As a young man, Sir Gabriel Winters left behind his status as a gentleman, turning his back on his secret desires and taking a self-imposed vow of celibacy. Now he’s a chaste, hardworking vicar, and his reputation is beyond reproach. But, try as he might, he’s never forgotten the man he once desired or the pain of being abandoned by his first love.
Edward Stanhope, the Duke of Caddonfell, is a notorious rake, delighting in scandal no matter the consequence. With a price on his head, he flees to the countryside, forced to keep his presence a secret or risk assassination. When Edward finds Gabriel on his estate, burning with fever, he cannot leave him to die, but taking him in puts them both in jeopardy.
With the help of a notorious blackmailer, a society of rich and famous gentlemen who prefer gentlemen, and a kitten named Buttons, they might just manage to save Edward’s life—but the greatest threat may be to their hearts.
I love M/M Regency Romances, so I was excited to pick this one up. The Vicar and the Rake follows the rakish Edward Stanhope, who, along with his surly servant, returns to his childhood house to hide out after an exceptionally huge scandal involving him and a young man in a darkened room — a scandal that could lead to his hanging. But upon arriving at his home, he discovers Sir Gabriel Winters, his childhood friend and now the local vicar, unconscious from fever on his doorstep. Against his better judgment, he hauls Gabriel inside to care for him.
We learn right away that there were romantic feelings between Gabriel and Edward years ago before suddenly Edward left without so much as saying goodbye. Upon seeing Edward again, Gabriel’s old feelings for him resurface, leading to mixed emotions of desire and betrayal. Though there was definitely heat between these two characters, Edward, who believed himself to be irreparably broken, refused to get close to Gabriel, though, despite his resolve, he did continuously send the man mixed messages.
This ended up being such a fun story. In addition to the romance, there was also quite a bit of added intrigue such as missing diamonds, a price out on Edward’d head, childhood trauma, a ruthless brother, clandestine affairs, a secret society, and a kitten named Buttons. The storyline was compelling, and the author introduced several zany and quirky characters adding to the richness of the tale. Green then ratcheted up the tension by increasing the element of danger, not just to Edward but to everyone close to him.
I thought this book was addictive, intense, and oozing with romance. I really loved the chemistry between our two main characters, especially the slow burn aspect of their relationship, as they each tried to distance themselves from the other unsuccessfully. Additionally, the somewhat quirky and outlandish plot around them was kept steady by the realism and the truth of their romance. Readers who like a little messy romance will definitely get that in spades here – Gabriel’s and Edward’s interactions are funny, awkward, heartfelt, and sometimes exactly as confrontational as they need to be. Yet, everything you love about romance is here: it’s hot and steamy, amusing, charming, emotional, and inspiring, with a lovely feel-good ending all bound together by a beautiful, well-written narrative.
One thing I especially liked about this book is how the romance didn’t overtake the plot. So many romance novels are peppered with way too many repetitive sex scenes that completely take over the plot. Though there are certainly steamy parts in the story, they’re balanced nicely against the storyline.
All in all, I loved The Vicar and the Rake. It was a lovely story with a clever plot and fun, original characters, include the delightful and surprising secondary characters. I’d definitely read more by this author.
Oh, and did I mention? There’s also a cute kitten named Buttons!
A huge thank you to Carina Press and NetGalley for the ARC! This book goes on sale on October 12, 2020 but is available for preorder now.