Harry Gordon Vane spent the first seventeen years of his life evading police, learning how to organize a demonstration, direct a mob and spread seditious pamphlets. He had to. Both his parents were staunch democratic radicals and at one point (no surprises here) they had to flee Britain and go to Paris. After their death Harry returned to London and found a job in a little bookshop owned by his parents’ friend, Silas. One day, however, he found out his paternal family, the Vanes, were looking for him and he was supposed to be elevated to a position of gentleman. Being sick and tired with the whole radical business he embraced that opportunity with joy.
Now enters Richard Vane, Harry’s posh cousin, who asks his friend Julius, a man of exquisite taste and very refined style, to teach Harry rules and ways of the ton so his new family is not ashamed of their long-lost member. Julius is supposed to make a gentleman out of the boy who so far knew only hard work, simple food, bad quality clothes and a company of uncouth radicals but he finds the task strangely enjoyable. Why? Following the logic of every romance novel out there, Harry and Julius fall for each other in no time. Will they be able to continue their affair under the watchful eyes of the ton gossip-mongers? Or maybe it won’t be an issue at all?
Last year I fell in love with some novels penned by K.J. Charles even if most of them belonged to the romance category; if you follow any of the links posted at the bottom of this review you might catch me gushing over them. Seeing that a new series of historical romance books by the same author was launched I hurried to the evil Amazon and purchased the first one of them, hoping for the best.
It’s a gay romance set in Victorian London but noticeably without supernatural elements like magic or warlocks. I have to admit, compared to what else the genre has to offer, A Fashionable Indulgence is a decent book. Still I might add nothing more but decent. I’ve been looking forward to a new set of quirky, amusing and interesting characters which share genuine chemistry, sense of humour and hot scenes – no such luck.
The plot began slowly, opening as a sort of Pygmalion trope story, but both gents were done with lessons surprisingly quickly, in course of few chapters, because for a reason or two Harry was an excellent student. When I come to think about it I wish he tried less hard. The fact that he had so few problems with acquiring all necessary skills made me raise my eyebrow slightly several times. Just like that? Just because he was one of the Vanes and had ‘blue blood’ in his veins he had to catch up in record time?
Then the infatuation started and, overall, the romance between Harry and Julius I found rather straightforward and a bit too predictable. I also ressented the fact that the plot, as simple as it was, became so quickly overshadowed by their affair, never allowing more room for making me curious about what would happen next (because again it was rather pretty clear and predictable). On the other hand, I wanted to know more about romance brewing between other characters in the background; they seemed more interesting to read about than Julius and Harry, the main leads. Both of them just didn’t have that oomph and magic (literal and metaphorical as well) I am used to in Charles books. I suppose the author has spoiled me too much.
Apart from that I admit I was surprised that there was almost no trace of the fear from being discovered, the feelings of shame entailed by having these feelings towards other men, the possibility of being thrown to jail, for it being a sin and a crime… The main characters were surrounded from the very start by a dedicated group of rich, similarly inclined guys that knew about each other, supported each other and sometimes had affairs with each other without any qualms of conscience. All that in Victorian London. Strange, isn’t it?
What worked then? Very little but as I decided to add something positive let me praise the proper historical setting. I liked how KJ put this story in historical, and especially cultural context: so many little things, from clothes they wore, hair products they used, words and expressions, to shops and free time pursuits were done right.
However, when I am looking at the cover I must start my carping again. Those two guys are supposed to represent the main leads, right? Well, strangely enough Julius had light blonde hair and ice-blue eyes so why are they both dark-haired?
A predictable plot, too easy to guess at practically every turn. Bland main leads which sometimes acted as if they were pre-programmed puppets. Still I’ll definitely read the next book in the series. I’m a bit disappointed, but I suppose K.J. Charles, the author of A Charm of Magpies series, deserves another chance to charm me – the pun completely intended ;p.
Other K.J. Charles novels, reviewed here so far: