dark, My Fiction Nook, Love Bytes, MM Good Books, Parker Williams, Elisa Rolle, Nephylim, Iyana Jenna, Lee Brazil, The Hat Party, Up All Night, Read All Day, Cate Ashwood, Dawn’s Reading Nook, It’s Raining Men, Pants Off Review, Amanda C. Stone