Review: A Husband for Hartwell (The Lords of Bucknall #1) by J. A. Rock and Lisa Henry
He must marry, or risk his fortune.
The whole of London Society has long assumed Lord William Hartwell will marry his childhood best friend, Lady Rebecca Warrington. After two Seasons, Hartwell remains quite content with bachelorhood–his parents do not. When Hartwell learns they intend to cut his purse strings unless he makes a match this Season, he resigns himself to a marriage of convenience with Becca, and yet he can’t help but be drawn to her younger brother, Warry.
He must marry, or risk his sister’s ruin.
The Viscount “Warry” Warrington is used to being viewed as the tagalong little brother. Now a grown man about to enter his second Season, Warry is desperate to be seen. When Lord Balfour, a handsome older peer, takes Warry under his wing, Warry thinks his dream is finally coming true. Until Balfour reveals his true intent–to make public a letter that will destroy Becca’s reputation, unless Warry agrees to marry him.
Time is running out for both of them.
When an injury forces Warry to recover at Hartwell House, the two succumb to a secret flirtation. But Warry’s sudden announcement of his engagement to Balfour drives Hartwell near mad with jealousy–and right into Becca’s arms. With the clock ticking for Warry to save his sister, will Hartwell discover the truth of Warry’s feelings before it’s too late?
A Husband for Hartwell is the first book in the Lords of Bucknall Club series, where the Regency meets m/m romance.
I got this book from Kindle Unlimited.
SOME SPOILERS IN THE REVIEW .
Dear JA Rock and Lisa Henry,
I was trying for couple of hours to think of something coherent to write after I read this book. This is the best I can do. I have read the second book in this series prior to reading this one and quite enjoyed it (I have read many books by this duo before and enjoyed some of their collaborations more, some less, but I certainly often find their books interesting enough to try). The books can be read out of order according to the authors, so I by no means regret reading the second book. I stumbled on the second book by accident. I stayed away from this one because I *vaguely* remembered that a book friend whose tastes I trust wrote the review and mentioned that one character was being an abusive ass to another character. There are few tropes that make me run for the hill faster than this one.
But then I have read the second one and couple from the first one appeared in the second book as supporting characters and they were so cozy and sweet and I thought, hey it cannot be that bad right? Wrong!
I actually did not think that Hartwell was the worst of the verbal abusers I had seen in the romance books – till 41 percent I did not even see it. I had seen the idiotic lack of communication, fear, jealousy, etc., but of course dear Hartwell nicely demonstrated how cruel he can be with his words. Maybe it is because his motivations were so aptly shown (being a jealous coward and an idiot), I did not at least doubt that he loved Warry (small mercies).
But overall his character gave me such whiplash because I think of “Regency meets m/m romance”. I have absolutely no issues with historical fantasy, I *love* well done historical fantasy, but man if one introduced the books with this proposition, shouldn’t the whole mentality of the society change significantly and change not just when it suits the authors’ needs for the plot?
This is how both books start:
“In 1783, the Marriage Act Amendment was introduced in England to allow marriages between same-sex couples. This was done to strengthen the law of primogeniture and to encourage childless unions in younger sons and daughters of the peerage, as an excess of lesser heirs might prove burdensome to a thinly spread inheritance.”
So, the society at this point should be mostly accepting of same sex relationships right? I understand that in this universe younger sons and daughters are encouraged to make same sex marriage to decrease the amount of heirs, but the amount of angst Hartwell goes through if he would go public (or at least share with his parents) his love for Warry rings hollow to me. Discouragement and making him think the relationship itself would ruin him are two very different things and I just could not figure it out, especially since, of course, everything works out to make all his fears for nothing.
Warry? Jesus and Mary (yes, I am using holy names in this review and no, I am not a Christian), to say that I found his IQ to be extremely low would be understatement of the century. And yes, while I understand one losing his head while being blackmailed, NO I don’t understand losing his head to such degree. I was done with this idiot when he decided that the blackmailer would not demand his hand in marriage AFTER SPENDING ONE NIGHT WITH HIM IF SUCH BLACKMAILER ALREADY LIED TO HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE.
