Once beloved by London’s fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.
Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and destroy a scandalously revealing painting of her, he agrees. Sam would do anything to protect those he loves, even if it means stealing from a wealthy gentleman. But when he encounters Hartley, he soon finds himself wanting to steal more than just a painting from the lovely, lonely man—he wants to steal his heart.
I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
It’s not that I was promised a slowburn with A Gentleman Never Keeps Score, but it is marketed as a regency era romance and there just are some things one expects from this genre. And the slowburn quality of the romance is the first on that list, the most important even.
So is A Gentleman Never Keeps Score a good book? Sure, it kind of is. And is the relationship portrayed in a good, healthy way? Yeah. But am I disappointed in how the romance was conducted? You bet.
This is a story of Hartley Sedgwick, who came into money but was ultimately shunned by polite society of London due to his preferences and a past relationship, and Sam Fox, a black man who owns a bar, is an ex-boxer and would nothing more than to keep his whole neighbourhood warm and happy. Not a duo you would imagine ever even crossing paths, and yet they make it work. They work on their problems, they mature during the events of the novel, they learn from one another… It sounds great! And yet, I still feel cheated.
Because, you see, I was expecting that excruciating slowburn that Jane Austen was so good at. I was expecting the main couple to maybe kiss once by the ¾ mark of the book. What I got instead was a sex scene 50 pages in. Nothing about this scenario says “slow”. This really is my main grievance, since I just have no idea how I’m supposed to care about the characters or their relationship when it’s all dialed down to blowjobs. Sex is great and all, but how about the two gay men won’t jump on each other the first time they meet. How about that.
There’s also the fact that as one of the main characters is a Black man, the narrative focuses a lot on the issues the black community faces. Which I suppose would be a good thing, only the author is white and is that really their place to talk about this? It’s one thing for white authors to have poc characters and another entirely to talk in detail about problems that aren’t their own, but instead a very specific group’s.
All in all, this is a weird book to review. On one hand it’s actually really well written, the characters are fleshed out, the dialogues natural. On the other though, there’s so much – and so soon! – focus on sex in this gay relationship, it slowly edges its way to fetishisation. Hartley might feel safe with Sam, but I don’t exactly feel neither safe, nor satisfied with A Gentleman Never Keeps Score.
Buy A Gentleman Never Keeps Score on BookDepository.
Do you like historical fiction books?
And especially romances?
What are your favourites?