Loose Id, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-60737-551-7
Historical Romance, 2010
On one cold evening in 1813, the young street hustler Jem decides to get into a carriage of a gentry cove. Oh, don’t worry, he doesn’t end up dead. In a twist of fate that Mary Balogh would surely approve, Jem engages his client, Sir Alan Watleigh in sexual congress, only to touch the man so deep in places locked away in his tormented heart, sigh, that Alan offers to hire Jem as his valet. For Alan, he is looking for a way to escape the memories of his wartime antics by picking up this kid. Since his return from abroad, he has been brooding in his home and letting himself go out of shape. While he hesitates at first to sleep with this young man, Jem is excitement and Jem is adventure, so poor Alan is never going to be the same again.
Okay, on a more serious note, The Rogue and the Gentleman may remind you of a gay version of a story by Mary Balogh, but I suspect that fans of Mary Balogh will never find such explicit love scenes in her books. On the whole, barring a subplot that shows up later in the story, this one is a quiet tale that focuses more on the characters’ developing relationship.
What I like about this story is that Jem, unlike most male characters who sell themselves for a living in the genre, does not show the usual overcompensation to make up for his occupation. Thus, Jem is not an undiscovered prodigy, he does not act or speak too much like a mature fifty-year old man trapped in a 19-year old body, and the authors often allows Jem to act his age. Sure, Jem has an unhappy childhood, but that doesn’t mean Jem will whine or spend the whole story loathing himself for having to do what he has to survive. I like Jem because the author allows him to behave and do things that seem to be in character. Anyone who calls Alan “Lord Alan Bumbuggerer” is alright with me.
Alan is a brooding hero, but he’s not boring or overly familiar. I actually feel quite touched by his state of angst early in the story as he tries to lose himself in intimate physical contact with Jem. He’s a lonely and troubled man who is also essentially a nice guy at heart. This character works very well for me because the authors manage to present poor lonely Alan’s troubled state of mind in an evocative and heartbreaking manner that I can certainly relate to and sympathize with. Therefore, I can’t help but to smile when Jem slowly helps Alan loosen up (no pun intended) and relax a little.
Okay, the dark and serious older guy paired with a younger and more easy-go-lucky guy is pretty much the only trope, if the current state of the historical gay romance is anything to go by. While this story contains this trope, its greatest triumph is to present this trope and let the story flow in a natural manner, so much so that I stop seeing the characters as stereotypes and instead as two people who need each other more than each of them initially realized. The angst feels real, the healing is a beautiful kind of vicarious therapy, and the romance is like a soothing balm.
All in all, The Gentleman and the Rogue is very nicely done indeed.