Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Release Day Spotlight & Review: Unmasked By The Marquess by Cat Sebastian

Unmasked By The Marquess 
by Cat Sebastian
Series The Regency Impostors #1
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date April 17, 2018

The one you love…

Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever.

May not be who you think…

Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.

But is who you need…

When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?

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Regardless,” Charity said, “it would be odd if I refused his invitation to join his club. I didn’t drink all that much, and I didn’t lose any money at the tables. I promise that there’s nothing for you to worry about.” At least, nothing more than the usual. “Besides, since when do you object to a gentleman having a bit of harmless fun?”
Louisa stared at her, mouth hanging open. “Charity, you are not a gentleman,” she whispered.
Charity felt herself blush. It wasn’t as if she could protest, but the fact of the matter was that she felt more like a gentleman than she did anything else. Cheeks hot, she said, “You know what I meant.”
They stood there for a moment, regarding one another—Louisa in her white dressing gown and hair in curling papers, Charity in rumpled evening clothes, cravat rakishly askew.
What are you going to do after I marry, Charity?” Louisa asked, breaking the silence.
I don’t know.” Charity glanced away from Louisa’s face, taking in the peeling paint on the door frame. “There’s the gamekeeper’s cottage at Fenshawe. I could stay there,” she said, knowing it for a lie.
Louisa wrapped her dressing gown tightly around her. “But we won’t own Fenshawe after Cousin Clifton inherits.”
The “we” was generous. Charity had never owned anything, least of all the estate of Fenshawe. Robbie had owned it. And since it had been entailed, it ought to have passed to his cousin. But when Robbie died, Charity had already been attending Cambridge under his name. Her thoughts muddled by grief and confusion, it didn’t seem so terrible to keep quiet about Robbie’s death and step into his shoes at home as well. The cousin, living in Dorset, could be kept in ignorance.
Sometimes when Charity was having a hard time falling asleep, she tried to think of exactly how many laws she had broken, how many ways she ought to have been hanged or transported. But Robbie had scarcely any property that wasn’t entailed. Louisa, not yet sixteen, would have been destitute and homeless. For the two years since Robbie’s death, they had stinted and scraped together enough money out of the estate’s income to fund this season in London and put together a modest dowry for Louisa. The plan was for Louisa to marry and then they would figure out a way to set things right, to let the cousin inherit and to allow Charity to go back to being herself.
Whoever that was.
I could live with you, after your marriage,” Charity countered, already knowing that it could never happen.
You know I'd love nothing more,” Louisa said, and Charity believed it. “But I just realized that whoever I marry will recognize you as my brother. You can’t very well put on a gown and hope nobody notices the resemblance.”
Charity had known that from the beginning. There could be no happy ending to this deception. Even when Robbie was alive and healthy and brash and persuasive, she had understood that if she went to Cambridge in his stead there would be no going back to being plain Charity.
Even if there were, she didn’t want any part of it. There would be no more gowns, no more floors to scrub.
Neither could she continue as Robert Selby one minute longer than strictly necessary. Charity didn’t have the stomach for it.
She would be alone, adrift, with no name and no friends. She would, in fact, be in much the same situation she had been in before arriving at Fenshawe over fifteen years ago. The only difference was that this time her aloneness would be the result of her own choice, a sacrifice she had made to protect the one person who was left to her. She looked fondly at Louisa.
Charity, where will you go?” Louisa asked with her eyes wide. “What will we do?”
She leaned forward and kissed Louisa on the cheek. “Never mind that, my girl. I have it all in hand,” she lied.

Another, more than satisfying adventure set in Regency England. I've been a fan of Cat Sebastian's since reading her début; The Soldier's Scoundrel. Her M/M novels are some of my favourite historical romances. So, picking up her latest new release is effortless and what I love most about this one is her ability to create something new and refreshing.

Spending time trying to repair the estate ruined by his feckless father has been a large part of Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke's adult life. Restoring the family reputation and protecting his wealth are his only concerns. So, when a cheeky young scamp comes to his door asking for favours, he surprises himself by not only offering to assist but by his attraction to the scrawny looking chap.

Robert Selby needs a favour or two. With no money or connections, he has to secure the future for his sister and find a suitable husband for her. Only, he is actually a housemaid called Charity Church, an unfortunate situation. When he asks the Marquess of Pembroke for assistance, he's surprised and relieved by his begrudging offer to support his scheme, but it's his attraction to the gruff older gentleman which astonishes him more.

As expected, many colourful secondary characters are present. As allies to the protagonists' unconventional tentative relationship, they are humorous and entertaining. However, the journey to their happy ending is as bumpy as you'd expect for a pompous bisexual hero and his non-binary heroine. For me, it's refreshing and identifies the people who I've always believed to exist in history but seldom discussed. Bravo to the author for bringing such characters and their fascinating lives to our attention.

Watching the stiff, proper Marquess weaken his attraction to Robin is endearing. Finding out Charity's real identity is a gift he can't ignore. His acceptance very much down to his preference to Robin rather than when Charity is herself. Equally, Charity's single-mindedness to continue masquerading as a man and how the pair finally finds a solution that works for them to be together rather than apart is captivating.

One attribute that stands out with Ms Sebastian's work is the positivity she places on the happiness of her protagonists. I love that fiction allows a rosier than normal view of their existence, because why shouldn't we portray characters from centuries ago enjoying their lives, regardless of their sexual orientation? Robin/Charity and Alistair's romance has all the elements to cause a scandal at worse or unlimited gossip for the ton at the very least. However, their relationship is normal albeit eccentric to the uninformed. I appreciate the author's notes at the end of this novel which highlights our protagonists' relationship isn't unique even in Regency times.

To sum up, another exquisitely written narrative which hooked me right from the start. As a go-to favourite author, I'm eagerly anticipating her next release. If you are looking for an exceptional historical romance, Unmasked By The Marquess comes highly recommended.

***arc generously received courtesy of Avon Impulse via Edelweiss+*** 

Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.

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GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 4/22/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.