Title: A Private Gentleman (Second Edition)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Genre(s): M/M Historical Romance
Page Count: 388 pages
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
To seal their bond, they must break the ties that bind.
Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist’s house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek. He finds the orchid, yes…but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.
Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan’s bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world—until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark. There’s only one way out of this tangle. Help Wes face the fears that cripple him—right after Michael finds the courage to reveal the devastating truth that binds them.
The blurb for A Private Gentleman checked off so many items on my book wish list. M/M historical? Why, of course. A tortured hero? Another check mark. A prostitute with a dark past? Yes, please! Issues to overcome, such as an opium addiction and a heavy stammer? Don’t mind if I do! However …
In 1844 London, Lord Westin (Wes) has a very heavy stammer and spends his time nurturing his gardens and working with the Botanical Society. Wes needs “a dangerous amount of Doctor Jacob’s wicked little pills mixed in with his usual laudanum” just to get out the door, and in society he’s treated like an idiot because of his speech, so being gay as well is just the icing on a not-so-tasty tea cake.
Michael had the best schools his courtesan mother could afford, and dreamed of being a scholar of books, or more practically a lawyer, but due to a devastating loss of innocence, became a whore. After meeting Wes at a society ball and following a sizzling sexual encounter, Michael reverts back to the terror he experienced when he was a child and has issues similar to PTSD.
The majority of the book focuses on these two men as they heal, and as they create the foundation of a life together. At close to 400 pages, the pace of Michael and Wes’ relationship was so protracted that I lost interest at times. Yet other matters that would have benefited from a bit more detail (Wes’ withdrawal from opium) were rushed over. In addition,
- that Wes’ father was Michael’s sadistic rapist seemed way too coincidental in the grand scheme of things, and while I liked that Michael and Wes had a HEA, it didn’t seem to fit the time period to have them happily living together with “a small cache of servants who wouldn’t blink at two men sharing a bed together.” Given that homosexuality was punishable by death or deportation at the time, this seemed a bit too … cavalier with reality.
While the slow pace of the book drove me batty, I liked the premise of the story very much and gave it 3 stars (1.5 stars for pace, and an average of 4 stars otherwise.) As always, please note that “your results may vary!”