A Gentleman’s Position is getting its own review because it is the best regency romance I have read in a long time. It is new and different and thought-provoking and very Courtney Milan. I loved it so much!
It’s actually the third book in a series, but I read it first since Sarah Maclean’s recommendation caught my eye. It is the best book of the three (unless you prefer the second which is also extremely good and explores sub/dom relationships) and I think the other two books are actually better for having read this one first, so long as you don’t mind spoilers. (And if you’re reading regency romances… you probably don’t.)
What makes this book special? Well, it’s about a male/male relationship in Regency London. It does an amazing job of exploring the very real problems that people in this situation in this time period had, as well as class conflicts and how to pull together a relationship under these constraints. The conflicts are real conflicts that sensible people in too realistic situations might end up with. It also plays with standard romance tropes in a new setting that makes them all the more ridiculous in the standard male/female setting given the very real reasons they keep the two heroes apart in this setting. Oh, and there’s a clever heist (technically a swindle) and I love clever heist books.
The two main characters don’t include a standard female trope in male body (or worse, tired Regency stereotypes that include the word “mincing”), but instead are two standard Regency heroes with slight tweaks to fit the setting. Richard, the aristocratic hero, is your standard responsible lord of the manor trope (usually seen paired with either a manic pixie girl or with his sensible childhood friend as they keep a manic pixie out of trouble). Here he’s the spare rather than the heir which allows him to remain unmarried without the duty to procreate. Cyprian, his valet, is usually seen as the bastard brother of nobility (often working as his brother’s confidential secretary) or the whore’s bastard who now runs a gambling hell. He is a superior Jeeves style valet in this book, but with far more ambition than to work for someone like Bertie Wooster.
There is explicit sex, much like the kind you’d read in a modern male/female Regency, and I guess it’s pretty vanilla given the biological differences in a male/male pairing? (The other two books have heroes who are a bit more adventurous, and so are a bit more risque, particularly in the second book, and I’m only on the first chapter of the second book right now.) (update: still more risqué)
The minor characters are also interesting, and reading the previous two books in the series is like reading the back stories of old friends. If there’s any complaint it’s that the book is a sausage-fest with very few female characters (oddly, at least two women are named Euphemia), but that’s forgivable given the circumstances of their segregated society and the illegality of homosexuality during this time period. [Update: Having read many of her other books, this is the only series that is a sausage-fest– the Magpie series, the Sins of the City* series, and her stand-alones have a lot more women as minor characters. Also, all maiden aunts are named Lucie.]
This book is a great exploration of love against constraints. I normally dislike love stories between an employer and an employee, but so does our hero, Richard, and figuring out how to make things work in that setting is a large part of the story. How do you get equality in a society that wants to keep you apart? Both heroes are incredibly likable and reading about their struggles reminds the reader of the very real struggles of GLBT couples today.
Also, the book is a lot of fun. Especially the second half when everything comes together.
*After writing the first draft of this review I went on a massive KJ Charles binge. An Unseen Attraction in the Sins of the city series is the only one of her books available right now that isn’t a light-hearted regency. It fits more in the gritty late 19th century murder/suspense genre than the long-regency romance genre. The heroes will not end unscathed and some of the pain will be heartache. Her magpie series also has magic and definitely fits in the 19th/20th century magician genre. (She has more books written than are currently available, but one of the companies that published her books has gone out of business so she’s going to re-release as self-pub ebooks in the near future. I will read the rest of her Magpie books at that time!)