This is Covers Week at BIOB, so let’s first get to the cover of the m/m regency romance Discreet Young Gentleman—a cover that I think is pretty awful, especially since it’s using a photo of a model who I can now and forever only think of as Tony from Kaje Harper’s Life Lessons. (Here he is on the cover of book #3, Home Work.)
I do like the pastoral road background behind naked thoughtful Tony though, especially since that represents well the long journey upper-class Dean takes with “hired man” Rob as they travel from Dean’s country estate to Bath to try to regain the favor of the woman Dean was betrothed to (and then hopefully rebuild Dean’s finances so he can keep his family home.)
The REAL crime with this cover though is that it is NOT the earlier, original cover–a painted, chest-heaving dream that should be hung in a museum somewhere, preferably in an exhibit titled “Pulp Pleasures and Pants Missiles: The Wonderful World of Gay Romance Covers.”
I mean LOOK AT THIS. IT IS AWESOME.
(Although I love that the front, fondled guy has the coppery hair of Dean, dark-haired fondling guy looks more like a regency Wolverine to me rather than the handsome, lithe Rob.)
(Regency Wolverine…there’s an idea…)
My guess for the cover update to “Naked Tony and the Pastoral Road” is probably something to do with ebook and reprint rights, etc, which is too bad since that earlier pants-poking tryst under the fireglow glory should not be lost in history. There should be a monument somewhere so that Regency Wolverine and his breathless companion can be forever caught in mid-heave, stared at by curious (and quietly aroused) tourists who will then throw pennies at it with the unspoken wish that the Gods of Grasping Lust will bestow on them good fortune and drawn-out glorious orgasms.
Also, the title font is awesome—it’s like someone stole a title card from an 80’s cartoon geared towards girls—like My Little Pony or Jem, and was all, “THIS! This brings the right amount of *DAZZLE* for our story of a stick-in-the-mud Earl and his journey of torment as he tries REALLY REALLY HARD to not fall for the harlot hotness that is his traveling companion.
Okay-okay. What about the story?
I’ve read a few “regency rentboy” stories, and I have to say, this one is nicely different. Dean is still the somewhat tortured high-class character, and Rob is a prostitute trapped with a mindset that he’s good for little else than sex, but beyond that, the story takes a much different turn and tone than others that I’ve read.
It is mostly the journey here that is the focus, as Dean coerces Rob to help him regain his lost honor and his ex-fiancé’s favor, but they find their trip prolonged by mishaps, and then Dean finds himself prolonging it further to provide history-loving Rob a chance to explore some of the sites along the way, including a plethora of haunted inns and abbeys. This time forces Dean to ponder things he really didn’t want to ponder, like how much he enjoys Rob’s company, how he desperately doesn’t want to think of Rob with his “patrons”, and how his life could have been different if he wasn’t in this financial pickle.
Dean was a hard character to like at first—he’s moody and restrained and kind of a pill, but very slowly he thaws under Rob’s sunny, inquisitive demeanor, and just as Rob learns more about the layers underneath Dean’s cool façade, so does the reader, and I warmed more up to him in the last third as he became more fumblingly aware of his mistakes and what he wants.
I was gearing for a lower rating, since the story is drawn-out, mostly UST, and I can only read about Dean’s self-denial for so long, but the ending was nice, and really picked things up for me.
(There is also an interlude story that Rob tells to Dean at one point as he explains why he often sleeps with older men—a story of one of his past lovers, and I won’t lie, it was one of the most romantic things I’ve read in a while.)
If you enjoy m/m historicals, especially the regency variety, then it’s easy for me to recommend this one. It is nicely different, and oddly, it felt more “equal”, even with the characters’ different stations, and Dean’s unhappy judgment of Rob’s profession.
Also, if you like dolls in peril, you may enjoy this trailer for the book!
Pearson is also a very good writer, and it was easy to sink into her world here and follow along. I’ve only read one other book by her, the regency melodrama The Price of Temptation (also with an awesome original cover), but I felt this one was a stronger story. She’s only written three books (under this name at least), with the last one out in 2010, which is too bad. She’s quite good, and I hope she returns to writing. (Her website has a 2014 status update of working on a new book, so I think that sounds very promising and am looking forward to it.)