The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen Cover
Title: The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen
Author: Heat: Re
Genre(s): Romance Historical
Tropes: Second Chance Small Town
Tags: m-m smugglers class differences queer gay biracial Black white naturalist England
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Synopsis from the Creator:

Gothic scandal meets Bridgerton intrigue in this swashbuckling Regency romance from celebrated author KJ Charles.

Abandoned by his father, Gareth Inglis grew up lonely, prickly, and well-used to disappointment. Still, he longs for a connection. When he meets a charming stranger, he falls head over heels—until everything goes wrong and he's left alone again. Then Gareth's father dies, turning the shabby London clerk into Sir Gareth, with a grand house on the remote Romney Marsh and a family he doesn't know.

The Marsh is another world, a strange, empty place notorious for its ruthless gangs of smugglers. And one of them is dangerously familiar…

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. When the new baronet—his old lover—agrees to testify against Joss's sister, Joss acts fast to stop him. Their reunion is anything but happy, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. Soon, all Joss and Gareth want is the chance to be together. But the bleak, bare Marsh holds deadly secrets. And when Gareth finds himself threatened from every side, the gentleman and the smuggler must trust one another not just with their hearts, but with their lives.

Review: The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, by K.J. Charles

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 15, 2023 10:47:48 AM / by Suzanne

K.J. Charles starts a new series with The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, an historical gay romance set in rural Kent, England. Gareth and Joss are together for a couple of blissful weeks at a London meeting house for gay men, but when Joss says he needs to go back to Kent for a while to tend to his business, Gareth breaks things off entirely. Gareth's father, a selfish nobleman, left young Gareth with his uncle when his mother died and started a new family. Gareth quite reasonably has abandonment issues and doesn't want to be left by another person he loves.

Fast forward and Lord Inglis has died, leaving his title and assets to newly unemployed Gareth, who has no memory of his family's estate and doesn't know his would-be stepmother or half-sister. Adrift and trying to adjust to his new situation, Gareth spots a late-night smuggling operation and decides to report it to the authorities. Enter Joss Doomsday, lead of the Doomsday family and smuggler extraordinaire. Because, of course, Gareth's estate is in the same rural area where Joss lives.

What follows is a complicated web of deceit, theft, messy family and a bit of murder. K.J. Charles expertly balances the mystery and danger with insightful family reconciliation, strong character arcs for both men and an absolutely wonderful romance.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen is more romance-forward than Charles's other mystery series and is a self-contained volume with plenty of opportunities for sequels. (The second Doomsday book will follow different characters.)

I know marketers are eager to tack "Bridgerton" on to any historical romance these days, but please don't listen. I'm also not convinced that "gothic" is the right term for this novel. No spooky house or paranormal-ish shadowy figures lurking about. In this case, readers who like historical romance with mystery, Charles's other works, Cat Sebastian's London Highwaymen series or Poldark will want to pick this up.

Audio Notes: Dreamscape hired a new-to-me narrator for the book, Martyn Swain. While I mostly liked the narration, it took some getting used to. Swain pauses frequently after words, which makes for stilted sentences that were difficult for me to sort out. Once I adjusted, however, I enjoyed the story and found the way Swain differentiated between the two main characters successful. His attempt at a Georgia, US accent for Joss's formerly enslaved grandfather was less successful, but how many times have I suffered through a US narrator's awful British accents? Overall a lovely audiobook.


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I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher for review.


Content Warnings: childhood abandonment, child abuse, alcoholism, murder, violence, kidnapping, attempted murder, references to US slavery (formerly enslaved character in Joss's family) and war with France, threat of sexual assault to Gareth's sister, past death of parent, attempted drowning

Topics: review