Book Talk: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat SebastianA Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian
Series: Seducing the Sedgwicks #2
Published by Avon Impulse on July 10, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
AmazonThe Book Depository

Once beloved by London's fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.

Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and destroy a scandalously revealing painting of her, he agrees. Sam would do anything to protect those he loves, even if it means stealing from a wealthy gentleman. But when he encounters Hartley, he soon finds himself wanting to steal more than just a painting from the lovely, lonely man—he wants to steal his heart.

Content Warning from Author: This book includes a main character who was sexually abused in the past; abuse happens off page but is alluded to.

Cat Sebastian’s debut trilogy, The Turner Series, is one of my favorite romance series ever, up there with Bridgertons and Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After. I got a bit behind on her books and decided to binge to catch up. Though I’m not reviewing them individually, I do want to say that, though I didn’t quite love It Takes Two to Tumble or Unmasked by the Marquess, I do think they’re also great books, and I really want everyone to read Cat Sebastian. A Gentleman Keeps Score isn’t quite my personal fave, but it’s very much my favorite of her second and third series so far.

I’m really impressed with Avon Impulse’s cover game for Sebastian. Like, not only did they manage to get the rep on the cover, but they clearly did a photo shoot, because these ARE the cover people. It’s just uncanny how well they match the descriptions, down to the buttons on Hartley’s waistcoat.

There are so incredibly few diverse romances, especially in historical romance, which tends to view someone being Spanish or Italian as deeply exotic and diverse. Not so much, guys. Cat Sebastian, however, remembers that there were non-white people in Regency England, and she wrote about them.

Sam and Hartley meet when Sam’s trying to track down a painting of a female friend of his, and their interest is peaked basically immediately. Initially, though, they’re both unsure about each other, especially given the circumstances (tracking down the paintings that were technically willed to Hartley that have gone missing and are also deeply salacious). The revenge/painting destruction plot line is the weakest of the book, but the unexpectedness and difficulties of it do work in a realistic sort of way.

There’s a great slow escalation to the relationship between Hartley and Sam. I love that Sebastian deals with the difficulties in trusting one another, the ways in which Hartley offends with his privilege accidentally. Sam’s so used to microaggressions, and Hartley’s knowledge of what it’s like to be a black person in London is minimal.

Sam runs a pub, The Bell, which is a safe space for the black community, and he does everything he can to help support the people who may not feel like they belong. He used to be a boxer, and he’s haunted by the ghosts of his career and by the boxer he trained who died in a bout. Sam’s basically impossible not to love and admire because he’s so independent and strong and he uses everything he has to help others feel safe. Sam is goals.

Hartley, meanwhile, is languishing. He’s rattling around the house he inherited from the man who abused him sexually for years and lacking any sort of idea what to do. His good nature shows in the way he tries to care for his brothers and for the poor kids he hires off the street. For all his fastidiousness of appearance, Hartley’s a deeply unjudgmental person struggling with both what happened to him as a child and being rejected by society because of it.

The sexual relationship grows slowly, following several steps behind the emotional connection. I really love the way that Sebastian handles this. Hartley’s afraid of being touched by people, a side affect of abuse, and Sam allows him to set the pace. I like that it takes time for him to feel comfortable with Sam, and that he’s not magically fixed by the perfect dick, which is something that sometimes happens in romance. As a big, strong man, Sam’s partners had always expected him to take a dominant role, and he’s surprised to find how much he likes letting Hartley take the reins. They’re such a good match for each other both in the bedroom and out of it, and it’s really fantastic.

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score will hopefully be one of many diverse historical romance novels in a few years. Though less banter-shippy than some of her earlier books, I love the quiet perfection of this couple, the amount that they needed each other specifically. Also, just a reminder, all her books are $1.99 on ebook so there’s literally no excuse.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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