KJ Charles’ historical romances are an auto-read for me these days, and in the immediate absence of a new series, I was keen to fill the gap with this slightly shorter standalone story. The cover told me we could look forward to another black hero – all too rare in historical romances – and the blurb was intriguing without giving away very much of the plot at all, other than to hint that advertisements of some sort were likely to feature alongside a ripping adventure story, which includes an elopement and possibly, by extension, a marriage.
Marriage, or at least the means by which people secure a partner, is how Theo Swann earns his living: as the owner and editor of the Matrimonial Advertiser, a forerunner of newspaper personal columns and dating apps. Not all the advertisers are entirely genuine, and not all their requests – if one reads between the lines – are strictly legal, but Theo will publish any ad that isn’t blatantly going to get him arrested, since he is hard pressed for cash himself. All seems to be running to plan, until Martin St. Vincent turns up. An ex-slave still on good terms with his former masters, Martin has been tasked with preventing the elopement of the daughter of the household – his childhood companion – who has been conducting a romance through the pages of Theo’s periodical.
Theo agrees to help Martin track down the wayward lovers: he’s always keen to make extra money, he’s intrigued by the elopement, and Martin is a very attractive proposition in his own right. Unfortunately, Theo’s need for money stems from a well-hidden family secret, so we just know things are likely to go awry at some point.
The pair follow a series of clues that lead to them chasing their quarry northwards – into parts of the country where Martin would definitely not have an easy time of accomplishing his task were he working alone. When the big reveal of Theo’s secret comes – on top of some more minor revelations about his other writerly efforts – it appears that all is lost, but fear not, gentle readers, good will triumph in the end.
Although this isn’t my favourite of the author’s historical stories – I felt that it needed to be either part of a series or more thoroughly fleshed out if it were to stand alone – it was a rollicking romp nonetheless and still superior to many, many romances out there. It was enough to satisfy me for now, but I’m still eagerly anticipating the next proper series that’s also due for release ’round about now.
By the good offices of Riptide Publishing
KJ Charles’s new Entertainment
WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated
the grand romance of
Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love
* * *
Act the First:
the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling
Act the Second:
a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)
a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber
* * *
In the course of which are presented
Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires
the particulars of which are too numerous to impart
Read an excerpt.