Title: The Price of Temptation
Author: M.J. Pearson
Publisher: Seventh Window Publications
Genre: M/M Historical (Regency) Romance
Length: 216 pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Stephen Clair, the notorious Earl of St. Joseph, has a lover he can’t afford, a social calendar that’s out of control and a libido that rules his life. If he can’t gain control of his finances, his social calendar and rid himself of his lover, he will fall into financial ruin. Could the youthful, handsome and dependable Jamie Riley be the solution to his problems?
Jamie Riley has a secret that keeps him from accepting the sexual advances of his employer, Stephen Clair, and a past he would like to leave behind. But Stephen Clair is a handsome man who knows how to awaken a passion that Jamie has been trying to suppress, and carries a price that Jamie would rather not pay. But it isn’t easy to ignore passion, especially when it’s so temptingly close.
Julian Jeffries, lover to Stephen Clair, has found a way of living the high life without lifting a finger. It isn’t until Julian notices that Stephen has been spending time with his latest employee, Jamie Riley, that he begins to worry about losing everything he’d schemed to have. Now Julian needs to find a way of getting rid of Jamie Riley without raising suspicion. And, as Julian knows, the best way to do that is to dig into Jamie’s past and find something to use against him.
I have a confession to make here: I love Regency historicals. In fact before I discovered m/m, I read almost exclusively m/f historicals. When I began reading m/m, I looked at The Price of Temptation several times as I was interested to see how an m/m book would work in a Regency setting. However, because the book was only available as a paperback, I hesitated to buy, mainly because I was highly embarrassed at that cover being seen by anyone whilst I was reading it. Now, however, the book is about to be released as an ebook (and with a new cover) so the time is ripe for a review for those, like me, who couldn’t risk being seen with it before!
The book opens with heroine hero Jamie who arrives at a grand house in London ready to take up a new position as tutor to the three sons of the Earl of St Joseph. This arrangement had been made some months before, just as the Earl was taking his family on a trip through Europe. It had been decided then that Jamie would start his post in the spring after the return of the Earl. However, when Jamie arrives he discovered that the Earl and his family have died tragically and the new Earl is Stephen, a general wastrel. Stephen takes pity on Jamie and offers him the post of secretary. Jamie soon settles in and is loved by all, except Stephen’s ‘mistress’ Julian, who is jealous of the close bond Stephen and Jamie have, and so fearful that Stephen will not renew his contract with Julian, he plots Jamie’s downfall.
If you like Harlequin/Mills and Boon Regency historicals, then you will love this book. It contains all the recognisable plot devices in spades. Jamie, the almost too good to be true hero/heroine figure; Stephen the wastrel rake; disapproving servants who are won round by the sweetness of Jamie; a cartoon villain in the form of Julian; a big misunderstanding; lustful looks and ‘oh no we can’t’ kisses (and more) between the heroes. Marvellous.
I have to admit that the characters are a little two dimensional. Jamie is good, he’s efficient, in the short time he is Stephen’s house everyone loves him, he nursed his sick mother through her illness and saves Stephen through the power of his virginal love. However, by the end of the book, the only impression I am left with about Jamie is that he is ‘a nice person’ as that seemed to be all there was of his character. Stephen too is the epitome of a Regency Rake. He spends money (that he doesn’t have) like water. He keeps the male equivalent of a mistress, he gambles, he visits houses of ill repute. Alongside this are the ‘hidden’ depths that all romance rakes seem to have: his servants are either retainers, kept on past retirement or because of sentimental reasons, or waifs and strays ‘rescued’ from other less worthy noblemen’s houses. Plus his rakish ways are brought on by grief over the death of a much loved brother and his family. By the end of the book, Jamie’s goodness had turned Stephen into that second Regency historical character – the Reformed Rake. This use of well worn Regency stereotypes didn’t bother me too much as I was having far too much fun seeing them applied to an m/m romance. However, those of you who are looking for originality may need to look elsewhere than The Price of Temptation.
One part that I really liked about this Regency historical is that the reader gets taken to all the places not often seen in a Regency, ie. the brothels and gambling dens that the heroines of m/f don’t go into (or not often anyway). It was interesting to see this from a male perspective, especially in Stephen’s reactions to the other noblemen. The more female aspects of Regency society are represented by Stephen’s tough, battle-axe aunt, who completely steals the novel from under the heroes’ noses. I liked her very much and the scene where she ‘tells it like it is’ to various members of noble society after they wish to shun Stephen was just wonderful.
It was in the scenes with society that I felt the novel was on more shaky ground. Nearly all society members accept that Stephen is gay and even that he brings Julian, his ‘mistress’ to society events. This just didn’t ring true for me, even though it is explained that society will accept most things as long as it’s not shoved in their faces. I could accept that Stephen would still be invited to society events – his noble status guarantees that – but to bring Julian along would, I feel, have been a step too far for the society of the time.
Overall, I really enjoyed this light romantic read. Those of you who are complete sticklers for historical accuracy may gnash your teeth at some of the liberties taken in it, but it didn’t bother me. The setting on the whole, seemed accurate enough and I liked that at one point in the book the setting is taken away from the privileged life that Stephen inhabits to the poorer, seedier side of living in Regency London. I’d recommend The Price of Temptation to those who like historicals, especially set in the Regency period and those looking for a quick story of temptation, jealousy and the redeeming power of love.