Title: The Sartorialist
Author: Cecilia Ryan
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Buy Link The Sartorialist
Length: 18,010 words/66 PDF pages/Novella
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Very well written, melancholy story with a likable protagonist. The narration in the form of Beau’s memories, however, prevented a stronger connection with the characters and, therefore, higher rating.
Blurb: When royal sartorial adviser Beau Brummell meets a pretty soldier at a ball full of people who have begun to bore him, he’s only thinking of a brief affair and the opportunity to prove that clothes make the man. Then Toby turns out to be not only beautiful but kind and a generous lover, and Beau finds himself falling fast. Though previously happy to let him have his fun, the jealous Prince Regent issues an ultimatum: Toby must return to France or risk being charged with treason. Knowing Toby is unlikely to survive, Beau begins a downward spiral into depression and debt. Surely he and Toby will never meet again…
It’s always interesting to see what authors can come up with when they choose historical figures for their characters. The results don’t depend only on their imagination but also on their ability to believably incorporate the historical facts in their vision. Considering that I have never read this author’s works before, this was incentive enough for me to read and review this story. The lovely cover was just a cherry on top. 🙂
Meet Beau Brummell, the original English dandy, the man who not only established the modern men’s fashion, but also thought his contemporaries the benefits of daily bathing (for which we are eternally grateful). The sartorial adviser to Prince Regent, the future King George IV, Brummell attends a ball in the Regent’s honor. In the first few paragraphs, it is clear that Brummell is world-weary, cynical and a bit arrogant and that his relationship with the Prince is a balancing act:
As long as you remembered that Prinny dear was the center of the universe, it was easy to get on with him.
The war with Napoleon might be going well at the moment, but the people aren’t happy with its cost. When his attention is caught by Toby, a war hero completely out of the place at the ball, Beau uses this fact to manipulate the Regent and proposes Toby’s “makeover” so he can become the face symbolizing the war efforts. Toby is an unpretentious young man, quite different than Beau’s usual companions, and what is a little game for Beau soon turns into something more. The Prince’s jealousy and pure malice put a stop on the developing relationship between the two men and from there things go downhill for Beau.
The character of Beau is one of the best things about this story. Blasé and vain, he is far from perfect, yet his intellect, sense of humor and emotions shine through. He is also sad, a bit needy, yearning true affection though he doesn’t seem to realize this himself. Down-to-earth, loyal Toby seems a perfect match for Beau. Since we see him only through Beau’s eyes, we don’t get to know Toby as much as I would have liked, but he shows keen insight into Beau’s character:
You are a vain, lazy sod with no moral center to speak of. What part of it isn’t true?
You don’t read the papers unless you’re in them.
I liked the buildup of intimacy between them, the gentleness, the deepening of their mutual affection as well as the gradual dissolution of Brummell’s relationship with the Prince. Alvanley, Beau’s friend in both real life and this story, was a little too perfect, but I was still grateful for the way he was written – he was a real balm for Beau’s bruised heart.
I also liked the author’s writing style a lot. Both the style – somewhat old-fashioned and reminiscent of classics – and the tone of the story – sentimental, nostalgic – worked great with the character of Beau. The story is written in Beau’s first-person point-of-view, in the form of his memories, recorded long after the events from the story have taken place. And, that is my biggest complaint about the story. It created the distance between the reader and the characters and events. It had the effect of watching them through the foggy window – like something retold, not shown. Even the intimate moments between Beau and Toby. This significantly diminished the impact of otherwise lovely story.
As far as I can tell (admittedly I am not an expert), the story well researched and the author did a good job on using the historical facts in it. Those among you who know the history or who immediately went to Google to research Beau Brummell might worry about how the story ended. All I can say to you is: Trust the author.
In the end, The Sartorialist was a refreshing read that I can wholeheartedly recommend in spite of some reservations. I think especially romantics among you will enjoy the story. 🙂