Title: The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple
Author: K.A. Merikan
Publisher: Acerbi & Villani Ltd
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Page Count: 471
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.
Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.
No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.
When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.
Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.
But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.
Honestly, I must admit it took me a LONG TIME until this book really hooked me. But once it did … wow.
I’m a huge fan of M/M historicals but sometimes I want to toss my Kindle across the room in disgust. Let me explain … Sodomy was a crime punishable by death by hanging in England until 1861 when the death penalty was removed in favor of imprisonment. The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 finally decriminalized “homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
So, I have a hard time reading a historical where the two MCs haphazardly shag in the meadow or step outside to the gardens during an evening gala to enjoy a bracing blow job …. and every last person in their lives easily accepts their love. One of the many things I appreciated about this book is its historical accuracy and that Evan and Julian are painfully aware of the consequences of their love.
Set in 1785 in Cornwall England, “The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple” gives us Sir Evan Penhart, a good man who has lived half his life in fear of the noose. He ponders if there’s life on the moon or looks for new stars with his telescope, he desperately tries to rebuild his crumbling estate Tredele and treat his servants well, he studies contemporary philosophy to treatises on astronomy. But the one thing Evan does not do is reach for love because he knows it brings nothing but heartache and quite possibly death.
Julian Reece, a golden canary of a flighty young man with dreams of writing novels in Italy, comes into this bleak existence when Evan tries his hand as a highwayman to get money for repairs on Tredele. Julian convinces Evan to hold him for ransom and then once Julian’s father pays, he will split the money with Evan. However, nothing goes according to plan.
For me, the first part of the book is s-l-o-w, but it sets the stage beautifully. Evan is starved for human interaction and is drawn to Julian. It is heart-wrenching to read as Evan falls for Julian:
“I am not a monster. Nor am I a ghost. I am made of flesh and bone.” He moved his other hand over Julian’s, and pressed it harder to his own chest. “Can you feel that? I’d build you a castle in that sky if you could only want me the same way I want you.”
Julian, for his part, is initially more terrified than attracted to Evan but it becomes “increasingly clear to him what it was that he hadn’t known about himself all along.” And as Julian wonders “Was this why priests warned about sodomy? Because it was so easy to just fall into?” in his next breath he fears that Evan has “a rotten core within him that was already affecting Julian’s flesh.”
Julian truly undergoes a slow and sometimes agonizing process as he realizes he loves Evan. It’s not simply a matter of declaring his love – it’s coming to terms with a love he had never imagined or knew existed. Love is always a leap of faith, but more so in a time when love is legally punishable by death. And because we get this slow build-up, when it comes to “How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?” “One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.” – those decisions will absolutely tear your heart out.
“The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple” has a solid historical setting with two characters who we eventually know sinew by sinew and brings it with an ending that is absolutely epic. And because we are privy to both Evan and Julian’s POV, the incredibly hot sex scenes have such a richness and depth to them. I highly recommend this book!
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