And remind me again why would a man in this society would be concerned with his reputation? He is not a woman right?
We shall not mention sharing things with the sister with whom he is supposed to be extremely close, because I am trying to give him the “losing the head from blackmail” slack and trying very hard.
I decided these two very much deserve each other.
I read Henry & Rock for the first time this year—their 2014 m/m romantic-suspense, WHEN ALL THE WORLD SLEEPS, which I thought was brilliantly done (especially at describing sleep deprivation and weaving in the subtext of anti-gay violence in small towns); it is one of my favorite reads of 2021. Based on WATWS, I would think H&R would do best with gritty contemporary subject matter—perhaps Regencies just aren’t their forte. I don’t read much HR these days—and I don’t think this book is going to make me change my mind.
I read the publisher’s blurb three times, each time more slowly than the time before, while attempting to shake out of my head the confusion of how two men in the Regency period were going to marry.
What I should have read is Sirius’ book review grade and type-of-book description.
@LML: Aw thank you. Just to be clear, Regency meets m/m romance per se is not the reason why my grade is so low. My review of the second book will be up next week and I felt it was a perfectly okay book. It is to me a stretch to call either of these books a Regency, but at least second book to me had more appealing characters in pretty [email protected]DiscoDollyDeb: They are very prolific. Together and separately they wrote New Adult, BDSM themed stuff, fantasies, contemporaries etc . I reviewed couple of Lisa Henry’s contemporary romances here and to me those are probably the absolute favorites from her. I actually passed the book you mentioned, blurb seemed too dark for my mood at the time, but maybe I should give it a try.
@Sirius: WHEN ALL THE WORLD SLEEPS is quite dark, but I thought Rock & Henry did a great job with the characters, the small-town milieu, and how so many things (not just people’s sexuality) were open secrets in the community.
@DiscoDollyDeb: I see. Thank you.
I don’t quite understand the premise. Isn’t the law of primogeniture precisely the way the aristocracy got around the potential problem of dividing estates into too many pieces, since only the oldest son inherited the title and entailed properties?
@Susan/DC: I had a similar question.
@Susan/DC: @Kaetrin: Right . But my guess is they needed something to make sure men marrying each other is a possibility so here we go – additional strengthening of the law I guess?
@Sirius: So does that mean eldest sons cannot marry someone of the same sex? Can someone inherit via adoption in this universe? I have so many questions! LOL
@Kaetrin: They can marry and they can inherit, it is just not encouraged because they won’t have kids, and after Hartwell the title will go to his cousin. I can’t answer about inheritance by adoption :)
POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW OR MAYBE NOT, NOT SURE
Like big part of my annoyance was that Hartwell goes completely nuts ( IMO) with angst about possibly loving Warry ( hey verbal abuse is a perfect shield against showing someone the love, but whatever), and all I can think about was whyyyyy if it is allowed in this world just not encouraged – why would your father disinherit you. Wouldn’t he just say, hey why don’t you have Warry as lover on the side or something. I was feeling cognitive dissonance I guess, as if second book did not happen. I know second book does not deal with the eldest son of the nobility, but it still just made no sense to me.
It does seem like a curious set up. I wouldn’t mind reading a book set in a Regency universe where same sex marriage happened because it’s totally fine rather than there having to be a particular reason for it. But I guess that does come up against primogeniture – still I’m sure authors could find a way around it. I’m not sure the set up in this book would work for me though.
I read this when it came out and I barely remember anything about it except that I was disappointed by it.
Rock and Henry are a bit hit or miss for me, but their misses are usually more a matter of mis-matched tastes – some of their books are too dark for me or the humor doesn’t work or the set up squicks me out. In this case, I disliked both main characters and the blackmail plot. I did give it 3 stars in GR though, so I guess I didn’t actively hate it.
I’m glad to head that you liked the 2nd book. I was considering reading it but was cautious based on not liking book 1. It seems more to my taste.
@Kaetrin: I am sure one can think of the premise to support the law more [email protected]cleo: Not actively hated it a massive improvement over my reading experience already :). I gave second book 3.5 stars yet.