Unmasked By The Marquess
by Cat Sebastian
Series: The Regency Impostors #1
Genre: Adult Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
The one you love…
Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever.
May not be who you think…
Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.
But is who you need…
When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?
“Regardless,” Charity said, “it would be odd if I refused his invitation to join his club. I didn’t drink all that much, and I didn’t lose any money at the tables. I promise that there’s nothing for you to worry about.” At least, nothing more than the usual. “Besides, since when do you object to a gentleman having a bit of harmless fun?”
Louisa stared at her, mouth hanging open. “Charity, you are not a gentleman,” she whispered.
Charity felt herself blush. It wasn’t as if she could protest, but the fact of the matter was that she felt more like a gentleman than she did anything else. Cheeks hot, she said, “You know what I meant.”
They stood there for a moment, regarding one another—Louisa in her white dressing gown and hair in curling papers, Charity in rumpled evening clothes, cravat rakishly askew.
“What are you going to do after I marry, Charity?” Louisa asked, breaking the silence.
“I don’t know.” Charity glanced away from Louisa’s face, taking in the peeling paint on the door frame. “There’s the gamekeeper’s cottage at Fenshawe. I could stay there,” she said, knowing it for a lie.
Louisa wrapped her dressing gown tightly around her. “But we won’t own Fenshawe after Cousin Clifton inherits.”
The “we” was generous. Charity had never owned anything, least of all the estate of Fenshawe. Robbie had owned it. And since it had been entailed, it ought to have passed to his cousin. But when Robbie died, Charity had already been attending Cambridge under his name. Her thoughts muddled by grief and confusion, it didn’t seem so terrible to keep quiet about Robbie’s death and step into his shoes at home as well. The cousin, living in Dorset, could be kept in ignorance.
Sometimes when Charity was having a hard time falling asleep, she tried to think of exactly how many laws she had broken, how many ways she ought to have been hanged or transported. But Robbie had scarcely any property that wasn’t entailed. Louisa, not yet sixteen, would have been destitute and homeless. For the two years since Robbie’s death, they had stinted and scraped together enough money out of the estate’s income to fund this season in London and put together a modest dowry for Louisa. The plan was for Louisa to marry and then they would figure out a way to set things right, to let the cousin inherit and to allow Charity to go back to being herself.
Whoever that was.
“I could live with you, after your marriage,” Charity countered, already knowing that it could never happen.
“You know I’d love nothing more,” Louisa said, and Charity believed it. “But I just realized that whoever I marry will recognize you as my brother. You can’t very well put on a gown and hope nobody notices the resemblance.”
Charity had known that from the beginning. There could be no happy ending to this deception. Even when Robbie was alive and healthy and brash and persuasive, she had understood that if she went to Cambridge in his stead there would be no going back to being plain Charity.
Even if there were, she didn’t want any part of it. There would be no more gowns, no more floors to scrub.
Neither could she continue as Robert Selby one minute longer than strictly necessary. Charity didn’t have the stomach for it.
She would be alone, adrift, with no name and no friends. She would, in fact, be in much the same situation she had been in before arriving at Fenshawe over fifteen years ago. The only difference was that this time her aloneness would be the result of her own choice, a sacrifice she had made to protect the one person who was left to her. She looked fondly at Louisa.
“Charity, where will you go?” Louisa asked with her eyes wide. “What will we do?”
She leaned forward and kissed Louisa on the cheek. “Never mind that, my girl. I have it all in hand,” she lied.
I’ve loved all the books so far in Ms. Sebastian’s Seducing the Sedgwicks and The Turner series, and was actually a bit bummed when I saw from the cover and the description of this one that Charity was a woman (and further that Alistair was quite obviously a man) but knew that I enjoyed her writing anyway, so I was sure to like this book too… (not to mention I obviously read M/F Regencies all the time, so…)
But then I heard Ms. Sebastian on an episode of the podcast The Wicked Wallflowers Club and learned that Charity was actually nonbinary and Alistair was bi, and knew that all was right again with the world. Honestly, I would have read it anyway, because I have loved all her books so far, but I really do look forward to seeing how her characters will navigate the situations that their orientation and the time period will throw their way…plus, I just love her writing. Have I mentioned this? 😉
Alistair and Charity/Robin’s romance is absolutely delightful. I was (pleasantly) surprised when Alistair found out rather earlier than I’d expected about the whole Robin-impersonating-Robbie bit, but of course it ended up being at exactly the right time because there were so many other aspects of the story that needed to be worked out before they could reach their HEA. Watching Alistair go from a rather stuffy prig to the much looser, much happier man he is at the end thanks to Robin’s influence was absolutely delightful. (I wasn’t his biggest fan in the beginning, but by the end was starting to think of him with lots of exclamation points: The kitten! A goose! His spectacles! etc.) I did love from the start, though, that even though he seemed to have a stick up his posterior about so many things that his own bisexuality wasn’t something that bothered him at all.
Plus, he did get over himself eventually and came to realize what Robin needed without being hit over the head with it, so…
And I loved, loved, loved that Robin stuck to her guns and refused to be less than she was, even if it meant that she might not (gasp!) end up with Alistair in the end. I loved even more how Ms. Sebastian did get them to their HEA eventually, and can’t wait to see where else this series is going to take us.
(And don’t skip the author’s note at the end–I need to get my hands on some of the history she researched for this one. Sounds fascinating!)
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
About Cat Sebastian:
Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.
Tour Wide Giveaway!
To celebrate the release of UNMASKED BY THE MARQUESS, we’re giving away one paperback copy of THE RUIN OF A RAKE by Cat Sebastian!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 4/22/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.