Author: Rebecca Cohen
Publication Date: April 10, 2020
Length: 298 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
James Redbourn, Viscount of Crofton, enjoys all the pleasures King Charles II’s Restoration court affords him. His encounter with the enigmatic Chivalrous Highwayman in Epping Forest, sets the court aflame. Tales of the charming rogue treating his latest victim with his usual gentle hand has ladies’ fans quivering with every whisper.
While the Chivalrous Highwayman is a delicious fantasy, it is the intriguing Adam Dowson, the son of one of the greatest Cavalier generals, who is firing James’s daytime desires. Their friendship might be growing stronger, but Adam seems to be one of the few men who is impervious to James’s charms, no matter how hard James tries.
When James’s father become deathly ill, James races home. He is ill-prepared to become the 4th Earl of Crofton, and his father’s vague but dire warnings on his deathbed only make matters worse. Now the earl, James must discover what is happening at Crofton Hall that had troubled his father so deeply.
James turns to Adam for help. Despite Adam’s own secrets, James trusts him. James hopes he’s not making a mistake, risking his family estate, and his already bruised heart. Together, they need to work to clear out the rotten core at Crofton Hall, and along the way secure a happy future for them both.
With the sudden death of his father, James becomes the new Earl of Crofton—a mantle he feels unprepared to assume. Not only that but his father’s dying words are about the nefarious acts of someone in the estate’s employ who is not only stealing from the coffers but perhaps orchestrating something darker and more scandalous. But before James is able to understand what his father is trying to tell him the man dies, taking with him the secrets James must now unlock in order to keep his family’s estate running properly.
Needing an advisor he can trust, James turns to Adam—an older man who comes at the recommendation of a close friend. The two hatch a plan to trap the thieving estate steward and unlock the mystery surrounding the many highway robberies taking place on the road between Crofton and London. Little does James know that Adam holds a secret that will not only aide in unmasking the bandits but also light an unquenchable fire between the two men that cannot be put out.
Although not part of the Crofton Chronicles series by Rebecca Cohen, James, Earl of Crofton still lives within that stately hall and is the story of one of the Crofton ancestors. Restoration literature is hard to do because it begs for astute attention to the details of that era in British history. No one does historical romance better than Cohen in this case for every aspect of this novel lines up beautifully with the time period in which it is set. From the clothing to the language to the obviously privileged nobility, each chapter sheds just a little more light into the class structure of London. The writing is so authentic it’s sometimes hard not to dislike James because of his assumptions that what he wants, when he wants it will not only be granted but with speed and acknowledgement of his great stature. Honestly his hubris is sometimes grating and it takes the character of Adam to really balance him out and make him more down to earth.
Adam is the stability beneath the lofty Earl. He is the one who really ends up teaching James what generosity and compassion are—yes, James has pieces of both in his persona but it takes the dual life Adam leads to really impress on James just how important it is to care for those who have less or even nothing to rely on. Adam is the one with the real tenderness and kindness that leads him to do foolhardy and dangerous things—something James finds both a little exciting and a bit scary. When he comes to care for Adam, James realizes just how much the man sacrifices for those he has taken into his care--it’s this that reshapes the thinking of the Earl—not completely, but it’s a start in the right direction.
James and Adam together make for a wonderful pair—evening out both their rough edges by loving the other. This is story of intrigue and danger—not so much angst or miscommunication. Rather it is the secrets that once revealed show both men in a new light they must make sure doesn’t shine too brightly. While the society that James moves in may be tolerant they are not limitless in their desire to look the other way. Hence the two men must be careful that their relationship has the mark of propriety while out in public. Thankfully both men are aware of this and make the most of their time alone to shower each other with the love they have.
James, Earl of Crofton is a marvelous example of historical romance done right. With all the historical elements in line, a gorgeous romance and a bit of intrigue, the story is top notch and fans of this genre will no doubt enjoy it immensely.
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