Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-264251-6
Historical Romance, 2017
Georgie Turner, the brother of the hero of the author’s previous book, A Soldier’s Scoundrel, is in trouble. Oh, and he’s as fond of playing choo-choo in a hot papi’s manly cucu, just like his brother.
I’m not sure if this proves some factions of science folks right and that there really is such a thing as a heritable gay gene, or it proves the religious zealots right when they say that the gay is infectious, or perhaps it backs up the assertions of certain factions on Twitter, Tumblr, MTV, and Everyday Feminism that sexuality is a social construct and there are 9,811,432 flavors of snowflakery to choose from. (I have first dips on being a trans-trans woman ATM-kin watermelon fruit salad, and Hugh Jackman is totally a transphobic evil white supremacist for denying me my right to be bandy-shagged by him.) Or, perhaps, if the cover art is anything to go by, one of them is a drag king who tried to put on a beard in a dark room that didn’t have any mirror. As you can probably tell, being anything out of the straight and narrow when it comes to which type of human beings you wish to shag can be so confusing in this modern time.
Anyway, Georgie is in trouble, so his brother Jack has a plan to help him lay low for a while. Due to some silly reason that I’m not going into because the whole thing feels like either a plot hole or a contrivance to set the ball rolling, Jack has the opportunity to send Georgie to Penkellis, the estate of the Mad Earl of Radnor, as the earl is in need of a secretary. The earl, the Lawrence Browne in the title, is a man bent on playing with dynamites and such, as he is so studious and scholarly while trying to distract himself from what he believes to be the inevitability of him going mad just like his father and brother.
Don’t worry, Lawrence is also the athletic type, so he has buns and thighs of steel to go with his brainpower. Conveniently, he likes slipping the cucumber into a man-cucu too, so it’s a given that he’ll soon be Georgie’s shelter and Georgie’s paying him back with 10,000 kisses. But when Georgie’s past catches up with him. can Lawrence break out of his self-imposed isolation to be that man’s castle as well as king?
Okay, The Lawrence Browne Affair is not breaking any grounds any time soon, and there are several moments here when I feel that the author has just taken overdone and overused scenes and slap them onto this story before sprinkling some gay fairy dust over everything. Lawrence’s dog automatically takes to Georgie, which we all know is a popular shorthand for authors to show that the guy is one of the good ones. I never buy that trope, by the way, because I know dogs and some of them are simply terrible judges of people. Don’t forget the scene of Lawrence chopping wood in his shirtless glory – it’s always either that or the hero going skinny dipping in a nearby lake for the other hero, or heroine, to stumble upon and go ooh la la. Also, we have the standard housekeeper – or in this case, the manly equivalent – helping the hero to fix his relationship with a kid, Lawrence’s ward. And, of course, who can forget all the angst and, on Georgie’s part, how he may be a grifter and a con but he only targets the people that deserve it. The author really doesn’t want anyone to think that Georgie is a, gasp, criminal or something equally heinous.
Still, the author manages to make much of the story feel fresh and new. A big reason for this is that, while the characters are in many ways tried and tested stereotypes, the author’s treatment of these characters has some tweaks that make them feel more alive than I initially expected.
I especially love how Lawrence, upon discovering that Georgie is in trouble, forces himself to go back to society and tries his best to be an arrogant, dangerous, and powerful nobleman in order to browbeat everyone into letting the other man go. The adorable thing here is that he’s not very successful at being the dangerous hero to the rescue that he wants to be, but the fact that he tries very hard, and even goes out of his comfort zone in order to do so, makes his efforts far more touching and romantic. This guy seems like another stereotypical absent-minded grouch at first, but it soon turns out that he has more depths underneath that Clark Kent in tight pants façade of his. He’s genuinely socially inept and awkward, and it is sweet to see how Georgie eventually cracks open his shell.
Georgie is a more conventional “bad boy who is actually just down on his luck and misunderstood, with a heart of gold” type of character, but he has good chemistry with Lawrence. I groan at first when he kicks off the show by sassing Lawrence like some “Bonus penis attached!” version of the feisty housekeeper heroine, but the way he lures Lawrence out of that man’s self-imposed isolation is just too cute. It’s a bit of a stretch to have him turn out to be an intellectual sort underneath his streetwise façade, and thus I can’t successfully shake off the feeling that the author is taking some obvious short cuts in her story. But still, I think Georgie’s good for Lawrence, so he’s alright.
If I have one quibble though, it’s how a well-read man of science like Lawrence can believe that he is going mad – his reasonings are flimsy and more rooted in anecdotal observations, so this particular aspect of him feels out of character, another too-obvious contrivance by the author to inject some angst and conflict in this story.
Still, this one has a fun and believable man-and-his-PA romance. The chemistry and sexual tension are solid, the writing is just as solid too, and all in all, The Lawrence Browne Affair hits the right spots. If the author can be a bit less obvious when it comes to injecting twists and turns that are conveniently advantageous to her characters, I believe we’ll be golden.