Band Sinister Cover
Synopsis from the Creator:

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?

Review: Band Sinister, by KJ Charles

[fa icon="calendar"] Oct 17, 2018 10:34:00 AM / by Ana Coqui

KJ Charles newest novel is a sweet, tender, funny and unapologetically queer polyam romance. Readers of Heyer’s classic regencies will recognize Charles playful nods to Heyer’s style throughout the novel from its character types, distinctive slang and energetic resolution. Long-time Charles readers will find delight in the depth of characterization, her scene-stealing secondary characters and her complex emotional conflicts even if no one is gruesomely or mystically murdered.

“Sir Philip Rookwood, with his shocking manners and worse reputation and utterly appalling set, was the most thrillingly dreadful thing to happen in Yarlcote...

Guy could see why his sister had been inspired to write a Gothic romance about he man; it would be hard not to.”

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

Phillip Rookwood is a jaded and cynical aristocrat hosting The Murder, a motley crew of free-thinkers, artists and scientists at his neglected country estate. Guy Firsby is a virginal country gentleman whose Gothic-novel writing sister, Amanda is injured while trespassing on Rookwood’s neglected estate and is forced to impose on the Baron while his sister recuperates from a badly broken leg. Complicating matters is that Guy & Phillip families share an old scandal. The previous Baron and Mrs. Frisby were lovers who ran away together only to die a few years later in a carriage accident.  Young Philip inherited the barony, and Guy and Amanda grew impoverished as their father drank and gambled away the little they had. When Amanda landed herself in a scandal of her own during her catastrophic Season, their aunt banished them to the country, where they live seclusion.

“Guy’s mind was a fertile as Amanda’s in its own perverse way: he could come up with infinite paths leading to disaster.”

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

While initially incredibly anxious and wary, Guy guardedly starts to appreciate having to stay at Rookwood, as the company, their rambling conversations, and musical evenings, start stimulating his mind in ways it hasn’t been in years, until he stumbles upon Phillip sharing a tender and sensual encounter with one of his lovers. Guy is deeply distressed, confused yet titillated, unable to stop thinking about Philip and what he saw.

“He’d seen Rookwood with Corvin, and Rookwood know it. He’d watched Rookwood when he shouldn’t have, and Rookwood knew that too. And he couldn’t push aside the little sneaking, nagging thought that if he asked questions Rookwood might even perhaps answer them.”

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

I loved how Philip and Guy’s relationship grows from that moment, from Guy’s initially vague awareness of his sexuality, to confident claiming of what he wants and needs.   While Phillip finds himself enchanted with introducing Guy to sensual and sexual delights, he is alarmed by Guy’s emotional openness. He is torn by his desire for the trust and his fear that he is setting Guy up for heartache. He demands affirmative consent, and strives to be as honest as possible about his own feelings and commitments.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just, I’ve spent my whole life not saying anything to anyone, barely to myself in my own head, and now you want me to say it all out loud and I can’t.”

Phillip cocked his head, Guy has a sudden fear he would reveal irritation or impatience when he spoke, but he sounded as calm as ever. Actually, dear heart, you just have. I asked you for something, and you’ve told me you don’t want to do it. That’s every bit as important as what you do want to do.”

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

I also love the brief glimpses we saw of Amanda blossoming under the intellectual stimulation of the Murder’s guests. She is bold, bright, confident and insightful. Her care for her brother, and her desire for his happiness, even if she doesn’t quite grasp at first its cause mirrors her brother’s love for her.  Like Guy, I wanted only the best for Amanda, and I loved the fierce defender she finds in David. Although restrained by his professional ethics and his awareness of the challenges that they would face, he champions her unwaveringly.

“And I don’t care what other people say is all very well when you’re a man with independent income, but it isn’t all very well for women, because what other people say is all that counts.”

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

Charles explores privilege, gendered social expectations and power differentials throughout the novel contrasting how their shared family scandal has impacted Amanda, Guy and Philip differently and exposing how Philip had different choices that were unavailable to Guy, Amanda. Philip might have carved out for himself a chosen family and safe spaces, but Amanda and Guy will need different solutions to achieve their HEAs. Guy also has to examine his assumptions of what his sister wants and needs from him. In the end, Charles gives them all the opportunities hash out and negotiate what they need from each other to be happy and I was confident at the end that they would all be happy, even repressive Aunt Beatrice.

“Does it have a happy ending?”

“Of course it does, beloved,”

Band Sinister by KJ Charles

It was delightful to immerse myself in this inclusive regency romance that acknowledges the grim realities of sexism, racism and inequality while demonstrating and claiming family, love and acceptance for all its marginalized characters, once again proving that escapist fluff does not need to ignore or erase LGBTQIA, religious minorities, women or people of color in order to provide a satisfying HEA. Treat yourself and spend some time reading Band Sinister.

Content Warnings: Mention/description of past trauma (Antisemitism, slavery, racism, parental alcoholism, abandonment & neglect, slut-shaming)

Topics: review