Tuesday, October 11, 2022

KJ Charles - Band Sinister

Sir Philip Rookwood is the disgrace of the county. He’s a rake and an atheist, and the rumours about his hellfire club, the Murder, can only be spoken in whispers. (Orgies. It’s orgies.)
Guy Frisby and his sister Amanda live in rural seclusion after a family scandal. But when Amanda breaks her leg in a riding accident, she’s forced to recuperate at Rookwood Hall, where Sir Philip is hosting the Murder.
Guy rushes to protect her, but the Murder aren’t what he expects. They’re educated, fascinating people, and the notorious Sir Philip turns out to be charming, kind—and dangerously attractive.
In this private space where anything goes, the longings Guy has stifled all his life are impossible to resist...and so is Philip. But all too soon the rural rumour mill threatens both Guy and Amanda. The innocent country gentleman has lost his heart to the bastard baronet—but does he dare lose his reputation too?

Comment: I've liked the vast majority of the books by author KJ Charles I've tried so far but I wasn't fully convinced I'd like this one, something about the cover put me off. However, I shouldn't have feared, for reading this one was as alluring as I also hoped it would be, despite the cover.

In this book we meet the siblings Guy and Amanda Frisby, who live a quiet and unassuming life out of the charity of an aunt, for their family has faced terrible scandal after their mother run off with a younger lover when they were children. Their father took consolation in drinking and things never got better and Amanda's season, a gift from their aunt, ended up very badly as well. Now, the siblings are each other's company and Amanda penned a Gothic story based on their neighbor, Sir Phillip Rookwood, whose older brother run off with their mother, and his scandalous friends. 
The families don't mix anymore but everything changes when Amanda breaks her leg in an accident and must recover at Sir Phillip's house, something that brings everyone to close contact and, sometimes, that is all that is necessary for truths to come out...

It was certainly a lot more entertaining to read this story than what I had anticipated. I shouldn't have doubted, since I've liked so many of the author's books already, but what a treat anyway, to be positively surprised by something I feared might not be that fascinating. In fact, this was as engaging as my favorite stories by the author, although it is true I'd change one or two details to better suit my personal taste.

The story is focused on the siblings, especially on Guy's. He is the one we follow and whose life is more obviously affected by knowing a group of people he and Amanda had only known from gossip and the fun it was to see his views were quite limited, considering where and how they must live, if they want to keep their aunt's help. I could understand this need for safety and I also understood why they didn't rebel and tried something else, such as paying jobs, for the exact circumstances were certainly complicated to deal with in that period.

I was actually positively surprised by the siblings' personalities, whom I expected to be more cynical and unsatisfied and the cover seemed to hint at a different kind of emotions from them. I expected them to be more defying and self confident, but it turns out both Amanda and Guy are quiet and kind people and it was a pleasure to know them and see them reaching happiness. It is true the big focus is on Guy, this is an m/m romance first of all, but Amanda also becomes a better person by meeting this new group of people and her own personality is one of positivism, which means those around her feel happy in her presence.

In the meantime Amanda is bed ridden while her leg heals, and one Sir Phillip's friends is a doctor who helps her, Guy accepts to stay in the house, so propriety can be met, and that is how he becomes friends with Sir Phillip too, how he learns there's more to life outside this secluded village and there's more to be said about other people than what gossip or imagination can mean. He and Amanda feel a little guilty about Amanda's book but they hope the others don't realize on whom the characters are really based upon.

Guy and Phillip start of as amiable acquaintances, especially as soon as it becomes possible for Phillip to explain what really happened between his brother and Guy's mother. He tells Guy about the family he grew up with, how he had been treated, how things weren't as simple as the families being enemies after the other couple ran off... this starts off a friendship, in fact, and I liked how everything always seems to make perfect sense as the author slowly develops the situations and puts characters talking, explaining certain misunderstandings and lack of knowledge of pertinent things.

For me, this means the slow romance was believable, because they just start as two people who have a scandal in common, although nothing they could have ever controlled or avoided, but now makes them part of the same issue. I liked how they simply chat and deal with those issues from the past and from then on to a basic friendship was an obvious step. Then the fun from being finally at the same pace from wanting something more...intense.
Phillip is very experienced in the art of attraction and working with it, Guy is clearly an innocent but I think that in the end their relationship felt balanced enough.

Perhaps, the element I wasn't as fond of is the close relationship Phillip has always had with his other, previous friends. I do like how they have been there for each other for so long and how their friendship seems to be set on trust and true feelings but we know the connection is a little more than that and I admit, I'd have preferred to focus on the uniqueness of the love between Guy and Phillip... I wish the romantic side of this would have been more obvious.. there are some hints about how the other friends might be as important for Phillip as Guy is, romantically speaking, and I will remain a prude on that notion, I admit.

As one can imagine, there comes a point where the whole drama reaches a peak and then a conclusion but thankfully, the HEA for our protagonists is relatively believable and I'm glad with the way things were done. It was just so fun to read about these characters, not that this is a comedy but because I liked spending time reading about them and the things they faced and how they went from one situation which apparently without prospects into something happier. If only real life were that simple...
Grade: 8/10

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