REVIEW: The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian
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.
Dear Cat Sebastian,
I liked the first book in this series (it’s at least a trilogy and possibly more), but I had some issues with the romance storyline and liked it more as a mystery. This is the story of Georgie, who is the younger brother of one of the main characters, Jack, in the first book. We briefly met Georgie there, and Jack and his lover Oliver make a couple of cameo appearances in this one, but this story can easily be read as a stand-alone.
The blurb gives you an idea about the setup, but I want to elaborate a little bit more for readers. Georgie was not able to go through with swindling money from a sweet old lady, and the criminal boss who gave Georgie the job wants to punish him. Georgie knows he needs to leave London at least temporarily, and this “pretending to be a secretary” job comes along very conveniently.
More precisely, in the story Jack asks Georgie to take the position as a favor, because Oliver has received a letter from a school friend who is now a vicar in the village where the reclusive Earl of Radnor lives. The vicar wants Oliver to find a secretary for the Earl and for that secretary to confirm that the Earl is not mad, because a certain party (whose identity is revealed much later) needs this confirmation from vicar. As I write this review I’m just now realizing that this setup could be considered a plot hole – the vicar comes to visit Lawrence, the Earl, several times, and given Lawrence’s reclusive existence, the vicar is probably the only person welcome in the house apart from a couple of live-in servants. Why couldn’t the vicar himself confirm Lawrence’s sanity? I suppose because the mysterious party may not believe a vicar without additional evidence, or so I am telling myself.
In any event, off Georgie goes to meet a strange Earl, and he is not planning to stay for very long. As soon as he discovers the Earl’s true state of mind and his own danger passes, he will leave. He might even steal something valuable from Lawrence for himself, because that’s how Georgie rolls (or so he has convinced himself).
But you know what they say about best laid plans…
Have I mentioned that while vicar manages to convince Lawrence that he needs a secretary to help him in his scientific experiments, Lawrence is not looking forward to having a stranger in his house? If I understand his condition correctly, Lawrence suffers from anxiety – he is nervous and worried when when he has to leave his house and when he has to meet new people (that’s why he lives as a recluse). Of course it is never called anxiety and attempts are made to talk about it in period-appropriate terms. While Lawrence knows that sometimes he reacts to things differently from other people, he is also convinced that his condition is much worse than it is. I don’t mean to minimize the seriousness of anxiety as a condition, but Lawrence is convinced that he will eventually “go mad” as his father and brother supposedly did, and that he will die from this malady.
Lawrence and Georgie’s first meeting was a “most charming” one, but their following romance charmed my socks off even more. I do not know what it was – maybe it was the echo of Beauty and the Beast (I’m not sure who would be more appropriate for the role of the Beast, if we go deeper with the parallel, but once again, it was no more than an echo). I love a good redemption story, and while Georgie was never as awful as he thought he was , he did engage in swindling activities for many years (it was to survive, but he did do it), so I was happy to see him change careers.
“No, it was more than tempting. Apple tarts were tempting. New waistcoats were tempting. Stealing a gentleman’s hat was tempting. Radnor was disastrous. It was as if after a quarter of a century of blithely not giving a damn about anybody, he had accrued a surplus of damns to give. First, old Mrs. Packingham, and now the earl.”
“He was outraged by the idea of Radnor being cheated, even though he had hoped to do precisely that. Outraged, as if there were a swindlers’ code of professional ethics, for God’s sake. But he was absolutely certain that any proper confidence man ought to be ashamed of stealing from such a complete innocent. Radnor had spent too long in isolation to develop the sixth sense that alerted most people to fraudulence and connivance.”
I also think that Lawrence’s slow realization that he indeed had things to offer to the world besides his scientific inventions (and he does have a brilliant mind) was lovely. I loved seeing him warming up to some of the people around him. Lawrence will never enjoy meeting strangers or leaving his house for a long time, but I was pleased that he managed to spread his wings a little bit.
Also, the guys together were just so good. Their romance grew just slowly enough to satisfy me, but not so slowly as to bore me to tears.
The writing was very enjoyable. I lack the expertise to determine if it was evocative of 1816, the year when the story takes place, but I really enjoyed reading this book.